This is an abbreviated version of a full and very long report posted on www.mytb.org/mmccann.
My Rome Tips:
- buy individual metro tickets. It's easy, and walking really is the way to see Rome.
- Do some performances - an opera, a concert, a play - there is something special about seeing them in Rome.
- Pre-book the Vatican and the Borghese, and buy the Roma pass to skip the line at the Colosseum.
- Be prepared for the chaos of the Vatican and Sistine Chappel. Know what you're getting into and it will be a less frustrating experience.
- Rome is dirty, there is lots of graffiti - but none of it detracts from the city's beauty.
- Finally, we spent 10 days in Rome. That is too long, even though we didn't get to see everything we hoped to. I'd say a week would be perfect. That said we had a great time - here are the highlights:
Arrived from Florence via train, walked from Termini to our apartment on Via Ciancaleoni. We were early, so we shared a delicious pizza at Tratoria il Tettarello across from our apartment (see my review). Roman Reference rep showed up on time, showed us the apartment - everything was well. It was a small studio with a terrace, and while not luxurious, suited our needs well. Full review at: www.slowtrav.com/italy/vr/review.asp?n=4702. We wandered over to Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore, picked up our Roma passes and loaded up on groceries. We were so exhausted from the day that we spent the afternoon resting on our terrace.
Our busiest day in Rome started at the Colosseum, which was of couse spectacular. We skipped the very long line thanks to our Roma Pass, which gave us immediate access - no line at all! After the Colosseum, we wandered south, down by the Circus Maxiumus, then up to the Mouth of Truth. We crossed the Tiber and explored Travestere, including Santa Maria in Travestere. We crosed over near Campo di Fiore, which hilariously was covered in garbage - it was clean up time! We'd come back again. We kept walking, stopped in Piazza Navona, then spent an hour at the Parthenon. The Minerva Church next door was also definatly worth a visit, if for nothing else to see the Michaelangelo statue of Christ carrying the cross. We went to the Trevi Fountain next, which was very crowded - we literally had to push our way down to the water, then crawl back out again. We walked home via a tunnel under the Quirinel, and had dinner at Il Tettarello, which was quickly becoming "our" pizzeria.
We spent the entire day exploring old Rome, the Forum and the Palentine. It is surprising how much of the Forum you can see without going in - but going in was an amazing experience. It rained on and off all day, but this did not deter us from doing the full audio tour at the Forum - which was spectacular. By the end of it, we climbed up to a high point and looked over the forum and could imagine all of the activity in old Rome. We got about halfway through the Palentine audio tour, having spent about six hours in the Forum. Not sure how so many people can do the Colosseum, Forum and Palentine in a single day - we certainly couldn't! We called it a day with another dinner at Il Tettarello.
We spent the morning exploring the wonderful Capitoline Museums, well worth a visit, then hung out on Capitoline Hill for a while. I wasn't feeling too well so we spent the afternoon resting in our apartment, made a simple dinner of salad and pasta, and headed out - for an evening at the Opera! The Operat itself was mediocre, but the experience of seeing an Opera in the gorgeous Teatro del'Opera was was amazing. We had box seats, all to ourselves - a very romantic atmosphere.
The day started with a sleep in, then our two-hour pre-booked tour of the Borghese Gallery, which has some of the best art we saw in Italy. The statute of the Nymph Daphne turning into a tree was particularily powerful. Touring tip: everyone enters the museum at the same time, and everyone starts in Room 1. If you go straight upstairs, tour there first, then move downstairs, you will have a much less crowded experience. After the Gallery we explored the Borghese gardens, then took the stairs down to Piazza del Polopo. Too exhausted to do much else, we retreated to our pizzeria for dinner.
We started the day by exploring the Victor Emmanuel monument, then toured next door at the Basillica di Santa Maria in Aracoeli. We found Rome's City Hall, though there were no tours we wandered around the outside. We stopped for lunch at a little bakery (can't remember the name) and got take-out – a slice of pizza, a Panini and the best desert of our trip, some sort of grape pie.
The main event of the day were the Vatican Museums, which we had booked for the early afternoon. We found the Vatican Museums to be a pretty miserable experience. Once we were past the first bit - statutes, and the wonderful Egypt exhibit - it was just crowds, tour groups, and people pushing. The Sistine Chapel wasn't much better, only you had the added pleasure of the guards shouting "silencio" and "no photo"!. I feel sorry for anyone trying to have a truly spiritual experence here. It was ultimatly worth doing - but I'd never do it again.
We wandered through Travestere, and up to Piazza Garibaldi for great views of Rome. We finished off with dinner in a little lane in Travestere - again forgot the name. The food was not great, and we decided to stick with our delicious pizzeria the rest of the trip.
Back up to the Vatican, this time to climb St. Peter's Dome and explore the church. The Dome is fun to climb - you actually start to tilt as you climb, it becomes very clear that it is a dome. When we were done, we headed over to Castle San Angelo, and spent the afternoon there. It was raining, and were tired, so we called it an early day around six.
Today was Sunday, and we knew Via Appia Antica was closed to cars - so we spent the day wandering the old road to Rome. Monuments, old cobblestone and of course, the catacombes! We chose to go to the San Sebastian ones, and they were great. The best part of the whole walk was coming up upon the gate to Rome. We went to an evening piano concert at the Teatro Marcello, then wandered over to see the Colosseum at night.
Back up to St. Peters for the Scavi Tour, an excellent tour into the catacombs under St. Peters. We then spent some time at the Campo di Fiore market (do have one of those pork sandwhiches if you get a chance!), and then had gelato at Giolotti - which although a harrowing experience, was the best gelato of the trip. The Rizo was *amazing*. We followed the signs to the Spanish Steps, avoided the men with roses, and climbed to the top. We trained down to the Pyramid and the Protestant Graveyard, a peaceful break from hectic Rome, then trained back up to the Spanish Steps to see the Cappucian Church. This church is a very bizarre experience - looking up and seeing that the lamps are made from pelivs bones is kinda creepy - but it is a one of a kind thing. We finished the day with some very expensive beer across from the church.
We did the audio tour of the Baths of Caracalla, which was great. They were setting up for the performance of Romeo & Juliet, which I was so sad we were missing by three days (tip: check the performance schedules at the Baths before finalizing your schedule if you're interested - it looks like an amazing show). We then headed over to the Aventine, found a wonderful little park filled with oranges and then found the legendary keyhole. One last stop at Giolotti, and we were all done with Rome. Time to pack, have one more dinner at our pizzeria, and say goodbye to Rome.