A Travellerspoint blog

Rome

Whether it is a Weekend Break or a Week Vaccation Rome is one of the most magical places in Europe.

sunny 20 °C
View "When in Rome" on OlgaYamout's travel map.

Let me start off by saying that when we went to Rome we actually didn’t go clubbing or partying, so if you are looking for a party guide I can’t help you. I can help if you are looking to explore the city and love walking about and just taking it all in! But don't worry, if you want to take in some nightlife Rome has something to offer everyone! Before we went we read a lot of articles and opinion but it was either for older married couples or wild students and we didn't fit into those categories so I’m going to write this to try and fill the niche that I found me in.

Time to go to ROME
Of course June to August is when most people have holidays but being in Rome then would be unbearable. Not only is it overcrowded, hot and muggy but most of the population goes on holiday around august time so some hotels, restaurants and pubs may be closed. We went mid September time and it was AMAZING. It rained only once (we were there for a week) and the cues were not as long (except the Vatican). Also a good time to go is April till June. You still get the weather but only half the people.

Tips before you go
Please oh please DO NOT rent a car if you are planning to spend most of your time in Rome! The roads are narrow and parking is insanely difficult to come across. My husband is car crazy, he will take the car to the corner shop if I let him, but even he said he is happy we didn't rent a car. If you do want to have some wheels there get a scooter although I personally think it is close to suicide. Trust me you can walk most of the time and usually there is so much to see on your way you will be happy to do so. Taxis are well, pricey but not impossible. Meter starts at around 2.30 euro on weekdays and 4.90 weekends.
• *WARNING** if you are claustrophobic you will NOT like the underground. Now hubbie is not even too bad but he couldn't stand the underground and he is ok with the London one. The thing is that because there are so many ruins under the city the metro system has to be built even further down which results in an almost vertical escalator ride. Its quite stuffy while you are waiting for the train as well so be careful if you are not comfortable with closed spaces.
Buy a guide. I know I know you don’t want to look like a tourist with a camera around your neck, sock and sandals combo and a tourist guide in hand but trust me they are useful things! We love 'Frommer’s Rome day by Day'. And you don’t have to even take it out on the street. Look at it before your trip and in case you need it non-chalantly whip it out while you are at a cafe

Safety
Even though violent crimes are almost non existent petty crimes like pickpockets and scams are everywhere so be careful. It is good to have a bag with a zip and a latch on it as access is difficult and for men a nice zip bag can also do the trick. Rucksacks are just invitations and please don’t put your wallets in you pockets. And don’t think just because you paid to get in to an attraction that you will be safe. A common mistake made by tourists and as long as you secure you valuables you will be fine. Oh and careful on the roads as people can snatch your purse while on a scooter. Other than that walking in Rome even at night is safe.
Tours Scams and Tourist Traps
Ok so the notion of free tours can be too good to be true...and it generally is. Most people offering free tours in busy places are unqualified and unfriendly and it can be a really bad experience. But we have found a really nice "free tour". Ok so it is not entirely free, you can tip the guide at the end if you want to but even 5 euro could do the trick. The one we got was at the bottom of the Spanish steps and it was a great walk through that area and he knew a lot. They are called 'NEW ROME Free Tours' and they meet at the Spanish Square, 5.30pm.www.newromefreetour.com. Another Tour we had was the Colosseum Tour by 'Pegasus Tours'. We got it at the Colosseum itself and we got a discounted price which included the Colosseum and the Imperial Fora. If you want to know the history of the Colosseum and the Ancient Rome then yes go for it, but if you want a quick over view just walk around and take pictures because it is beautiful. We picked up a book there called 'Rome Past and Present' it is a sort of reconstruction of what it looked like before and now. www.visionpubl.com Has a free DVD in there as well and makes for a great show and tell.
Be very careful about tourist traps. It will ruin your visit in Rome if you really get a bad experience with food because let me tell you the food and the coffee is YUMMY! What you have to look out for are multi-lingual menus set up in front of the restaurant with pictures on them. If you see it then it is a big no no!!! Oh and also if there is restaurant staff calling you in, just avoid like the plague. Any restaurant or cafes on the main piazzas are tourist traps. Stick to smaller squares and side streets. Ask at your hotel, ask tour guides you have because all locals have their own little amazing restaurant to share and the best part is discovering them for yourself not having some know-it-all ( like me) tell you where to go! I will put a couple on just in case because we found them to be really good!


Tricks of the Trade

Italians are the friendliest people you will ever find, if you are nice to them! Best way to make friends is to learn a couple of phrases in Italian and try to speak tot hem, trust me they will appreciate the sentiment. It is annoying when people come to your country and expect you to speak their language without making an effort to learn yours isn’t it?
Buy just ONE water bottle...Know why?? the bottle can be filled with spring water from taps all over the city (sweetest water is said to come from the fountain in the Spanish steps) there is even a little trick to drinking...but I will let you guys guess it
If you are students, like we were, get yourselves a ISIC (international student identity card) because you can get money of some of the attractions. Your university student cards will not be accepted. In the UK STA Travel will do them for like 7 quid.

