For those looking to make that 1st Trip to Rome, I have chronicled our recent trip and offered a few comments and recommendations. As a 1st timer to Rome, we tried to plan ahead and think of everything. While some planning is OK and necessary, most was an overkill. Arm yourself with Rick Steve's Rome 2009 and you will find your way.
Rome in October is the way to go; great weather around 75 degrees during the day and in the high 50's at night. The crowds were greater than I expected, but overall very manageable.
My wife and I arrived in Rome by train after spending a few days in Venice. After our arrival, we stopped inside the terminal to purchase the Roma Pass. This is the same price at the train station as online. The station is only 15 minutes or $12 Euro's away from the Marriott Grand Flora.
As we checked in, Marco at the front desk welcomed us and stated that they have been expecting us. The bellman carried our luggage to our room on the 3rd floor over looking Via Vittorio Veneto and Harry's Bar across the street. The bellman then opened the large double windows onto the street and ask if we would like him to open the bottle of wine that was on the table awaiting our arrival. We then sat back and had a glass or two enjoying the afternoon hustle and bustle outside our window and began planning the rest of the afternoon and evening.
Great Room, Great Hotel with the Best location! This is the place to stay while in Rome!
That evening, we headed out on a walk to see Trevi Fountain. It was spectacular at night! While we were out we decided to eat diner at Caffee degli angeli on via del Gesu. We enjoyed local pizza and pasta with clams. This meal was very good and we did visit them again. Unfamiliar with the lay of the land, and the late hour we opted for a taxi ride home. This was only $5 Euro. The pistachio gelato is great!
I really recommend what we did the next day. We wanted to become familiar with as much of Rome as possible so we bought day tickets for the double decker buses that you hop on & hop off. We stayed on the bus for a complete tour of Rome before we decided to get off near the Colosseum for lunch. We now felt more comfortable navagating the city. After a basic lunch of pizza and bruschetta at Caffe dello Studente, we wondered around the Colosseum and the Ancient Rome area before catching the hop on bus that would drop us near the Grand Flora. After a short rest and a shower, we went to La Fontana for diner. We were served typical Italian home cooking. We walked to this resteraunt as it was near the Grand Flora. The pistachio gelato is great!
The next day, we decided to walk down the Via Vittorio Veneto from the Grand Flora until we found one of the little out door cafes that we wanted to eat at. I don't recall the name, but the food was good. Plan on a brunch like this to run at least $50 Euro per couple. After food, we decided to begin and use our Roma Pass at the Galleria Borghese. Allow 3 hous or more. Make sure you have an advance reservation as well. As you arrive, take your reservation and Roma Pass down the front stairs and they will give you entrance tickets. Then you move to another line to check all bags; this includes purses, cameras etc. After this incredible tour of the museum, stop in the snack bar near the gift shop for a light snack. After a break, we enjoyed the little trolley ride that went throughout the gardens. This made several stops so you could hop on and off as well.
From there, we walked a short walk back to the Grand Flora to re-group and venture out on the public transportation system that was included in the 3-day Roma Pass. We first decided to try the train system. Be prepared to walk and walk and walk, just to get to the train. It seemed like we had walked miles underground. This is just from the train entrance by the Grand Flora. We reached the trains and made our way to the Pantheon neighborhood. We spent the remainder of the day exploring the Pantheon, and the churches of the Pantheon. There is so much history to see. After a long day, we began our return to the Grand Flora on the bus system. Rember bus #116, this will bring you right below the hotel. The pistachio gellato is great!
We decided to tour the Colosseum and Ancient Rome with an organized tour group. I have used Viator on previous trips and signed up with them again. Be sure to sign up for the small group tour that is for about 8 people. This is a must to fully appreciate and understand the history in front of you and all around you. Our tour guide was outstanding! Again, a full day but a memorable one. We then returned to the Grand Flora to shower and change for diner. The concierge desk recommended il pomodorino that was around the corner. We enjoyed the walk, especially after a big meal. You should definetely go here as the food is great and reasonably priced. The pistachio gelato is great!
Our next day was our day to explore. No tours or plans. We now felt familiar with the bus system so we were off. We took the 116 bus to the Piazza Barberini via the Pantheon. We then hooked back up on the red hop on and off bus and headed out to Vatican City. We wanted to know where to be for our tour of the Vatican tomorrow so we investigated our location and wandered around until dark. We found a small cafe, Perilli in Prati that served us buffet style. We could pick three items per person for $10 Euros. The choices included pizza, vegetables, and several pastas. We decided to mix it up and selected 6 different dishes. Everything was great. Then, it was off to find the pistachio gelato.
The next morning is the only day that we actually ate at the Grand Flora. We had breakfast on the top floor restaurant. The view was amazing and made the price seem secondary or inconsequential. After a wonderful start to our day, we hopped the 116 bus to the Vatican. There we met our tour guide and small group for our Vatican and St. Peter's guided tour. Again, a must to truly understand the beauty and grandure before you. After the tour, we decided to head back to the Grand Flora and pack for our early moring departure.
In 5 days, we saw everything! The good thing was that we moved at our own pace. The only real exceptions were the structured half day tour groups for the Vatican & Ancient Rome. We did these in the morning as to leave the remainder of the day open for ourselves.
