Rome, the Eternal City
By Bruno Versace
Ed’s Note: For authenticity, the language has been left untouched.
Rome is a classic city. A lot of things to see in Rome (the touristy stuff) is free or cheap, so you’ll be happy about that. Spend your money on nice food and drink instead.
You can very easily get around on foot, save time by using the trains; you won’t need a lot of stops to get to where you want to go. Please eat good meals here, you’ll enjoy the delicious pasta and pizza, which is different here than anywhere else. I am Italian, so I really love the food here. Espresso is the cheapest type of coffee. You can get a quick drink at a cafe or food hall. The small restaurants called (Osteria’s) will have a lunch menu, some standing room only. It is cheaper and quick and usually patronized by locals; it is your best value. People tend to eat later at night too, so don’t be surprised if that is the case.
TIP: Gelato is also very tasty and in tourist places can be very expensive. Just try to get some but don’t spend more than €4-5. BIGGER TIP: The wine menus are very tempting in Italy. Save a lot of money by asking for the house wine. Often it’s not on the menu; you’ll save a couple dollars/Euros a glass. They call it “casa vina”
Of your cities to visit, it pays to be careful in Rome. It is not the type of danger you really need to be scared about at all, but you need to be VERY smart in some places, especially around the Coliseum and Spanish steps. Avoid people who are playing games, people who want to take pictures with you. Anything that is too good to be true is usually too good to be true. There are people who are always begging for money, including children; ignore them. You must be very firm with people who are asking for money, they will be persistent.
When you are on the metro, be careful of your wallet. Think about this. If you are on the metro and you put your hand on your wallet and later then move your hand, someone will now know that you have a wallet in that pocket. I would recommend you sit down if you can; if you are standing, have both of your hands in your pockets, so people don’t know where you have it! Old men in very nice suits and who somehow look very odd; be careful if they ask you to hold something or help them with something. Again, really don’t freak out at all, you’ll be fine, just a few tips. I’m Italian myself, so I know what the underworld and sneaky people are up to. But don’t worry!
Transportation TIP: $1.30 (1 Euro) will get you 75 minutes of public transportation. If you’re tired, it’s cheap. The Roma Pass which has good value, gives you 3 days of unlimited travel plus entry to 2 museums (including Coliseum). Buy them in any tobacco shop.
Things to do
Coliseum – My favorite site in Rome. The huge structure looks amazing at night, but just as impressive at any part of the day. Do not take pictures with the Centurions or people dressed as Centurions; it’s a scam as they charge you a hefty sum for the priviledge. Entry tickets are round €12 and worth every penny.
Circus Maximus – Where the chariot races used to be. There are some ruins that are left over which you can access for free. The site isn’t extremely impressive, but isn’t too far away to visit and spend some time. It’s just behind the Coliseum. If you walk left facing the Coliseum main entrance, you’d eventually come to the Circus Maximus.
Trevi Fountain – The fountain is bigger than you’d expect. There will be a lot of people around taking pictures; try to find someone (preferably a woman or a couple) to help you take a picture if you are alone. Legend has it that if you throw a coin in the fountain, you will return to Rome.
Foodie Tip: If you catch a bakery near closing time, they may be throwing away leftovers. Feel free to ask for a sample if you see this; you might get some tasty treats.
Spanish Steps – Really cool steps and they are… just steps. At the top is a very impressive view into the Holy See, aka Vatican City. Don’t buy the gelato right there, go down a block or two and save some money. It’s the same with food or coffee; just never buy right in front of a large monument.
Catacombs – Very cool underground tombs used a long time ago. You can get a tour around which will show where and why people were buried here. Way back when Christians weren’t able to be buried in the city, their tombs were outside of the city walls. They are not really located within the initial center of Rome, but still close. Please note that most of the 4 or 5 catacombs are closed Sundays.
Catacombs of San Sebastiano:
You can reach the Catacombs of San Sebastiano from the San Giovanni Metro Station. Once you get off here, take the bus nr 218 and get off near the Fosse Ardeatine. Walk along via delle Sette Chiese to the catacombs entrance.
Catacombs of San Calisto:
From Termini Station, hop on the bus nr. 714 and get off at San Giovanni Laterano square. From here, you have to take the bus nr. 218 and get off at the bus stop nearby the Fosse Ardeatine. A few steps away is the entrance to the catacombs.
Jewish Catacombs of Villa Torlonia:
From Termini train Station, you can take the bus nr. 90 Express and get off after 4 bus stops on Via Nomentana
Pantheon – It is a temple to all of the Roman Gods. In my view, it’s very cool with awesome art and statues around. It is one of the best preserved buildings in Rome (as far as ancient ones go). Entrance is free.
TIP: After 7pm look for a tour guide with wings on their umbrellas, they offer free tours for small groups in the evening. All you have to do is tip them.
The Forum and Roman Ruins – Right in the middle of the city, and walking distance from the Colloseum, there is a huge collection of ruins just hanging around. There are no guided tours, you can walk around for free and admire the old pieces that are laying around, this area gives you access to Palatine Hill which gives you an incredible view of Rome.
Vatican – You’ll have to see the Vatican, as it is right inside Rome. A dress code is enforced here. Make sure you wear higher necklines, no short skirts and I believe no flip flops too. Inside is the largest Cathedral in the world. You can buy and mail a postcard from the Vatican’s post office which is a really nice gift for someone. The size of it will make the biggest person feel tiny. Entrance is free, but if you want to climb up to the Cupola, which is at the top and offers an AMAZING view of the city of Rome, it is €5, 7 to access the elevator.
TIP: You won’t want to go in the morning; you’ll want to go on Tuesday/Thursday. It’s closed on Sundays and Mondays are busy. Middle of the day, after 2pm is the best time to go, since most people go super early. The Pope is out on Wednesdays @ 10:30am if you’d like to see him.
Shopping Tip: Leather goods are negotiable. Never pay full price…EVER.
Water Tip – Bring an empty bottle here. Rome has many public drinking areas where you can fill up. It’s free. Don’t buy from snack carts, they’re very expensive.
Sistine Chapel – Some people think that this is connected to the Vatican, but it is not. It is about a 10 minute walk along the basilica to enter, you should enter through the Vatican museum. Here you will see some of the most beautiful and famous paintings EVER. The Creation of Adam within The Last Judgment is Michelangelo’s best and you must see it. You are not allowed to take pictures here, but people do and get yelled at. Strict dress code Entrance €8-15
Hotel Londra & Cargill — $192 a night
Pros: Very good location in terms of access to sites around Rome. Free wifi, AC with climate control, breakfast buffet included.
Cons: Not too many bad things about this place. Some complained they had to leave their key in the hotel when leaving (in my opinion, one less thing to worry about). Wifi wasn’t great which was also reported. Simple room design, small TV
Another option, similar to AirBNB.com (which is another option) is homeaway.com They specialize in rentals. I found this place: http://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p834116 from $65-92 per night. You can find many options that can suit your tastes here.
Of course, you can also check hotel prices on Travelaureate. With over 200,000 hotel rooms in stock, you’d be pleasantly surprised to find how affordable some of them can be, even in Rome. The best thing is that you can read readers reviews and ratings of each property before you decide. THE END
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