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54 Tourist Mistakes to Avoid in Rome You NEED to Know Before Going to Rome

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Wondering what mistakes. to avoid in Rome? Rome, the Eternal City, is eternally in my heart. Who can say why this city has such a pull on my being, despite its crowds and aggressive street vendors. Somehow, Rome awakens something within me no other city can.

Just the mere thought of Rome, Italy transports me back to its dusty orange streets and I am blissed out. I’ve visited five times already and still haven’t had enough — in fact, I dream of moving to Rome one day.

By now, I’m either verifiably obsessed or a veritable expert. After so many Rome visits, I’m sharing my top Rome travel tips to make your Rome trip that much better. Now that’s amore. 

If you avoid these Rome tourist mistakes, who knows? Maybe you’ll only need one trip to Rome vs. my five! I’ll never discourage you from repeat travel, though. 

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54 Tourist Mistakes to Avoid in Rome | Key Things to Know Before Going to Rome

Tourist Mistakes to Avoid in Rome | Packing Tips for Rome

1. Favoring fashion over comfort in your footwear

Chances are, you’ll be walking a lot in Rome. The city just lends itself to walking all over the place. Most of the famous Rome landmarks are close enough that you’ll stumble upon one after the other as you’re wandering.

There’s so much to take in by way of sight and sound that you may find yourself walking without even realizing how far you’ve gone. 

The first time I ever visited Rome the silver gladiator sandals I’d brought with me didn’t even last the full two weeks of my trip! You don’t need to wear sneakers all day, but you should probably leave those high heels at home. 

Your best bet is to find a comfortable sandal so your feet can breathe and also be well supported. On summertime trips to Rome I rely heavily on a pair of Clark’s sandals I bought several years ago in Madrid. 

The footbed is basically a full inch off the ground, so I don’t feel every crack and cobblestone through the soles. The gladiator style straps keep my feet in place and they’re well cushioned so I can walk for days without worry. Here is a pair similar to the ones I have. Not the cutest, but cuter than having foot problems. 

In fall / winter months, I’ve opted for sneakers like these or these. The Allbirds can be a bit slippery on cobblestones when it’s raining, though. I also loved having these ankle boots for visiting Rome in November.

2. Not packing for churches

Generally, the dress code for churches is no bare knees and no bare shoulders. This is most strictly enforced at the Vatican. Bring a long dress or skirt and a scarf to wear as a shawl for visiting the churches in summer months.

Check out the 17 best tours of the Vatican to help you plan your visit. 

3. Not carrying the right kind of bag for safety 

You might wonder, is Rome safe for tourists? As a solo female traveler safety is always top of mind for me. As in most of Europe, the main safety issue to avoid is pickpocketing.

One of my top tips for this is packing an anti-theft travel bag with a wired crossbody strap that cannot be easily cut.

I’ve been using this one by TravelOn for years and love it. It fits plenty, blocks credit card readers, has a locked zip option and is sleek enough for me to wear off to the front side of my hip to keep a hand over near it through crowds or on public transportation. 

Tourist Mistakes to Avoid in Rome | Food & Drink Tips for Rome

4. Not starting your day at a bar 

Seriously! Because in Italy, a bar is first and foremost a cafe. Bars serve snacks, food, alcohol but primarily they serve coffee. Coffee culture in Italy might also strike you as different.

The most typical and affordable way to have your coffee is right at the bar itself. Coffees are small and taken down quickly as a quick caffeine hit at the bar.

If you’re like me and prefer to sit and people watch or write for a bit you’ll pay an extra fee. Be warned, if you order a coffee at the bar and try to take it to a table to sit for a while you might be reprimanded and you will definitely be charged. Take away coffee is also outside of the norm.

rome vacation

While there are some cafes, generally appealing to tourists, that offer it you’ll find the more local bars don’t.

One local bar I tried ordering take away coffee from gave me a tiny, clear plastic cup of coffee with foil over the top! I loved the authentic charm of it, even as I missed my usual giant coffee to-go orders.  Click to learn more about Italian coffee culture

5. Ordering cappuccino after 11:00 AM

I first learned this from an American expat who was married to an Italian and had been living in Rome for decades.

She led a cooking class I attended and when we asked for cappuccino when she offered a post-meal coffee she was amused, or horrified. She obliged, but not without teaching us this important lesson.

