Year Abroad
Essentials
Studying Abroad
Living Abroad

An Essential Guide to a Year Abroad in Rome

May 22, 2024
Gus

Intro

It's possible that Caesar, the Colosseum, or carbonara pasta come to mind when one thinks of Rome. However, the Eternal City offers much more. Rome is best enjoyed via a local's perspective, with its exquisite art, vibrantly coloured fiori di zucca fritti (deep-fried courgette flowers, a classic Roman delicacy), and charming markets in Trastevere. 

There are other additional locations where you can really experience Rome's essence, even though well-known sites like the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps are well worth seeing. Advice on where to live, dine, drink, and visit Rome is provided in this book to assist young expats adjusting to their new life.

Things to Do in Rome

Rome is a city full of sights and activities that seamlessly combine ancient and modern cultures. Start your adventure at the famous Colosseum, the site of gladiatorial combat, and take in the surrounding Roman Forum's magnificence. Explore the Trastevere neighborhood's twisting lanes, which are renowned for their quaint cafes and exciting nightlife. The Vatican Museums, which include the magnificent St. Peter's Basilica and the breathtaking Sistine Chapel, are a must-see for art fans. 

To guarantee your return to the Eternal City, toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain. A panoramic view of the busy Piazza di Spagna can be obtained by ascending the Spanish Steps. Enjoy the rich culinary traditions of Rome by spending your evening in a neighborhood trattoria where you can sample traditional Italian cuisine.

Villa Borghese

A regal park with manicured gardens, an art gallery, and a temple dedicated to Asclepius. It's a perfect spot for relaxation and enjoying nature in the heart of the city. Visitors can stroll through the lush landscapes, rent bicycles or rowboats, and explore the renowned Borghese Gallery, which houses masterpieces by Bernini, Caravaggio, and Raphael.

Sant’Oreste

A picturesque town reachable by a short train ride from Flaminio station. This charming destination offers scenic views and quaint streets, perfect for a day trip. Visit the Airbnb featured in Sally Rooney’s "Normal People" for a unique overnight stay, immersing yourself in the serene countryside ambiance while experiencing a slice of literary history.

Porta Portese Flea Market

Located in Trastevere, this bustling market is ideal for treasure hunting and experiencing authentic Roman street life. Open every Sunday, it spans several streets filled with stalls selling everything from vintage clothing and antiques to books and curiosities. It's a vibrant, lively place where you can haggle for unique souvenirs and enjoy the local flavor.

Food Tour in Trastevere 

Dine in Ancient Rome and enjoy a number of delicious spots to try local dishes and sweet treats. Tours run frequently and it’s a great way to learn about the city, while enjoying the best food in Rome.

Recommended Activities

Explore the Centro Storico

Wander through the historic center of Rome, where every corner reveals iconic sights and hidden gems alike. Start at the bustling Piazza Navona, famous for its Baroque fountains and lively atmosphere, then make your way to the Pantheon, an architectural marvel. Meander through cobblestone streets, discovering charming squares, historic churches, and quaint cafes. Don’t miss the atmospheric Campo de’ Fiori, a vibrant market by day and a popular nightlife spot by night.

Visit Museums and Galleries

From the Vatican Museums to the Capitoline Museums, Rome is home to some of the world’s greatest art collections. The Vatican Museums boast an extensive collection of Renaissance art, including Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling. The Capitoline Museums, located on the historic Capitoline Hill, offer a rich collection of ancient Roman statues, medieval and Renaissance art, and breathtaking views of the Roman Forum. Other notable mentions include the Galleria Borghese, renowned for its Bernini sculptures, and the MAXXI, a contemporary art museum.

Attend Local Events

Keep an eye out for local festivals, food fairs, and art shows to immerse yourself in Roman culture. Experience the vibrant Festa della Primavera in the spring, featuring music, parades, and flowers. Taste your way through the annual Rome Food & Wine Festival, where you can sample local delicacies and fine wines. For art enthusiasts, the Rome Film Festival offers screenings and events celebrating international cinema. These events provide a wonderful opportunity to experience the lively, diverse cultural scene of Rome and engage with locals.