Hotel
Ok this is a very personal decision so I am just going to tell you our compromise. We knew we will need the room for the occasional snooze and a place to keep clothes so we looked at the location and found an ideal hotel. It was literally AROUND the corner from the Spanish steps which meant that we were only like 10 mins from the trevi fountain, so basically we were walking distance from EVERYTHING! The hotel was called 'Hotel Elite'www.travelroma.com, it’s a chain with a couple others. This one is a 2 star and it was a really good price so we took it. Being the odd couple we only THEN decided to look at reviews and all we saw was horrible reviews! But when we go there it was nothing like it. Yes the room was not massive (it had a double bed, an AC which is mega important, a little writing table and a HUGE wardrobe in a little area where the front door is). The bathroom was rectangular shaped. It was clean and lovely and it was everything 2 people needed. Breakfast was included. I would strongly recommend this place because it was comfy, clean, and pleasant and we were lucky to get it.

Plan Your Trips

This is why having a good travel guide is a great idea. Rome has a lot to offer so it is better to do a section at a time. We found that whenever we go to a new place it is hard to find your bearings so we always get one of those hop on and off bus rides. Yes it can be pricey but it is worth paying for because you not only get to see what is where but some of the things you might have thought you wanted to see is actually not so important (we found that with Circo Massimo it hardly there anymore and we drove by it and decided to concentrate on other attractions) it also gives a brief story about where you are especially if you want a brief history. I really recommend. We had the 'Rome Open Tour' (green bus) and we were very happy with it! We found it the best, thanks to Frommers, to do it via neighbourhoods. You do not have to see everything, and you won’t have time to, but see what interests you the most. Also Rome is two different cities at night and during the day so try to see both especially the Vatican, it’s lovely during the night time.

Quirky Attractions
There are a lot of interesting things to see in Rome, but there is also some really weird stuff which I and hubbie loved. First up is the Crypt of the Capuchins Monks, Via Veneto 27. This macabre yet oddly pleasing church is decorated in the bones of the monks which are arranged into patterns and designs. It is so weird you have to see it. You will be asked for a donation. If you like this then you will also like the Mamertine Prison, Clivo Argentario (near the old Forum). Stay away if you are claustrophobic. If you like catacombs then you will like Catacombs of San Calisto and San Sebastiano, Via Appia Antica 110-126 and 136. This is outside the city walls but if you like catacombs then go there. If you are visiting the Vatican you can book to see the Necropolis. **WARNING** first of all you need to book it at least 1 month in advance, check out the Vatican websitewww.vatican.va. You will need to book a tour you can’t just go there. If it is something sinister you crave then go to Chiesa del Sacro Cuore in Prati, Lungotevere Prati 12. In the Church there is a 'Museum of Purgatory'. It is a small room with a collection of items which have a "message" on them from the dead.
Also head of to Chiesa di Santa Maria in Cosmedin, on Piazza Bocca della Verita and as you enter the church you will see the sculpture of the 'Bocca della Verita' or 'The mouth of truth'. Legend has it that if you put your hand in there and lie it will be bitten off.
If you like Leonardo Da Vinci then head to Arciconfraternita Dei Bergamschi, via di Pietra 70. It is an interactive museum of Da Vinci’s inventions and it is so much fun!www.leonardoelinfinito.it

Vatican City
La Piece de Resistance of Rome, everyone needs to at least once go there. St Peters Basilica and the square are obviously free of charge and for most that is all the want. This does mean that you won’t see the museums and the Sistine Chapel. We wanted to see both and since the weather promised to be grand we booked the Vatican Gardens tour which included the entrance to the museums as well. I mean you can buy the pass to the museums on its own if you don’t want to see the gardens but it is a really pleasant walk. Plus you get a nice history of Vatican with it. I personally love art and I would have liked to take the tour for the museums but I thought hubbie would die of boredom so we opted for the garden tour. If you want the history but not too into art then go for this one. You can also get the money off if you are students. **WARNING** if you go for this tour it is located on the other side of the Vatican City, not on St. Peters Square. The Sistine Chapel is amazing and so is the Basilica. Just like the Necropolis you need to book in advance. oh and be sure to adhere to the dress code. People are asked to leave and refused admission.

Food and Drink

This is really up to you and the best thing is to discover your own little places which you will go on and on about for ever but I am going to put just a couple on here in case you want to give it a shot. There is a great pasta place near the Trevi Fountain on viadell'Archetto, called "L'Archetto spaghetteria-pizzeria". It is a unique place. There is about a million pastas there. Great meal and it is not too expensive which is a bonus.
If you want a nice jug of cold Italian beer after you meal then head over to the next street from "L'Archetto", on via San Marcello 19 there is the L'Antica Birreria Peroniwww.anticabirreriaperoni.com Gets very crowded in the evenings but it is a great place to go. There is a restaurant there as well and the food is lovely but getting a seat is difficult.
if you want a great cup of coffee, and I mean better than Starbucks (shock horror) head over to Cafe Sant' Eustachio located on Piazza Sant'Eustachio. It is the most amazing coffee and the view is also great!
If you want something more classy and fine dinning head of to Roof Garden del Savoy, Via Ludovisi 15. It is located in the actual Savoy hotel. You can even get a 15%-25% off if you make a reservation from www.dinningcity.com or www.toptable.com (by the time you read this the offers might have ended so double check). Make sure you have cash with you as some restaurants do not accept cards.

I hope I have been at least some help and I know it is a long read, sorry Rome is amazing and I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Posted by OlgaYamout 04.11.2010 08:54 Archived in Italy Tagged tours rome sights vatican tips help piazzas safety colloseum dinning what_to_see where_to_go

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