Rome isn’t an easy city for travellers with disabilities. Cobbled streets, paving stones, blocked pavements and tiny lifts are difficult for wheelchair users, while the relentless traffic can be disorienting for partially sighted travellers or those with hearing difficulties.
If you have an obvious disability and/or appropriate ID, many museums and galleries offer free admission for yourself and a companion.
Arriving in Rome
Airline companies will arrange assistance at airports if you notify them of your needs in advance. Alternatively, contact ADR Assistance (www.adrassistance.it) for help at Fiumicino or Ciampino airports.
To reach the city from Fiumicino, the wheelchair-accessible Leonardo Express train runs to Stazione Termini. Alternatively, you could organise a private transfer – Fausta Trasporti is one of a number of operators offering transfers in wheelchair-accessible vehicles.
If travelling by train, ring 800 90 60 60 to arrange assistance. At Stazione Termini, the Sala Blu Assistenza Disabili next to platform 1 can provide information on wheelchair-accessible trains and help with transport in the station. Contact the office 24 hours ahead if you know you’re going to need assistance. There are similar offices at Tiburtina and Ostiense stations.
For people with disabilities and reduced mobility, visit the information page of Rete Ferroviaria Italiana (www.rfi.it/rfi-en/For-persons-with-disability) for full details of services offered and barrier-free stations.
Getting around on public transport is difficult. All stations on metro line B have wheelchair access and lifts except Circo Massimo, Colosseo and Cavour. On line A, Cipro and Termini are equipped with lifts. Note, however, that just because a station has a lift doesn’t mean it will necessarily be working.
Bus 590 covers the same route as metro line A and is one of 22 bus and tram services with wheelchair access. Routes with disabled access are indicated on bus stops.
Some taxis are equipped to carry passengers in wheelchairs; ask for a taxi for a sedia a rotelle (wheelchair). Fausta Trasporti has a fleet of wheelchair-accessible vehicles that can carry up to seven people, including three wheelchair users.
If you are driving, EU disability parking permits are recognised in Rome, giving you the same parking rights that local drivers with disabilities have.
Accessible Travel Online Resources
Village for All (www.villageforall.net/en) Performs on-site audits of tourist facilities in Italy and San Marino. Its listings include three accommodation providers in Rome.
Tourism without Barriers (www.turismosenzabarriere.it) Has a searchable database of accessible accommodation and tourist attractions in several regions of Italy, including Lazio.
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guides from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Accessible Travel Agencies
Rome & Italy This mainstream travel agency has a well-developed accessible-tourism arm that offers customised tours, accessible accommodation, and equipment and vehicle hire. Its Wheely Trekky service, which uses a specially designed sedan/rickshaw with sherpas, allows wheelchair users to access many otherwise difficult archaeological sites, including the Colosseum, Castel Sant'Angelo and Terme di Caracalla.
Accessible Italy San Marino–based, this non-profit company specialises in holiday services for people with disabilities, including equipment rental, adapted vehicle hire and arranging personal assistants.
Sage Traveling (www.sagetraveling.com) A US-based accessible travel agency, offers tailor-made tours to assist mobility-impaired travellers in Europe. Check out its website for a detailed access guide to Rome.
Dangers & Annoyances
Rome is a safe city, but petty theft can be a problem. Use common sense and watch your valuables.
- Pickpockets and thieves are active in touristy areas such as the Colosseum, Piazza di Spagna, Piazza Venezia and St Peter's Square.
- Be alert around Stazione Termini and on crowded public transport – the 64 Vatican bus is notorious.
- In case of theft or loss, always report the incident to the police within 24 hours and ask for a statement.
- Never drape your bag over an empty chair at a streetside cafe or put it where you can’t see it. Also, never leave valuables in coat pockets in restaurants or other places with communal coat hooks.
- Watch your bag during rainstorms when thieves target people concentrating on their umbrellas.
- Beware of gangs of kids or others demanding attention. If you’ve been targeted, either take evasive action or shout ‘Va via!’ (‘Go away!’).
