Help with sights to see in Rome

Jan 21st, 2008, 08:22 AM
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Help with sights to see in Rome

Our first trip to Rome, we speak no Italian other than gelato or linguini, are used to wandering on our own.

So, what about the Borghese? Should we opt for a guided tour? (Yes, I read the thread Julies started). I think it might be a bit overwhelming on our own.

If we go it alone, can you suggest a good guide book or map?

We've signed up with Helen Donegan's after hours Vatican tour and so far that's the only thing we've nailed down.

We have 3 days, how much should we plan/book/reserve ahead and what are the must sees? So far we have a short list of:

Vatican (already booked for late afternoon)

We do want plenty of time for just wandering and observing, so is this too much for 3 days? How should we organinze this?
Linda431 is offline  
Jan 21st, 2008, 08:27 AM
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I recommend a 1/2 day tour of Forum/Palatine/Colosseum. Yes, you can wander those areas on your own but a guide helps explain things. Since the forum is free entry you can revisit at your leisure afterwards.

I took a tour with Icon tours that was just right. It wasn't a deep archeology focused tour, but was good for 1/2 day. Start at 9, done by noon. Cost was ~30Euro per person. Discount (free?) for kids under 12.

J62 is offline  
Jan 21st, 2008, 09:07 AM
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Linda, as J6 says, you can see the Forum, Palatine Hill and Colosseum in a comfortable (non-rushed) four hours with a guided tour. I had been to the Forum and Colosseum before without a guide and found that I got much more out of it when I had someone tell me what "used" to be there, and how the city would have functioned at that time. I used ContextRome, but there are many others offering similar tours of the area.

I think you have a nice to-do list for the time you are going to be there. Your "wandering" can include the Navona/Pantheon/Spanish Steps walk, which is nice either day or night (although I was mesmerized by the Pantheon at night!) I would book a time at the Borghese obviously, if you don't decide to go on a tour with a private company (I also chose ContextRome for this and loved my guide). You can visit St. Peter's before your Vatican Museum tour, since you'll be in the area. Enjoy Helen's tour as well, it remains a highlight of my 20+ trips to Europe!!!
amyb is online now  
Jan 21st, 2008, 09:34 AM
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just curious as to how much of your three days are after you get into Rome from the airport/train and before you leave--do you have three uninterrupted days or part of one--a whole--and part of another...

would make a difference with how to prioritize/order sightseeing...
1Travelfan is offline  
Jan 21st, 2008, 12:04 PM
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We arrive at 8:30 A.M. on Thursday April 3, the Vatican tour is Friday late afternoon, and we leave Sunday morning. I don't want to prebook much the first day obviously.

Now you've got me thinking, Saturday is the one day we have no timetable we were thinking that we could make that a full day. Will that be a problem with closures/crowds etc?
Linda431 is offline  
Jan 21st, 2008, 12:56 PM
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The Borghese isn't a terribly large museum, so I doubt it would be "overwhelming." If you have a guidebook that describes the more significant works and artists, I think you'd do fine. (For me, it was all about the sculpture with the paintings being much less interesting.) You could also arrive early (or a prior day) and browse the museum's bookstore for a guide or catalog. There's also an audio guide you can rent.

I think the Julies thread is a bit of a tempest in a teapot. Knowing the limited time allowed and my control-freak tendencies, I wouldn't have waited five minutes for a guide. The point is to enjoy looking at the art, not feel as though you must absorb/learn all the details. It's not an art class; it's a vacation.

I think the Helen Donegan tour, however, is a much more comfortable and enjoyable way to see the Vatican Museums which can feel overwhelming, especially under crowded conditions.

Personally, I wouldn't want to be all booked up with tours for the limited time you have. You're not going to see all there is to see in Rome, so just concentrate on what's most important to you and leave time for wandering. There will be no test at the end.
Jean is online now  
Jan 21st, 2008, 04:35 PM
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Thanks Jean. Very good advice which I will take to heart.
Linda431 is offline  
Jan 21st, 2008, 04:44 PM
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Hi L,

You asked about crowds/closures, but unless I missed it, when will you actually be in Rome?

You seem to be a regular here. Your post has been asked many times in this forum. Simply type in your heading in the search box and read for hours.
barbmike is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2008, 10:55 AM
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Thanks Barb, I have done so very often and for hours (type my heading into the search box). The volumn is overwhelming to sort through to get answers to specific items. The only relevent post I could find was by another Linda who was planning on going to some of these places on a Saturday, but nothing from anyone who has actually done so.

Sometimes I give up after a half hour or so and ask the experts.(That would be you guys!)

In the post where I asked about crowds & closings, I did mention that we would arrive on Thursday April the 3rd, and the Saturday was the day I was inquiring about. In some cities, the sites that aren't closed on Saturdays can be very crowded. I was wondering if anyone had any knowledge of what to expect in Rome.

