Rome is one of the most popular and attractive cities in Europe. Places like this (also Venice, Paris, Amsterdam, etc.) are facing a problem called overtourism, which means that the city is overcrowded by tourists and the quality of local life is going down. Despite that, we couldn’t resist a desire to see Rome at least once in a lifetime. At the end of September, we visited the eternal city, joining thousands of other people all around the world. In this blog post, I will share our tips for the Roman holidays without stress.
Rome still has its wonderful atmosphere despite many tourists. Actually, this city was full of pilgrims and foreigners all the time and this colorful crowd was always a part of Roman life. That’s why locals can preserve their lifestyle. The old town there is huge and due to that many streets of Rome are empty and quiet, and citizens are hanging their laundry outside like 100 years ago.
However, if you want to see Trevi fountain or St. Peter’s Basilica, you will meet many people that want to do the same. That’s why we recommend to…
…use skip-the-line tickets to visit the Vatican Museums, Colosseum and so on
We bought such tickets in advance on the Tripadvisor and visited the Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Colosseum, and Roman forum without waiting in line (that could take up to 3 hours)! We chose a guided tour in the Vatican, which totally makes sense because without that we could not appreciate all the history and art due to the lack of knowledge.
For the Colosseum and Roman Forum, we chose a self-guided skip-the-line tour, which means that we went inside without waiting but explored the places on our own. Instead of a guided tour, we used an audio guide from Rick Steves.
Don’t join groups for city walks in Rome and use audio guide instead
We used a wonderful free app “Audio Europe” by Rick Steves to support our walks in Rome with information. Rome has so much history so it is necessary to use some guidance there. Many people join city tours but in my opinion, these groups make the city even more overcrowded especially when you wanted to visit Pantheon or other significant places.
Rick Steves’ audio tour was very funny, interesting, and just amazing! We used it for the city walk, Trastevere district, the Colosseum and Roman Forum (without a guide the Forum is just a bunch of ruins because you don’t know what it actually was) and for the ancient city of Ostia Antica.
Go in the low season (= not in summer)
Firstly, the summer is very hot in Rome. Who wants to walk around the city when it’s 38°C? Definitely not me 🙂 We visited Rome at the end of September. The weather was very pleasant – around 28°C.
Secondly, more people visit Rome during summer because they combine a city tour with a beach vacation. In spring or autumn, it is less crowded than in summer but still warm. There will be even fewer people in winter but it could be rainy and not so pleasant if you want to sit outside and drink Italian wine in the evening. These dinners are also an important part of Rome! That’s why I think that April-May and September-October are the best months to visit Rome.
Try to find local restaurants
Italian food is in general very good even in touristic places. But the local restaurants are more interesting, tasty and much cheaper than the touristic ones.
We always checked reviews on Google Maps and tried to find hidden local restaurants. For example, near Colosseum, I would recommend going for lunch to the La Vecchia Roma, and visit the street Borgo Pio for the dinner near the Vatican.
Also, the district of Prati is in general less touristic one with good Italian restaurants (like La Tavernella) and nice shops.
Another great district (quite touristic though) to have dinner is Trastevere. Any restaurant there is good and there is a party everywhere. During the day Trastevere is also nice to visit because it is very quiet, beautiful and very “Roman”.
Visit Ostia Antica instead of Pompei
Many people are heading to the famous Pompei (two hours drive from Rome). However, there is a great, big and well-preserved ancient city of Ostia Antica much closer to Rome.
We spent there a couple of hours on our last day in Italy (because the place is close to the Fiumicino airport) and were blown away by the incredible atmosphere of the 3.000-years-old city. And guess what? Almost nobody goes there. You are alone and can really dive into history, exploring the abandoned ruins and listen to ancient stories from the audio tour.
Why a lot of tourists are not always so bad
Before the trip, I expected a worse experience. Especially, when I saw the photos of overcrowded Trevi fountain. In reality, the Trevi Fountain is huge and the crowd creates a cool atmosphere of something great and wonderful happening.
Tourists have a positive influence on Rome as well: the city is very clean and well-conditioned, especially in comparison with other southern Italian cities like Naples. Tourists bring money and they help to maintain and develop the city. Just imagine how much the maintaining of the Colosseum can costs! That’s why I also see a positive side of the overtourism.
I’m also very well aware of a dark side of overtourism but I’m not ready to stop visiting such famous places and limit myself to local tourism only. At least, not yet. Maybe I will just not go to Rome again in several years to let the others enjoying the city as I did myself – less crowded and more real.