My all time top favorite city is Rome. The capital of Italy has swept me of my feet. When I think of the ultimate city with good culture, great food and gorgeous sites, Rome is the answer. I have managed to visit the city 3 times, each time completely different from the one before. I did a 10 day Rome school trip when I was 17 years old with all my high school friends. I did a 1 week solo trip and I didn’t do anything besides walk the streets, read books in the park and eat pizza. And I recently gave my parents the trip of a lifetime when I took them to Rome for 6 days. Every time was different but I loved every single minute of it.
I recently came across a blog post, by Cheers to Travelling called “Three reasons Rome isn’t for me“. At first, I was a bit surprised: how can anybody not absolutely love Rome? But after reading the whole post, I could feel empathy for Kaylene and maybe even agree with her a little bit about the crowds, the constant noise and the fear of missing out and wanting to explore Rome the right way.
But is that even possible? Exploring Rome the right way? Is there a right way? Is there a wrong way? Can it be explored properly? I do get her feeling. The feeling you want to see everything, have to visit all the sights, take it all in, not wanting to miss a single thing.
For many of us, we feel a trip to the city of Rome will be our first and last trip to the eternal city. Because you will never know if and when you’ll be back, right? And you do not want to come back and have to admit, that, No, you did not visit the Colloseum. Nop, not even the 2nd time. It took me 3 visits to finally get to see it. We want it all. We want to take it all in and see as much as possible.
But Rome is overwhelming. Rome has much to offer and Rome is never fully explored. It’s called the eternal city for a reason. But how do you prepare for a trip to Rome? How do you take in as much as possible without feeling rushed and overloaded? How to maximize your time in Rome? I have a strategy for it. Yes, a real strategy. Not just a plan, no… A stra-te-gy! Yes!!
My simple strategy to maximize your time in Rome
I gave the trip to Rome as a Christmas present (and Mother’s Day present and Birthday present and.. well, my mom and dad didn’t get any presents after that for a whole year!). I needed to research the costs and the things that would be included in my present.
When I was preparing for the trip of a lifetime for my parents in Rome, I wanted to ease them into the city. Rome has an overload of museums, things to see, places to go. It can be confusing to understand the history of the city, the different periods that left their mark on the city and see the layers the city is built of. That’s why I came up with a strategy to explore the city and optimize our time in Rome.
My strategy? RCP. Rome City Planning. Research, Categorize and Plan ahead. Download my FREE sheet with Rome’s sites per category to make things easier for you.
Research to maximize your time in Rome
In order to make the most of your trip to Rome, you need to do your research. I know, I know, many people like to Yolo their way across Europe and that’s fine by me. But this post is about maximizing your time without feeling rushed, so I say: Forget Yolo, but research!
You’ve already started your research because you’re reading this post! Good for you. Check prices, location, what to see, what to do and where to go. Buy a travel guide book, like the Lonely Planet Rome guidebook, (*affiliate) which I used for our trip. For our visit, I knew we wanted to see several sites like the Colloseum, the Forum, Vatican City and the Borghese Museum. We also wanted to see a selection of top Churches in Rome. Within the time frame we had and, not to forget, on a budget.
All these sights are famous for being expensive and dreaded for their queues and long waiting times. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I researched vigorously and planned everything carefully. I managed to stay on budget. We never waited anywhere for more than 5 minutes and we were able to enjoy the sites without feeling rushed or overwhelmed. Now, if that doesn’t sound good to maximize your time in Rome, what will be?
Research before you go: the best gelato shops in Rome.
Ok, all good and well, but if you’re not a researcher, how do you do it then? I’m just going to give some links, as prices and opening times vary so much and it’s better to find that information yourself.
Research the Roma Pass. This card gives your discounts and free public transport. It also gives a good list of all museums, categorized (!) by archeological, modern and contempory. Check the information on the Colloseum and the Foro Romano. My favorite museum is the Galleria Borghese, where you need to make a booking by calling a number. Info is provided in the link. Or explore the hidden Pamphili Gardens.
The Vatican has his own website, where you’ll find info about the Saint Peter and info for stamp and coin collectors. To visit the Vatican Museum, check their site. To book directly an admission ticket to the museum and the Sistine Chapel, click here. If you’re interested in a papal audience, check their information here. Check my insider tip for visiting the Saint Peter.