- Always check your change to see you haven't been short-changed.
Main Police Station Rome’s Questura is just off Via Nazionale.
Incl fast-track entry to the Vatican Museums & admission to St Peter’s Basilica, Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano, & Carcere Mamertino. Free travel on hop-on hop-off Open Bus Vatican & Rome, plus unlimited public transport within Rome. Free entry to 2 sites, then 50% discount to extra sites. A 24hr version also available (€55). Details at www.omniakit.org.
Incl free admission to 2 museums or sites, as well as reduced entry to extra sites, unlimited city transport & discounted entry to other exhibitions & events. The 48-hour Roma Pass (€28) is a more limited version. Details at www.romapass.it.
EU citizens aged between 18 and 25 qualify for discounts at state-run museums; under-18s get in free. City-run museums are free for under-sixes and discounted for six to 25 year olds. In all cases you’ll need proof of age, ideally a passport or ID card.
Emergency & Important Numbers
Entry & Exit Formalities
- Entering Italy from another EU country you can bring, duty-free: 10L spirits, 90L wine and 800 cigarettes.
- If arriving from a non-EU country, the limits are 1L spirits (or 2L fortified wine), 4L still wine, 16L beer, 200 cigarettes and other goods up to a value of €300/430 (travelling by land/sea); anything over this must be declared on arrival and the duty paid.
- On leaving the EU, non-EU residents can reclaim value-added tax (VAT) on expensive purchases.
Not required by EU citizens. Not required by nationals of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA for stays of up to 90 days.
- Italy is one of the 26 European countries making up the Schengen area. There are no customs controls when travelling between Schengen countries, so the visa rules that apply to Italy apply to all Schengen countries.
- EU citizens do not need a visa to enter Italy – a valid ID card or passport is sufficient.
- Nationals of some other countries, including Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland and the USA, do not need a visa for stays of up to 90 days.
- Nationals of other countries will need a Schengen tourist visa – to check requirements see www.schengenvisainfo.com/tourist-schengen-visa.
- All non-EU and non-Schengen nationals entering Italy for more than 90 days or for any reason other than tourism (such as study or work) may need a specific visa. Check http://vistoperitalia.esteri.it for details.
Permesso di Soggiorno
- A permesso di soggiorno (permit to stay, also referred to as a residence permit) is required by all non-EU nationals who stay in Italy longer than three months. In theory, you should apply for one within eight days of arriving in Italy.
- EU citizens do not require a permesso di soggiorno but are required to register with the local registry office (ufficio anagrafe) if they stay for more than three months.
- Check exact requirements on www.poliziadistato.it – click on the English tab and follow the links.
- The main office dealing with permits is the Ufficio Immigrazione.
In July 2018, the European Parliament approved plans for an electronic vetting system for travellers to the Schengen area.
Under the terms of the European Travel Information & Authorisation System (ETIAS), all non-EU travellers will have to fill in an online form and pay a fee of €7 before they can travel to a Schengen country.
The system is set to come into force in 2021.
For further details, see www.etiaseurope.eu.
Italy is quite a formal society, and the niceties of social interaction are observed.
- Greetings Greet people in bars, shops, trattorias etc with a buongiorno (good morning) or buonasera (good evening).
- Asking for help Say mi scusi (excuse me) to attract attention; use permesso (permission) to pass someone in a crowded space.
- Dress Cover up when visiting churches and go smart when eating out.
- Eating Out Eat pasta with a fork, not a spoon; it's OK to eat pizza with your hands.
- Gifts If invited to someone’s home, traditional gifts are a tray of dolci (sweets) from a pasticceria (pastry shop), a bottle of wine or flowers.
A travel-insurance policy to cover theft, loss and medical problems is a very good idea. It may also cover you for cancellation or delays to your travel arrangements. Paying for your ticket with a credit card can often provide limited travel accident insurance, and you may be able to reclaim the payment if the operator doesn't deliver.
Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.
