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Short, straight to the point tips - Rome

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Short, straight to the point tips - Rome

Hi, I think many of the trip reports suffer from too many personal descriptions. We had a family trip for 7 nights in Rome, 3 in Florence and 3 in Venice during late June / early July. Here are some punchy, straight-to-the-point tips, focused on what may be missing from other trip reports.

BEFORE YOU LEAVE

Rome

* Book tours for Vatican through the Vatican website.

* Book a time to visit Galleria Borghese through phone. Check their website for the phone number.

Florence

* Book a time for Accademia. Call the number.

* Book a time for Uffizi. Call the number. (We missed our 9.30 booking and landed up at 12.30, but still got our reserved tickets).

Venice

* Book the Secret Itineraries tour. We booked ours through a website called Charta Sri.

GENERAL

* You need to pay to use the toilets in all the railway stations in Italy (Eur 0.5 - Eur 1). Steep!

* You will end up walking a lot. Wear good shoes, and carry a hat and/or an umbrellla.

* Almost all the museums are closed on Mondays.

* We think it makes more sense to buy guidebooks rather than audio guides. With audio, sometimes the comments are too detailed. If you stop the audio for a painting, you have this suspicion that you have missed out something important. With a guidebook, you can glance through the contents quickly - so the time for each painting is more in your control. Plus you have something to carry back home.

* There are many water fountains, particularly in Rome, from which you can refill your bottles.

TRENITALIA BOOKING AND ITALY TRAINS

* If you have a question, call their helpdesk. They do answer or call back. But be prepared for unclear telephone lines.

* You have to a different credit card for every booking; else it will be rejected.

* Lowest priced tickets (called Meno 30) are available only for adults. If you are traveling with kids, after you choose the train, you first specify the number of kids and then click on "Add Price" for the adult tickets.That way, you will get the lowest price.

* The carriage numbers are mentioned in small letters on the doors of each carriage. The big numbers "1" and "2" on the carriages are not the carriage numbers.

* Use the washroom on the train before getting off. That way, you avoid paying Eur 0.5 - 1 for the washrooms in the stations.

* When you have to get off at intermediate points, get ready 10-15 min in advance by gathering your belongings near the door. The train may stop for just 1-2 minutes and you will be fighting for space against the incoming passengers as well as other outgoing passengers as well as those obstructing the walkway for no reason! (We lost two bags that way when the train from Rome to Verona stopped in Florence for just 60 seconds.)

* Some cities have multiple stations. Be sure of where you are getting off and don't assume all trains go to the central station.

* Don't lose any of your bags in the trains or you will never see them again. The entire Trenitalia system does not have a "Lost and Found" office.

* If possible, get into the train early. (Once, on a trip from Naples to Rome, another family landed up just after we had sat down and claimed the seats. When we compared the tickets, there seemed to be a clash of bookings. But since we had already occupied the seats, they said something in Itallian and went away. We don't know why and what happened to them.)

FOOD

* Pizza Margerita = Eur 4 - 7, but generally around Eur 5.

* A basic pasta (say, pasta with tomato sauce) = Eur 6 - 8

* A basic sandwich (say, with mozzerella and tomato in Panini) = Eur 3 - 4

* You need to always buy bottled water in restaurants for Eur 2-3. We did not know how to tell the guy we have our own water or to just give us tap water! I guess we were too shy!

TAXIS

* Since public transport is Eur 1 per person, you may like to take a taxi if you are a group of 4.

* Taxis ply by meter, but be careful to note the meter before you get off. Drivers may try to cheat (once, the driver pressed some button on the meter as soon as we reached the destination and the meter showed Eur 18 for what should have been a ride of Eur 7. When I expressed shock, he quicky brought it down to Eur 9!)

* As soon as the taxi stops, the driver wipes the meter clean. So notice the meter before it stops and let him know that you have noticed it.

