- Rome isn’t an easy city for travellers with disabilities. Cobbled streets, paving stones, blocked pavements and tiny lifts are difficult for the wheelchair-bound, while the relentless traffic can be disorienting for partially sighted travellers or those with hearing difficulties.
- Getting around on public transport is difficult. All stations on metro line B have wheelchair access and lifts except for 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 19 bus and tram services with wheelchair access. Routes with disabled access are indicated on bus stops.
- If travelling by train, ring the national helpline 199 30 30 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.
- Airline companies should be able to arrange assistance at airports if you notify them of your needs in advance. Alternatively, contact ADR Assistance (www.adrassistance.it) for assistance at Fiumicino or Ciampino airports.
- Some taxis are equipped to carry passengers in wheelchairs; ask for a taxi for a sedia a rotelle (wheelchair).
- Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Presidio del Lazio is a regional service centre that can provide useful local information.
Sage Traveling (www.sagetraveling.com) is a US-based agency started by wheelchair user John Sage, who has visited over 70 countries in Europe. It offers practical advice and tailor-made tours for disabled travellers.
Dangers & Annoyances
Rome is a safe city but petty theft can be a problem.
- Pickpockets are active in touristy areas such as the Colosseum, Piazza di Spagna and St Peter's Square.
- Be alert around Stazione Termini and on crowded public transport – the 64 Vatican bus is notorious.
- Never drape your bag over an empty chair at a streetside cafe or put it where you can’t see it.
- Beware of gangs of kids demanding attention. If you notice that 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.
- In case of theft or loss, always report the incident to the police within 24 hours and ask for a statement.
The greatest risk visitors face in Rome is from pickpockets and thieves. There’s no reason for paranoia, but you need to be aware that the problem exists and to protect your valuables with this in mind.
Pickpockets go where the tourists go, so watch out around the most touristed and crowded areas, such as the Colosseum, Piazza di Spagna, St Peter's Sq and Stazione Termini. Note that thieves prey on disoriented travellers at the bus stops around Termini, fresh in from airports. Crowded public transport is another hot spot – the 64 Vatican bus is notorious. If travelling on the metro, try to use the end carriages, which are usually less busy.
A money belt with your essentials (passport, cash, credit cards) is a good idea. However, to avoid delving into it in public, carry a wallet with a day’s cash. Don’t flaunt watches, cameras and other expensive goods. If you’re carrying a bag or camera, wear the strap across your body and away from the road – moped thieves can swipe a bag and be gone in seconds. Be careful when you sit down at a streetside table – never drape your bag over an empty chair by the road or put it where you can’t see it.
A common method is for one thief to distract you while their assistant makes away with your purse. Beware of gangs of kids or others demanding attention. If you notice that you’ve been targeted, either take evasive action or shout ‘va via!’ (‘go away!’) in a loud, angry voice. Remember also that some of the best pickpockets are well dressed.
In case of theft or loss, always report the incident to the police within 24 hours and ask for a statement.
Main Police Station Rome’s Questura is just off Via Nazionale.
Entrance to the Colosseum, Palatino, Roman Forum, Museo Nazionale Romano (Palazzo Altemps, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Terme di Diocleziano, Crypta Balbi), Terme di Caracalla, Mausoleo di Cecilia Metella and Villa dei Quintili. Available at participating sites or by calling 06 3996 7700.
Includes fast-track entry to the Vatican Museums and other major sites; audioguides for St. Peter’s Basilica and Basilica di San Giovanni. Free travel on the Roma Cristiana Open Bus and unlimited public transport within Rome. Free entry to two sites, then 50% discount to extra sites. A 24-hour version is also available (€55). Details at www.omniakit.org.
Includes free admission to two museums or sites, as well as reduced entry to extra sites, unlimited city transport, and discounted entry to other exhibitions and events. The 48-hour Roma Pass (€28) is a more limited version. Further information 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 6s and discounted for six to 25 year olds. In all cases you’ll need proof of age, ideally a passport or ID card.
The Roma Pass (www.romapass.it) comes in two forms:
72 hours (€38.50) Provides free admission to two museums or sites, as well as reduced entry to extra sites, unlimited city transport, and discounted entry to other exhibitions and events.
48 hours (€28) Gives free admission to one museum or site, and then as per the 72-hour pass.
They're available online, from tourist information points or participating museums.
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, 60ml perfume, 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 to make 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 then follow the links.
- The main office dealing with permits is the Ufficio Immigrazione.
The European Commission has outlined plans for an electronic vetting system for travellers to the Schengen area.