Cappuccino or any very milky coffee (think, latte) is reserved for breakfast time, on an empty stomach. Never after 11:00am nor after a meal. I’ve definitely broken this rule a few times in Italy, but I always feel so out of place when I do! 

Click here to read more Italian food facts!

6. Ordering cold coffee during a “winter month” 

This one I learned firsthand on my most recent visit to Rome. On a balmy November day, I couldn’t resist ordering a shakerato at one of my favorite coffee bars.

I was served it, but not without a weird look from my waiter as he made sure I knew I was ordering a cold drink. So, even if it feels like summer weather, it’s unusual to order a cold coffee drink off season. 

7. Not reading up on how to place your coffee order

Ask for a caffe in Italy and you’ll receive a shot of espresso. Want a latte? That’s a cup of cold milk. In Italy, my go-to orders are caffe macchiato (espresso with a dash of milk), cappuccino or caffe americano.

Once, I made the mistake of ordering caffe con panna (which I thought meant coffee with cream) and literally received my coffee with a side of whipped cream! Read up on your coffee ordering options before your Rome trip.

8. Paying for water 

Rome has 2500+ drinking fountains (nasoni) around the city and you can fill up your water bottle for free at any one of them. Hydrate well and often in your reusable water bottle. Check out this BPA Free, collapsible travel water bottle.

9. Not Splurging on a Cooking Class

One of the best experiences I’ve ever had in Rome, in all my four visits combined, was this cooking class.

It included the experience of shopping for ingredients at a local market, trading stories with people who live in the city and learning authentic cooking tips for traditional meals so you can recreate the meal on your own.

Since taking the cooking class with Marilee, I’ve made the homemade fettuccine and ravioli recipes she taught me several times for friends and family. It’s a great way to re-experience fond travel memories and share them with your loved ones, too. 

Since it’s been many years since I took my LivItaly cooking class, some more recent cooking class options I recommend include: 

10. Not taking a day trip to Naples for pizza 

You could easily spend a weekend in Naples taking in the rough yet charming city, but if you’re pressed for time consider a day trip instead. You can take a I do recommend booking ahead for less expensive fares. Check out the Omio app for easily booking trains all throughout Europe.

rome day trips rome to naples train view

While it might sound a bit dramatic to visit Naples simply to try the pizza, I’ve done it and it was well worth it. After all, Napoli is the birthplace of pizza!

Ever heard of the book or movie Eat, Pray, Love? It describes a scene in which the author visits a pizzeria in Naples and eats a giant, chewy, cheesy pizza for 5 euro. This is the pizza I’m talking about, served at L’antica Pizzeria da Michele.

There is constantly a line here, and you have the option to wait for a table or to grab take away. If you have the time I highly recommend eating it fresh seated at the restaurant while it’s super hot.

When I visited most recently, eating this pizza was my sole objective and I arrived just before opening time. I was able to be seated right away and essentially had pizza for breakfast. It was glorious. 

And while you’re at it, consider joining a Naples street food tour to get an even better sense of the local food culture!


11. Eating neon, whipped gelato 

If you haven’t already heard — not all gelato is ‘real’ gelato. You’ll likely see some shops selling brightly colored, airy-looking gelato. Avoid this. True gelato is more muted in color and not so tall. Instead, look for gelato tucked into metal tins.

Some of my go-to gelato shops in Rome include: San Crispino — my sister told me about this one before my very first visit to Rome and I’ve visited every trip since then.

My favorite here is their honey flavor; Giolitti — this is one of the oldest gelato shops in Rome and a more recent discovery for me.

I love their rice flavor, and the delicious panna they top all their servings with; Fata Morgana is another more recent discovery of mine, as it was near the Airbnb where I stayed.

I love their inventive flavor options, and there’s a chocolate mousse flavor I got here once I still think about.

rome food rome in november scoops of gelato

12. Expecting food to taste like Italian you’ve had at home 

General good rule of thumb, don’t expect the authentic food of a country to taste the same way the restaurants serve it to you back home.

Pizza we’re used to in the US is not the pizza being served in Italy. There’s no chicken parm (though there is eggplant parm) or fettuccine alfredo, for example.

