Our trip was wonderful! Amazing how much we did and what we did, considering we had a nine year old in tow. Although we started in Capri, and worked our way back to Rome, I will begin with transfers in and out of Rome and our visit there
Rome FCO-Capri: Transfers by trains (Leonardo Express- Termini, Trenitalia Frecciarossa to Naples), taxi to Naples Port and ferry Naples to Capri went smoothly. Luckily, the train strike was averted. Landed an hour late at FCO at 9AM and arrived in Capri around 2PM.
We had a driver (gianluca Savarese) pick us up in Positano, and wait will we toured Herculaneum for two hours with a guide, Sylvia Braggio who was excellent (we used her in Paestum as well). He brought us to the Naples train station.
I had purchased our tickets on the FrecceRossa in advance from Naples to Rome, but had miscalculated what time we would arrive at the station. There was no problem changing the tickets, although I lost all the price advantages of purchasing in advance. I had made sure to buy an economy and not a super economy ticket so that they were changeable.
We took a taxi to our apartment in Rome, in the Largo Argentina, booked through Sleep in Italy. The owner met us in front and took an hour to explain the layout. This was a luxurious 3 bedroom apt. with terraces, a/c, and anything else we could need. The windows were soundproofed and overlooked the ruins below where the cat sanctuary was located. There was some street noise in the morning, but no more than I was used to, growing up in NYC, and it was not disruptive. There was a Despar, a pharmacy, and a large bookstore around the corner and across the street, so very conveninent. And at least three excellent gelaterias.
Unfortunately, we hit Rome during a heat wave where it was close to 100 every day (I understand it dropped 20 degrees the following week).
We began early the first morning where we met our guide, Daniella Hunt, at the Forum, for a four hour tour. She was quite good but very different style from Sylvia Braggio. Nonetheless, she drew an accurate picture, and my husband particularly enjoyed her tour. My son was less engaged, but I think overtired, and had refused breakfast.
We had lunch at Taverna dei Forum Imperiali (sp?), which was excellent, and catered well to kids. From there, we headed out to the Coloseum, where my son perked up after eating lunch.
I had purchase our tickets to the Colosseum in advance, as well as the underground tour which included a tour of the upper levels. This was definitely a big hit with our son and we enjoyed being away from the crowds.
The next day, we walked to Castel S. Angelo on our own, and after lunch at Sorpaso, met the same guide, Daniella Hunt, for a tour of the Vatican at 1:30. She really excelled here, keeping us focused after a thorough introduction, viewing a few of the most important statues before heading to the Sistine Chapel. Afterward, we viewed St. Peter's on our own and climbed to the top of the Dome. We walked there and back, which we enjoyed, despite the heat.
The third day we visited the Pantheon, had a coffee at café S. Eustacio, and saw s. Maria sopra Minerva before taking a taxi to the Galleria Borghese, where I had reserved 11:00 tickets. DS was enamored with Bernini. Glad we started with the sculpture and rented the audio guides.
Afterwards, we wandered through the gardens, getting lost before finally finding a café (café De Cine) in the park for lunch. The salads were actually quite good. They made my finicky eater a Panini with Ham very graciously, even though it was not among the prepared sandwiches. There is actually a little trolley waiting outside the Villa Borghese to take you there, but we thought we knew better!
Finding our way back to the villa, we took a taxi to the Spanish steps. The crowds were overwhelming, so we took the back way and walked back to the apt. viewing Piazza Navona and the Campo dei Fiori along the way, as well as S. Ignatius, my son's favorite church because of the trompe l'oeuil dome. We also stopped at the English bookstore along the way. He loved the graphic novel "Ancient Rome and Cicero the Cat", although he is quite an advanced reader.
Our last day, we explored the Jewish Ghetto and took a tour of the synagogue, followed by a walk through Trastevere and the famous S. Maria church with the mosaics there. Before we left the Ghetto, we stopped for gelato and sweet rolls across the way. We had lunch near the Campo dei Fiori, followed by visit to the Palazzo della Cancelleria (http://www.mostradileonardo.com/index.php option=com_content&view=article&id=14&Itemid=122&lang=en) on the corner, which had a special exhibit on Leonardo Da Vinci. Actual replicas had been made based on his drawings. This was my son's request to visit and he adored it. He bought a fabulous book on Leonardo's drawings related to the projects in the exhibit.
We used two rome restaurant apps, " Eat Rome" by Elizabeth Minchilli and Katie Parla's
"Rome for Foodies". The Gps was a bit off sometimes, and worked better on the Ipad than on my android phone.
Settimio Il Pelligrino was a small family hole in the wall, that served simple good food. Perfect our first night.
Cul de Sac was OK, but frequented by too many tourists.
Da Armano near the Pantheon was fine, we ate on the early side for Rome.
Sorpaso, near the Vatican, served an excellent lunch. However, it is a good 20-30 minute walk to the Vatican museum entrance, although we may have gotten lost and taken the long way around.
Our last lunch we had at Roscioli, which was excellent, if pricey. We had gotten take out food from their separate bakery store, which has very nice prepared food, and made an excellent dinner. We also picked up bread from the Forno Campo dei Fiori and salami from the Noccieria on the Campo.
Taverna Dei Forum Imperiali was excellent although full of tourists, as expected.
Mistakes I made: I should not have booked a tour of the forum on our first day in Rome. By the time we were settled in the apt., and the owner had finished her explanations, it was after 5 and we had had a very full day. We should have explored the Campo dei Fiori our first morning, and picked up fresh fruit and vegetables there, rather than the limited and wilted options in the Despar. DS would have been fresher and more tuned it at the Forum, as he was at Paestum, Herculaneum and our other days in Rome.
I had arranged for a 7:00 AM pickup by RomeCabs the next morning. They were there early and waiting for us to take us the airport. The owner of the apt. had stopped by at 6:45 AM, as we had arranged, to check the apt and return the security deposit. Our departure went smoothly even at the airport. I had used airmiles to fly on Alitalia in Classica Plus. While not business class, it is a significant improvement over economy, except for the food.
We ran out of time to see the Domus Romana, Ostia Antiqua, many of the museums and churches, and Ostia Antica. I was surprised how engaged DS was in the churches--of course it was cooler there as well! We also omitted "elegant" Rome, and the other shopping streets. We would have liked to explore Via Margutta, etc...Our only shopping in Rome was for some small gifts for the extended family, and books for DS
Of course, we left much unexplored in Rome, but hopefully will return. Our son has already requested a visit to Florence! I am very grateful for all the patient help I received on the TA forum particularly the Destination experts who respond to the same questions repeatedly.