Lately, I’ve quite a number of emails asking me about travelling to Italy. Its wierd, because I’m not such an expert at travelling, but I’ll try my best to help and answer these frequently asked questions
Now that you’ve decided to visit Italy, Rome in specific …
When are the best times to visit Rome?
Italy, as well as the rest of Europe, has its own charms in each seasons. Because Singapore is of an equatorial climate where the temperature is usually consistent the whole year round, winter could be interesting for those who’s never experienced it before. Or summer could be great because the temperatures then would be quite similar to Singapore, moreover it could be an experience to hang out with the Italians at the beach.
But personally for me, I think the best times would be April-May for Spring or September-October for Autumn. During these months, the temperatures are not too hot, not too cold. A comfortable 22-25 degrees and it does not rain too much during these times. Moreover the colours and vibrancy are very interesting to see.
Which airline do I book with?
The best times to book for airline tickets would be to book about 6 months in advance. The earlier the better because it will be a higher chance that ticket prices could be cheaper.
So far the best rates that I got from Singapore to Rome two ways is 1.3k SGD including taxes via KLM and Emirates. But sometimes it is helpful to wait till when there are airline promotions like the SIA’s yearly promo because prices fluctuates depending on the day and month that you book so its a gamble. So don’t feel too bad if you find that the prices go down the next day. But you could also try to do a search through Zuji to see what the average rate is like.
If not, you might want to try to wait till the last moments while booking or try lastminute.com. This is because there could be a chance that someone could cancel their booking and you could get a flight ticket for way cheaper although there will be a big risk that you wont get the dates that you want. Thus only use this option if you’re not on a schedule.
What hotels do you recommend to stay?
That’s a hard question because I don’t really have experience in this department since I live with Cart in our apartment … In fact, when Cart first came to Singapore, I was clueless at what hotel to recommend him.
But in any case, you might want to take a look at tripadvisor for tips on where to stay. In fact, I used this website to give me some hints on where to stay for our trip to Milan. What’s nice about this website is that the lodgings are rated by real people who has personally visited these places and most of them give their unbiased review.
For instance, I was considering on doing a short vacation in Cameron Highlands and while doing my research, I stumbled upon an online advertisement and looking through the site, I thought that this could be a nice place to stay. From the pictures, it looked so lush and charming
Unfortunately, there were so many bad reviews about it online, now I’m thinking twice about visiting it. Thus appearances can be deceiving! It is also useful to do an in depth search online through blog searches for other personal experiences.
On the other hand, you could support my friend Eu Chai. He’s travelled around Italy extensively made a website with a list of lodgings.
By the way, one thing to take note of, is that the average rate for a night in a hotel is at least 80 euro a night. So if you are on a budget, I’d suggest that you try a bed and breakfast. I like bed and breakfasts because its a flat rate and you could divide the cost by how many people are in your group.
Lets say a bed and breakfast room costs 120 euro a night, and there are 4 people in your group, you only pay 30 euro per person. I think that’s a good value if you’re not too fussy about your accommodations. Personally for me, I prefer B&Bs as its a better value since I’ll be spending my time exploring rather than just staying in all the time. Just make sure to keep your valuables safe and close with you as there are risks of pickpockets and gypsies in Central Rome.
OR if you’re in a serious serious budget, you might want to try youth hostels or even couch surfing. Couch surfing basically means that you can stay at someone’s house and sleep on whatever spare space they have available like the sofa or the floor. It’s not glamorous, and you would have no privacy, but on the other hand, its a good way to have an in depth view of a local’s way of life.
Although, by doing this method, it is very important that you need to do this with the utmost discrepancy. Check the person and see if this person has a high rating and experience doing this. You wouldn’t want to risk staying with a psycho.
How do I get around in Rome?
Now that you’re already landed in Rome, and you are ready to move around. What do you do?
The easiest way is to take the taxi. Its very convenient, although I don’t really recommend it so much because it can be quite pricey. Even with a legit taxi, one way trip alone from the airport to your lodgings alone can cost at least 50 euro. Moreover there are too many horror stories where unlicensed taxis totally cheat off unsuspecting tourists.
On the other hand, while public transportation takes longer, its more affordable. The train connecting from the airport to the city centre costs about 5 euro. And when you’re in the city centre you are free to travel with unlimited public buses for 90 minutes as well as underground train tickets going for 1.50 euro one way.
These tickets can be bought from the subway station itself, as well as tabbacchi shops or newspaper kiosks around Rome,
There are also tourists tickets that you could purchase for unlimited rides. Just always remember to validate your ticket just before boarding.
However, do be aware that there are chances that there are frequent public transportation strikes in Rome. And if that happens and you need someone to drive you around, contact me if you are travelling 3 people and below.
Another way that I really like is by taking the open bus. With this bus, you could have an overview of all the monuments in Rome for about 15 euro and when something catches your fancy, you stop and explore. This ticket is valid for 2 days which is more or less enough to explore the main monuments.
What should I visit in Rome?
There are heaps to things to see here in Rome. I advice you to plan your route and schedule in advance because it can get quite tiring to try to visit all in one go.
If not, here are some places that you must not miss when you are visiting Rome.
