Destination guide: Rome, Italy
Rome is a city where the past and the present converge in perfect harmony. The capital of Italy (Europe) is also known as the Eternal City and is considered the birthplace of the ancient Roman Empire. It is worth noting that this city has a valuable architectural, artistic, cultural and religious heritage which makes it attractive to any tourist.
Plan your trip to Rome and visit The Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo’s Pieta. Discover the ruins of the Roman Forum, the Coliseum, Agrippa’s Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain (which tradition dictates you must throw a coin into if you want to come back to Rome) and the bohemia of Trastevere, an area located south of the Vatican.
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Rome - Practical Information
The result of 3000 years of ad hoc urban development, Rome can seem an overwhelming prospect. To help you navigate the labyrinth, we’ve divided the city into 11 manageable chunks.
At the southern end of the city centre, Ancient Rome provides an unforgettable introduction to the city with its thrilling reminders of Rome’s mythical past: the Colosseum, the Palatino (Palatine hill), the forums, and Campidoglio (Capitoline hill). To the northwest, the centro storico (historic centre) is a heady tangle of baroque piazzas, tangled lanes and romantic corners. The Pantheon and Piazza Navona are the star turns but you’ll enjoy just strolling the atmospheric streets.
Continuing northwards, you come to Piazza del Popolo at the apex of a triangular area known as the Tridente. From the piazza, three roads – Via del Corso, Via di Ripetta and Via del Babuino – spear south, enclosing a smart district of designer boutiques, swanky hotels and the legendary Spanish Steps. Rising to the east, the Trevi, Quirinale & Via Veneto neighbourhood boasts Rome’s iconic Trevi Fountain and two of the city’s most lavish palaces: Palazzo Barberini and Palazzo del Quirinale. Snaking up from Piazza Barberini, Via Vittorio Veneto is haunted by ghosts of la dolce vita.
Rome’s chaotic transport hub, Stazione Termini, sits at the heart of the Monti, Esquilino & San Lorenzo area. Although not an immediately loveable part of town, this busy district throws up some hidden treasures, including some fine churches and one of Rome’s best museums – the Museo Nazionale Romano: Palazzo Massimo alle Terme. On the other side of Termini, San Lorenzo is a student hang-out full of bohemian eateries and popular bars.
To the south, you can branch off the beaten track in the Celio Hill & Lateran neighbourhood, home to the monumental Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano, and the serene Villa Celimontana park.
Separating the Celio from the River Tiber is Aventino & Testaccio. The tranquil Aventino is a breath of fresh air with its medieval churches and refined streets, while to the east the Terme di Caracalla offer Rome’s most awesome ruins. Down by the river, Testaccio is an earthy district known for its nightlife.
Continuing southwards, Via Appia Antica, the ancient Appian Way, heads out of the city through Southern Rome. Beneath this most historic of roads lie the catacombs where the early Christians buried their dead. For something completely different head to EUR, a showcase of Fascist-inspired architecture.
On the east bank of the Tiber, Trastevere & Gianicolo is a wonderfully photogenic neighbourhood. Formerly a bastion of working-class independence, it’s now a trendy hang-out full of restaurants, cafés, pubs and pizzerias. Behind it, the Gianicolo hill offers an escape from the heat and hustle below.
Continue north from Trastevere and you come to Vatican City, Borgo & Prati. Independent since 1929, the Vatican is the world’s smallest sovereign state and home to St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, two of Rome’s top attractions, as well as hundreds of overpriced restaurants and souvenir shops.
Back over the river, the highlight of Villa Borghese & Northern Rome is Villa Borghese itself. Rome’s most famous park boasts several art galleries (including the must-see Museo e Galleria Borghese), the city zoo and plenty of benches to rest your weary legs.
Public transport makes getting around pretty straightforward.
Weights & Measures
Italy is one of 25 member countries of the Schengen Convention, under which 22 EU countries (all but Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the UK) plus Iceland, Norway and Switzerland have abolished permanent checks at common borders. For detailed information on the EU, including which countries are member states, visithttp://europa.eu.int.
Legal residents of one Schengen country do not require a visa for another. Residents of 28 non-EU countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand and the USA, do not require visas for tourist visits of up to 90 days (this list varies for those wanting to travel to the UK and Ireland).
All non-EU nationals (except those from Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) entering Italy for any reason other than tourism (such as study or work) should contact an Italian consulate, as they may need a specific visa. They should also have their passport stamped on entry as, without a stamp, they could encounter problems when trying to obtain a residence permit (permesso di soggiorno). If you enter the EU via another member state, get your passport stamped there.
