Solo Travel Tips: Rome, Italy

Is it safe to travel solo in Rome? What’s it like to go around there on your own? Which tourist attractions are a must to visit? And what are other Rome travel tips can you recommend for solo travelers?

I’ve been asked these and several other questions when I got back from my 70-day backpacking trip in Europe. Italy is definitely in the bucket list of a lot of people I know, especially for religious Filipinos who really want to visit Vatican City and Israel, the Holy Land.

Aside from its religious significance, Rome is also a haven for history and culture lovers, not to mention foodies! Indeed, there is something in Rome for everybody, and I’m so glad I was able to visit it for few days.

The iconic Trevi Fountain in Rome.

Arriving in Rome, Italy

You will probably arrive in Rome at the Fiumicino Airport, the biggest and the most crowded airport of Italy. The airport is on the western side of Rome; the city center is a bit far, around 30 km from the airport.

From the airport, you can take public transportation. The regional train departs every 15 minutes (weekdays) and every 30 minutes (weekends and holidays), and arrives at Rome Termini in 55 minutes. Price: 8 euros.

If you want something faster, take the Leonardo Express (14 euros); it will get you to the Termini in 30 minutes.

There are airport shuttles as well that go to Termini. Head to the Terminal 3 Exit. The SIT shuttle is in parking space 1 and goes to Termini Station and the Vatican. There are other shuttles in parking spaces 2 to 4. It will take around 50 minutes to reach Termini Station, and the ticket, which you can pay for onboard, costs 6 euros.

You can also take the bus, which is a much cheaper option (3.60 euros) which takes around 1 hour. If you want to connect to the metro, take the COTRAL line bus. You can catch it from Terminal 2 (Arrival). You can stop at Rome Termini, at Line A Cornelia Station, and Line B EUR-Magliana Station.

The most convenient way, of course, is to rent a car in Rome. Book it before starting your trip so the car is ready for you at the airport when you arrive. It’s the most convenient option, especially if you have a lot of luggage or prioritize comfort.

Where to Stay in Rome

Vatican City
My first look at St. Peter’s Basilica.

I Couchsurfed when I was in Rome. My host’s place was not in city center, and I was even left behind by the last train because I was so engrossed with my Kindle and the platform was 500 meters away (yes, Rome Termini is HUGE!).

Couchsurfing is definitely not for everybody. Luckily, there are a lot of great places to stay when you’re in Rome. Looking for a B&B? Stay the night in the trendiest district of Rome, Monti, at Bed & breakfast Domus Alberti (check prices via Booking or Agoda). It’s near the subway station Repubblica. You’ll also find here some great real Italian boutiques.

Or take a room at Hotel Le Petit, a hotel established in a 19th-century building also near a subway station and the city center. It’s a 10-minute walk to the train station Termini and around the hotel are lots of bars, cafes, and restaurants.

Love some luxury? Hotel 87 eighty-seven is a stunning hotel with beautiful rooms. They have everything you can imagine. At the sixth floor is a big rooftop with an amazing view over the city. There is also a sauna, fitness facilities, and a Jacuzzi at the rooftop where you can chill after a day full of Roman impressions.

St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City
Facade of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Must-See Rome Attractions

Rome has so much to offer. There are gorgeous churches, museums, and a lot of historic buildings. What you want to see ultimately depends on your interests.

Despite the many choices, there are absolutely must-sees and must-do’s when you’re in Rome. Expect some crowd, of course, but they will be absolutely worth it! If you don’t want to go on your own, get Rome Guides, they know the city inside and out.

Dome inside St. Peter's Basilica
Dome inside St. Peter’s Basilica.

Visit Vatican City

So technically, the Vatican is not part of Rome. It is actually a city-state. Geographically, however, it is in Rome, so even if you’re not Catholic nor religious, it is a must to visit.

I will have a separate post on the Vatican later on (LOL someday!), but suffice to say, going to the Sistine Chapel should be on top of your list, aside from checking out (and praying, if you’re Catholic) St. Peter’s Basilica, and walking along Castel Sant’Angelo.

Rome travel tips #1: Before heading there, research what you can see at the Basilica and at the museums. I didn’t and missed a lot! Of course, I saw Michelangelo’s ceiling, and for me, that made the trip worth it already.

Rome Solo Travel Tips -- Sistine Chapel
The beautiful ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Go inside the Colosseum (and around the Roman Forum)

Did you know you can go inside the Colosseum? Buy your entrance tickets beforehand to save you time waiting in line. Take a guided tour to learn everything about the Roman Empire’s biggest amphitheater. Ages ago, fights were held in this theater between gladiators and animals. Remember that, and think of all the blood shed when you go inside.

Back when I was there, I fell in line for the tickets and was shocked that it cost 16 euros to go inside. I left without buying anything (budget traveler here!).

Inside the Colosseum
I got inside the Colosseum because of a kind stranger.

