Rome in a day

Story and photos by Tech. Sgt. Jocelyn L. Rich
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but if you have 24 hours and would like to tour the highlights of Rome, you can check many of these attractions off your list in about a day. All you need is some good walking shoes, a map and a plan.

The views and historical sites begin as soon as you leave the airport. Evidence of the aqueducts, some dating back to 312 BCE, can be seen peaking out over the umbrella, palm and pine trees of Rome that pepper the outskirts and the city with their distinct appearance. A taxi ride from the airport to the city center can cost between €40 and €70, depending on which airport you are arriving into.

There are also trains, busses and other transports available ranging from €8 round trip and up. Hotels frequently have their own shuttle that they offer for free to their guests.

If you are not an experienced driver and well versed in overcrowded city driving, I would recommend not renting a car, unless you have a desire to potentially test your insurance policy.

As you travel into the city, the patchwork of architecture becomes apparent. Buildings and houses with diverse architecture range from ancient to modern, quilted together to create a mosaic of facades adding to the charm and character of this unique city.

If you are traveling on a budget, do some research before heading out the door. With the right research, planning and timing, you can catch a flight to the capital city for as low as €45.

There are several guide books available to assist you in finding things that you’d like to see. Rome can be as regimented or agenda free as you would like to make it. There are several walking tours available, spanning from 2 hours to all day. These guided tours will run about €50 or more for each person. They are usually accompanied with history lessons and anecdotes from the tour guide as well as interesting, little known facts about what you are about to see.

Maps of Rome can be deceiving. The distance between attractions are usually well within walking distance. If you are traveling with small children, public transportation or a tour bus is recommended to preserve some sanity.

If you are adventurous, try taking the path lesser traveled, using the narrow side streets via your next destination. There is hardly a corner or city block that does not house a place of historical significance, an elaborate fountain or stunning example of period architecture.

Things to look out for are: being approached by sales people selling tours to the attractions to people standing in line at places like the Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica. They will tell you that there is a long wait where you are standing and that you will be able to jump the line if you just buy their guided tour for a low price of €45. This is untrue. The line goes quickly, and the entry fees rival the tours by about half. The average tour at main attractions are 2 hours long and are stuffed with all the information you might want to know from knowledgeable guides.

Pick-pockets are a known constant in places where tourists flock. This is one of those places where the European rival of the fanny pack actually comes in handy. Keep your bags and backpacks secure and your wallet in a front pocket to thwart thieves’ efforts.

Frequented common places and piazzas of Rome are swarming with tourists and peddlers of cheap goods. These people are not legally allowed to sell, and tend to be overbearing.

Looking for a taste of Italy? The city is infused with cafes, restaurants, pizzerias and coffee shops. Those near major attractions tend to be more expensive and geared toward the tourist’s pallet.

A must try is the ancient treat, gelato. This creamy older cousin to ice cream is a perfect snack to cool down on a hot day. Gelato dates back to ancient Rome and Egypt. It was made from ice and snow brought down from mountaintops and preserved below ground. It is typically flavored with fresh fruit purees, cocoa or nut pastes.

After a long day of taking in the sights, if you still have the energy to check out the night life, there are a multitude of venues to choose from. From cozy, colorful, baroque-style interior bars to the opera house, from the movies to night clubs, there is a plethora of options to keep you entertained. 

The night life in Rome, starting with the meal, tends to start later in the evening. Restaurants will see the bulk of the dinner crowd arrive at around 9 p.m.
It is customary to take your time, enjoying your meal and company. You will not be rushed out, and if you want to pay your bill, you will have to ask for it. Some clubs and venues have dress codes and cover charges, so be aware.

When in Rome: The local culture seems to be more laid back, relaxed and slightly less organized in certain situations than Americans are used to. Line jumping, cutting people off and bumping in crowds is not uncommon. There is no disrespect intended. To avoid misunderstanding, the words “mi scusi,” or excuse me, go a long way. It seems the visitors easily and quickly conform to these local nuances.
If Rome is just too far, or not in the stars for you at this time, but you’d still like a little piece of that era, there is a village less than an hour away from Kaiserslautern, in Homburg-Schwarzenacker, that has been recreated from the Roman occupation of this region.

The ruins in the village are the real deal, built in I BCE and destroyed by Alemannic tribes in A.D. 275. At one time, the village housed an estimated 2,500 people.
The reconstruction shows what it may have looked like in its prime. The cost of entry is €3 for adults and €2 for students. Families are charged €7.50 and guided tours cost €30.

With the weather brightening up and spring in full swing, now is the time to get out and have an adventure, whether it takes you to another country or just to your own backyard. Happy travels.