There’s a lot to be said for visiting Rome in the off season. From October to April, barring Christmas, the tourist crowds are far smaller, the major attractions are less crowded, and hotels and B&Bs are cheaper.
There are still a few travel tips and tricks that make it easier to get around and get good deals in Rome, where tourism is a year-round business. The hustle and bustle of Rome can be confusing and exciting at any time of year, so here are a few tips to remember and a few tricks to get you to all the important sights.
Don't be afraid to try smaller B&Bs. The B&B Trevi Roma, for instance is a reasonable, clean boutique hotel only steps from the Trevi fountain, and the included breakfast is fit for a king, with an espresso machine, cold cuts and cheese, and pastries. Included breakfast is a great perk in Rome, as cafes can be expensive if you want to sit and linger over your morning meal. Smaller hotels and B&Bs also give travelers a chance to live more like a local and experience the quirky and wonderful neighborhoods which make up the old city area. If you need to sleep more than two people, consider renting an apartment, which can be done online through reputable booking services. Then you can shop the food markets and cook your own gourmet masterpieces, saving even more cash.
Book a tour. Yes, some tours can be whirlwind affairs that leave you gasping for air and wondering what you actually saw. Some smaller tours, however, are worth their weight in gold. The Vatican museum tours, for example, keep you from standing in long lines, even in the off season. If you don’t have all day to spend in the museums, the tour hits the high points, such as the Lacoon statue and the Sistine chapel, and also leaves you time to see St. Peter’s Basillica. If you’re desperate to see Pompeii as a side trip but don’t want to brave the traffic, a bus tour provides comfort and security as well as a knowledgable guide.
Check your dates. Don’t want to pass out in the Sistine chapel due to lack of air or have a nun body check you at the aiport luggage carousel? Check your travel dates to make sure your trip skirts around that meeting to beatify a new saint or that a marathon won’t be run while you’re there. No one wants to get to St. Peter’s just in time to see the doors close for a wedding. Most of the big churches and tourist sites have webpages where travelers can check for events and closures. Also, don’t forget to look up the dress codes of these churches, which can be very strict.
Buy combined tickets. The collesium has long lines, and it closes at dusk in the winter, which can be as early as four in the afternoon. Buy your admission ticket for it at the Forum entry instead and skip the queue. Many museums offer bundled tickets, or offer online ticket purchases for a certain entry time. These tickets are often offered at a discount, as well, making it easier and cheaper to get inside important attractions.
Step outside your comfort zone. Don’t just hit the Spanish Steps and the Pantheon and call it a day. Wander into random churches in smaller neighborhoods. Try the fried artichokes at the street food stand in Trastevere, the working-class neighborhood across the river from the old city. Take the metro a little farther out than the few square miles of the oldest part of the city and see the Via Veneto with it’s Ferrari dealership and Cappucin crypt full of skulls and bones. Even in the off season, the out of the way places are less crowded, and afford an amazing glimpse into Roman life.
Finally, if you’re flying into Fiumicino and you don’t intend to rent a car, either take the train into town or hire a car before arriving. Taxis can be safe and affordable, but the drive in from the airport is overwhelming after a nine hour flight and if your transport is already paid for and established, you’ll be able to relax and appreciate the beauty of sunrise in the Eternal City.
Making a few arrangements ahead of time and doing a little homework can make traveling in Rome during the off-season enjoyable and easy, even for the first-timer.
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