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Trip Report Rome 4/26-29 PART I

Texas
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Trip Report Rome 4/26-29 PART I

Just returned (early—more on that later) from our first trip to Italy. We are a late 30’s couple that has traveled pretty much around the world. I will break down the trip into the following trip report sections:

Trip Report Rome 4/26-29 PART I

Trip Report Tuscany 4/29-May 2 PART II

Trip Report Italy – The Emergency Room – PART III

Well, here it goes. After a long trip on Continental to Paris (the BusinessFirst service is just terrible, after being Platinum Elite with CO for 7 years, I have come to expect poor service, but it’s always a disappointment when you are traveling overseas on your own nickel to get bad service). We arrive Paris and wait a few hours for our Alitalia fight to Rome. Non eventful flight (it is funny because it was about 30 minutes late landing and the pilot comes one and says “we are almost on time” too funny, as you would never hear that on a US carrier—they just make up excuses).

Get picked up by Marco at romeconnetion. What an AWESOME person. By the time we received out luggage we were over 1 hour late, but Marco was waiting with bells on. He speaks perfect English, and we arranged a 3 hour driving tour with him the next day.

Checked in at the St. Regis (Le Grand) Hotel. At $500/nigh we were hoping for a great experience (and I’m also Starwood Platinum member). Well, we were checked in by Angelo (what a piece of work this guy was). Mentioned to him that we were on our anniversary and also Starwood Plat, and was curious about an upgrade—as Plat member one should receive that). Ended up with a so-so room with no view. Really not a great way to start the trip. More detail here, but not worth wasting my time—bottom lie the St. Regis is NOT worth it, and I would definitely stay elsewhere next time. The concierge sent us to some really bad restaurants (requested non-tourist restaurants with great Italian cooking). Now it goes without saying that there will be tourists everywhere, but maybe a 80% local, 20% tourist is what we were thinking. We ended up at some god awful restaurant (cannot remember name—will try and find and edit post). 100% tourist garbage (the restaurant that is)—not one local. That trend continued the next night at Il Convino. One of those restaurants that you have to ring the door bell to get in, and then it’s SO quite when you are seated you hate to talk (super borning resultant and stuck up service). We got up and left, as we were not in the mood for some stuck up place that is so boring (believe me money is no object for us, but we specifically stated fun and Italian—neither of which this place has). I told the manager that we were leaving, and he got all testy with me…and we had not been there for more than 5 minutes. What a funny experience that was—guy thought his you know what did not stink—we laughed at him and left. If you do make the mistake of staying at the St. Regis, do not listen to their concierge unless you are American tourists that really have not traveled much and would not know the difference of a good restaurant and bad (which I assume the majority of you do).

Next day went to the Forum and Coliseum—interesting but good to see once. Was raining a few of the days on and off, but no big deal. Had Marco pick us up the next day and drive of to all the common spots—he does a GREAT job and again speaks perfect English and is quite funny. Had him arrange a Vatican tour the next day for $150 for 3 hours. This is what we really wanted to see. WOW—what a great experience. Again, Marco hooked us up with a guide named Brandon. Younger guy (from the States, but spoke 5 languages and is a teacher at the local university). VERY smart guy, and very knowledgeable in what is see and skip on the tour. We were SO thankful that we did not end up on some mass tour with what we call the ‘umbrella’ ladies (they hold their umbrella up so their tour of 30-50 people can keep up). What a joke—the only way to see the Vatican is private tour. Could write a whole report on this, but no time. Bottom line—go do it with a private guide, and if you want you want a true experience with a real expert, find this Brandon guide from Marco and you will not regret it. If you want old boring mass tour, stick with the umbrella ladies.

Found a great restaurant on our own by the St. Regis called Target. Awesome food and 90% locals. All in all Rome was great to see once, but don’t think I would go back (as it’s just another large city with way too many tourists stacked on top of each other). Have absolutely no clue what everyone is so paranoid about on the crime. Never felt unsafe (maybe at Termini a little), but never once did we worry about a ting. We travel the world, so understand that if you look like a tourist (camera on your neck, map book out, white tennis shoes, etc) you are ripe for trouble in ANY city you go. It was sad to see all of the tourist that fall into this category and really have no sympathy for them, as you are just begging for attention. Rome is completely safe (we had on about $45K worth of watches on our arms and never thought once about taking them off and leaving in hotel safe—granted they were covered and we don’t flaunt).