Finding Accommodation in Rome

Finding the right place to live in Rome can be a challenge, but knowing the neighborhoods can make all the difference. Each area of the city has its own unique character and advantages, catering to different lifestyles and preferences.

Best Neighborhoods to Live In

Finding the right place to live in Rome can be a challenge, but knowing the neighborhoods can make all the difference.

  • Centro Storico: Ideal for those wanting to be at the heart of Rome, near landmarks like the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain. It's vibrant but expensive and tourist-heavy.
  • Trastevere: Bohemian and picturesque, perfect for young professionals and students. Known for its lively nightlife and strong community feel.
  • Prati: Close to Vatican City, this upscale, quiet neighborhood is great for families, offering elegant streets and excellent shopping.
  • Monti: Trendy and creative, with hip cafes and vintage shops. Conveniently located near the Colosseum, it's popular with the younger crowd.
  • Testaccio: Authentic and culinary-focused, ideal for food lovers. More affordable and local, away from tourist areas.
  • San Giovanni: Bustling and residential, offering affordable options and great transport links. Known for its major basilica and shopping streets.

By understanding these neighborhoods, you can find accommodation that fits your lifestyle and enhances your Roman experience.

Areas to Avoid

Esquilino: Though centrally located and close to major attractions, Esquilino can be noisy and crowded. The area has higher crime rates compared to other neighborhoods, particularly concerning pickpocketing and petty theft. While it offers some cultural diversity and historical sites, the overall atmosphere may be less appealing for those seeking a quieter, more secure environment.

Termini Area: Situated near Rome's main train station, Termini is a bustling hub of activity. While it's convenient for transportation, the area can feel chaotic and less secure, especially at night. It attracts a transient population, leading to a higher incidence of crime. For a more pleasant and safer stay, it's better to choose accommodation in neighborhoods further from the station.

Tips for Finding Accommodation

Temporary Stay: Rent temporary accommodation while you look for a permanent place. This strategy allows you to explore different neighborhoods and view properties in person, ensuring you find a location that suits your needs and preferences.

Erasmus and Facebook Groups: Join Erasmus and Facebook groups dedicated to Rome. These communities can be valuable resources for finding shared flats and rooms, connecting with other expats and students, and getting insider advice on the best places to live.

Spotahome and Uniplaces: Use websites like Spotahome and Uniplaces, which specialize in student and expat housing in Rome. These platforms offer verified listings, detailed descriptions, and photos, making it easier to find reliable accommodation options tailored to your needs.

Places to Eat, Drink, and Get Coffee in Rome

Rome's culinary scene is diverse and delicious, from traditional Roman dishes to international cuisine. With its rich history and cultural influences, the city offers a culinary journey like no other. Whether you're indulging in hearty pasta dishes, sampling freshly baked pizzas, or savoring world-class gelato, every bite tells a story of passion and tradition. From bustling trattorias to cozy cafes tucked away in cobblestone streets, Rome invites you to explore its gastronomic treasures and savor the flavors of la dolce vita.

Eating Out:

  • Da Michele: Offering affordable and delicious pizza away from the tourist traps, Da Michele is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. Their pizzas are crafted with fresh, quality ingredients and baked to perfection in a traditional wood-fired oven, ensuring an authentic Neapolitan experience.
  • Dar Filettaro: Renowned for its deep-fried salted cod (baccala) and other fish dishes, Dar Filettaro is a must-visit for seafood enthusiasts. The crispy, golden-brown fillets of baccala are a specialty of the house, paired perfectly with a squeeze of lemon and a side of Roman-style artichokes.
  • Pastaficio Guerra: A hidden gem for pasta lovers, Pastaficio Guerra offers two daily pasta dishes for just €4 each, making it an affordable option for a satisfying meal. With a rotating selection of homemade pastas and sauces, diners can indulge in a variety of flavors while enjoying a glass of wine for an additional €1.