* There seems to be a night charge between 10pm and 7am. The meter starts at Eur 5.90 instead of Eur 3.90.

* Taxis used Tariffa 1 generally, but Tariffa 2 sometimes. I could not tell why.

* Examples of taxi costs:

Trastevere - Galleria Borghese = Eur 10

Trevi Fountain - Trastevere = Eur 8

Colosseum - Trastevere = Eur 8

Trastevere - Vatican Museums = Eur 12

Vatican Museums - Trastevere = Eur 8

Trastevere - Etruscan Museum = Eur 10

Trastevere - Termini = Eur 10

GALLERIA BORGHESE

* Book before you leave your hometown. Call their telephone - check their website for the telephone number.

* You need an ID to pickup your reserved tickets.

* Even with a reservation, reach 30 minutes in advance to buy the tickets and deposit your bags.

* You get 2 hours to visit.

* There are two floors full of stuff. You cannot spend too much time on each artwork. It is better to have an idea of the top pieces you wish to see. One way to do that is to visit the bookshop before entering the exhibits. We saw a book called "10 Masterpieces" which would have been a perfect introduction, but unfortunately we saw it only after visiting.

* Get an audioguide after you deposit your bags. There are printed explanation sheets in every room, but sometimes they are missing, and sometimes they are not great. It is worth investing in an audioguide.

ANCIENT ROME (FORUM, PALATINE HILLS, COLLOSSEUM)

* Buy tickets with no queue from the entrance to the Palatine Hills on Via di San Gregario, ahead of the Arch of Constantine

* If you want to listen to every word of the audioguide, plan for 2.5 hrs for the Forum, 2 hours for Palatine Hill and Museum, and 2 hours for the Colossum.

* If you want to take the audioguide at Collosseum, you can go to a separate counter near the head of the queue. Theere you can buy the tickets along with the audioguide.

* You get a map along with the audioguide for Forum/Palatine Hill, but the directions in the accompanying map are not great.

* It does not matter in which order you see the Forum, Palatine Hills and Colosseum.

Time required

* 3 hours at the Forum and Palatine Hill with the audio guide if you spend a reasonable time. Not much in Palatine Museum.

* 1.5 - 2 hours at the Colosseum with the audio guide.

VATICAN MUSEUMS AND ST. PETER'S

* Book your tour before you leave home through internet.

* We chose the 3 hour tour of the museums and St. Peter's. The actual tour lasted 2.5 hrs (1.75 hrs in the Museums and 0.75 in St. P). We were generally happy with the tour, but the guide skipped Raphael Rooms even though she had 0.5 hrs more, which is not professional. In the tour, we spent only about 5 min in the Sistine chapel, but it clearly deserves more time.

* If you wish to see the Pope, you need to get other types of tickets.

* Wear full trousers and shirt/T-shirt with sleeves to comply with the dress code.

* After the first official tour, we wanted to go back to the Museums. We went at around 10:30 on a Wednesday, around the time when the Pope was supposed to be giving an audience. We found we could just wak right in and get tickets.

* They let you take water inside if you have your own plastic (but not glass) bottle.

* You can take photos everywhere without a flash, but no photos at all inside Sistine chapel.

* There is a drinking water tap on the other side of the road bang opposite the Museum entrance.

Time required

* 3 hours if you spend a reasonable time (incl 20-30 min in the Sistine chapel)

* 1 hour at St. Peter's.

NATIONAL ETRUSCAN MUSEUM

(We saw only half the exhibits since there was a "strike" when we went)

* The cafetaria was exorbitant. No self service.

* You can leave the bags in the ticket counter.

* No water fountain.

Time required

* A bit more than 1 hour for the stuff that we actually managed to see, which we understood was about 40%

Enjoy!!

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1. Re: Short, straight to the point tips - Rome

this was so helpful! thank you so much! i plan on using this when i visit rome in January!