Checking insurance quotes…
- Free wi-fi is widely available in hostels, B&Bs and hotels, though signal quality varies. Some places also provide laptops/computers.
- Many bars and cafes offer wi-fi.
- There are many public wi-fi hotspots across town run by WiFimetropolitano (www.cittametropolitanaroma.gov.it/wifimetropolitano). To use these, you'll need to register online using a credit card or Italian mobile phone.
- A free smartphone app, wifi.italia.it, is available that allows you to connect to participating networks with a single login. Released in summer 2017, it gets mixed reports.
The most likely reason for a brush with the law is to report a theft. If you have something stolen and you want to claim it on insurance, you must make a statement to the police. Insurance companies won’t pay up without official proof of a crime.
The Italian police is divided into three main bodies: the polizia, who wear navy-blue jackets; the carabinieri, in a black uniform with a red stripe; and the grey-clad guardia di finanza (fiscal police), responsible for fighting tax evasion and drug smuggling. If you run into trouble, you’re most likely to end up dealing with the polizia or carabinieri.
Drink & Drugs
If you’re caught with what the police deem to be a dealable quantity of hard or soft drugs, you risk prison sentences of between two and 22 years. Possession for personal use is punishable by administrative sanctions, although first-time offenders might get away with a warning.
Homosexuality is legal and widely accepted, but Rome is fairly conservative in its attitudes and discretion is still wise.
The city has a thriving, if low-key, gay scene. There are relatively few queer-only venues, but the Colosseum end of Via di San Giovanni in Laterano is a favourite hangout and many clubs host regular gay and lesbian nights. Outside town, there are a couple of popular gay beaches on the Ostia seafront: Settimo Cielo and the nearby Oasi Naturista Capocotta. Both are accessible by bus 061 from Ostia Lido.
Gay Village This is the big annual event, held between June and September in Testaccio.
Resources include the following:
Arcigay The Roman branch of Arcigay, Italy's national organisation for the LGBT+ community.
Circolo Mario Mieli di Cultura Omosessuale Organises debates, cultural events and social functions. Its website has info and listings of forthcoming events.
Coordinamento Lesbiche Italiano The national organisation for lesbians holds regular conferences, cultural events and literary evenings at the adjoining Casa Internazionale delle Donne in Trastevere.
Newspapers Key national dailies include centre-left la Repubblica (www.repubblica.it) and its conservative rival Corriere della Sera (www.corriere.it). For the Vatican's take on affairs, L'Osservatore Romano (www.osservatoreromano.va) is the Holy See's official paper.
Television The main terrestrial channels are Rai 1, 2 and 3 run by Rai (www.rai.it), Italy's state-owned national broadcaster, and Canale 5, Italia 1 and Rete 4 run by Mediaset (www.mediaset.it), the commercial TV company founded and still partly owned by Silvio Berlusconi.
Radio As well as the principal Rai channels (Radiouno, Radiodue, Radiotre), there are hundreds of commercial radio stations operating across the country. Popular Rome-based stations include Radio Capital (www.capital.it) and Radio Città Futura (www.radiocittafutura.it). Vatican Radio (www.radiovaticana.va) broadcasts in Italian, English and other languages.
ATMs are widespread. Major credit cards are widely accepted but some smaller shops, trattorias and hotels might not take them.
- ATMs (known in Italy as bancomat) are widely available in Rome, and most will accept cards tied into the Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus and Maestro systems.
- Most ATMs have a daily withdrawal limit of €250.
- Always let your bank know when you're going abroad to prevent your card being frozen when payments from unusual locations appear.
- Beware of transaction fees. Every time you withdraw cash, you'll be hit by charges – typically your home bank will charge a foreign-exchange fee and a transaction fee. These might be a flat rate or a percentage of around 1% to 3%. Check with your bank.
- If an ATM rejects your card, try another one before assuming the problem is with your card.
- You can change your money in banks, at post offices or at a cambio (exchange office). There are exchange booths at Stazione Termini and at Fiumicino and Ciampino airports.