We left out of Termini to catch a train to Tuscany (Chiusi) and have to say it’s ideal to just show up to Termini as close to your train departing as you are sitting prey for the seedy looking characters at the station. This is the one place I would say is not that safe, but again if you need to be on your guard at ANY train station in the US also. We did not know which coach was first class (note that it’s the VERY first one—furthest away—so get to the front as soon as you know the track number). The train ride was fine and the Hertz car rental office is across the street from the train station in Chiusi.

As far as the guide books, we bought all of them and they are okay for maps and minor suggestions, but the restaurant recommendations are pretty worthless (think about it, you and a million other tourists are all reading about the same restaurant—chances are it’s going to be loaded with what else—tourists).

More in Part II…

coxs creek, kentucky
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1. Re: Trip Report Rome 4/26-29 PART I

sorry to hear that you didn't get the same "experience" visiting Rome as we did. It sounds like you had at least a few salvageable moments(or hours) though. That's good. I totally agree with you on the "umbrella lady" tour thing. That was actually my only pet peeve while there. Seems like they are everywhere and the people in the groups were often very rude. We always moved over to allow others to pass, but not them! They would come down the (narrow!) streets 6-8 abreast and leave no room for anyone else. We found ourselves literally flattened to the walls at times. I did not come back with a good feeling for tour groups!! Also, they wear the headsets and are trying to pay attention to the tour guide so they do not even notice what else may be happening around them. I would either do a one on one tour or go on my own, armed with research. I did not notice any "crime" while we were there,either! Even at the train station, I never saw ANYTHING and we were there for a while. However, I do think it would be hard to be a tourist without having guide books, maps, and cameras with you. we would have missed a lot of photo ops. Thanks for the report and welcome back !!

Farmington, Missouri
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2. Re: Trip Report Rome 4/26-29 PART I

Incidentally, I was one of those unfortunate, "rude" tourists on a cattle stampede to the Vatican, and I can personally attest that it was absolutely abominable.

If I was one of the rude people, I apologize. Thank god you understand that most of us were trying to decipher the unintelligable remarks of our Italian tour guide (who was also giving the tour in German, since Travel Bound stuck them in with our group), while glancing at the treasures of the Vatican, trying to keep up with him and keep our wits about us, trying not to step all over our fellow tourists. At one point, our guide actually RAN AHEAD of us and told us we needed to shove the Japanese tourists out of the way.

Believe me, it was every bit as hellish as it looked, not to say embarrassing to follow a guy waving a dorky umbrella.

Yep, if you're going to the Vatican, get a personal guide.

coxs creek, kentucky
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3. Re: Trip Report Rome 4/26-29 PART I

Shaas, so sorry to hear that! We definitely thanked our lucky stars that we did not take advice for the tour groups. I do not mean, however, to say that ALL of them were that bad. I'm sure there were SMALLER groups who were better--MAYBE! I know I will probably catch a lot of slack over my comments, but seriously, if that is the only thing that created any kind of a problem for us while there, then 1) we were very fortunate and 2) there must be some truth to it!. Otherwise, it was a DREAM vacation for us and I have fallen in Love with both Rome and Florence. Also wanted to add about restaurants that there have been NUMEROUS postings on here for that and I think that if you find the ones that many people have agreed are wonderful, it probably will be. I don't think I would trust guide books too much, since every tourist (like myself) reads them and many, many try to go to the hotels and restaurants listed in them. That kind of increases the odds that there will be more tourists than non-tourists in them. I tend to stay away from those unless RECENT travellers agree that it is not "touristy".

Texas
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4. Re: Trip Report Rome 4/26-29 PART I

Oh, there were several great things aabout Rome--don't get me wrong. For us though, it's kind of like any big city, once you've seen it, there is not much reason to go back (yes, I know we could probably spend 3 months there and not see everything). For us, personally, vacation is suppose to be relaxing (which the Tuscan countryside was INCREDIBLE and very relaxing). That was the part of the trip that we considered vacation (at least until my wife was struck by and car and had her lfoot run over--but more on that in the Part III of the report).

