Avoid the Vatican twice a week
The Vatican is always busy; even at dawn there are busloads of people descending on the Holy See. The area is manageable, however, except on two occasions each week.
Pope Francis makes a public appearance on Wednesdays and Sundays, drawing crowds of faithful from the world over. Unless you really, really, want to see the pontiff, stay away from the district.
What's more, beware the ticket touts on the way to the Vatican. They'll often insist you're in for hours of queuing unless you buy their tours, but it's worth sussing the situation out for yourself first.
Photo: Dennis Jarvis/Flickr
Live centrally to avoid public transport
Rome is not Paris or London. There are just three metro lines and the buses are woefully unreliable.
The metro's red A line has fairly snazzy trains, whereas most of those on the blue B line are filthy. The green C line only connects with line A at one station, and line B not at all (yet). Bands of thieves frequent some of the main metro stops. Many Romans avoid the daily stresses of public transport by driving, leading to chronic traffic problems.
All in all, investing in central living is well worth it – you'll get one of the most beautiful walks to work in the world, and flatshares can be found using sites such as EasyStanza to keep costs low. If this is out of the question, opt for a commute using one of the (relatively good) tram lines.
Don’t rely on free public WiFi – or toilets
Walking around Rome you’ll notice a number of signs offering free public WiFi. The public networks may also pop up on your phone or laptop, but don’t expect them to work or be reliable. A better option is to pay out for a smartphone contract, or scour the city for a (rare) cafe with internet.
Public toilets are also fewer and further between than might be desired, and don't count on toilet paper or soap being available if you do manage to find one. While we'd usually recommend sticking to local food and cafes while in Rome, chains like McDonald's and Starbucks are often the safest bet if you find yourself in desperate need of either Internet or a lavatory.
Foreign foods are hard to find
Photo: Ian Grant/Flickr
You might find it hard to believe the day will ever come when you get sick of Italian food.
But sooner or later you're likely to get a craving for a taste of home, or simply something a bit different, and you'll discover that quality international restaurants are hard to find in the Italian capital, compared to many other European cities. Ask fellow foreigners for recommendations and prepare to be disappointed.
Esquilino market offers a range of Asian ingredients for home cooking, while the shop Castroni offers a number of US food brands. But if there's anything you really can't manage without, bring it from home – or give visitors a list of items to bring in return for a guided tour around your new hometown.
Play tourist in the evenings
Throngs of tourists file past Rome’s most famous sites during the daytime. But during the evening they head to dinner, leaving the locals to enjoy some of the Eternal City’s most stunning monuments.
The Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum and the Pantheon are just some of the sites which are best viewed after sunset.
Visit top sites for free
A number of Rome’s top sites – including the Museum of Rome and Trajan's Market – are free on the first Sunday of the month.
This privilege however is often reserved for residents of Rome. Getting residency is certainly feasible for foreigners, but it’s a part of Italian bureaucracy which can take some time.
Leave your high heels at home
There is little point in trying to wear high heels in Rome. There are simply too many cobbles, and locals rarely bother.
Unless you’re taking a taxi from door to door, you run the risk of getting caught between the stones or falling flat on your face. Stick to flats and save your ankles!
Don’t pay for water
Rome appears to have more water fountains than churches – they appear just about everywhere from side streets to public parks.
In the summer months the water will often be cooler than that running from your taps at home. Make the most of it!
Photo: Martin Lopatka/Flickr
Don’t go to the nearest beach
Another advantage Rome has over other Italian cities, such as Milan and Florence, is that the seaside is just 30km away. But many Romans skip the beach at Ostia, which rightly or wrongly is deemed inferior.
Sabaudia and Santa Marinella are among the preferred seaside spots out of Rome, while those with a car will find a number of other options.
It really rains in Rome
Think Rome is the land of eternal sunshine? Think again.
The city can flicker from glorious blue skies to a ferocious storm in no time. Most Romans choose to stay indoors while the rain hammers down, often flooding streets (and occasionally the metro).
If you must go outside, arm yourself with a windproof umbrella and prepare to get drenched all the same.
Weather reports may help, but the best forecast comes from the umbrella sellers who take to the streets minutes before a downpour.
Photo: Catherine Edwards/The Local
A version of this article was first published in April 2015.