1. Saint Peter’s Square
San Pietro is a monumental building where the pope lives. Its so large and tall that you could stack up at least 50 humans to reach the top. And if you are lucky enough to head there on Sunday morning, it would be fantastic as you could see the Pope in action during a mass. Click here to read my blog post on Saint Peter’s Square
2. Castel Sant Angelo
Castel Sant Angelo is a fortress which has a long pathway which is connected directly to the Saint Peter’s Square. If you are here during August, the caretakers has interesting night activities. Click here to read my blog post on Castel Sant Angelo.
3. Piazza Navona
If you’ve watched Angels and Demons, you might remember the scene where the assassin tries to drown one of he cardinals in one of the fountain in Piazza Navona. In real life, it would be impossible though because the fountain is so shallow all he needs to do is to stand up.
Nevertheless, there is a vibrancy here, with the place full of artists, drawing as well as performance, there is always something to see. It’s most lovely to be here in December for Christmas and the Befana festival.
4. Vittorio Emanuele
The Vittorio Emanuele monument, also lovingly called the typewriter by the locals here is a building to honour the first king as well as the unknown soldiers from the first world war. It is also the location used in the amazing race season 1, episode 6.
When you are there, its just a straight walk towards other interesting sights such as the Colosseum and the Fontana di trevi. Don’t forget to throw a coin there so that you’d come back to Rome!
Click here to read my post about the Vittorio Emanuele monument.
Apart from San Paolo, San Clemente is probably the oldest church in Rome. To me, this place is interesting, as below this church is another church and below that church is a house built in the 4th century. Many layers like a lasagna.
Anyway, there are so many monuments in Rome that its not possible to write them all in one go. So you might also want to check out my Italy tagged post to read about my thoughts on the different places in Rome and Italy that I’ve explored 🙂
If you are up to it, why not hang out with a local for a drink or dinner with the Singaporeans in Italy and Malaysians in Italy (or any other group where you come from) We are a very friendly and outgoing bunch and you’d get another perspective of Italy which is beyond the touristic manuals.
I want to go shopping! Where can I get the best deals in Rome?
The best times to go shopping in Italy is during January and July for the sale season. During these times, items can go from 30 – 50% off. While most of the items are old stocks, quite a number of them are of the newer items.
These are a couple of clothes I got from the summer sale.
You could save even more if you visit an outlet. One of the most famous one is Castel Romano.
I got some Italian lipsticks for under 5 euro each during the sale season and I think its such a steal!
I think its not really that accessible since its kind of out of Rome so I didn’t see any connecting public transportation so far but if you’re looking for deals on branded items, this is the place to go.
Again, if you need someone to drive you and your group is 3 people and below, just contact me.
What are some of the food that I should try here in Rome?
This is a tough one because of my religious belief, there are some food that I cannot consume and have to be prepare by myself.
But nevertheless, while in Rome, there are some food that you MUST try like pizza margherita, pasta cacio pepe, gelato and Italian coffee.
And here are a few of the places that I absolutely love :
The great thing about pizze in Italy is that most of them uses wood oven which really affects the taste of a pizza. While there are many pizzeria out there, for whole pizzas, I really love Rosso Pomodoro. In the picture above, that’s a size for one by the way.
And for pizza al taglio, where you can choose your pizza by weight, my very favourite would be Eligio (Viale Villa Pamphili 46) as well as Il Secchio e L’olivaro. Everything is freshly made, and you can taste how flavourful each slice is.
There are many gelaterie in Rome, but I think the place that you must try would be Tony Gelateria on account that while the place looks modest, the gelato is divine. Every friend that we’ve introduced to here absolutely adores it, once they’ve given it a try.
I also love La Fraschetta di Mastro Giorgio for their luxurious and very Roman style pasta.
There are a lot of wonderful food establishments, but do be aware that there is an increasing amount of tourist traps such as this 20 euro alfredo.
If you are are keen on trying Italian coffee, Illy and Lavazza are the top brand coffee here and you cant go wrong with any bar using that. And there are also many types that you might want to try. One of my favourite coffee so far is the Marocchino.
This is made of one part espresso, one part steamed milk and a bit of cocoa powder or chocolate syrup on top of it. And its really really good.
Feel free to go trough my food fascinations tags for the latest updates of the food that I’ve eaten here.
Any other advice you could give me?
Like any other experiences when travelling overseas be it in Italy or any other parts of the world, always keep yourself as well as your valuables safe and close to you. Most part of Rome are nice, but there are a number of touts in the city centre. So you need to be vigilant.
To avoid being cheated, sometimes you need to be fierce and stand your ground. But in the worst case scenario, find out about your country’s embassy contact. This is the contact for the Singapore consulate in Rome.
You might also want to learn a bit of basic Italian phrases. While many areas in the city centre knows English, generally people are warmer when you speak their native language. This bbc website is pretty good.
And wear comfortable shoes. Rome’s city centre is full of cobble stones and it just doesn’t make sense to be wearing high heels.
But the most important tip is to have fun! Take your time exploring and absorbing the area and take loads of pictures for memory.
So there are some of my tips. It is probably not complete, as I still continue to explore and live in Rome. But if there are anyone who needs more help, or have any suggestions, please feel free to comment in the comment box below or contact me.
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