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Expert guide to Rome

I n Rome, classical ruins and early Christian places of worship stand next to – or lie beneath – Renaissance palazzos and Baroque fountains. But there are also great neighbourhood trattorias, quirky shops and a buzzing aperitivo scene. The city’s mild Mediterranean climate is another persuasive draw for visitors from the cool north, but for me the main draw will always be the pulsating energy of a place which lives life as a form of theatre.

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Rome in numbers

T here’s no real off-season in the Eternal City. Spring and autumn are the busiest tourist seasons, with a peak at Easter as Vatican pilgrims swell visitor numbers. Winter – especially from mid-January into the first week of March – can be a great time to come if you’re lucky with the weather. Hotel rates are lower and restaurants are blissfully uncrowded. If you can take the heat, August (when most Romans head for the beach) is another good month to find offers on hotel rooms. The most perfect months, weatherwise, are probably April, May and October – and it’s also at this time of year that you’ll generally find the most pleasant temperature differential between balmy Rome and the cold north.

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Know before you go

Essential information

Tourist office information: there are Tourist Information Points all over the city. As well as the two airports, you’ll find useful ones at Termini Station (platform 24, open daily 8am-7.30pm), Castel Sant’Angelo, near the Vatican (daily 9.30am-7pm) and Piazza delle Cinque Lune, near Piazza Navona (daily 9.30am-7pm). For English tourist info ring 0039 06 0608 (daily 9am-9pm, charged at local call rate) or go to 060608.it

Visitor passes

The Roma Pass (romapass.it) discount card, currently priced at €36 (three day) or €28 (two day) and available online or from tourist information offices, gives free entry to two museums of your choice and reductions for many others, plus unlimited use of citywide public transport.

Local laws etiquette

Drinking alcohol in the street (unless it’s the spillover area of a bar or pub) and going bare-chested are no-nos.

Dress code in churches is: shoulders and midriffs covered and ‘modest’ dress or skirt length for women, while for men vests and really short shorts are frowned on – though these rules are only rigorously enforced in major basilicas like St Peter’s. Italians always say hello and goodbye in social situations – including when entering or leaving shops, bars etc.

A simple ‘buon giorno’ in the morning or ‘buona sera’ in the afternoon or evening goes a long way. ‘Ciao’ is for friends, family or young people. If somebody thanks you by saying ‘grazie’, it’s polite to say ‘prego’ (you’re welcome) in return.

The basics

C urrency: Euro. Most cashpoint machines work with international cards, via the Cirrus circuit

International dialing codes:

0039 06 for Rome numbers from abroad

06 from inside Italy

00 to get an international line

Local time: UTC + 1 hour

Tipping: Italians tip very little; 5% is ample, and it’s often enough just to round the bill up to the nearest 5 or 10 euros

Emergency services: 112 (Carabinieri and general emergency switchboard); 113 (State Police); 118 (Ambulance Service)


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