Grazie! Family of 5 Week in Rome Summary

Jan 12th, 2006, 10:38 AM
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Grazie! Family of 5 Week in Rome Summary

I've been a lurker for about 6 weeks and wanted to say "Grazie" to posters here. We just finished a week in Rome, and I haven't asked any questions because I found everything I needed by searching past posts. From where to eat to trains to Pompeii to grocery store no-no's, the information I needed was here!

Now it's time to return the favor. Hopefully, the trip summaries that follow will be useful information-suggestions for new/budget travellers, and "rememberies" for past Rome travellers.

Overall: My wife, 3 kids (boys 11 and 9, girl 7), and I spent Jan 2-9 in Rome. We stayed at Apartment Victoria-an apartment in a residential neighborhood outside the Center, but in walking distance of a bus line to Torre Argentina. For families, an apartment is a great way to save on food if you don't mind doing breakfast and (some) dinner eating in. We spent about the same total amount on groceries as we did for one nice dinner in a restaurant (which everyone should still experience at least once). For others, it gives a nice residential feel-more a traveller than a tourist. Note to future apartment residents-bring your Italian dictionary to the grocery store! It doesn't hurt to make sure you're buying what you think you're buying. Fortunately, this advice was a general note and not the result of an "oops" on our part. Overall, we ate a lot of pizza, rode a lot of busses (and walked a lot, as you'll see), and saw a lot of incredible sites. I'll try to summarize as succinctly as possible in the posts that follow, providing details of places we went and mistakes future Rome travellers can learn from. Enjoy!
djman102 is offline  
Jan 12th, 2006, 10:55 AM
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looking forward to hearing about your trip! Please post your reports to this one so everything stays together!
cls2paris is offline  
Jan 12th, 2006, 10:56 AM
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Looking forward to hearing the rest of your story. My husband, 17 year old daughter and I will be going to Rome this summer - 1st time. We will be staying 6 nights. My daughter really wants to go to Pompeii for the day...and then see all of Rome. Any tips?? We haven't booked our accommodations yet either.....don't really want an apartment....but a B&B will do. Any suggestions as to the areas we should stay in?
kfl1111 is offline  
Jan 12th, 2006, 11:19 AM
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Jan 2: Flew into Rome about 5pm local time. As we have never travelled overseas before, we took the optional taxi service to the apartment. Good thing-not only was it about the same cost as a taxi, we would never have found the place ourselves as it was an actual apartment (no "Holiday Inn" signs to mark it.) I wish we had written down questions to ask Victoria when we arrived, but at least she was helpful and available when we needed her during the week. Began with a quick grocery store run-which didn't turn out to be too quick (First mistake-making a wrong turn leaving the apartment.) Finding a store wasn't a problem, but getting back by asking locals for directions was an adventure. Not a long one, fortunately, and at least the groceries stayed cold.

Jan 3: Discovered my wrong turn gaffe, so found the nearby grocery store before heading to the bus stop. Then remembered you have to buy tickets elsewhere (tabacceris, bars, etc), so found one nearby. A gentleman at the bus stop told us how to get to Stazione Termini-don't EVER feel bad about asking for help; everyone we asked was very friendly and helpful. From there, went to Green Line Tours for an overview (hop on/hop off) bus tour of the city. A good idea if you've never been, but I don't recommend Green Line. The audio guide was very sporadic-too much dead time. Kids were in awe of the architecture around Vatican City. Hopped off at Piazza Navona to get a first glimpse of the Children's Christmas Market (no buying allowed today), lunch at Pizza Rustica (good, but we had better), and our first gelatis (don't remember location). Looked at Palazzo della Cancellaria near Campo de Fiori-a 15th century Renaissance Palace while waiting to hop back on. Also stopped at the Colliseum-awe inspiring! Too late to enter, but we enjoyed walking around it. Completed the bus tour, then managed to remember which stops to get off on our return "home". (Traveller's note-pay attention to markers at bus stops so you can reverse your steps-or rather, your stops-when necessary).