- Take your passport or photo ID when exchanging money.
- Virtually all midrange and top-end hotels accept credit cards, as do most restaurants and large shops. Some cheaper pensioni (pensions), trattorias and pizzerias only accept cash. Don’t rely on credit cards at smaller museums or galleries.
- Major cards such as Visa, MasterCard, Eurocard, Cirrus and Eurocheques are widely accepted. Amex is also recognised, although it’s less common than Visa or MasterCard.
- Note that using your credit card in ATMs can be costly. On every transaction there’s a fee, which can reach US$10 with some credit-card issuers, as well as interest per withdrawal. Check with your issuer before leaving home.
- If your card is lost, stolen or swallowed by an ATM, phone to have an immediate stop put on its use.
The seven euro notes come in denominations of €500, €200, €100, €50, €20, €10 and €5. The eight euro coins are in denominations of €2 and €1, while smaller coins run from 50 cents, down to 20, 10, five, two and one.
Romans are not big tippers, but the following is a rough guide:
- Taxis Optional, but most people round up to the nearest euro.
- Restaurants Service (servizio) is generally included; if it's not, a euro or two is fine in pizzerias and trattorias, no more than five to 10% in smart restaurants.
- Bars Not necessary, although many people leave small change if drinking at the bar.
- Hotels Tip porters about €5 at A-list hotels.
Banks 8.30am–1.30pm and 2.45pm–4.30pm Monday to Friday
Bars & cafes 7.30am–8pm, sometimes until 1am or 2am
Clubs 10pm–4am or 5am
Restaurants noon–3pm and 7.30pm–11pm (later in summer)
Shops 10am–7.30pm or 8pm Monday to Saturday, some also 11am–7pm Sunday; smaller shops 10am–1.30pm and 3.30pm–7.30pm Monday to Saturday; some shops are closed Monday morning
Italy’s postal system, Poste Italiane (www.poste.it), is reasonably reliable.
Stamps (francobolli) are available at post offices and authorised tobacconists (look for the official tabacchi sign: a big ‘T’, usually white on black).
Opening hours vary but for large offices are typically 8.20am to 7pm Monday to Friday, to 12.35pm Saturdays. All post offices close two hours earlier than normal on the last business day of each month.
Vatican Post Office Letters can be posted in yellow Vatican postboxes only if they carry Vatican stamps.
Letters up to 20g cost €1.10 to destinations in Italy, €1.15 to Zone 1 (Europe and the Mediterranean basin), €2.40 to Zone 2 (other countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas) and €3.10 to Zone 3 (Australia and New Zealand). For more important items, use registered mail (raccomandata), which costs €5.40 to Italian addreses, €7.10 to Zone 1, €8.40 to Zone 2 and €9.05 to Zone 3.
Most Romans take their annual holiday in August. This means that many businesses and shops close for at least part of the month, particularly around Ferragosto (Feast of the Assumption) on 15 August.
Public holidays include the following:
Capodanno (New Year’s Day) 1 January
Epifania (Epiphany) 6 January
Pasquetta (Easter Monday) March/April
Giorno della Liberazione (Liberation Day) 25 April
Festa del Lavoro (Labour Day) 1 May
Festa della Repubblica (Republic Day) 2 June
Festa dei Santi Pietro e Paolo (Feast of Sts Peter & Paul) 29 June
Ferragosto (Feast of the Assumption) 15 August
Festa di Ognisanti (All Saints’ Day) 1 November
Festa dell’Immacolata Concezione (Feast of the Immaculate Conception) 8 December
Natale (Christmas Day) 25 December
Festa di Santo Stefano (Boxing Day) 26 December
Smoking is banned in enclosed public spaces, which includes restaurants, bars, shops, and public transport. It's also banned in Villa Borghese and other public parks over the summer, from June to September.
Taxes & Refunds
A value-added tax known as IVA (Imposta sul Valore Aggiunta) is included in the price of most goods and services. It currently ranges from 4% to 25%. Tax-free shopping is available at some shops.
