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Help for a Non-Touristy Trip to Rome?

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Help for a Non-Touristy Trip to Rome?

Hey all,

So I'm doing an Easter trip to Italy with my girlfriend, and we're visiting Venice, Florence, and Rome, in that order (I know, how typical). The entire trip is 8 days, and we will be in Rome from April 13 to 17 (which leaves 14, 15, and 16 for actual enjoyment).

After Venice and Florence, both of which are rather rushed, I'm thinking we will be fairly tired of the general tourist agendas of rushing about and sightseeing, so I'm hoping that the three full days in Rome could be spent on unwinding and taking in Italy casually. This will be our first time in the city, so we still want to see the most majestic things like St. Peter's, but on the whole we'd rather have fun than a crammed itinerary.

Having said all that, could any of the Rome experts here please be so kind as to offer some suggestions on what a student couple in their early 20s is to do as far as romantic fun goes? We bought Rick Steve's guidebook for Rome, but I'm sure that offers only rudimentary information. Anything from great gelato places and cafes to visit, relaxed self-made walking tours to take, good (but preferably budget) restaurants out of the touristy path, to strategic locations where we can sit back and take in the atmosphere is welcome. Is Rome famous for a particular dish or type of food, that we should accordingly taste in as many places as possible in a sort of "who does it best?" contest? Are there any markets particularly good for random trinkets and bric-a-brac that would make for an inexpensive and unique souvenir? In short, if you were in my shoes and wanted to enjoy a singular first experience of Rome with a significant other on a student budget (I imagine having fiscal restrictions can often foster creativity), but knowing what you already know about the city, what would you do?

If it comes off that I don't really have a plan, it's because I don't, having spent all my attention so far on Florence...

Also, we will be staying in Alice in Wonderland at

Via Appia Nuova 138, if that should prove relevant to any suggestions.

Thanks in advance!

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1. Re: Help for a Non-Touristy Trip to Rome?

Could anybody please help me out with this? The vast majority of the generic content on Rome out there just details what sights one should see, and offers very little advice in terms of off-the-beaten path ideas...

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2. Re: Help for a Non-Touristy Trip to Rome?

Listen, just wander around. Rome is a great city, there are surprises everywhere. Don't set things out in strict order, that doesn't work in Rome! Go to a particular sight (St Peter's is fantastic) and when finished there just walk around. You will be surprised with what you find. Deal with each discovery as it comes along!

You are staying a bit out from the centre.

Los Angeles...
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3. Re: Help for a Non-Touristy Trip to Rome?

Sorry can't offer any first hand advice, but when I was in the bookstore checking out guidebooks for my future trip I did see more than one that touted itself as providing "off the beaten path" tours/info, so you may have a little luck with a specialty tourbook if you can't find what you are looking for elsewhere.

Also, I have also found that Time Out guides, are both geared more towards younger travelers & also tend to provide suggestions for less-traditional sites & activities--at least in my experience with guides for other locations. You may want to go ahead and check them out as well and see if you find anything valuable.

Good luck!

Taylorsville, Utah
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4. Re: Help for a Non-Touristy Trip to Rome?

Learn as much as you can about Rome. Check out restaurants, sites etc. and plan a few things you would like to do. Otherwise, explore. Walk around when you feel like it and stop and see what interests you.It is hard to tell you what to do since I don't know your intersts. That is why you should study up.

Austin, Texas
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5. Re: Help for a Non-Touristy Trip to Rome?

In my mind, Venice is the wind down city of the three, Rome just has so much to be able to see, we find new things all the time. We like to look at the map for the general direction of where we want to go and then put the map away and wander until we get there. You turn a corner and there is a little church or piazza that is amazing to check out. The Trevi Fountain at night can be very romantic and very free minus the coin you throw in. Yeah, its touristy, so it will be crowded, but there is a reason its so popular. You can rent bikes up on Borghese Gardens, wander along the Tiber river, it all comes back to what you want to do and see along the way. Campo De Fiori during market time is fun to just wander around in. Stopping in at small markets and buying the ingredients for a picnic and just watching the world go by..... But also spend some time at the wonderful sites. The Colosseum early in the morning or late in the day can be magical. I would imagine that near Easter week, even any off the beaten path places will be pretty popular and busy.