Visit with an open mind. Rather, visit with a curious mind. The food we’re served in the US is catered to typical US taste. When you visit Italy, be curious about the flavors. What differences do you notice and appreciate?

13. Not trying a chocolate cappuccino 

Okay, I’m very excited about this one! I came across Sciascia Caffe 1919 as I was planning a long walk to get my nails done. Of course, I had to find a coffee bar along my route.

I discovered Sciascia served up coffee drinks with their melted chocolate in the cups and had to try it. It’s located in a very pleasant area across the bridge from Rome and closer to the Vatican so plan your visit accordingly.

rome coffee shop interior

14. Not bringing coffee home from Sant’Eustachio 

I never drank my coffee black until I tried coffee from Sant’Eustachio. The flavor is lovely and I always buy bags of their coffee to bring back as gifts  for myself.

They’ve recently expanded to add a second location so I’d say many are in agreement about the quality of coffee served here.

However, it’s also becoming one of the most expensive coffee bars in Rome. Something to keep in mind if you’re on a budget. It’s pretty tough to get a terrible cup of coffee in this city so definitely explore your options!

But also make it a point to pop over to Sant’Eustachio and see what all the fuss is about. 

15. Skipping the cocktail bar scene 

Not usually my scene, but a friend who was visiting is very into exploring the cocktail bars featured on worlds best bars.

During our time in Rome, there were several nearby bars that had been featured on the list. We tried a couple and the winner was Drink Kong, located in the Monti neighborhood.

Go early for a seat at the bar or reserve ahead for a table, and enjoy sampling the menu. The food here was delicious and the whole place has a great atmosphere! Great for girls night or a date. 

16. Forgetting to try maritozzo 

It took me 5 trips to Rome to finally stumble upon maritozzo. I started seeing these cream-filled dough balls at a nearby bakery during my last stay and simply had to try one.

They sell them at a regular size or as minis and they’re essentially a brioche bread filled with whipped cream. Much lighter than I’d initially expected and a must-try! Get one at Roscioli. 

maritozzi maritozzo rome

17. Skipping aperitivo 

Aperitivo in Italy is a pre-dinner ritual of sorts. The word aperitivo means “open the appetite” and drinks are often served with snacks as well. Learn more about aperitivo here

aperitivo in rome

18. Eating a meal / dessert in Piazza Navona

While I have stumbled across some great eats in the side streets coming off of Piazza Navona, I don’t recommend eating at an establishment in the piazza itself.

On a couple occasions I’ve stopped here for an early-morning cappuccino to enjoy the square before the crowds, or a glass of Prosecco under the afternoon sun with some people-watching.

The items are more expensive than you’ll find elsewhere, but I won’t call them overpriced because you’re also paying for the location and your view. I deem these items worth it. On the other hand, I wouldn’t come here for a full-blow meal or even dessert.

piazza navona church

From personal experience the quality does not live up to the price and in the case of food, the view and environment don’t make up the difference for me! Instead, check out nearby restaurants such as Virginiae — one of my personal favorites in this area. 

19. Not ordering cacio e pepe or pasta alla carbonara 

Two of the most popular pasta dishes in Rome should definitely be on your list to try. I’ve never actually tried carbonara because it includes pork which I don’t eat, but I always enjoy cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper).

This is my go-to order at Virginiae, mentioned above (their lasagna is also great). 

cacio e pepe rome restaurants

20. Sprinkling cheese over a seafood pasta dish 

Don’t do it! The cheese is thought to overpower the delicate taste of fish or seafood. 

21. Only eating pasta, pizza and gelato 

There’s slightly more to food in Italy, and you’ll see a variety of meat and fish offerings on the menu. Some of the best, non-pizza/pasta dishes I’ve had in Rome include: fried zucchini flowers, suppli, osso buco. 

rome italy food

22. Leaving pasta sauce on your plate

In Italy, fare la scarpetta is the practice of using a small piece of bread to wipe up and eat the sauce remaining on your plate at the end of your meal. So, if your meal came with bread save some for that final bite! 

23. Not trying pizza by the piece 

One of my favorite things to do when visiting Rome is visiting a pizza counter for pizza al taglio.

You’ll find a variety of pizzas behind the counter baked in rectangular pans. You simply point out which pieces you want, how big of a piece you want them to cut, then they’ll weight it and heat it up for you!

