Oh dear, Rome, all those wonderful places to see and admire tarnished by a grubby, run-down, cash-starved city.
If you're disabled, or less-mobile, be prepared to be frustrated, and give the Roman Forum a miss as it's undulating, cobbled pathways make it almost impossible to negotiate.
Be prepared, also, to be disgusted by public toilets, even in some nicely presented restaurants you'll find a single loo with no seat and so over-used that the flush can't catch up, so the loo is blocked. Few had hand-drying facilities, none had hot water and cold water is pumped out by foot on a floor button.
Hygiene in cafes and restaurants is not a top priority. We were very disappointed in the food in restaurants, too. The pizzas are ok, but everything else we ate lacked imagination and was dull and, usually, dry for lack of sauce.
The familiar, red, hop-on-hop-off citysightseeing buses, so good in British cities, are a much poorer relation in Rome. The commentary is occasional, rather than 'running' and is often out of sync with what's outside the bus. We crawled through the traffic-congested streets and passed so many unannounced, interesting buildings, landmarks and statues that we were bewildered as well as deeply irritated by the constantly interrupting piped music (I'll never be able to enjoy Boccarini's minuet again), which looped round and drearily round.
For goodness' sake, buy your Vatican passes for the museum and Sistene chapel online before you visit Rome and print them out, to save a great deal of time; the queues are truly flabbergasting! When you arrive at the Vatican, keep right, walking past the long, winding line of hot, bored people who didn't pre-book.
If you want to hire the audio guides for the tour of the Vatican museum, make sure you have proper ID, eg, your passport, or a credit or debit card. But you don't really need a guided tour; observing the groups of guide-led tourists, we saw only bored, 'get-me-out-of-here' faces. Stroll around and don't linger too long by any one statue, vase or exhibit, there are many more, very similar ones to be seen! If you want some extra info other than that given by the exhibit, evesdrop on a passing tour group!
It's well worth buying a Roma Pass as it buys you three days of public transport use and entry into two of the museums. We used ours to avoid long queues at the Colosseum and castel Sant Angelo. With a Roma Pass, you can ignore the countless touts trying to sell you a 'fast queue' pass.
The queue for St Peter's basilica will look daunting, but it moves constantly, since the basilica is vast and free to enter and the wait isn't nearly as long as it looks like it'll be.
Do visit the Pantheon, it looks like it was dropped into the city centre by aliens, doesn't take long to look round and is quite bizarre.
Public transport is quite punctual, but always - ALWAYS - crowded. Be prepared to shoehorn your way onto the Metro trains. Oh, and pinch your nose as you walk into Metro stations, they all stink of urine and some pong of poo, too; but do take a deep breath before squeezing yourself into either train or bus, since all that heat generates an awful lot of sweat and your nose WILL be pressed up into someone's armpit.
Metro trains and buses are rickety and Metro stations are scruffy, gloomy places.
We had a tight schedule for our 3 days, but, avoiding queues as we did, only missed out a couple of lesser-important wanna-sees. An earlier arrival than 2pm, or a later departure than 9am would've sufficed to cover all the 13 main must-sees.
Whatever you do choose, if you have to miss something on your itinery, do not miss St Peter's basilica.
The city needs a massive clean-up and its service-providers need a shake-up.
There are far too many jobless immigrants selling tat and far too many beggars, including a disturbing number of severely disabled ones, scuttling along the pavements on home-made trollies, a la Dehli or Mumbai, for the comfort of the social conscience, so, be prepared to be seriously disturbed.
Romantic tradition says throwing a coin into the Trevi fountain ensures a return trip to Rome. My coins stayed firmly in my purse.
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