Sorry, we never pay attention to restaurant names, we tend to find what appeals to us at the moment and check out the menus until we find something that fits.

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6. Re: Help for a Non-Touristy Trip to Rome?

Take a good map and great shoes.

Walk everywhere and try and stick to side streets when possible.

Take frequent breaks for food, coffee, gelato or other refreshment.

Go with the expectation that you'll have fun.

Sydney, Australia
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7. Re: Help for a Non-Touristy Trip to Rome?

Maybe pop one main sight on the itinerary for a day, St Peters, Capitoline Museums, Borghese Gallery, Forum, Colloseum, whatever. After that maybe just wander.

Trastevere tends to be the student area so food and lively nightlife are around there. There are lots of bridges to discover. Bernini left his mark all over Rome, from fountains to bridges to statues to church facades and of course the enclosing colonnade of St Peters. Even an obelisk on an elephants back. So doing a Bernini search can be a bit of fun.This time I am determined to see his ecstasy of St Teresa in the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria. Fairly confronting expression for a holy saint, I gather.

I am rather taken with finding fountains, from the little ones (Ape or bee fountain, fountain of the turtles, up to the bigger ones like fountain of the four rivers).

If you are into cats there is a cat sanctuary at Largo Argentina.

Lots of the churches in Italy have fantastic ceilings, starry ones (S Maria in Trastevere)and the rather hilarious one in the Gesuiti where the damned are falling down the walls on their way to hell.

And if you can, try to get to the Pantheon at opening time before the crowds (free, opens 8.30am). It is just such a fabulous building. In a street at the far end of the square here is the gelateria della Palme with more flavours than you could possibly dream up. Then get to Trevi. It is in a really tiny Piazza and it is nice not to have to share it with lots of others. Or go to Trevi at night.

Food. Well Rome is supposed to be famous for the "fifth quarter" of the beasts, that is, the insides. The Testaccio district is the area for this and there is a nearby morning market Mon-Sat that should be lots of fun and very cheap.

But with just a few goals in mind you can wander the city and be surprised by what you find.

Kamloops, BC...
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8. Re: Help for a Non-Touristy Trip to Rome?

Hi --

The big problem is that someone said "All roads lead to Rome" a couple of thousand years ago. If something appears on a map of the city, you're probably going to find tourists when you get there.

Rick Steves actually offers some great gelato places - the one near to the Trevi fountain that offers a bajillion flavours but no cones, only dishes, is outstanding.

You can rely on Rick for a lot of the information you seek, it's exactly what he suggests so that you have more contact with the locals and their culture and less with Yuppy tourists - it doesn't really matter the nationality of Yuppies, of course - they are all the same, only the first language changes.

Rick usually has walking tours in his books to get you started. Go on one of his routes on your first day, and you'll probably be curious enough about some things you see to seek them out on another day.

Take adhesive N&A labels for your post cards (which will save you loads of time), and send at least one set from the Vatican City Post Office while you're there. Remember that Vatican City is a sovereign nation, and has it's own postal system and stamps. Don't use Italian stamps on that set of cards. The stamps and post mark from Vatican City usually get a great response from the recipients, especially any young people.

I expect that you will return to Rome when you've stopped being students and have a couple a quarters to rub together, but I'd still visit the Vatican museums this time just for access to the Sistine Chapel. The fact of actually seeing it in person is astounding.

It's right up there with seeing actual kangaroos bounding across the Outback, or looking up to see a giraffe gazing at you over a treetop. These are things we've all seen hundreds of times on films or on television, and all those viewings simply don't prepare you in the least for the actual occurrence.

Go to the Vatican Museum at about 1:00/13:00 so you have a 50/50 chance of not waiting in line for hours, and devote as much or little time to the old stuff as it inspires you to do, but be sure to leave ample time before closing to be awed by Michelangelo's masterpiece. Be sure to look at it from every corner.

Go to see all the usual things that you pay to go inside - pay and go inside them, and then do what I think may be the most romantic thing to do in the whole world. Wander around after dinner and see all the biggies after dark - they are all beautifully illuminated.

The Forum, the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon (which I think is the worlds greatest optical illusion - the outside appearance is about two-thirds as large as it seems inside), and all the other fountains and Piazzas make for the most romantic walk I've ever taken. It will be a free evening until you end up at a cafe and split a carafe of house wine, and you will enjoy every minute of it.

