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I just returned from Rome and hope these will be helpful hints for others

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1. The Roma pass is a good deal IF you can find one. We made the mistake of believing all the info out there that said they were available at all locales they can be used for. So, we went to the ticket booth by the Colosseum (not the Colosseum's busy one) wanting to buy passes. They only had one available and they called around trying to find another one--no luck. We finally ended up buying the one pass they had and something else called the Piu Pass which costs E5 more but has a larger radius of transportation included. The tour guide we went with at the Colosseum told us that even though they are highly publicized, the passes frequently are not available.

2. We are not typically guided tour people, but an excellent guide really makes the Colosseum and Forum come alive. We used Through Eternity Tours small group tour, and our guide Marle was superb.

3. Early January is a fantastic time to visit Rome if you want to avoid crowds. Apparently as soon as the school holidays are over, tourist numbers plummet. You can walk right into most places and are not facing crowds. Our guide told us that this is the time of year she can take a vacation because there isn't nearly as much demand for her service.

4. Buses are helpful, but you will really need some sort of good bus map guide to figure out the system. Originally we had thought we'd buy the week long bus pass. Then, our first day of walking to every place we wanted to go convinced us that a pass wouldn't be all that useful. By the end of the trip we'd bought and used the Roma pass's transportation pass and were glad we'd gfigured out how to use the buses as we weren't nealy as exhausted after not walking everywhere.

5. Do not even think about trying to use a bus to your hotel from the train station unless you only h ave a teeny, tiny suitcase or no luggage. Even during off-peak hours I can't imagine trying to get on a bus with a suitcase.

6. We did three guided visits that we felt tied all of the early history together for us into one seamless piece. See if you can do these things too--the Vatican's Scavi tour, visit the catacombs, and take a good tour of the Colosseum and Forum.

7. The little electric mini-bus 116 goes directly to the Borghese Gallery. We caught it by Campo d'Fiori. We'd tried to figure out all the various transportation options, and this was by far the best.

8. The Catacombs of Priscilla are within about 3 miles (away from the city) of the Borghese and are fascinating with no tourists at all. We walked from the Borghese not realizing how far a walk this would be, but there is probably a better trransportation option.

9. Guidebooks. I took Rick Steves' 2008 Rome and it was excellent for the nitty-gritty info like how to get places, tours of museums opening times etc. But, he certainly doesn't cover everything of interest, just the main attractions. We also used Rome in Detail which had some excellent off the beaten path places and walks. National Gographic Traveler book was also helpful.

10. Decide if you really want to take a guided tour of the atican Museums. We had originally thought we would but then changed our minds and were glad we canceled the tour. We spent 5 hours at the museum alone (the guided tour was 5 hours including time for lunch and St Peter's), and we would have spent more time but they were kicking people out because the museum was closing.

11. If you are in the Sistine Chapel when they close the doors 1/2 hour before the museum closes, this means that your touring time is all over. All visitors are herded and prodded along and out. Guards will shout at you if you stop to look at anything or take a photo along the way. Their goal is to have everyone out the door of the museum 10 minutes before it closes.

12. Buy a really good map of Rome before you leave or else as soon as you get there. Streets are very, very confusing. My husband also brought a compass, and we relied on it a lot.

13. Take time to visit some lesser know and visited sights.

14. Bring LOTS of money.

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