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Trip Report Rome & Florence Trip Report 2012

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We just got back from an amazing one-week trip to Italy, and wanted to share some highlights and tips. We flew to Rome (on US Airways from Charlotte) spent about 3 and a half days there, then took the high-speed train to Florence for another 3 days (then back to Rome to fly out). All our travel plans worked out very well, and we loved our hotels! By the way, we hope it’s not blasphemous to say on a Fodor’s forum, but we almost exclusively used the Rick Steves’ guidebooks and maps, and thought they were great ;)

ROME HOTEL: In Rome, we stayed at the Tiziano Hotel, recommended by my brother who had stayed there a couple times. The location just can’t be beat… right on Corso Vittorio Emmanuel in the historical district. We could walk everywhere, and mainly only used taxis to and from the train station and airport. It was only a few minutes’ stroll to both the Campo di Fiori and Piazza Navona, so walking to dinner was easy. We reserved a standard double room, but they upgraded us to the deluxe, which was beautiful and large, with 20-foot high ceilings! Breakfast was included, but the room wasn’t cheap (240 Euros a night). We still felt it was worth it.

ROME RESTAURANTS: Restaurants we loved were Insalata Ricca (fantastic large salads, pizzas and pasta… casual and fun), Massenzio (near the forum), La Scaletta Degli Artisti (on a side street behind Piazza Navona), Maranega (on Campo di Fiori… amazing ravioli and gnocchi).

SITES: Here’s how we broke down our sightseeing itinerary. Day 1 was really only a half-day, so we just did the sites in the center of town (Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, etc.) Day 2 was Ancient Rome (Colosseum, Forum, Capitoline Museum). Day 3 was Vatican City, and Day 4 was for the sights to the Northeast (Borghese, National Museum, etc.) We bought RomaPasses and thought it was well worth it – 30 euros each, and you get to skip the long lines, and get free entrance to your first two sites. Below is a bunch of detail on the sites for anyone interested.

ROME DAY 1 – We did a quick visit of the Piazza Navona, then went to two of the nearby small churches: San Luigi dei Francesi (with the Caravaggios) and Santa Maria Sopra Minerva (the one with the elephant by Bernini out front). We really liked both of these churches, and it was refreshing to get away from the throngs that we would find at the more major sites. After that was the Pantheon (wonderful, but of course, crowded), and then onto an unbearably crowded Trevi Fountain. Uch! Seriously, we really couldn’t enjoy being there. We even tried coming back a few days later, but the crowds were worse. So anyway, we did what we did most afternoons, which was get a long lunch with plenty wine and hung out ;) On our way back to our hotel, we stopped at the Victor Emmanuel Monument (nice views overlooking the forum), then discovered the ruins of Largo Argentina – and found out that now serves as a cat hospice!

ROME DAY 2 – We started out by purchasing our RomaPasses down the street from the Colosseum (at the Palatine Hill entrance). Lines had already formed by 8:30 am, so we were glad we went and got the passes immediately. We got right into the Coloseeum with zero wait time, and since it was early, it was less crowded and more enjoyable. Then we saw Mark Zuckerberg standing right next to us – he was on his honeymoon, and it hadn’t even come out yet that he was there! I snuck a picture and said “Hi Mark” but was promptly ignored LOL! After the Colosseum, we took a quick detour up to St. Peter in Chains where Michelangelo’s Moses is. I definitely recommend checking this out! Then we headed back to the Forum. I’m not a big ruins person, but it was still nice and I got some great pictures. After lunch at this nice little place, Massenzio, we went to the Capitoline Museum. I have to say that this was one of my favorite things we did in Rome! I absolutely loved this museum. Again, it wasn’t crowded at all, and we got in free with our RomaPasses. It was clean and modern, and had room after room filled with fantastic sculptures and all sorts of interesting things. On top of this, we were lucky that they had a temporary exhibit called “Lux in Arcana,” with all kinds of secret Vatican documents on display. The variety of things to see in this museum was just great, and we really had fun here. Afterwards, we followed the Rick Steves’ guidebook on how to walk from the Capitoline Museum into the Santa Maria in Aracoeli church without having to go all the way to the bottom, then climb the gazillion steps back up to the church! The church was okay, but if you’re not right there, I wouldn’t recommend climbing all the steps. Inside it’s just very ornate (that’s an understatement).

ROME DAY 3 –I had purchased online our tickets to the Vatican Museum. I got the earliest time offered for individuals (9am) and we got there even earlier. However, I was irritated to see how many gigantic tour groups they were letting in before us (starting around 8:30am). So here I’m thinking we’d be among the first ones in, and there were like a thousand people let in before us! Once we got in, we were already stuck behind the tour groups. I was so irritated that I said, “Let’s just run ahead of everyone and head straight to the Sistine Chapel.” Well, my irritation and impatience ended up being a good strategy! We held hands and wove our way through the crowds (it wasn’t easy) and took the “short cut” to the Sistine Chapel. We must have passed like 20 tour groups. When we got to the chapel, there were only a dozen people in there! It was quiet and cool and we could look at the ceiling for like 20 minutes! I had visited the Sistine Chapel (some 20 years ago) and hated it, ‘cause it was hot and we were herded through like cattle. Some friends experienced the same thing recently, so this was really a pleasant surprise. Obviously, since traffic only flows one way in the museum, we had missed everything else, so we basically did another “lap” to see the other rooms. Then, the other “coup” of the day was following the instructions in the Rick Steves’ guide to get to St. Peters by exiting the Sistine Chapel via the door in the right rear. This led us right out onto the steps of St. Peters, completely bypassing the HUGE security lines. Doing this literally saved us hours! Later in the afternoon, we headed over to the Gesu church since it was really close to our hotel, and it was a beautiful place. Nothing worth a special trip, but worth stopping in if you’re close by.

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