Drinking Spots:

  • San Lorenzo Area: Known for its vibrant nightlife scene, the San Lorenzo area is full of cool aperitivo bars where you can enjoy an Aperol Spritz accompanied by delicious antipasti. This bohemian neighborhood attracts a diverse crowd, offering a lively atmosphere perfect for socializing and unwinding after a day of sightseeing.
  • Outdoor Drinking: One of the joys of Roman life is enjoying drinks al fresco with friends. Many locals buy drinks from bars and enjoy them outdoors, whether it's in a piazza, along the Tiber River, or at one of the city's scenic viewpoints. This relaxed and sociable tradition allows you to soak up the city's atmosphere while sipping on your favorite beverage under the Roman sun or stars.

Coffee Spots:

  • Sant'Eustachio: A legendary destination for coffee lovers, Sant'Eustachio is renowned for its unique twist on espresso, priced at €1.30. The secret to its exceptional flavor lies in the special blend of coffee beans and the traditional wood-fired roasting process. With its rich, aromatic brew and creamy foam, Sant'Eustachio's espresso is a must-try for anyone seeking the quintessential Roman coffee experience.
  • Tazza D'Oro: Situated next to the iconic Pantheon, Tazza D'Oro has been serving excellent coffee since 1946, and at just €0.90, it's an unbeatable deal. Using premium beans and expert brewing techniques, they deliver a consistently delicious cup of coffee that keeps locals and tourists coming back for more. Whether you prefer a classic espresso or a frothy cappuccino, Tazza D'Oro offers the perfect pick-me-up in the heart of Rome.

Transport Around the City

Rome offers several convenient and affordable transportation options, including buses, trams, metro lines, and a bike-sharing system. With multiple choices available, getting around the city is both efficient and enjoyable.

How to Get from airport to Centre (Rome)

It takes just 32 minutes by non-stop train to travel from Rome's central Termini station to Fiumicino. The Leonardo Express train leaves Fiumicino every 15 minutes and costs €14.

Public Transport

Monthly Travel Pass: For frequent travelers, the monthly travel pass is a convenient option, costing €35 for unlimited travel on buses, trams, and the metro. It's important to note that this pass is valid from the first day of the calendar month to the next, so plan accordingly to maximize its benefits.

Metro and Bus Tickets: For occasional riders, single tickets are available for €1.50, offering 100 minutes of travel time and valid for one-way journeys. It's essential to validate your ticket when you board to avoid fines. This option is perfect for travelers who prefer flexibility and only need to use public transport occasionally during their stay in Rome.

Biking

Cobbled Streets: Bikes are less preferable due to the cobblestone streets. Consider using public transport or walking for most journeys.

Taxis

FREENOW: Providing affordable and reliable taxi services in Rome, FREENOW offers convenient rides throughout the city, ensuring a hassle-free travel experience.

Safety Tips

Rome is generally safe, but it’s important to stay vigilant, especially in crowded tourist areas and on public transport. Keep your belongings secure and be aware of your surroundings to ensure a pleasant and worry-free experience while exploring the Eternal City.

Safety Precautions:

Pickpockets: Be cautious on the metro, especially during peak times.

Tourist Areas: Keep an eye on your belongings at popular attractions.

Scams: Avoid accepting unsolicited help from strangers offering directions or assistance.

Conclusion

Living in Rome offers an exciting mix of ancient history and vibrant modern culture. From the majestic ruins of the Colosseum to the bustling streets of Trastevere, the city is a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be discovered. By choosing the right neighborhood, whether it's the bohemian charm of Monti or the upscale elegance of Prati, young expats can find their own slice of Roman life. 

Exploring the city's diverse culinary scene, from traditional trattorias to trendy cafes, is a must-do, while discovering hidden gems for drinks and nightlife adds to the adventure. Understanding the city's transportation options, from the efficient metro system to the ubiquitous Vespas, ensures seamless exploration of Rome's many wonders. 

Embrace the local lifestyle, immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of history and culture, stay vigilant yet open-minded, and savor every moment of your time in the Eternal City. Rome is not just a place to live; it's an experience to be cherished and celebrated.

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Gus
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