The standard tourist visa is valid for up to 90 days. A Schengen visa issued by one Schengen country is generally valid for travel in other Schengen countries. However, individual Schengen countries may impose additional restrictions on certain nationalities. It is worth checking visa regulations with the consulate of each country you plan to visit.
You must apply for a Schengen visa in your country of residence. You can apply for only two Schengen visas in any 12-month period and they are not renewable inside Italy. If you are going to visit more than one Schengen country, you should apply for the visa at a consulate of your main destination country or the first country you intend to visit.
EU citizens do not require any permits to live or work in Italy but, after three months’ residence, are supposed to register themselves at the municipal registry office where they live and offer proof of work or sufficient funds to support themselves. Non-EU foreign citizens with five years’ continuous legal residence may apply for permanent residence.
All important documents (passport data page and visa page, credit cards, travel insurance policy, tickets, driver’s licence etc) should be photocopied before you leave home. Leave a copy with someone at home and keep one with you, separate from the originals.
Permesso di Soggiorno
Non-EU citizens planning to stay at the same address for more than one week are supposed to report to the police station to receive a permesso di soggiorno (a permit to remain in the country). Tourists staying in hotels are not required to do this.
A permesso di soggiorno only really becomes a necessity if you plan to study, work (legally) or live in Italy.
The exact requirements, like specific documents and marche da bollo (official stamps), can change. In general, you will need a valid passport (if possible containing a stamp with your date of entry into Italy), a special visa issued in your own country if you are planning to study (for non-EU citizens), four passport photos and proof of your ability to support yourself financially. You can apply at the ufficio stranieri (foreigners’ bureau) of the police station closest to where you’re staying.
EU citizens do not require a permesso di soggiorno.
Non-EU citizens who want to study at a university or language school in Italy must have a study visa. These can be obtained from your nearest Italian embassy or consulate. You will normally require confirmation of your enrolment, proof of payment of fees and adequate funds to support yourself. The visa covers only the period of the enrolment. This type of visa is renewable within Italy but, again, only with confirmation of ongoing enrolment and proof that you are able to support yourself (bank statements are preferred).
Duty-free sales within the EU no longer exist (but goods are sold tax-free in European airports). Visitors coming into Italy from non-EU countries can import, duty free: 1L of spirits (or 2L wine), 50g perfume, 250mL eau de toilette, 200 cigarettes and other goods up to a total of €175; anything over this limit must be declared on arrival and the appropriate duty paid. On leaving the EU, non-EU citizens can reclaim any Value Added Tax (VAT) on expensive purchases.
Generally shops open from 9am to 1pm and 3.30pm to 7.30pm (or 4pm to 8pm) Monday to Saturday. Many close on Saturday afternoon and some close on a Monday morning or afternoon, and sometimes again on a Wednesday or Thursday afternoon. In major towns, most department stores and supermarkets have continuous opening hours from 10am to 7.30pm Monday to Saturday. Some even open from 9am to 1pm on Sunday.
Banks tend to open from 8.30am to 1.30pm and 3.30pm to 4.30pm Monday to Friday. They close at weekends but exchange offices usually remain open in the larger cities and in main tourist areas.
Central post offices open from 8am to 7pm from Monday to Friday and 8.30am to 7pm (in some cases only until noon) on Saturday. Smaller branches tend to open from 8am to 2pm Monday to Friday and 8.30am to noon on Saturday.
Farmacie (pharmacies) are generally open 9am to 12.30pm and 3.30pm to 7.30pm. Most shut on Saturday afternoon, Sunday and holidays but a handful remain open on a rotation basis (farmacie di turno) for emergency purposes. Closed pharmacies display a list of the nearest ones open. They are usually listed in newspapers and you can also check out www.miniportale.it (click on Farmacie di Turno and then the region you want).
Many bars and cafes open from about 8am to 8pm. Others then go on into the night serving a nocturnal crowd while still others, dedicated more exclusively to nocturnal diversion, don’t get started until the early evening (even if they officially open in the morning). Few bars anywhere remain open beyond 1am or 2am. Clubs (discoteche) might open around 10pm (or earlier if they have eateries on the premises) but things don’t get seriously shaking until after midnight.
Restaurants open noon to 3pm and 7.30pm to around 11pm or midnight (sometimes even later in summer and in the south), although the kitchen often shuts an hour earlier than final closing time. Most restaurants and bars close at least one day a week.
The opening hours of museums, galleries and archaeological sites vary enormously, although at the more important sites there is a trend towards continuous opening from around 9.30am to 7pm. Many close on Monday. Some of the major national museums and galleries remain open until 10pm in summer.
European plug with two circular metal pins