BTW, during the day, you'll find some tacky Roman Centurions offering to pose with you for photographs (for a fee) outside the Colosseum - pay the man and get the photograph. It will make for a prize memory simply because neither of you will be able to resist laughing, and every time you look at it for the rest of your lives, it will make you smile.

I try chocolate gelato in every neighbourhood of every city I visit in Italy, every time I go there. I've not yet been able to make a firm decision, so I guess I'll just have to keep tasting. Poor me!

As far as souvenirs go, just poke in the various markets until you see something that appeals to you. There are always Forum key chains. I usually bring back refrigerator magnets for Christmas stocking stuffers. They're cheap and easy to pack, and people find them useful. I buy them wherever I go, and all my friends have a visual diary of each of my trips.

Try Limoncello, which actually comes from Positano and is very delicious, but don't bother to try to take it home. I can guarantee there is at least one importer in the Boston area who has it in stock.

If you have spaghetti or linguini, or any other long pasta - A) it will not come with meatballs, and, B) it will not come with a spoon, unless you're eating somewhere that specializes in the American market, so to speak, in which case you shouldn't be there, in the first place. You'll pay more for lesser quality.

FYI - You may have read this in one or another of your guide books - but - Pasta is only a course in Italy. And, you don't have to order all the courses - order just the ones that suit your palate at the moment. The courses aren't as huge as you're used to, but sometimes the ingredients are so fresh and the use of herbs and spices so expert, that less is actually like more.

Risotto comes from the north. It actually is Milanese - from Milan. You'll find it all over Rome because the tourists have requested it.

Don't send the bread basket away - you'll be charged (usually 1 or 2 euros) for pane which is bread and coperto which is a cover charge, literally - it's for the linens - anyway, the bread is fabulous and you'll walk so much you'll need the carbs.

Drink the house wine - it will be good and it will be cheap. Don't drink Coca Cola or imported spirits - they are budget busters in cafes or trattorias or restaurants or wherever. If you must have Coca Cola or single malt - get the coke at a big market, and bring the single malt from the Duty Free, and drink them in Alice in Wonderland.

Look around your neighbourhood and you'll find a good market and at least one bakery for bread and another for pastry. Go into the market each night when you go back home before you go to dinner and get what you need to supplement the hotel breakfast - or to provide your own breakfast if necessary cheese, ham or some other saloumi, and yogurt and perhaps a hard boiled egg or two. Everything will be very fresh and will be just fine overnight on a window sill. You get fresh rolls or bread first thing in the morning for breakfast and for sandwiches for lunch. You should also be able to get coffee somewhere handy when you're on bread detail.

After breakfast you get whatever seems good for sandwiches for a picnic lunch - make twice as many sandwiches as you think you'll want - you'll eat them - look for mayonnaise and mustard in squeeze tubes - buy extras to take home.

Don't even think of dealing with the ketchup - sometimes it's the right colour, but it's always the wrong flavour. Before you leave home, get little ketchup packets from your nearest fast food place - ask if you can buy them, but they'll probably give them to you.

I always carry a small jar of peanut butter. I don't eat a lot of it, but sometimes it's the only thing that will suffice.

This is the best I can do for you at the moment.

Buona fortuna, caio.

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9. Re: Help for a Non-Touristy Trip to Rome?

1BCTraveler's advice is almost always spot on, and so it is in the above post, with one exception.

Do not - repeat: not - go to the restaurants Rick Steves recommends. In fact, you might want to take note of them so you can avoid them. It's true you won't meet many yuppies there, but you will almost certainly be surrounded by tourists all clutching their Rick Steves guidebooks; the locals will have stopped going there. It is not uncommon that food and service deteriorate rapidly after a Rick Steves recommendation.

Richmond, Virginia
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10. Re: Help for a Non-Touristy Trip to Rome?

I'm planning our first trip to Italy for my husband's 40th bday and just wanted to jump in and thank 1BCTraveler for so much wonderful information in this post. I'm just starting to read this forum and can't imagine planning a trip without all of the knowledgable posters on TA. I'm sure there are many lurkers out there who also appreciate the information, but just never post. Just wanted you all to know how helpful your advice is and how much it is appreciated!