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Franco’s favourite ... Roman sightseeing

Franco’s favourite ... Roman sightseeing

Apr 21st, 2006, 04:34 PM
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Franco’s favourite ... Roman sightseeing

How to write a forum thread on sightseeing in Rome – instead of a library?!! There is quite certainly no other place on this planet boasting such an incredible number (and such a diversity) of important, unique, stunning sights as Rome. You could go on for years, discovering new wonders of art and architecture from all periods every day; it’s actually impossible to know historic Rome – everyone knows just parts of it (even the Romans!).
Rome is a bustling, vibrant, noisy, dusty, chaotic madhouse, cramped with car (and motorscooter!) traffic, and yet it’s wonderful… not least thanks to the Romans, who are doing their very best to make this huge capital work like a countryside village, I mean on the level of personal relations (which are the most important feature of public life in Italy – urban anonymity? not in Italy!).
Get yourself a really good guidebook, like Cadogan’s for example. It’s far from listing all Roman sights, but it will keep you busy for many months…
It doesn’t make any sense to try to give you a list of favourite, or hidden, or must-see, or any kind of sights – there are just too many of them. Just a few hints:
1. Most people are aware of ancient Rome; and of Renaissance Rome. Strangely enough, baroque Rome seems to get less attention, though baroque was invented in Rome (Il Gesù church being the world’s first baroque building), and much of Rome’s baroque is among the best worldwide – not just the baroque architecture (like Bernini or notably ingenious Borromini), but even baroque painting (which is often hardly tolerable anywhere outside the Netherlands – except for Rome: they have so many Caravaggios there…).
2. What is often overlooked and literally neglected, however, is medieval Rome – and yet there is such a wealth of medieval art there. Just to give you a tentative summary, beginning with the few better-known: S. Maria Maggiore, S. Paolo fuori le mura, S. Clemente, S. Agnese fuori le mura, (each of those is an ancient-medieval mixture), S. Marco (inside Palazzo Venezia, great mosaic), S. Pudenziana, S. Saba, S. Maria in Cosmedin, S. Maria in Aracoeli, S. Maria in Domnica (great mosaics!), S. Cecilia in Trastevere (the convent with the Cavallini frescoes), S. Maria in Trastevere, of course, S. Giovanni in Laterano (the cloister), S. Giovanni a Porta Latina, SS. Quattro Coronati (till today, I’ve never made it to this church, though I really wanted, and still want, to see it – just to give you an example of how difficult it is to know Rome), S. Maria Antiqua, S. Bartolomeo, SS. Cosma e Damiano (from the earliest middle ages – early 6th century); and last not least, my medieval Roman favourite, S. Prassede, one of the very few preserved examples of a Carolingian church (early 9th century), complete with wonderful mosaics.
3. Many, many, many of Rome’s best, and most interesting, sights are not open to a regular schedule: you have to ask to get in. In some cases, you have to talk doormen (or doorwomen) of convents into opening their church for you. But the vast majority of these sights is ancient, and administered by one of three archeological authorities: one belongs to the Catholic Church, one to the City of Rome, and one to the Republic of Italy. They are (more or less) ready to open their jewels on request for you; and you could spend several months just visiting sights of this type with the employees of these three archeological departments. I’m less acquainted with that of the church, i.e. the Vatican; as far as I can judge, they are more teutonic than their Italian counterparts, with strict rules which monuments to open and which not, and unproblematic agreements on dates for those accessible. The republican department boasts the best, and the worst service: you can visit only if you can give a reason (being a scholar, or at least a teacher, will be sufficient), and you have to make the date directly with the responsible archeologist by phone, which can be tough (as all of you who have ever made appointments in Italy will easily imagine), but on the other hand, you’ll be guided by that archeologist himself, and you’ll get the best possible (and scholarly really up-to-date) explanation. The communal department (ripartizione X – not meaning the letter X, but the figure “ten”, so it’s spelled “ripartizione dieci”) is quite Italian in making appointments, too, but they are at least used to it, in fact, it’s their job, and they’ll be happy to oblige if you want to see any of their monuments – provided that you manage to reach them by phone, which means, in an Italian public authority, calling at least 20 times before anyone answers the phone, and calling another 10 times before the right person answers… never mind, it’s worth all the effort. They even have a website where you can take a look at the marvels they’re administering: www2.comune.roma.it/monumentiantichi/menu_elenco.html, and they’re organizing guides tours (with explanations – for your personal visits, you’ll be accompanied by employees not able to give any explanations, they just have the keys), to be found here http://www2.comune.roma.it/monumentiaperti/ – you should absolutely check that before you go to Rome. It’s just great seeing monuments that few people ever see – and mostly not because they’re not worth seeing, but simply because Rome has too many to open all of them regularly, and some are also not apt for many visitors, being too small or too delicate; one of my favourites, the tiny Columbarium of Pomponius Hylas, e.g., would soon be in pieces if too many visitors could enter: http://www2.comune.roma.it/monumenti...nio_hylas.html.