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2. Re: Short, straight to the point tips - Rome

You are certainly right about the Monday closure of museums. It applies also to a number of sites etc, not just in Rome, but in quite a bit of Italy (and other Mediterranean countries often as well, Greece being a good example). It is a good idea before you go to check out such opening times, and decide what you will do on the Monday in advance, or elase you may find that you come to the Monday and you have already done the things on your list that were open on the Monday, and that the things you have left to see are not open that day.

Having said that, there is still plenty to see and do in Rome on a Monday, but if you only have restricted time, and a short list of things you specially wish to see, then such planning is, I think, essential.

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3. Re: Short, straight to the point tips - Rome

Actually, I like the personal descriptions in trip reports. However, a trip report is different from what you're writing here, which is more an advice report. A trip report is more like a travelogue.

There are a few little things in your advice report that I'd like to clarify for those who haven't been to Rome yet.

Not all the train station toilets in Italy are pay toilets. In big cities this is the norm, though.

I think Monday is the usual museum closure day in the whole world. At least all of the cities I've visited in North America and Europe seem to lose their museum on Mondays. If they're going to close at all, Monday is a good day to do it, as they're usually busier than usual on the weekends, and Monday would probably be a slow day anyway.

You can book up to five itineraries in a single transaction on the trenitalia web site. This should be enough for most people without having to use different credit cards. However, many people with credit cards from North America, Australia, and some others, can't even complete one transaction. People from other parts of the world(Singapore and Japan, for example) have no problem, even with multiple transactions.

I've never encountered double bookings on the Italian trains. I've seen cases where people thought there were double bookings, but it always turned out that one of them had the right seats but the wrong carriage, or even a different train. I wouldn't want to swear it couldn't happen, though.

For taxis, the night charge is legitimate. So is a charge for suitcases that have to be put in the trunk. There is also a legitimate charge for calling a taxi from a hotel or restaurant; they will start the meter when they leave the taxi rank. *All* trips in the city of Rome should be tariffa 1. Tariffa 2 is higher, and is to be used only outside the city.

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4. Re: Short, straight to the point tips - Rome

I too like trip reports that include the personal observations and storytelling - some are really delightful and very helpful for people who are curious about Rome itself vs how things function/operate. Very different than what you have posted here - which is also helpful.

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Aubrey, Texas
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5. Re: Short, straight to the point tips - Rome

Your comment about needing more time in the Sistine Chapel and missing the Raphael Rooms is the reason we don't use guides. No doubt we miss some information not in a printed guide, but we get to see what we want and linger when we wish.

Lots of good info there.

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6. Re: Short, straight to the point tips - Rome

"Your comment about needing more time in the Sistine Chapel and missing the Raphael Rooms is the reason we don't use guides. No doubt we miss some information not in a printed guide, but we get to see what we want and linger when we wish."

Which is one reason we book private guides instead of groups.

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7. Re: Short, straight to the point tips - Rome

When you take the tour of the vatican museums that doesn't include the basilica the tour ends just before entering the Sistine Chapel so you can stay as long as you wish. You can also re-enter the museums and stay as long as you wish. The times I've taken the tour we have always visited the Raphael rooms. It's one of my favorite parts and I love hearing the explanations of the artwork. Perhaps the tour didn't visit these rooms because they were so crowded.

Donna

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8. Re: Short, straight to the point tips - Rome

Thanks for a lot of useful, to-the-point information.

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9. Re: Short, straight to the point tips - Rome

Is this the same as …blogspot.com/2010/08/tips-when-visiting-rom… or did they just cut and paste from here (more likely, since that site claims to be by someone that has lived in Italy for ten years...)

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10. Re: Short, straight to the point tips - Rome

I would like to comment on your advice re using a different credit card each time....I have always found that if one rings their credit card providers to alert them when you will be visiting a country the problem of refused credit is greatly reduced. Of course there is always a machine which is faulty and it would be hard to rule that scenario out altogether.