Italy: Rome

Rome definitely lives up to its reputation as the eternal city; it feels as if it spans across time. It is a beautiful hodgepodge of ancient ruins mixed with modern buildings, a place where you can walk the same streets as Julius Caesar or catch a taxi to a hot new club. At night, the city seems to come to life with monuments and fountains lit up and countless squares buzzing with activity. In the morning, tiny coffee shops where there is just enough room to stand at the counter as you sip your espresso, open for early risers and night owls alike. It is a city that never seems to sleep. There are COUNTLESS sights in Rome. Every square seems to have a history. There are ancient ruins scattered throughout the city, and there are so many major sights that almost any other city in the world would be happy to have even one of them.


Work in Progress

How much time should I spend in Rome?
This is a question that I pose to myself every time I plan a trip. Vacation time for most people is limited and many want to get the most out of their trip by seeing a few places, if possible. Yet you don’t want to leave a city feeling like you didn’t even get to cover the major sights you were hoping to visit. For Rome, I would say the absolute minimum you should spend is 2 full days, but that would require you to visit the city’s sights at breakneck speeds. To be able to enjoy the city’s ambience, sights, evenings of floodlit squares, delicious Italian restaurants, and (most importantly) the countless flavors of gelato, I recommend 2.5-3 days.  I am going to cover the sights that you would want to see on a 2-4 day trip to Rome.  Some are more major than others.  The must-sees I have denoted with an (*). Just bear in mind that Rome has so much more to offer. You could spend a week here and still find something to see.

Rome Transportation:

Taxis– Be warned, Roman taxi drivers are notorious for cheating their passengers.  I had two fights with taxi drivers while there (and I only took 2 taxis)!  They “add” to the meter, add on all sorts of bogus extra charges, and will then fight loudly with you in an attempt to coerce you into paying (or suddenly don’t speak English when they did 5 mins beforehand).  To attempt to avoid this, army yourself with the following taxi tips:

  • Only use official taxis, you have less recourse if you don’t, and the unofficial ones are more likely to cheat you.
  • Make sure that the driver restarts the meter when you get in.  They have a habit of “forgetting.”
  • Review the price chart in the cab.  By law they have to have one, and English is one of the languages they are required to display the official fare rules in.
  • From the airport, there is a fixed rate to anywhere in the city center (including bags–they often try to add that “fee” on)–it should be about €40.
  • Finally, if all else fails, one thing that may deter them if they try to insist you pay more than you should after your ride–they get quite animated and even sometimes irate–is saying “polizia” (police) and show them that you are taking their taxi number down to file a complaint.  The threat of wanting to call a police officer in to resolve the dispute usually dissuades them from pursuing it further.  Then try to hand them what you actually owe them and walk away.

Metro/Bus– Both forms of transportation in Rome use the same ticket.  Either way, ensure that you validate your ticket before boarding for the Metro or on board for the bus.  There are steep fines if you are caught with an unvalidated ticket (and “I didn’t know” is not considered a valid excuse).  The Metro is simple to use and efficient (just watch your pockets and bags, pickpockets are notorious in the city, especially on the public transportation).  Assume if you board with an item in an open pocket or bag, you may not have it when you get off.  There are only 2 Metro lines (A & B–the two met in Termini station).  Unfortunately, there are large sections of Rome that the Metro does not frequent (that’s where the bus comes in).  However, the following major sights can be reached using the metro:  The Colosseum (stop: Colosseo), The Vatican (stop: Ottaviano), The Spanish Steps (stop: Spagna), Piazza Barberini/the Trevi Fountain (stop: Barberini), and Piazza del Popolo (stop: Flaminio).  There are other minor sights that the Metro covers, as well.  The bus is relatively simple to use, as well, but can get extremely crowded (and pickpocketing is even more likely than on the Metro).  Get a map from your hotel or a TI (tourist information office).  The main bus # I would remember as a tourist is #40.  It makes stops at the following useful locations: Termini station, Piazza della Repubblica, Piazza Venezia (by the Forum), Largo Argentina (by the Pantheon), and St. Peter’s (probably listed as San Pietro).  Bus #64 also follows a similar route and stops at the above mentioned locations, but I would describe bus #40 as the express version of the slower #64.

Self Guided Tour of Free Rome Sights

    This walk covers a lot of Rome’s best sights in one swoop. The entire walk is about 2.5 miles long starting at the Spanish Steps (which has a Metro station, stop: Spagna) and ends at the Colosseum (with another convenient Metro station, stop: Colosseo). It will take about an hour at a leisurely pace and happens to pass the most famous gelateria in Rome (so save some room for dessert).

      • Sights Covered:  Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, Victor Emanuel II Monument, Colosseum, St. Peter in Chains Church (optional), Santa Maria Maggiore Church (optional)
      • See map below (letters on map correspond to letters before sight names)
      • For more detailed step-by-step walking directions, you can get the google map link to this walk here.

  • (A) Piazza di Spagna
      • Home to the famous Spanish Steps is the first stop and especially a must if you visit Rome in May when the steps are decorated with bright pink azalea flowers.
      • You can climb the Spanish Steps for a pretty view from the top.  (If climbing the steps is too much for you, there is an elevator outside of the Metro station).
      • Bernini’s Fontana della Barcaccia—a leaking boat (at the foot of the steps)
      • Trinita dei Monti Church—at the top of the steps, beautiful view from here

  • (B) Trevi Fountain- Huge, built in 1762 (you can hear it before you can see it)
  • (C) Piazza Colonna
    • Features a huge 2nd century column to Marcus Aurelius
    • Also features the headquarters for the cabinet of the prime minister (the big palace-looking building)
    • These directions will next take you past Giolitti, Rome’s most famous gelateria (gelato shop)
  • (D) Giolitti
    • Rome’s most famous gelateria
  • (E) Pantheon
    • Hours of Operation:  8:30am-7:30pm
    • Entrance Fee, 0€
    • Church; of all Ancient Rome’s great buildings, only to remain intact; Raphael’s tomb.  Until 5th century, was a temple to the Roman gods.
    • Look up—above you is the occulus (opening to the sky)
  • (F) Piazza Navona
    • This oblong square retains the shape of the original racetrack built here
    • See Bernini’s Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (the Fountain of 4 Rivers–in the center of the Piazza) & Fontana del Moro (also in the piazza)
    • Sant’Agnese in Agone—where St. Agnes was martyred (in piazza)
    • Palazzo Pamphilj—nowBrazil’s Embassy, built by pope (in piazza)
  • (G) Santa Maria Sopra Minervar
    • Very close by to Piazza Navona & on the way to next stop
    • See the exterior no matter what, (interior is really neat, but hours are 4pm-6:30pm—check to see if open) and also see its Obelisk while there
  • (H) Victor Emanuel II Monument
    • Huge white monument to the person who united Italy (only see outside)
    • Built to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the country’s unification in 1870
    • Over this way there are no metro’s so no matter what you have to walk to the Colosseum for its metro stop if nothing else, so might as well see it
  • (I) Colosseum
  • From here, you can either hop on the metro and end your tour or see the following 2 sights and end back at your hotel on foot.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Note:  For more information on Rome, click here. (Note: this is still a work in progress and does not yet have information on the Vatican or […]

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