Some more important rules for enjoying Rome: Consider how much time it takes to get around, due to the huge amount of traffic. Don’t stay anywhere else than in the historic center: not because some of Rome’s suburbs are dangerous (some really are, but you wouldn’t find accomodations there anyway), but rather because you’re losing too much time traveling across the city if your accomodation isn’t centrally located; even worse so if you’d base yourself out in the countryside – you’d simply hate Rome if you’d experience the difference between the tranquil countryside around, and the bustling capital itself every day: you have to be part of the madhouse to enjoy it! And regarding safety, it’s recommended not to go to the district between the Colosseum and the Lateran after dark; otherwise, Rome is not exactly a safe heaven, but by no means dangerous, and if you watch out for pickpockets, you’re not going to have any safety issues.
Transportation is most difficult when you’re leaving Rome – it takes really much time to get out of the city, so this is not a place for daytripping. The one and only daytrip that is really pleasant (since there is a very quick train connection) is to Ostia Antica, an underrated and often overseen ancient highlight, for me no less rewarding than Pompeii: Rome’s antique sea harbour, a working-class town that is almost as well-preserved as Pompeii.

Please note: This thread is not primarily meant for discussion… it’s primarily meant for substituting myself while work won’t permit regular posting during the next six or so months. I’ll try to check once a week, however, so if anyone would like me to answer any questions related to sightseeing in Rome, please post them here – I won’t unfortunately be able to browse all the other threads…
franco is offline  
Apr 21st, 2006, 04:36 PM
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Sorry, one of the links above didn't work (don't understand why): http://www2.comune.roma.it/monumenti...nu_elenco.html
franco is offline  
Apr 22nd, 2006, 07:41 AM
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Bookmarking for future reference before this thread drops out of the top 200....

Thanks in advance, Franco.
julia_t is offline  
Apr 22nd, 2006, 07:48 AM
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Excellent...bookmarked this and the link
jody is offline  
Apr 22nd, 2006, 08:35 AM
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Thanks, Franco. Pardon my ignorance, but I don't know what Lateran is. Can you definie that unsafe area a little more clearly? Which direction from the Coliseum?
VEra
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Apr 22nd, 2006, 09:04 AM
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Vera - the Lateran is the Pope's cathedral (NOT S. Pietro in Vaticano!!), i.e. the highest-ranking church of the Catholics. It's east from the Colosseum - you'll easily find it on every map of Rome.
franco is offline  
Apr 23rd, 2006, 10:53 AM
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Thanks. It sounded vaguely familiar, but is listed as San Giovanni in Laterano in my guidebooks and maps.
Vera
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Apr 23rd, 2006, 11:01 AM
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Thank you for info...I'm bookmarking.
Maire is offline  
Apr 23rd, 2006, 01:36 PM
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I have never found the area between the Colosseum and San Giovanni Laterano to be unsafe. I've walked up and down Via San Giovanni at night numerous times, both with and without my husband, because one of our favorite trattorie is ther, Ulderico. Never felt unsafe. The area is not as busy as the Navona/Pantheon area at night (there are many small shops that close and several hospitals and churches that take up much of the neighborhood) but you can find some great, relatively undiscovered spots to eat.
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Apr 24th, 2006, 05:02 AM
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Grinisa - I certainly believe you, and Rome is of course nowhere as unsafe as American cities can be, so "unsafe" might have a very different meaning here and there. It's however a fact that all seasoned Roman travellers, and the locals, will advise you not to go there at night; and another fact is that I personally know a woman who has fallen victim of bold street robbery there, her necklace forcibly snatched off. But I'll admit this happened several years ago, and things may well have changed in the meantime. Unquestionably, though, this is still the grimest and least welcoming of Rome's historic quarters.
franco is offline  
Apr 24th, 2006, 05:17 AM
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I thought I’d provide one final service: linking all “Franco’s favourite…” threads to each other, in order to make them more easily accessible to future users:

Venice:
food & restaurants: http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34791666
accomodation: http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34791672
sightseeing & transportation: http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34791890

Rome:
where to stay: http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34792021
food & restaurants http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34792415

Umbria: http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34792839
franco is offline  
Apr 24th, 2006, 06:00 AM
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Franco, would you consider Trastevere a good area to stay? I like to be somewhat central yet far enough away to feel like I'm going "home" at the end of the day.
MissZiegfeld is offline  
Apr 24th, 2006, 09:49 AM
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bookmarking...
europhile is offline  
Apr 24th, 2006, 02:40 PM
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thanks so much franco for all these postings
nessundorma is offline  
Apr 24th, 2006, 02:57 PM
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Thank you, Franco!
edhodge is offline  
Apr 24th, 2006, 04:07 PM
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MissZiegfeld - yes, I consider Trastevere the perfect district for your requirements. For a more complete answer, please consult my proper thread on where to stay in Rome (the link is in my last post here, immediately above your own, and the answer has already been there).

nessundorma - may I ask you, too, to redirect other users to "my" threads if you think they might be helpful to them? I won't be present too often for the next six or so months, since I'm starting out for a huge work project these days...
franco is offline  
Apr 24th, 2006, 04:52 PM
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with pleasure, because I will have them all bookmarked.

I wish you the best with your project.

nessundorma is offline  
Apr 26th, 2006, 05:25 AM
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Thank you, nessundorma.
franco is offline  
May 8th, 2006, 11:01 AM
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In case that anybody hesitates to ask just because of my currently scarce presence on Fodor’s, I’d like to repeat that if you’d like me to answer any questions related to the topic of this thread, just post them here – I’m checking rarely, but regularly, but only my “own” threads due to work pressure.
franco is offline  
May 16th, 2006, 01:27 PM
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ttt
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