Jan 4: Next big mistake-not being specific enough in our plans. There's too much to see in Rome to "wing it". Also a good idea to write down or print all interested tour information beforehand in case your residence does not have internet and you have a hard time finding an internet cafe-as we did. So we spent a lot of our day walking around and ended up missing an Icon Tour of the Colliseum b/c we didn't find out when it started until 30 minutes beforehand. We did manage to see Museo Vittoriano at Piazza Venezia, which featured the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, details from WWI and the formation of democratic Rome in the 1850s (although many of the explanations were in Italian only), and a Monet exhibit (pay), which we opted to pass on. The view of the city from the terraza was most excellent. Then we went to the Time Elevator off Via del Corso-a 45 minute multimedia summary of the 2000+ year history of Rome. Combined with the bus tour, I think it was a good overview for the kids of what we were experiencing. Pizza at Antica TC del Corso (better), gelatis at Blue Ice near Piazza Barberini, then, since we took too long to locate the Colliseum, decided to let the kids spend their money at the Children's Market. But not before my wife got a small taste of history at nearby Piazza del San Marcello. After shopping, returned to apartment to rest up for a big day-Pompeii!
djman102 is offline  
Jan 12th, 2006, 12:03 PM
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kfl, we didn't really get to look into B&Bs much (we decided to make this trip relatively late), but a quick search of "Rome B&Bs" on this site seems to have lots of of suggestions. As for Pompeii, many on this site recommend nearby Ostia Antica, but I confess we wanted the name. It was a long day, but well worth it. In fact...

Jan 5: Lots of questions when I awoke-doing Pompeii on our own! Could we navigate the trains to Pompeii and back? Would we avoid pickpockets and swindlers or hustlers? After all was said and done-what a day! We arrived at Termini at 8am and got tickets for the 8:27 Trenitalia, which left at 9:05. Good thing our connecting train wasn't specified! At Naples Central Station, avoided a suspicious looking gentleman who offered to help us and went to the information booth. (Travel mistake-don't get Trenitalia tickets from Rome to Pompeii. Just take it to Naples, then walk 1/4 mile underground to the Circumvesuvia. This train stops at the entrance to the ruins; Trenitalia stops in Modern Pompeii 2km from the main entrance!) So we walked the main road to the ruins. Kids requested McDonalds-"ok, but just this once!!" Entered back of the ruins near the Auditorio, and had to walk to the main entrance to get a guided tour. The nice thing about this was it gave us a chance to "feel" Pompeii before getting all the information; this was simply amazing to experience. The kids also enjoyed running through the "houses" and "stores". At the entrance, we were directed to Kareem. As he was pointed out by the information booth and charged the official amount, I'm sure he was an official tour guide. I've heard there are a lot of "helpful" tour guides who charge a lot for their misinformation. We spent 3 1/2 hours total in the ruins; the kids did very well considering this. We ate dinner at a cafe outside the entrance, where I had my one and only experience with limoncello! Best way to describe it is "a liquid lemon drop with a kick". Since I deliberately did not book a round trip at Termini, we took the Circumvesuvia back to Naples, and I even used the self-serve ticket machine to get back to Rome (small victory, but victory to me nonetheless!) Reached Termini at 8:35pm. Took the bus back to Torre Argentina, then gelatos at Gelato Alberto Pisa, then home-exhausted, but thrilled!
djman102 is offline  
Jan 12th, 2006, 05:48 PM
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djman102, I'm really enjoying reading your report as I plan my trip this spring! Neat tip on getting to Pompeii--how much time did it take you from leaving Termini station to arriving at the ruins, including the Circumvesuvia part?

Looking forward to reading more.
mtadams is offline  
Jan 12th, 2006, 08:26 PM
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Congratulations on exposing your kids to the wonderful adventure of travel! And for showing them that you don't have to stay in a fancy hotel or "dine" to experience a foreign country.

But wouldn't a street map of Rome have been helpful?
Jean is offline  
Jan 13th, 2006, 12:05 AM
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The Circumvesuvia took about 25-30 minutes to get from Pompeii to Naples; TrenItalia took about 2 hours from Naples to Rome. So including connection time, it's typically about 3 hours one way.

We had maps (Lonely Planet, Eyewitness), but none showed any Internet Cafes in the area we were at the time. We also received a map from the Time Elevator which had much more detail, but had the minor issue of incorrectly locating Piazza Barberini (where we were told to find the nearest IC). Add our own inexperience and that led to lots of wandering. Which isn't a bad thing in Rome; there's still plenty to see just walking around.