I didn’t get far when a woman came up to me and gave me her ticket. She said she had used it, and it was still good for 2 more days (covering the Roman Forum as well). You know what she wanted for it? Nothing! Read about my experience here.

Rome travel tips #2: If you want to save time, buy skip the line tickets for the Vatican. I didn’t, and spent hours queuing.

Throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain

You probably also know this Rome tourist attraction. The Trevi Fountain is definitely one of the city’s most well-known site. It will be full of tourists, but don’t let that deter you. The fountain is a wonder; seeing it is a real surprise between the blocks of houses.

Fun fact: the name Trevi is from the words tre vie (three roads). In the past, three roads came together to the square where the fountain is located.

It is believed that throwing a coin into the fountain ensures your return to the city or that you’ll find The One in Rome. I threw a coin 7 years ago and I still have to go back (and obviously have not found The One in Rome)! In any case, your coin will support charity; the money in the fountain is cleaned up every once in a while and donated to a non-profit.

Piazza del Duomo in Florence, Italy
Hanging out at the Piazza del Duomo in Firenze.

Sightseeing Beyond Rome

Done visiting Rome? Get a rental car to take yourself to other amazing places in Italy. You can go on a day trip to the beach, for example. Rome is near the Tyrrhenian Sea, and Ostia is the closest beach near Rome. It will be quite crowded in the summer, so if you want something quieter, head to San Felice Circeo for a relaxing day in the sun.

You can also visit Naples. Climb the Vesuvius, visit the ruins of Pompeii, explore the underground at the catacombs, or take a boat to the island of Capri.

Another city in Italy that I highly recommend you visit for several days is Florence. It is such a rich city in terms of art and architecture. I also had the best gelato in Florence! I used Couchsurfing there, too, and my host lived in this 15-century house by the city’s border. It was definitely unforgettable.

The best gelato I’ve ever had was in Florence.

Firenze hasn’t changed in the last 100 years. Visit the iconic Duomo of Florence and get into one of the museums where fantastic renaissance paintings are exhibited. Florence also has some beautiful gardens you need to visit and markets where you can taste typical Italian food.

Venice is another city that’s very popular with tourists. I couldn’t get a Couchsurfing host there, and hostel/hotel prices were through the roof. I ended up staying in Padova, a city around an hour’s train ride away.

The commute everyday to Venezia was worth it. Venice is beautiful. It’s full of little canals and bridges, and if you’re traveling there with someone special, going on a gondola trip in Venice may be worth it. It cost 80 euros at that time, but Klook has gondola rides for less than 30 euros. I guess it’s a shared trip, but it would be pretty worth it.

I was there solo, so of course, I just took the vaporetto (water bus system) to Santa Croce but walked back to Piazza San Marco. It took me to little alleyways where there were not a lot of tourists.

Wandering through the small streets in Venice will make you discover some fantastic cafes where you can enjoy some Italian coffee. Keep in mind: since 2019, tourists have to pay an entrance to get into the city.

Rome Travel Tips: Staying Safe When Traveling Solo

Rome Solo Travel Tips -- Castel Sant'Angelo
Castel Sant’Angelo in the Vatican

Traveling solo is fantastic but you need to pay attention to stay safe, especially in a big city like Rome. When you read Rome travel blogs, there are always a lot of comments on how there are so many scams in Rome.

I didn’t feel unsafe there, actually. I walked alone at all hours (even up to midnight) and got distracted all the time by what I saw, but the city’s criminal elements just let me be.

That said, my experience may not be your experience, so you have to take precautions. Anywhere in the world, especially in major cities, there will always be people that take advantage of distracted tourists. Here are some Rome travel tips to remember.

Rome travel tips #3: Pay attention to your surroundings to avoid being pickpocketed. While pickpockets are all over the city, Bus 64 in Rome is the so-called ‘pickpocket route.’ It goes to many of the city’s most visited places and is full of easy targets. I didn’t take this (I walked around 90% of the time there!), but it doesn’t hurt to take note of this.

Rome travel tips #4: Another common thing to remember is not to accept ‘free’ bracelets given to you, as you will be asked to pay for it in the end. There are a lot of variations of this way of (aggressively) selling things on the street; just walk away from it and memorize how to say “No, grazie.”

The Colosseum in Rome.
The Colosseum in Rome.

Rome travel tips #5: Watch out for charming men called “pappagallo.” They mostly target solo women travelers in highly touristy places, like outside the Colosseum. Their most common pick-up line is just to ask you for the time. When they know you’re traveling alone, they’ll charm your socks off, ask you on a date, and if you agree, spend the night with you.

Hold off thinking that your investment thrown into the Trevi Fountain already worked. Chances are, you won’t hear from the pappagallo again, and he’ll be back the next day in the same spot, looking for another solo traveler to woo.

Rome is beautiful, and I would LOVE to go back there again and again. Hopefully I’ll get to visit the Eternal City again within a year or two!

Have you been to the Italian capital? If you have other Rome travel tips, let us know in the comments.

Aleah Taboclaon
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