The time of year : second week of October
Duration : 4 nights
The journey : The train from Lucerne to Rome Termini
Advantage : It’s a 6 hour 15 minute easy and comfortable train ride to downtown Rome. I book the Italian part on line a few months in advance and it was cheap.
Disadvantage: one needs to be careful which trains to book. Some are notoriously late and others are usually on time. I got my information from a SBB desk and it was sound. I also booked the Italian part of my trip on line because it was much cheaper than booking through the SBB. Because I booked a few months in advance, our train ride cost us about $170 roundtrip.
The time of year: 2nd week of October
It was snowing in Switzerland and we walked around in T-shirts in Rome. There were a few short scattered showers but all in all, the weather was perfect.
Our accommodation : a rooftop apartment near Campo di Fiori for 5
Advantages: Central. No noise from the neighbours. Lots of room in the apartment. The roof top terrace was beautiful. We used http://www.romehome.de and were completely satisfied with their service.
- Breakfast. Finding reasonable breakfasts are hard.
- No daily cleaning and no daily clean towels.
- No front desk advice on where to go.
- No place to put your bags after check-out time.
The best insider’s tip for Rome :
- Book the colosseum and the Vatican Museum in advance on-line. We literally just breezed past the lines and walked through the entrance. Seriously… this will make your stay in Rome a success.
- Walk as much as you can
- Bus tickets are rarely inspected
- Sitting in the front seat of a taxi is like being on a carnival ride…. Be ready to suck in your breath a few times.
- Invest in and wear GOOD walking shoes. I can’t stress this enough.
- Many recommended restaurants and cafes in your guide books do not live up to expectations or have become tourist traps. Just meander around until you find something that appeals to you and eat/drink there. If you see lots of Americans sitting in a restaurant/bar, then skip it and find a place where you see locals. I was VERY disappointed with Cafe Eustachio il Caffe... it's overrated and overpriced. I'd ban them from guidebooks if I could.
- Have a good map. Most hotels offer good maps for free.
- Have a good guide book. I invested in a more expensive/more inclusive guidebook and was glad I did.
- Carry as little with you as possible. The chances of you going back to your hotel during the day are not high so carry enough with you for the day’s weather but not more.
Instead of telling you what we did, I’m going to offer advice on what to do for first-timers:
Location for your hotel:
To be honest, I think having a comfortable hotel is more important than the location. I enjoyed being near Campo di’Fiori because of its vicinity but all areas in Rome have pros and cons. Find a hotel with clean, quiet rooms and a good breakfast. A rooftop terrace (or any terrace) in good weather is a fantastic feature as well. If you’ll be using the train out of Rome Termini, having a hotel nearby can also be advantageous. If you’re a walker, choose a hotel that is accessible to Trastevere, the colosseum, the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. If you enjoy shopping in Prada, choose a hotel near the Spanish steps. If you like a quaint local feeling, choose Trastevere, the area around Santa Maggiore or the area between Piazza Navona and the river.
- Do some advance reading on which local buses to use. If you are a group of four, consider a taxi. A taxi ride cost us 13 euros from Rome Termini to Campo di Fiori.
- The hop on/off bus: An excellent way to get an overview of Rome if you’ve never been there. If you know Rome, are good at reading maps, or love to walk, then ditch the bus.
- The colosseum is easy to visit if you have an on-line ticket. The website http://www.coopculture.it/en/ticket_office.cfm (the official website for the colosseum) offers tickets that can be used at anytime during your stay. No need to decide on which day in advance. Just go to the beginning of the line, show your reservation and walk right through. It’s as easy as that.
- The Vatican: There is no church entrance fee but there is an inspection of all baggage so expect long lines. However, the lines go quickly so don’t be put off if you find yourself standing along the main street.
- The Vatican dome: We went after 16.00 (4 pm) when there was only a short line. The second half of the climb is in tight corridors so be prepared. The views on top are phenonomal.
- Friday Night at the Vatican Museum: I’m a fan of this because there are less people and the lighting offers some fantastic pictures. However, if you are tired after 7.30 pm, you will be exhausted by 10 pm. Again, on-line booking in advance is highly recommended.
- A bike tour: We used Top Bike Rental (www.topbikerental.com) for a four-hour bike tour which included the Aventine hill and Gianicolo hill, Trastevere, the Vatican and, because we had already been to the Pantheon and Piazza Navona, we went through the Campo di‘ Fiori and the Jewish Quarter areas. We loved our guide, we had good bikes and really enjoyed our afternoon.
- Do the walk that takes you from Piazza Navona, past the Pantheon, past the Minerva church, past the Trevi fountain and leads you to the Spanish steps. It's gorgeous during the day and even more so at night.
- Walk through the small streets of Rome. They are gorgeous and offer many surprises. Don't be afraid of getting lost because the locals will be glad to help you.
New areas I found during this trip :
- The Jewish quarter. It offers a few good restaurants at reasonable prices. Not too many tourists either. It’s a place where the locals go.
- The area between the Tiber and Piazza Navona (Ponte) : We loved all the little alleys in this area. Lots of shops and atmosphere. Good restaurants too.
- Trastevere is always a good place to visit for a local feeling, good prices and gorgeous pictures.
- The area between the Colosseum and Mercati Traianei and Santa Maria Maggiore (I believe it’s called the Monti area). Lots of locals and very lively.
- The market on Via di Teodoro (between Circus Maximus and Forum Romano). It offers produce from local farms and was filled with locals. According to one website : The Circo Massimo market is located at Via San Teodoro 74. It runs every Saturday and Sunday from 10:30am-7pm.
- Bar San Calisto in Trastevere. Cheap prices and lots of locals. Good ice cream too.
I hope this will help you plan your next trip to Rome.
Rome gets better after every visit
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