NYC
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5. Re: Trip Report Rome 4/26-29 PART I

Wow. Sorry your Rome trip was filled with so many bad experiences. I flew BusinessFirst on Continental last May (direct) to Rome & had one of the best RT flight experiences ever (esp. the return flight)...just curious what made your flights so bad? Friends & I also dined at Il Convivio a few years ago (along with La Rosetta on that particular trip) and really loved it - didn't find it stuck up or boring at all (more charming) & thought the food was really exceptional. And the waitstaff was very nice & even wrote the name of one wine down for me so I could look for it in the States. At least your guide Brandon was great & you enjoyed your private Vatican tour, as well as your meal at Target. And good that you and your $45K worth of watches made it back safely. If you ever do go back, I'd suggest getting out of the major tourist areas of Spanish Steps, Vatican & Piazza Navona & wandering around in all of the neighborhoods in between & off of the beaten path...lots of interesting things to see & you won't be piled up on top of so many other travelers.

Texas
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6. Re: Trip Report Rome 4/26-29 PART I

I completely agree that it depends on the crew you get on CO. Same flight diff crew can make all the difference. It was not the whole crew that was bad (beleive me I'm just use to okay service on CO, but put up with it as I do not have many choices out of where I live and need to get). On the trip out the 'concierge' that talks to you on pre-flight could not answer any questions about the bus or terminal situation at CDG (Paris)--as that is where we flew into. I 9 times out of 10 find these guys do nothing more than say hello and add no value to my trip. Then our flight attendant had the personality of a flea, and was clearly not even wanting to be there. I hear flight attendants complain all week long on my weekly trips on CO--I always wanted to tell them to get another job if the one they are in is so bad. Then on the trip from FCO to EWR the male flight attendent was worhtless (I politely let the lead FA know about the situation (saw him eating shrip out of peoples dishes before he was serving them) and she said "you are the 4th person that has complained about him, but nothing I can do". Beleive me, CO is like most domestic airlines that just heard the cattle from point a to b. It's such a different attitude on airlines like Singapore Air (which is the best in my mind), Qantas (which I have taken 1st to Sdyney 3 times and each and everytime it's been awesome) or several other non-US based airlines. Believe me with over 2 million miles accrued on CO, I know how bad it can get.

San Jose, CA
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7. Re: Trip Report Rome 4/26-29 PART I

Thank you so much for an honest and detailed report. I really appreciate it before our first trip to Rome in June.

Long Island, New...
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8. Re: Trip Report Rome 4/26-29 PART I

Wow, thanks for the report. Its good to hear the good and the bad. I am looking forward to your part 2 and especially part 3, which is most curious to me.

Coeur D'alene, Idaho
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9. Re: Trip Report Rome 4/26-29 PART I

<<<Wow, thanks for the report. Its good to hear the good and the bad.>>>

What was "the good"?!

Besides your guides Marco and Brandon, it seems like you didn't care for anything about Rome, which is unfortunate. Your visit to the Colosseum and the Forum, had to share a one word description of "interesting" while Marco and Brandon have paragraphs devoted to their charms. They must have been some guides!

I guess it depends on why you travel, and to each, his own. By your own admission, you prefer relaxing vacations, and I'm glad you at least enjoyed the second half of your trip.

We try to combine our Europe trips so that after visiting a city like Rome, with it's 1000's of beautiful not-to-miss sites as well as the non-stop activity (including too many tourists, rose sellers, beggars, etc.), we spend a few days in a place like Lucerne, where we're in no hurry to soak up the beauty and atmosphere. Even with all the problems Rome may have, I'd go back a thousand times. It's just one of those spots that you can "feel" while you're there. So much history and beauty, and some of the most attractive people on earth.

It's too bad that you listened to your concierge regarding restaurants. We learned a while back that they're almost always doing a favor for a friend, or maybe getting a little kickback when they recommend a spot.

Agree with you on the crime. We don't wear $45,000 worth of watches on our trips, but we too have never had a problem with pickpockets.

Also agree with you on the tours. We've taken a few over the years, but mostly stick to our own now. I research beforehand and learn all I can and then we can go through on our own pace without getting herded. The multi-language tours such as yours can be a nightmare. We've been on a few where the guide describes a painting for what seems like 2 or 3 minutes in French/German/Spanish, and then completes the "English" version with a simple "This painting is called "Flora" by Titian" and then moves on. Very frustrating...

Enjoyed reading your report very much, but looking forward to the more pleasant parts of the trip in part II.

Texas
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10. Re: Trip Report Rome 4/26-29 PART I

Don't think I said I disliked Rome, just okay for me. One does not have to travel to a city and love it to post here. I thought it might be helpful to other travelers to hear all perspectives...writing Part II now...