All overnight stays in the city are subject to an accommodation tax – the exact sum depends on the length of your sojourn and type of accommodation.
Non-EU residents who spend more than €155 in one shop at a single time can claim a refund when leaving the EU. The refund only applies to purchases from stores that display a ‘Tax Free’ sign. When making the purchase, ask for a tax-refund voucher, to be filled in with the date of the purchase and its value. When leaving the EU, get this voucher stamped at customs and take it to the nearest tax-refund counter where you’ll get an immediate refund, either in cash or charged to your credit card.
- Rome’s area code is 06, which must be dialled even when calling locally.
- Mobile-phone numbers begin with a three-digit prefix starting with a 3.
- Toll-free numbers are known as numeri verdi and usually start with 800.
- Some six-digit national-rate numbers are also in use (such as those for Alitalia and Trenitalia).
- To call Rome from abroad, dial your country's international access code, then Italy's country code (39) followed by 06 and the rest of the number.
- To call abroad from Italy dial 00, then the country code, followed by the full number.
- Avoid making international calls from a hotel, as rates are high.
- The cheapest way to call is to use an app such as Skype or Viber, connecting through the wi-fi at your hotel/B&B etc.
Local SIM cards can be used in European, Australian and unlocked US phones. Other phones must be set to roaming.
- Italian mobile phones operate on the GSM 900/1800 network, which is compatible with the rest of Europe and Australia but not always with the North American GSM or CDMA systems – check with your service provider.
- The cheapest way of using your mobile is to buy a prepaid (prepagato) Italian SIM card. TIM (Telecom Italia Mobile; www.tim.it), Wind (www.wind.it), Vodafone (www.vodafone.it) and Tre (www.tre.it) all offer SIM cards and have retail outlets across town.
- Note that by Italian law all SIM cards must be registered in Italy, so make sure you have a passport or ID card with you when you buy one.
Italy is in a single time zone, one hour ahead of GMT. Daylight-saving time, when clocks move forward one hour, starts on the last Sunday in March. Clocks are put back an hour on the last Sunday in October.
Italy operates on a 24-hour clock, so 6pm is written as 18:00.
Public toilets are not widespread, but you'll find them at St Peter's Square (free) and Stazione Termini (€1). If you're caught short, the best thing to do is to nip into a cafe or bar.
- Pazza delle Cinque Lune Near Piazza Navona.
- Stazione Termini In the hall adjacent to platform 24.
- Imperial Forums
- Via Marco Minghetti Between Via del Corso and the Trevi Fountain.
- Castel Sant'Angelo
For information about the Vatican, contact the Ufficio Pellegrini e Turisti.
Rome's official tourist website, Turismo Roma (www.turismoroma.it), has comprehensive information about sights, accommodation and city transport, as well as itineraries and up-to-date listings.
The Comune di Roma runs a free multilingual tourist information phone line providing info on culture, shows, hotels, transport etc. Its website is also an excellent resource.
For practical questions such as 'Where’s the nearest hospital?' or 'Where can I park?', phone the ChiamaRoma call centre.
Travel with Children
Despite a reputation as a highbrow cultural destination, Rome has a lot to offer kids. Child-specific sights might be thin on the ground, but if you know where to go, there’s plenty to keep the little 'uns occupied and parents happy.
A Family Day Trip
- Ostia Antica
Many of Rome’s ancient sites can be boring for children, but Ostia Antica is different. Here your kids can run along the ancient town’s streets, among shops, and all over its impressive amphitheatre.
Kids will enjoy exploring the gardens at Villa d'Este with their water-spouting fountains and grim-faced gargoyles. Nearby, the extensive ruins of Villa Adriana provide ample opportunity for hide and seek.
The nearest beach to Rome is at Ostia Lido, but there are better ones at Anzio, Fregene and Santa Marinella.
- Animal Sculptures
Try to spot as many animal sculptures as you can. There are hundreds around town, including an elephant (outside the Chiesa di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva), lions (at the foot of the Cordonata staircase), bees (on Bernini’s fountain just off Piazza Barberini), horses, eagles and, of course, Rome’s trademark wolf in the Capitoline Museums.