Jan 6: Travel tip: If you DO make plans, be careful about adjustments for holidays. Epiphany is a holiday in Rome, so many things were closed and busses were not on full schedule. By chance, we finally discovered the Cat Sanctuary was at Torre Argentina, our main bus transfer stop. Being cat lovers, the kids enjoyed that. Then to Termini to locate a tourist information booth we couldn't find (to see what was open). Finally, we gave up and went to Villa Borghese. Lunch at the Borghese Museum cafe. The kids enjoyed playing around the fountains and in the park area (it was gorgeous weather all week-thank God for incorrect forecasts!). Toured the Borghese Museum; what incredible artwork. We wish they would have let us take pictures-Bernini statues, and ceiling and wall paintings rivalling the Sistene Chapel. After waiting for a nonexistant bus, we walked until we finally found a bus to Termini to head back. Dinner at Gran Caffe Leon at Torre Argentina (tip: don't EVER get gelatos at a sit-down restaurant-they were 3 times the price of a gelateria!)

Jan 7: Much better today. A plan and a full bus schedule make a lot of difference. We almost balked at the 1/4 mile long line at St Peter's Basilica, but our alternate plans (Catacombs) would be closed by the time we arrived. Fortunately, the line moves very fast. Near the entrance, Debbie introduced herself to us-a fellow Texan who has spent 13 years in Italy and does part-time guide work for families. We highly recommend her. She was very informative, and the church was incredible. We decided to forgo the Sistene Chapel to finally do the Colliseum tour we'd been wanting for 4 days. On the way, took a tip from this forum at ate along Via Governo Vecchio near Piazza Navona (at La Zuccla Gialla ). You're right-you can't go wrong on this street. Best pizza we had all week! We made it to the Colliseum just before 3, but couldn't find the Icon Tour. We did manage to catch the last English tour with Roman Promenades, which was a large group but very informative. Sons enjoyed the historical stories (blood and gore-of course) of the Colliseum, and daughter enjoyed climbing around. She only got in trouble once. After the tour, we wandered around some more soaking in the history, including a walk on "second deck". Wish we could have gone to third deck. After returning to Torre Argentina, had our best gelatos yet (my opinion) at Gelateria Duomo before returning to the apartment.
djman102 is offline  
Jan 13th, 2006, 01:05 AM
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djman, this sounds like an excellent trip for all. What agency did you use for Apartment Victoria, and what rate did you get? I googled it and see various agencies for it.
WillTravel is offline  
Jan 13th, 2006, 06:24 AM
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We booked the apartment through Venere.com. Since we booked in late November, there didn't seem to be much available, so I don't know how our rate (about E 200/night since it was peak season-Christmas) compares to other places or sites. Their official site is www.italian-bandb.it

Jan 8: Final tip for Rome travellers: several of the streets are closed to traffic on Sundays, so busses run different routes. Or in the case of the one I planned to take from the Colliseum to Borghese, not at all. We started with the Catacombs de San Callisto. Entrance includes a guided tour, and it was very informative how they were used since the first century. After catching the bus to Circus Maximus, the plan was to walk to the Colliseum and bus to the Spanish steps and Villa Borghese to the Explora Children's Museum. As the roads were closed to traffic, we walked instead. After seeing the Spanish steps, we went to Largo dei Lombardi. Then we walked to Piazza del Popolo, where we went to the Children's Museum at Villa Borghese. Even though it was mostly in Italian, the kids had a great time. Afterward, gelatos at Nuova Oasi, then back toward the apartment and dinner at our daily bus stop "landmark"-Pizza Poppa.

The last day was just shopping and mailing postcards before flying out. Overall, a wonderful trip, that even the kids enjoyed. There's still much we didn't see-maybe we'll have to go back someday.
djman102 is offline  
Jan 13th, 2006, 07:33 AM
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Thanks for your report. I asked for books on Rome and Florence for Christmas and just opened the one on Rome last night. I admit that I was overwhelmed with all there is to see and do. I was thinking of a late May/early June trip, but now I'm thinking...maybe next year????? We are going to Costa Rica in March, and I really need to finish planning that trip before I start on Italy.
missypie is offline  
Jan 13th, 2006, 09:44 AM
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Hello djman,
Thanks for the trip update.
You mentioned an American (texan)tour guide in Rome....do you by chance have her e-mail address and name? That sounds like a great way to see some of the historical sights
Thanks for your tips
~marisa
marisal is offline  
Jan 13th, 2006, 10:19 AM
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missy, we didn't even think about travelling to Rome until about mid-November, so we put our trip together in about 6 weeks. There were some things we wish we had more time to research, but if you have the resources to do both trips this year it can be done. And I know there are people on this site who can answer your questions, so that can save you time as well.

