Every decent travel guidebook or website on earth will have its own opinions about what to do in Rome (this one included). There will, as can be expected with these types of lists, be a significant amount of overlap between them, with must-sees like the Colosseum, Pantheon, and Vatican Museums always making the cut. Sometimes the key to a good vacation, however, isn’t just in figuring out what to do, but also what not to do.
Now, rather than try to tell you what museums or attractions to avoid (you should be able to determine which ones will suit your tastes best simply by reading about them), here are a few items on a “what not to do in Rome” list that pertain to any trip to the Eternal City. No matter the itinerary, these things will help you enjoy your visit more.
Don’t Try to Walk Too Much
Rome is an enormous city. It’s absolutely possible to walk around for your entire visit, but most vacationers (especially the ones who spend their non-vacation time relatively immobile sitting at a desk) will find that to be exhausting after awhile. The big sights nearly everyone wants to see are spread out enough in the city that it’s imperative you get familiar with Rome’s transportation system – and use it wisely. Take the buses or Metro to cover big distances, then enjoy the walking you do in the various neighborhoods.
Book a hop-on, hop-off tour in Rome.
Don’t Wait in Long Lines
The main attractions in Rome draw the big crowds – no surprise there, right? The suggestion here is not that you should skip those sights – just that you should be clever about how you visit them. Some, like the Vatican Museums, have advance ticketing available so you can book a reserved entry time and skip the line. Others, like the Colosseum, are included on multi-attraction tickets which can be purchased at other included venues that always have shorter lines. And of course booking a guided tour of the city often lets you bypass the lines at multiple attractions.
Don’t Let Your Guard Down
Like any big city, Rome has its unsavory elements – and tourists often make tempting targets. You’ll need to be extra careful about valuables when riding public transportation and while browsing in busy markets. Leave your passport in the hotel safe, use a cross-body purse, keep most of your cash and credit cards in a money belt you wear under your clothing – all the basic safety precautions that are smart in any unfamiliar setting. A particular note in Rome is to also be wary of the gladiators and beggars that gather around the Colosseum. The former want to fleece you by demanding exorbitant sums after you snap their photo, and the latter sometimes have elaborate pickpocketing schemes worked out.
Don’t Compare Roman Pizza to Neapolitan Pizza
This is a pointless argument, akin to the Chicago style vs. New York style pizza debate – there are clear (and vocal) opinions on both sides, but the two pizzas are so different it’s like trying to compare apples and transistor radios. Pizza may have originated in Naples, but Rome has developed its own signature version of the famous dish – and it’s a popular to-go snack often sold by the slice. By all means try them both, and feel free to prefer one over the other, but don’t go down the rabbit hole of comparing the two. You may never resurface.
Don’t Think You’ll Do or See Everything
Perhaps the biggest mistake any traveler makes is attempting to do too much. Try that trick in Rome and you’ll be exhausted by the end of the first day – and what’s more, you won’t have enjoyed anything you actually see. As mentioned, this is a huge city, and unless you plan to set down roots for a few months you’re going to leave with several things on your to-do list left unchecked. Keep your list prioritized so you make sure to see the ones you’d be really crushed if you missed, but go into the trip assuming that you’ll return someday – and then you’ll pick up on that list right where you left off.
Don’t Miss the Pantheon
Obviously the temptation to offer a must-see attraction was too great – but really, the Pantheon is a singular treat in Rome. In a city full of ancient monuments, none has been in constant use for its entire history – more than 2,000 years – except for the Pantheon. Walking on its marble floor and staring up through the oculus in its roof, it’s impossible not to imagine all the people who have walked there before you. And yet this iconic structure isn’t stuck in time – the piazza out front buzzes with modern activity (there’s even a McDonald’s nearby). It’s a vivid reminder of just how much a part of history we all are, even now, and that’s a pretty powerful message to bring home from a visit to the Italian capital.