Cats have had the run of Rome's streets for centuries. These days they like to hang out in the ancient ruins on the Largo di Torre Argentina.
After all those churches and museums, the Bioparco in Villa Borghese offers some light relief.
Food for Kids
Pizza al taglio (sliced pizza) is a godsend for parents. It’s cheap (about €1 buys two small slices of pizza bianca – with salt and olive oil), easy to get hold of (there are hundreds of takeaways around town) and works wonders on flagging spirits.
Ice cream is another manna from heaven, served in coppette (tubs) or coni (cones). Child-friendly flavours include fragola (strawberry), cioccolato (chocolate) and bacio (with hazelnuts).
History for Kids
Everyone wants to see the Colosseum and it doesn’t disappoint, especially if accompanied by tales of bloodthirsty gladiators and hungry lions. For maximum effect prep your kids beforehand with a Rome-based film.
- Terme di Caracalla
Virtual reality brings the Terme di Caracalla back to life courtesy of headsets that recreate the massive baths as they looked in their heyday.
- Le Domus Romane di Palazzo Valentini
Parents and older kids will enjoy the multimedia tour of Roman excavations beneath Palazzo Valentini.
Museums for Kids
Near Piazza del Popolo, Explora – Museo dei Bambini di Roma is a hands-on museum for kids under 12, with interactive displays and a free play park.
- Museo delle Cere
Go face to face with popes, rock stars and footy players at Rome’s cheesy wax museum, the Museo delle Cere.
- Museo delle Mura
Walk along a stretch of the Aurelian Wall at the Museo delle Mura, a small museum housed in one of Rome's ancient city gates.
- Trevi Fountain
Join the crowds and throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain. And if the kids ask, you can tell them that about €3000 is thrown in on an average day.
- Bocca della Verità
Put your hand in the Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth). Just don't tell a fib; otherwise the mouth will bite it off. According to legend, that is.
Spook your teens with a trip to the catacombs on Via Appia Antica. These creepy tunnels, full of tombs and ancient burial chambers, are fascinating, but not suitable for children under about seven years old.
- Convento dei Cappuccini
One for older kids, the crypt under the Convento dei Cappuccini is a decidedly weird place where everything is made from human bones.
Run in the Park
This is the most central of Rome’s main parks. There’s plenty of space to run around in – though it’s not absolutely car-free – and you can hire family bikes.
A lovely park on the Celio Hill. It's a quiet spot and its grassy banks are ideal for a relaxed picnic.
Atmospheric and popular with locals, this attractive park is a verdant oasis off Via Nomentana.
Need to Know
Getting Around Cobbled streets make getting around with a pram or pushchair difficult.
Eating Out In a restaurant ask for a mezza porzione (child’s portion) and seggiolone (highchair).
Admission Prices Under-18s get in free at state-run museums, while city-run museums are free for under-sixes and discounted for six to 25 year olds.
Transport Under-10s travel free on all public transport in the city.
For an insight into Rome aimed directly at kids, pick up a copy of Lonely Planet’s City Trails: Rome. Perfect for children aged eight and up, it opens up a world of intriguing stories and fascinating facts about Rome’s people, places, history and culture.
Volunteering opportunities cover a range of areas, from teaching English and caring for cats to environmental projects and working on social projects.
RomAltruista (www.romaltruista.it) Links volunteers with flexible, short-term opportunities.
Concordia International Volunteer Projects (www.concordiavolunteers.org.uk) UK-based charity that lists volunteering projects worldwide.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures Italy uses the metric system.
Sexual harrassment can be an issue in Rome. If you feel yourself being groped on a crowded bus or metro, a loud 'che schifo!' (how disgusting!) will draw attention to the incident. Otherwise take all the usual precautions you would in any large city, and as in most places, avoid wandering around alone late at night, especially in the area around Termini station.