You can eat it right in the shop if there’s space or, even better, take it to a nearby fountain or park — just watch out for the hungry birds you might attract!

24. Not branching out on your tiramisu flavors  

If the coffee flavor is what’s holding you back from loving tiramisu then you’ll be excited to hear — there are many different flavors of tiramisu for you to try in Rome.

I first discovered this when a new friend (okay, maybe I was on a date) took me to Pompi because I have such a sweet tooth.

In addition to the traditional tiramisu they offer a variety including: strawberry, caramel, wildberries, pistacchio, etc. I tried a berry one and it was delicious.

Although, as a coffee addict my favorite will always be the original. If you’re looking for a smaller portion and still more variety of flavors check out Two Sizes near Piazza Navona. 

Tourist Mistakes to Avoid in Rome | Getting Around Rome & Rome Safety Tips

25. Taking the underground train 

Rome does have an underground train system, but it mostly serves areas outside of the city center. Unless you’re going somewhere outside of the city (or maybe even then) stay above ground. Really for no other reason than the fact that you’ll want to see it all.

I’m a big fan of buses for this reason, and the bus system is pretty easy to navigate in Rome (although I did get confused once and get on the wrong one from the Termini station, but it was easy enough to correct). I find Google maps to be accurate in terms of bus routes and times. 

26. Not being prepared with bus tickets 

One important tip to note — the best place I’ve found to buy bus tickets is at one of the Tabaccherias (tobacco shops). I recommend buying an extra to have on hand in case you need it, and at the very least purchasing your round trip tickets at once for convenience.

Other places to purchase bus tickets include at major bus stops or metro stations. Really, purchasing from a Tabaccheria was the simplest and most accessible option I found. 

27. Not validating your bus tickets

When you get on to a bus, there is a machine you need to insert your ticket into to be stamped or validated.

If you don’t do this, there are two possible outcomes: 1. Nothing happens and you’re able to ride the bus for free 2. Someone comes on to check tickets, you get caught trying to ride the bus for fee and get fined.

Choose your own adventure . 

28. Insisting on flying into Fiumicino airport 

Fiumicino is considered the main, bigger international airport in Rome and most likely the one you’ll be flying into. But although Ciampino is much smaller it’s not one you need to avoid at all costs.

In fact, Ciampino is 10 minutes closer to the city than Fiumicino. While Fiumicino is slightly better connected, you’ll be fine getting to your accommodations from either airport. 

29. Not walking the whole city 

I consider this a mistake in most European cities — it’s just so walkable here! And when you walk a city you experience it through all your senses at once.

You’re immersed in it and you choose your pace. You can follow small side streets if the mood strikes you just to see where they might lead.

You might discover a shop you never would have noticed if you only took buses or cars all around.

And Rome is SUCH a walkable city, it would be a sin not to experience it on foot if you’re able. If not, I wouldn’t say Rome is the most accessible city but here is a guide to accessible Rome sight-seeing.

rome guided tours

30. Avoiding the hop on / hop off bus 

Speaking honestly, this is a last resort for me. But I have found that in a pinch, if you’re on a very tight schedule, hop on / hop off buses are perfect.

You get to see all the major sites in the most efficient way possible. And sitting on the open-air top-deck with a nice breeze as you’re driven around the Eternal City doesn’t suck. 

31. Be alert / aware of pickpockets and scammers 

As I said, the biggest crime to watch out for if you’re concerned about Rome safety is pickpocketing. As you’re in busy areas around popular Rome landmarks or busy public transportation hubs or even as you’re walking through crowds be alert.

People might try to engage you in conversation, I’ve seen people snap a bracelet onto tourists’ wrists and then demand payment, etc.

A firm no and walking with a purpose to your destination, ignoring as needed, usually does the trick in these cases. Stay in well-populated areas and be extra mindful around side streets — I’ve found this to be especially true closer to the colosseum. 

Tourist Mistakes to Avoid in Rome Landmarks & Attractions 

32. Visiting the Colosseum at the wrong time of day   

Bet you didn’t think there was a wrong way to visit the Colosseum, but there is. First rookie mistake — visiting at a peak time in the middle of the day when the sun is high and the crowds are thick.