Marisa, the email of our guide at St Peter's is [email protected] I also remember finding an "Italy travel consultant" in my many searches on the web. Don't remember where, but I know the site exists.
djman102 is offline  
Jan 13th, 2006, 11:00 AM
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Thanks for sharing your report. It sounds like it was a wonder time for all.

Woody
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Jan 13th, 2006, 03:28 PM
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Your trip report sounded great I will have to save and read later as I am at work...oops

thanks
dewdrops is offline  
Jan 14th, 2006, 12:18 PM
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Your journal makes interesting and useful reading thanks. We are a family of 6 - parents 2, 3 children 18,15 and 9 (a born again Ancient Roman!) and 'silver surfer' granny - travelling to Rome on 19th February for six nights. we want to get to Pompeii as you did and were keen to book and pay for train tickets before we get there but can't find a link to enable us to do this (links say also that it is esssential to reserve beforehand. I wonder did you? - from your writing it would seem that you just pitched up at the Termini and bought tickets - How much were they? Thanks for tip re buying ticket to Naples only. How much was your guide at Pompeii?
From you report it would seem you didn't go to the Vatican
Museum - just to St Peters? Both of these are on our list of essentials and we are thinking we don't have to book because the crowds won't be too huge, am I right do you think? How much was your guided tour of the Collesium and could you pick up one when you got there or did you book before the 'Icon' one?
Lastly what did your kids most enjoy? sorry a huge amount of questions to fire at you - thank you in advance for any replies you can give. Muds
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Jan 14th, 2006, 02:58 PM
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Tagging to read later.
Betsy is offline  
Jan 15th, 2006, 11:03 AM
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Sorry I was slow to reply Muds-kids just getting back to school today, so it's been crazy here. Let's see if I can answer your questions:

1. We did look at www.trenitalia.it beforehand, but did not buy in advance as we were not sure what day we were going. We had no trouble getting tickets at Termini or on either stop of the return trip. The self-serve machines weren't hard to operate either in Naples, so we avoided the lines that way, too. Going in Feb, I don't see you having any trouble with buying them on site. For the 5 of us, tickets were about 60 Euros there and 70 Euros back (Circumvesuvia a little more, but worth it).

2. Our guide was 80 Euros-more than what I've seen posted here, but less than what one travel book (Lonely Planet) said official guides charge.

3. We did not have time to do both St Peter's and the Vatican Museum/Sistene Chapel. I wish we had-an excuse to go back, maybe? Even though it was lunch hour, we didn't want to chance the line and possibly miss (again) a Colliseum tour. Glad we did that; the kids seemed to like the Colliseum the best. If you don't go on Wednesday or the weekend (esp. a holiday weekend), the lines shouldn't be as bad.

4. We didn't book our tours in advance for the Colliseum. In fact, the Roman Promenades director found us and directed us to their tour just before it started. We paid about 25 Euros each adult; kids were free. (www.romanpromenades.com) Could have done a free tour of the Forum and Palatine the next day, but the kids were starting to get travelled out, so we used Explora as a break for them instead.

5. We made the kids each answer this question with the grandparents-besides the gelatos and pizza, the favorite sites were (oldest to youngest): Pompeii, Colliseum (the information), and Colliseum (getting to climb around).

Hope your family has as much or more fun!
djman102 is offline  
Jan 15th, 2006, 12:34 PM
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Just a few comments (and additions) to your great trip report for those who have asked questions.

I visited the Vatican museums in May and it was jammed with people. I didn't buy tickets in advance but only waited on line about 20 minutes, so I was not prepared for the crush of people around me going through, and I did not enjoy it as a result. (And I'm originally from NYC!)

Being retired military, I'm allowed to use the USO in Rome. They recommended I buy my train tickets to Naples a day or two before, and use the travel agency on the Piazza near the Vatican (Rigorsimento - something like that) and that worked very well and was only a few euros more than buying them at Termini.

After staying at B&B's in Rome, I recommend an apartment for even just two people. UNLESS, of course, you feel you need the help of a front desk and/or concierge. The breakfasts at typical B&B's are very spare (cookies or pastries with coffee) and some of the rooms incredibly small. You get a chance to spread out a little in an apartment, and many cost less than a B&B or hotel.

You should feel great, djman! You did a great job!
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