The next morning, the bellman had a taxi waiting for us. The going rate for a taxi ride to the airport is $50 Euros. This was an amazing ride. Mario the driver spoke little english. The only thing that we could figure out was that he was either in a hurry or was an out of work race car driver taking us to the airport. I have never been in a car going 190 kph or 118 mph. We made it to the plane in less than 30 minutes. Mario was proud and smiled when we arrived; I then handed him $70 Euros for this feat.
I hope this summary will help someone else on their First Trip to Rome.
-- Edited by Mastersman at 11/30/2009 8:18 AM EST
I thank you for that whirlwind tour. I'm heading to Rome (via Paris) next June. I purchased the Rick Steve's 2009 book a few weeks ago and he does seem to lay out daily itineraries better than anybody else. One constant theme in each chapter are his warnings about pick-pockets. I'll come armed with my money belt.
Rick Steves' also offers free audio tours of various sites in Italy (currently 5 sites in Rome) that you can download to your MP3 player, etc.:
I used every one of them on my recent trip to Italy. They were great!
Have to laugh... in Rome at the Colosseum, a tour guide approached me and asked if I wanted a tour. I replied that I already had one, pointing to my ear buds. She asked with a knowing smile, 'Rick Steves?'
Have a great time! Here are a few pics of Rome to add to your excitement!
My youghest daughter will be graduating in June 2013 so I am planning a "Special" Graduation trip to Paris and Monaco. I have been fortunate to have secured the Marriott CE and the Riviera Marriott in Monaco. The mor challanging coordination of airfares and hotels is complete!
You were very helpful in 09' with our trip to Rome so I thought that I would reach out once again and ask for you to share any of your favorite venues, restraunts, tours etc. If you have any "Special" suggestions, please send them to me.
I know they will dine at Jules Verne on one of their days, and they wish to go to Mulan Rouge for diner as well. Although I don't wish to plan their every move I would like a few options that my girls.
This trip will be a Mother Daughter Trip.
Pickpockets are a problem in most big cities of Europe (and here), but the situation is Rome is MUCH better than it used to be. I spent about half of my Marriott nights this year on several trips to Rome and had no problems whatsoever. Since you travel so much as well, all I'd say is take the normal precautions you would anywhere. The place to be especially carefully is around Stazione Centrale. Perhaps a more serious problems is unofficial cabdrivers there or at the airport literally taking you for a ride. Only get in the official cabs (it was 40 euros from the airport flat fee last trip in August) and avoid the men inside the airport trying to give you their 'wonderful' deal of 65-70 euros.
But the little bands of so-called 'gypsies' who once assaulted me with an ice cream gun (on my black dress) in the early 1990s in the hopes of getting me to put down my computer and suitcase en route to the hotel seem to have largely disappeared. Although admittedly I'm staying in nicer areas of Rome these days, I have walked around the entire city without problem in recent years.
I've actually had more problems in Paris recently and that even though I've lived there for years at a time. There the problem is having people sit on both sides of you on a bench in a garden or park and one tries to distract you. Just get up and they might swear a little (proving their intentions), but you should be okay. Also, I think the subway in Paris is a much worse place for getting your pocket picked than in Rome, no doubt because it is a much larger system. (And most particularly the elevator from the subway at the Ile-de-la-Cité/Notre-Dame station.)
Still, I think if you take all the normal precautions you would in a large city anywhere you should not have problems. I always take my computer with me, good digital cameras and a shoulderbag purse and the closest anyone came to ripping me off was the ice cream incident, which only succeeded in ruining my dress.
Professor Chiara has provided an excellent overview of the state of petty crime in both cities. The United States Department of State has weighed in on the matter and provides an excellent list of what to do and how to do it while traveling abroad, including dealing with emergencies and natural disaster.
Travelers should always take care even while not far from home. Always good advice in my mind, one that I try to drill into my associates bound for other countries.
Thanks Professor for the timely post!
Long time since we chatted online.
I am planning a graduation trip for my youngest daughter and my wife for June of 2013 to Paris & Monaco. I have secured the Marriott CE in Paris and the Riviera Marriott in Monaco so we are set on the more difficult things to coordinate, rooms & airfare.
Please share any restaurants, tours or excursions that they may enjoy.
Great review. We are going to Rome this August for the first time and are worried about crowds and pickpockets (since it is summer time). I normally travel during shoulder seasons, namely Sept - Nov where jeans and jackets are worn, thus thinking it is harder to pickpocket. But I'm a little apprehensive going in summer where cargo shorts and t shirts are the norm, especially since I hear they can be pretty aggressive (a coworker was actually attacked by a lady with a knife trying to cut through his bag). Hopefully that is a rare occurrence.
In regards to Gondola rides, they depend on where and how long you want to see. Expect to pay more when there a lot of tourist groups are and on the Grande Canal. Plus make sure you discuss what waterways you will see (i.e. it cost us more to see the Rialto bridge, albeit briefly).
I recommend a gondola ride if you haven't been to Venice before. I think we paid 80 Euro for two people for a 40-min ride.