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Studying Abroad in Rome: The Her Campus Guide


Studying abroad in Rome? Get a crash course in how to make the most of time in The Eternal City with Her Campus’ abroad guide. We spoke to collegiettes who studied in the Italian city, who shared their tips on everything from getting around, to staying safe to enhancing your time in this new city!

What must you see while you’re living in Rome?

TheTrevi Fountain is “absolutely beautiful” and “throwing a coin over your shoulder will bring you luck” and back to Rome in the future. Make sure to visit The Vatican. “Regardless of your religious affiliation, St. Peter's Basilica is overwhelming and incredible.” Insider tip: “experience the Papal Audience there on Wednesday mornings.” On the topic of churches, Basilica dei Santi Cosma e Damiano has “the most splendid 6th century mosaics over the altar.”  In search of great views? “Check out Palantine Hill. On top of this hill, which overlooks the Roman Forum on one side, Circo Massimo on the other, there is an ancient imperial palace. It feels like an isolated oasis in the center of everything. There's also a beautiful garden with access to panoramic views.” Also up in the hills are The Capitoline Museums(“One of the galleries leads you to a balcony overseeing the Roman Fora!”) where art fans can see “lots of great sculptures.” Museum buffs can also get their fix at the Museo Nazionale d'Arte Moderna (“great for getting a break from ancient roots.”) “The collection itself has a lot of local Italians you've never heard of that are fantastically talented with a good deal of the greats of modern art as well.” The Colosseum is great for “taking a step into the world of Ancient Rome” since it’s where the “epic gladiator fights occurred.” Experience peace at Ara Pacis or theAltar of the Augustan Peace, which is housed “in a beautiful glass building that lets light pour in and make the Ara Pacis nearly glow. I've heard it's equally beautiful at night! But you can walk through it and it's a great subject to sketch!” Bocca della Verità or The Mouth of Truthis a quick stop that “draws crowds to stick their hand into the mouth” to determine whether or not they’re liars. 

What doesn’t live up to the hype?

The Colosseum is “so overrun with tourists” and “is not as magnificent on the inside as the outside.” Unless you’re going to spend “money for a guide” the Forum is not worth it because “you’re trekking around things you can’t fully understand or appreciate why they’re so magnificent.” Crowds not your thing? “Be care about going to St. Peter’s on popular days” because “when it’s crowded you can barely move” and “it’s hard to appreciate the beauty and stay long enough to connect with what you’re seeing.” Finally The Spanish Steps— “you can look at a picture” and that’s enough. “Do not make a big deal about going there.”

What’s the best place to pick up souvenirs?

The neighborhood of “Trastevere” and also the “Piazza Navona market.”

Where is the best place to go clothes shopping?

“Buy lingerie from Intimissimi.” Walk along “Via del Corso” but beware this is where “the most expensive stores are.”

What’s the best way to get around?

Bus transportation sucks” and “can not be trusted to be on time in Rome.” Those who are fans of the bus are also the ones who sneak on. “I went on the bus for free for weeks until I actually saw someone check for passes. Just run off when you see them.” (HC does not reccomend this!) As for the metro, “it’s good…if you can use it.”

Where should I go with my parents?

At Osteria dell’Anima, “you must try the pear pasta.” The view is “worth the splurge.” Spaghetti lovers rejoice atSpaghetteria L'Archetto with their “over 100 different spaghetti sauces. Their house wine is also amazing.” For people watching, “Sabatini in Piazza Santa Maria.” Finally, “La Quercia was absolutely amazing. I took my family there when they visited. Get the proscuitto and mozzarella and bruschetta for appetizers.”

Best dinner recommendations?

EATALY“can get pricey” but “you have so much culture in one building.” Celebrity spotting your thing? “Pierluigi is a classic” and “many celebrities go on their visits to Rome.” Sample everything Italian comfort food at Grazia e Graziella in Trastevere “served in a fun and modernized atmosphere.” Their motto is ‘smiles are free’ and “waiters sing and sometimes hot wine is complimentary.” Dar Poetahas the “best pizza” for “great prices.” Cul de Sacserves “life changing lasagna and phenomenal cheese plates” plus their “broccoli and pecorino cheese pasta” and bread is “to die for.” Not afraid of a splurge? “Il Gabriello is worth the price.”

Where can I get authentic Italian food?

Pietro Valentini for everything truffles. It’s basically locals only. You’ll thank me later.” Or just explore the neighborhoods of “Trastevere or Testaccio.”

What about an authentic night out on the town?

Scholar’s Irish Pub on Via del Plebiscito” for Monday night trivia and Tuesday karaoke is a “must.” Go to Ponte Sisto“with your own bottle(s) of wine and sit on the steps nearby and watch the sunset.” People are always “gathered around the apertitivo spot Freni e Frizioni.” The “most fun bars are in Campo di Fiori.”

Where do the American students go out?