The Colosseum is a wide open space, there is no roof, it’s an outdoor stadium! Unless you want to be hiding out in the shadows on the sides the whole time, aim to visit before noon or closer to evening time to see the Colosseum at night.


33. Visiting the Colosseum without a guide 

The first couple times I visited the Colosseum I did so sans tour group. Why would I want to join a group and be restricted? I want to be free! It wasn’t until later I learned the allure of guided tours. You join the group tours to get access to more areas.

Going in with a tour gives you access to all levels of the Colosseum. Sure, you also get the history lesson but even if that’s not your thing you’ll simply get to see more with a guided tour

rome city rome landmarks colosseum rome tickets

34. Spending too Much Time at the Roman Forum 

When you purchase tickets to visit the Colosseum, you can also get access to the Roman Forum. On my very first trip to Rome, I did it all. I have revisited the Colosseum since then but not the Roman Forum. For many, walking through these ruins is a highlight.

For me, it simply wasn’t as memorable. My experience in the July/August heat felt unbearable! I should probably try visiting in cooler temperatures. I recommend following this guide to help make the most of your experience. 

Rome ruins Roman forum

35. Forgetting to wander aimlessly / over planning 

I get it — you’ve flown all the way to Rome and you want to see it ALL. This is how I used to travel: limited time, packed itinerary. I saw a lot but I still didn’t see everything.

And in fact, I’d argue I missed a lot of what was going on around me by being so laser-focused on a strict itinerary. If you must, build free time into your itinerary itself. Rome is a wonderful city to get lost in for a bit. 

36. Not taking a train to Sorrento, the Amalfi Coast and Pompeii 

On my very first trip to Rome, we only had enough time to spend a long weekend exploring these destinations. We stationed ourselves in Naples for the weekend, then visited Pompeii one day and Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast another. It was worthwhile. Everything is pretty well connected via train so if you really want to make it happen you certainly can. 


37. Visiting St Peter’s Basilica / the Vatican on off day

The Vatican Museums are closed on Sundays and various holidays throughout the year. St. Peter’s Basilica is closed on Wednesdays as the Papal audience is held then. Plan accordingly!

Since the Basilica and museums are all close together it makes sense to visit them all in one dedicated day, so be sure to check schedules ahead of time and of course buy your museum tickets in advance

For the best experience when visiting the Vatican, book a guided tour. Read this guide to the 17 best Vatican tours in Rome to help you choose the one that’s right for you.


38. Skipping the Sistine chapel

Truly incredible, I’d visit again and again. I do wish people would stay silent in the viewing room as advised because it allows for an even more powerful experience. But either way it’s incredible and the museum as a whole is wonderful to walk through.

On a recent visit, we spent some time sitting at the beautiful cafe in the Pinecone Courtyard at the museum on a rainy afternoon. Highly recommend for some relaxation in the midst of sightseeing. 

39. Not popping into every single church you pass

One of my absolute favorite things to do in Rome is to pop into different churches. As you wander, you’re bound to come across many churches you can step into as you please. Take these reverent pauses to admire the art and history along your route. 

rome in december st peters basilica tickets

40. Not exploring Trastevere

Only a 20-minute walk from Vatican city or a 15-minute walk from the colosseum sits this charming neighborhood. Go for the charm, the market, the more local feel, the food and the nightlife. 


41. Forgetting to toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain

Legend says tossing a coin into the Trevi Fountain (right hand over left shoulder) will ensure you return to the Eternal City. So far, I’ve tossed in a coin each visit to Rome and have returned five times already.

Whether the legend is true or it’s purely coincidental, it doesn’t hurt to toss a coin into the fountain because all those proceeds are donated to charity by the city of Rome. 

rome trevi fountain

42. Glossing over hidden gems 

How do you find a hidden gem? Well, you either stumble onto them unwittingly or you actively seek them out. Being in Rome for the fifth time recently I wanted to see something brand new to me so I searched for something new.

That’s how I found Galleria Sciara near the Trevi fountain. You can also visit a site like Atlas Obscura to find unique attractions in cities across the world. Thanks to TikTok for introducing me to that site.

galleria sciarra roma

43. Skipping a stroll through the markets 

Stroll through Campo de’ Fiori, Mercato di’ Testaccio and more.

