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Tips on travelling to Rome from Paulina Pimperova

Paulina Pimperova is a licensed tour guide in Rome and a passionate traveller, and is never happier than when seeking out hidden corners of the Eternal City. After 15 years of experience in international tourism as a tour leader accompanying groups in Italy and abroad, she decided to dedicate her energy mostly to the study of Rome.

Why should I visit Rome?

There are so many reasons to visit this incredibly fascinating city. Rome holds an indescribable magic for all of us. You can find out what life was like for the ancient Romans by visiting sites like the Colosseum and the Pantheon, or strolling around the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. You can spend several days exploring on foot, with highlights including the Spanish Steps, Navona Square, and the medieval district of Trastevere with its narrow streets and charming small restaurants. And, of course, you can enjoy masterpieces of art and architecture on every corner. Rome is also the centre of Christianity, with more than 500 churches and Vatican City awaiting visitors.

However, the Eternal City is not only monuments, churches and art history. You can start your day with a cup of cappuccino and cornetto (brioche), just like the Italians do, take a break from sightseeing to eat the best gelato (ice cream) in the world, have lunch in a Roman tavern, and enjoy the numerous green areas of the city and its uncountable fountains.

What is the first thing you do when arriving in Rome? 

When you are in Rome I would recommend dedicating the first day of your stay to strolling around the most famous piazzas enjoying the atmosphere. Do not make the classic mistake of spending your first day in Rome standing in line in front of one of the famous museums as many tourists do. Do not forget that the whole city is an open-air museum! Book your tickets for popular attractions like the Vatican Museums and the Colosseum in advance as this is the best way to skip the line.

When is the best time of year to visit Rome?

You can visit Rome in any season. The climate is very good in spring and autumn, but at the same time these periods are the most crowded and expensive. Visiting Rome in winter is less popular but actually not less worthwhile. In fact, some would say that the lower prices and smaller crowds make it the best time to visit.

Where would you send a first-time visitor in Rome?

Explore Via Appia Antica, the most ancient Roman way, commonly called 'Queen of Roads' and constructed in the 4th century BC. All along this road you will see vestiges of ancient times, including catacombs, monuments and churches.

How long should I spend in Rome?

A Roman historian, Silvio Negro, used to say that 'A lifetime is not enough to get to know Rome'. You need at least five or six days to see the city's tourist highlights.

Are there any places that are overrated, or best avoided in Rome?

Stay away from fast food kiosks in front of the most important monuments. The best possible places to taste delicious Roman dishes are family run trattorias and pizzerias in the Trastevere and Monti quarters.

What do I need to pack for a trip to Rome?

Take a pair of very comfortable shoes because the best way to explore Rome is on foot. High protection creams and sunglasses are necessary in summer.

What are some of your favourite local dishes in Rome?

Try local antipasti based on fresh vegetables such as artichoke, simmered in olive oil with garlic and mint, local prosciutto (ham), fried appetizers such as filled zucchini blossoms, and pecorino cheese made from sheep milk.

What is something most people don't know about Rome?

Most basic elements of Western civilization are an evolution of the Roman way of life. Sometimes we forget that our legal system, urban planning, architecture and even our alphabet are derived from Roman culture. The Italian language, like French, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian, derives from Latin. And much of the English language too.

What are the best souvenirs to buy in Rome?

Visit Via Dei Coronari (very close to Piazza Navona). It is pedestrianized, elegant and famous for its antique shops.

What is the best thing to do with children in Rome?

Kids could be easily involved in visits to archaeological sites and museums, and there are generally kid-friendly tours of the most important historical attractions available. It is fun to experiment with local traditions and foods in the street markets and to taste different flavours of gelato. Rome is one of the greenest cities in Europe, with numerous parks, and families with kids can enjoy blowing off some steam in these scenic areas. Renting bikes is also a good option.

Where would you recommend staying in Rome?

Choose a hotel close to one of the most famous piazzas and discover the city on foot. There are numerous small and elegant hotels near the Spanish Steps or the Pantheon.