Categorize to maximize your time in Rome
No other city in the world (that I know of till today), can be categorized as well as Rome. The city is ancient. The city has been through a lot. There are many different eras to pass through and I made themed categories to break the trip down to manageable chunk sizes.
Because it interest me vastly, it’s easy to see the difference between ancient Rome and renaissance Rome. I do understand this isn’t the case for many others. In fact, for almost everyone else around it can be a tough cookie to crumble.
In order to make things easy for myself and my parents, I broke our trip to Rome down into chunk size pieces.
- Modern day Rome, with the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, some shopping, exploring Piazza Navona and walk around town
- Ancient Rome, with the Colloseum, the Forum Romano and the Pantheon
- Religious Rome, with a visit to St. Giovanni of Laterna, Scale Sancta, the Santa Maria Maggiore. Check my list of favourite churches of Rome for more details.
- The Vatican, visiting the Saint Pieter Basilica from the inside and head over to the Vatican Museum. We topped things off with a visit to the most gorgeous museum: Galleria Borghese
- Sweeping day to visit some places we loved, like the Angels Castle and Piazza Navona. We took a bicycle tour over the hills of Rome to revisit the famous sites of Rome and take it all in one more time
The advantages are numerous:
- It was easy to focus on the history of the specific site
- We kept to 1 era at the time
- We managed to cover a lot of ground and take in some small things on our route
- We didn’t lose any time waiting or getting lost
- We didn’t miss any of the top things we wanted to see
- We build up some suspense and kept the best for last
- We knew what we would be exploring the next day, so we could prepare and read up a bit in advance
Ok, to be fair, there were some disadvantages to this strategy. For example, we did have to pass some top attractions because they didn’t fit into our theme and there was no time to redo them later. We also had little room for really spontaneous actions, but we did do a surprise tour at the Santa Maria Maggiore and we spend also numerous hours eating ice cream, drinking wine and having pizza. I’d say, my strategy will maximize your time in Rome.
Don’t know what sites or activity fits into which category? No worries. I made things easier for you and listed all the sites of Rome in a sheet. I added them to different categories so you can easily categorize your day in Rome too. Just click the image and you’ll be redirected to my page with FREE downloads. You can store it on your computer or on your Phone or Tablet. Very simple.
Plan ahead to maximize your time in Rome
Ok, all spontaneity went out the window when I booked our tickets to the top sites. Time slots were locked and we needed to be at certain places at a certain time. But it was worth it.
I planned ahead by buying us three the Roma Pass. With this card, you can visit 2 sites in 3 days. It’s a free public transport card and you get some discounts for other attractions. To make the most out of the card, you need to use it for the most expensive sites, like the Colloseum and in our case the Galleria Borghese. These need to be visited within the time frame. Because I pre-booked the passes, I was able to pick them up right at the airport without any queues and we could activate them and pass the lines at the Colloseum.
Because I researched and planned ahead, we were able to visit the St. Peter’s Basilica with only a 5 minute wait. We had the place almost to ourselves and were able to take everything in without the massive crowds.
I had planned our visit to the Vatican Museum at 11 am, right after our 4 hours at the St. Peter. Because it is nearby, we didn’t lose any time in transport. I didn’t plan for the skies to open and poor a heavy shower of cold rain on all the people waiting in line. But I did plan for us to walk past all those people and just show up at the entrance. We barely caught 5 raindrops, while the rest was waiting in line for over 2 hours.
If you plan these major “must see” attractions ahead of time, you can maximize your time in Rome and Vatican city.
My simple strategy to maximize your time in Rome
So there you have it. My simple strategy to maximize your time in Rome. First do your homework and research. Read everything you can, gather information about prices, opening hours and rush hours.
2nd step is to categorize the sites into a theme. This can be time period related or interest related or area related. This way, you can stay focused on what you’re seeing and maximize your time in Rome.
The last tip for my strategy is to plan ahead. Book tickets, reserve time slots and stick to them. No, that’s not spontaneous, but you will maximize your time in Rome.
To help you with categorizing the sites of Rome, I have made a FREE sheet which you can download. I categorize all the top attractions of Rome. Just click the image and start the download.
Simple right? You can do it too. Research, categorize and make reservations. Rome City Planning. With this strategy you will not feel overwhelmed or rushes and you will maximize your time in Rome. Have you visited Rome? What is your game plan to making the most of your trip to the ancient city? What do you think of my strategy? Do you think it is worth a try? Please share your thoughts with me.