44. Not visiting the Rinascente 

What if I told you to visit a department store for a drink with a view? Rinascente near the Spanish Steps is a beautiful department store, especially its topmost floor where you can access a beautiful terrace.

A great escape from the bustle down below. Rinascente department stores across Italy offer this feature — a terrace to eat and drink with a view.

The one in Milan looks gorgeous, though I’ve never been. The one in Palermo, Sicily is also beautiful and I have had the pleasure to witness that one firsthand. 

restaurant with view rome best views

45. Missing out on the view from Piazza del Quirinale 

Quite possibly, I’m simply attached to this piazza and the view from here because it reminds me of my first visit to Rome. I was staying at a hostel nearby and my first view of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica was during the evening from this very spot. A short walk later, we were at the Trevi Fountain.

It was magical. I find this piazza, up above the crowds near the Trevi, is rarely over-crowded. I love the views over the red roofs of Rome across to the Vatican, especially as evening falls and the city lights start to sparkle. 

46. Getting to the Pantheon too late

The Pantheon is free to visit, and usually a line starts to form outside before it’s even open. It gets busier as the day goes on, so if you want a more relaxed visit without wasting time in line get there 15-30 minutes before it opens. 

47. Getting a late start in general

This is a rule I follow in general on my trips, especially to tourist-favored cities like Rome. I love getting an early start so I can take in popular attractions in peace. I’ll often grab a take away coffee where I can find it, go sit in front of a chosen landmark and simply take in my surroundings in quiet. It’s wonderful. 

rome spanish steps

48. Staying landlocked

Did you know Rome has a beach nearby? Ostia beach (lido di Ostia) is only a short train ride away so you can easily plan a beach day trip from Rome! 

49. Not visiting Castel Sant’ Angelo / Ponte Sant’ Angelo

Even if you don’t buy a ticket to go into the castle (I’ve been once and it was fine) this castle and the bridge leading to it are sights to see. The bridge is alive with activity any time of day, and offers some beautiful views both during the day and at night once the city lights come on.

Definitely make it a point to walk through here. Be mindful, as there are also many street peddlers here. But with their presence, the live music, fellow visitors it’s generally a fun environment. 

castel sant angelo tickets rome nightlife

50. Missing out on the terrace atop the wedding cake building

I remain guilty of this mistake myself, although it’s on my list every visit. It’s hard to miss the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II on Piazza Venezia, built in honor of the first King of Unified Italy.

And, you can take a glass elevator up to the very top to see “Rome from the Sky.” Still on my Rome to-do list, so if you do this I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments! 

rome attractions rome beautiful places

51. Ignoring the shopping around The Spanish Steps 

If you like to shop on your travels, this is the area for you to explore. You’ll find a mix of affordable to high-end and luxury shops here. Lose yourself window shopping (or actually shopping) along the streets off the Spanish Steps for a few hours. 


Tourist Mistakes to Avoid in Rome | Connecting With People in Rome

52. Neglecting to learn the language basics 

Standard rule of thumb — always learn a few basic words and phrases of the main language spoken in whichever destination you’re visiting. Look up and practice how to say things like:

hello, goodbye, please, thank you, how much?, where is the bathroom?, do you speak English?, excuse me, sorry, I don’t speak Italian, etc.

Approaching someone in their own language when you’re a visitor in their home country shows kindness, respect and humility and goes a long way toward building connection with others as you travel. 

If you want to take it a step further and learn even more of the language try this language app to learn Italian.

53. Being too weary of Bumble & Bumble BFF 

I’ve had luck meeting great people this way, locals and fellow travelers alike, to explore a city with in those moments when solo travel leaves me wanting company. 

54. Not participating in any group tours / activities  

This is another great way to meet new people while traveling, and to learn from a local. Sign up for a group tour or activity! Here are some I’d recommend checking out: 

Conclusion: 54 Tourist Mistakes to Avoid in Rome | Key Things to Know Before Going to Rome

There you have it, top travel tips for Rome to make the most of your Rome trip. Still wondering, is Rome worth visiting? Follow this guide for what not to do in Rome and you’re sure to have a great experience in the eternal city. Bon voyage!

Things to do in Rome, Italy Travel Tips 54 Rome Mistakes to Avoid
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