Bars in “Trastevere and Campo di Fiori” are popular with Americans, but “it’s not safe to drink there because it’s so Americanized and you can get hurt or robbed.” Those who do feel OK in Trastevere recommend “a cute bookshop turned into a bar that sells very cheap chocolate liqueur shots at night.” Piazza Navona is another notorious American hotspot. Drunken Ship is “American-owned so it attracts other Americans.”

What are great grab & go spots?

Get kebabs on Via Julio Cesare.” Pretty much anywhere on Piazza Trilussa will be good, including “Meccanismo, Mammo Street Food and Sora Margherita.” In Centro Storico “get the pizza bread” at Bar Amore.” For students at the American University of Rome, check out nearby Simone’sand “Santi Brothers which has the best sandwiches in the world.”

What must I eat and drink in Rome?

Alums of studying abroad in Rome recommend wine, prosecco, grappa, spritz and limoncello as far as drinks. While pasta and pizza is an obvious recommendation, Cacio e pepe is the special call-out. For dessert, don’t leave without having cannoli, tiramisu and gelato.

How can I make the most of my time in Rome?

Foodies, “take a cooking class.” Winos, “go on a wine tour.” Take advantage of the churches in Rome and “learn about their different designs, especially Santa Maria Maggiore and Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano, the two major churches of Rome.” For an amazing view, visit The Keyhole View(“not many tourists know about it!”), it’s “absolutely stunning.” Watch the sunset at Piazza del Popolo— “if you climb to the top of a building, you can see nightfall over Rome.” The most obvious: “go on as many free tours as possible!”

Where should I go on a day trip?

Tivoliis “the gardens where Hilary Duff went in The Lizzie McGuire Movie.” Florenceis “very accessible by train.” The “best place for a wine tour” is Tuscany. Orvietoand Naplesare always worth a trip.

How will my phone work?

“Wifi signals are not strong” so look into an “Italian SIM card.” Or, keep your phone and “get an international plan.” However, “if you must be online at all time, consider getting an Italian phone or at least an international SIM card.” Pay as you go with “very cheap” carrier “TIM. It’s totally worth it.”

What can I not forget to pack?

It “doesn’t get cold very often, but it does rain during the winter” so “pack rain boots” and “an umbrella.” With “killer cobblestones” make sure you have “sturdy shoes (I highly recommend not wearing heels).” For hostels and traveling, “bring small shampoo and conditioner.” The easiest thing for packing is “lots of sundresses!”

Any tips on staying safe?

“Do not go out by yourself; travel with friends” and “watch your back.” To not like a tourist one student advises, “write yourself directions and take pictures of maps so that if you get lost you can find a reference that isn’t a giant map” since “that’ll make you a target as a tourist.” Being “alert” is key and “put your phone down!”

Where should people stay when they visit?

For your parents or anyone staying in a hotel, “the Vatican and Piazza Navona area has great hotels.” Vatican-area hostels are recommended, as is “the Orsa Maggiore Hostel for Women Only.”

Any tips on the abroad programs?

“I studied through Loyola University Chicago. Loyola gave me the opportunity to study abroad my freshman year in Rome. It was an unbelievable first year experience. From the first day, I experienced my perspectives changing and myself becoming more globalized. I wouldn't be the wanderlust soul I am today without my study abroad experience.”

“I loved my classes at Trinity in Rome. The "campus" is very small and easy to traverse, in my opinion. I highly recommend Professoressa Fossà for Italian! She taught my intermediate class, and I learned so much! Drawing was also my number 1. Our professor was smart, funny, and encouraging while critical at the same time. I never thought I would be able to draw until she encouraged me to experiment with something new!”

“I would absolutely recommend the John Cabot University program to anyone. The campus and dorms are located in a beautiful, livable area of Rome called Trastevere, which is a quieter part of the city. It made me feel like I had my own little corner of Rome away from the touristy city center, yet was extremely accessible to all the sites I wanted to explore.”

“JCU offers several on-site classes, such as art history and sketching, which allows its students to get out of the classroom and see the ancient world about which they are learning. I took an Ancient Rome and Its Monuments class, which allowed me to learn the history of the city through seeing the ruins and structures that still stand today.”

“If you go through UCEAP Rome Through The Ages I would highly recommend taking any of Professor Paolo Alei's class. They are rigorous, but fascinating. Alei's passion for art history is contagious, and you'll leave each class feeling enlightened. Consult the ACCENT Center local Italian staff for advice on how to get around (public transportation) as well as food recommendations. Site visits can be spread out around the city, so know that 30 minutes (what you're usually allotted to get there from the ACCENT Center in centro storico) requires you to have a plan ahead of time. Italian public transportation can be unreliable, and very crowded.”

“The American University of Rome is great because it has a diverse group of people.”

“Take Italian! It helps you to not be a ‘dumb American.’”

Did you study abroad in Rome (or another city) and want to share your experiences? Contribute to the Her Campus Abroad guides HERE! 


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