Under the proposed terms of the European Travel Information & Authorisation System (ETIAS), all non-EU travellers would have to fill in an online form and pay a fee of €5 before they could travel to the Schengen block.
If approved by the European Parliament, the system could come into force in 2020.
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 with signals of varying quality. Some also provide laptops/computers.
- Many bars and cafes offer wi-fi.
- There are many public wi-fi hotspots across town run by Roma Wireless (https://captivik.uni.it/romawireless) and WiFimetropolitano (www.cittametropolitanaroma.gov.it/wifimetropolitano). To use these you'll need to register online using a credit card or an Italian mobile phone.
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 20 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 hang out and many clubs host regular gay and lesbian nights. There is also a popular gay beach, Settimo Cielo, outside Rome at Capocotta, accessible via bus 61 from Ostia Lido.
The big annual event is Gay Village, held between June and September in EUR.
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.
Coordinamento Lesbiche Italiano The national organisation for lesbians holds regular conferences and literary evenings at the Casa Internazionale delle Donne in Trastevere.
Newspapers Key national dailies include centre-left la Repubblica (www.repubblica.it) and its right-wing 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.
- The daily limit for cash withdrawal is €250.
- Always let your bank know when you are going abroad, in case they block your card 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 (usually around 1%) as well as a transaction fee of around 1% to 3%. Check details 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 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, telephone 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, and 50, 20, 10, five, two and one cents.
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, no more than 10% in 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 2.45–4.30pm Monday to Friday
Bars & cafes 7.30am–8pm, sometimes until 1am or 2am
Shops 9am–7.30pm or 10am–8pm Monday to Saturday, some 11am–7pm Sunday; smaller shops 9am–1pm and 3.30–7.30pm (or 4pm to 8pm) Monday to Saturday; some shops are closed Monday morning
Clubs 10pm–4am or 5am
Restaurants noon–3pm and 7.30–11pm (later in summer)
Italy’s postal system, Poste Italiane, is reasonably reliable, though parcels do occasionally go missing.
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 are typically 8.30am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 8.30am to 1pm on Saturday. 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 €0.95 to destinations in Italy, €1 to Zone 1 (Europe and the Mediterranean basin), €2.20 to Zone 2 (other countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas) and €2.90 to Zone 3 (Australia and New Zealand). For more important items, use registered mail (raccomandata), which costs €5 to Italian addreses, €6.60 to Zone 1, €7.80 to Zone 2 and €8.40 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 22% value-added tax known as IVA (Imposta sul Valore Aggiunta) is included in the price of most goods and services. Tax-free shopping is available at some shops.
All 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 at 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. Area codes are an integral part of all Italian phone numbers and 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 telephone number.
- To call abroad from Italy dial 00, then the country and area codes, 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.
- Another cheap option is to use an international calling card. Note, however, that there are very few public payphones left in Rome, so consider a prepaid card that allows you to call from any phone. Cards are available at newsstands and tobacconists.
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.
There are very few payphones left in Rome. Those that are still working take telephone cards (schede telefoniche), available from tobacconists and newsstands.
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 and Stazione Termini (€1). If you're caught short, the best thing to do is to nip into a cafe or bar.
Turismo Roma Rome's official tourist website has comprehensive information about sights, accommodation, and city transport, as well as itineraries and up-to-date listings.
- Piazza 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.
- Via Nazionale In front of the Palazzo delle Esposizioni.
- Castel Sant'Angelo
For information about the Vatican, contact the Ufficio Pellegrini e Turisti.
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 source of information.
More practical information, for example, the nearest hospital, car park, etc can be answered by phoning the Comune di Roma's 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 nicer ones at Anzio, Fregene and Santa Marinella.
Entrance to many sites is free for children: under 18s get in free at state-run museums, whilst city-run museums are free for under 6s and discounted for six to 25 year olds.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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).
Supplies Buy baby formula and sterilising solutions at pharmacies. Disposable nappies (diapers; pannolini) are available from supermarkets and pharmacies.
Transport Under 10s travel free on all public transport in the city.
Not for Parents
For an insight into Rome aimed directly at kids, pick up a copy of Lonely Planet’s Not for Parents: Rome. Perfect for children aged eight years and up, it opens up a world of intriguing stories and fascinating facts about Rome’s people, places, history and culture.
Run in the Park
- 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.
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.
Volunteering opportunities cover a range of areas, from teaching English and caring for cats to environmental projects and working on social projects.
Concordia International Volunteer Projects (www.concordiavolunteers.org.uk)