Traveling abroad for the holidays doesn’t have to be the expensive and time-consuming affair of years past. The Internet does a lot of your planning for you, from researching your destination, finding the best airfares, renting a car, booking a hotel, checking the weather, and getting tickets in advance to upcoming events. You can even buy books and magazines online for the long flight over.
So why Rome?
Where you go depends on your interests and budget, of course, but Rome is a perennial favorite. The Eternal City is full of amazing remnants from Biblical times like the Coliseum, Pantheon, and Roman Forum, and it also contains the largest number of fountains of any city in the world (leading to its other nickname, City of Fountains). The Italians are famous for their sense of style so cutting-edge shopping options are plentiful, as is Rome’s lively night club scene.
Half of Rome is above you so don’t forget to look up; that includes inside as well as out. The Vatican is a stunning collection of old world artifacts and architecture, the Sistine Chapel being a particularly famous example, and St Peter’s Basilica next door is quite possibly the most beautiful religious building in the world. The Spanish Steps are worth a quick visit, if only to see the setting for so many romantic Hollywood scenes. Built in the early 1700s, they are the widest staircase in Europe.
Other worthwhile attractions include Trevi Fountain — toss a coin into the waters to ensure a return visit to Rome; Circus Maximus if you want to imagine yourself as Ben Hur during the chariot races; and Palatine Hill to see where legend has it Rome was originally founded by Romulus after killing his brother, Remus.
How to get there
This is what you used to use a travel agent for — tickets, rental cars, hotels — but not anymore. Take your pick of online airfare search engines. If you have a lot of frequent flier miles, you should probably start with that particular airline, but if not, then use a metasearch engine like kayak.com to find the cheapest fares.
Once you get there, you’ll need somewhere to stay. There are several options, but hotels are killer expensive in European cities, especially if you need more than one room. Consider booking through a short-term accommodation site like Rome Escape. They’re a little cheaper and generally offer cooking facilities. You’ll also get a chance to see how the Romans live. “When in Rome ….”
You won’t need a car as most natives use the Metropolitana (subway). Buses and taxis are also available; an all-day, all-mode pass is less than $6. Some visitors prefer to rent bikes or scooters for added flexibility ($50-65 per day).
Avoid travel in the summer months when the city is hot, humid, and very crowded. Fall and winter are typically cold and rainy, so plan your trip for spring (March to May), if at all possible.