Linda431 is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2008, 11:14 AM
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Hi Linda,

on your "free" day, you might like to take a boat down the Tiber, and then wander around Trastervere. we did this "by mistake" the day the Vatican queues were too long, and by chance came across the church of st. cecilia. pay E3 for the crypt, and you'll find the most beautiful mosaic chapel.

it was one of the nicest things we did. Trastevere is very atmospheric and typically Roman.

regards, ann
annhig is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2008, 11:26 AM
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Linda, I've done as Anna suggested and spent part of a Saturday in Trastevere. The one thing I caution you about is that the churches there tend to close for lunch somewhere from 11-4 (sometimes 12-3, etc.) so I had to wait to get into both St. Cecelia and San Francesco e Ripe (beautiful Bernini there). This isn't limited to just Trastevere, but most of the churches I came across, including San Pietro in Vincoli (where Michelangelo's Moses is). Those were the only unexpected closing I found in my week there. That said, once I did get in, none of them were crowded at all (certainly not like the Vatican, and in the case of the churches in Trastevere, I was practically alone!)
amyb is online now  
Jan 22nd, 2008, 02:19 PM
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Hi Linda431. we are visiting Rome in october for 3 days also. Could you give me details of Helen Donagen's tours.
mariebut is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2008, 02:53 PM
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It's 250 euros per person and lasts about 2 hours. When you sign up she will send you a Paypal invoice which will include a transaction fee. Our tab for 2 came to about $780 U.S. Ouch.

There will be anywhere from 6 to 20 in the group (so I've heard). If it's more than about 8, they split into 2 groups.

She does about 4 or 5 tours per month. If the dates don't match your schedule, you have the option of a group tour during regular hours which is a lot cheaper but you have to move along with the crowd.

It starts in the late afternoon, after closing. She told me it would be around 6:00 but she was waiting on final word from the Vatican about that.

The tour covers the Vatican museum, Raphael room and the Sistine Chapel. You meet at her office near the Vatican so I'm assuming you go in from there and exit on the museum side. I've never been to Rome, so don't take me literally on that.

On Helen:

On the tour:
Linda431 is offline  
Jan 25th, 2008, 06:17 AM
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Here is a review I did on the tour. Took it Dec. 27, 2007. Absolutely astounding and well worth the price.

daveesl is offline  
Jan 25th, 2008, 07:09 AM
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Linda, since this is your very first trip to Rome, you might want to spend at least part of Saturday (since that's your free day) right smack in the historic centre around the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Capitol Hill (Capitoline) and Campo dei fiori.

These are great areas and all in very close proximity, which makes it easy for visiting, particularly when your time is limited.

To me, the Pantheon is a must see. It's one of the oldest structures in Rome, roughly 2,000 years old. It was originally built as a pre-Christian temple to "all gods" and was saved from being ripped apart for its marble by the fact it was taken over, or co-opted, by the Catholic church and is today a consecrated church. It's open all day, until about 7:30 p.m. and free, so you can go in at any time. Around the Pantheon are a half-dozen beautiful churches with great art, which you can pop into. For example, just behind the Pantheon is Santa Maria sopra Minerva (Santa Maria building over a temple to the goddess Minerva), with a wonderful Bernini sculture of an elephant outside. The exterior of this church is bland, but it's stunning inside and there is a small Michelangelo sculpture you might like to see (continuing from your visit with Helen Donegan to the Vatican!)

Of course, Piazza Navona is about two minutes away from the Pantheon, nice to spend a few moments there admiring the fountains and maybe grab a gelato. Remember, it costs more if you sit down at a table to drink or eat.

A few minutes from there is the Campo dei Fiori with its outdoor market, which is lively and interesting to stroll through for at least a few minutes.

If you think of the Pantheon as the sort of centre of this casual tour, with the Piazza Navona and Campo dei Fiori a few minutes off towards the west and south, if you headed to the east from the Pantheon, it's less than a 10-minute walk to the ancient Capitoline Hill.

This area doesn't get a lot of attention but I think its fantastic. Michelangelo designed a wonderful approach to the ancient hill, the Cordonata. This is a kind of ramp, or gently rising wide steps that lead to a beautiful piazza (also designed by Michelangelo) at the top of this hill where Rome was really founded. At the top, there are three large buildings, one is now Rome's city hall and two are fantastic museums.

You might not have time to visit these museums, but if you stroll around the right side of the centre building that is now city hall, there are fantastic views that sweep across the Forum to the Colosium. It's also a really wonderful stroll at night.

If you do pop into the Capitoline Museums, one (Palazzo dei Conservatori) now has a great exhibit about the Temple of Jupiter that was recently uncovered there and has contributed to a greater understanding of Rome's very ancient founding. As well, an underground tunnel that runs beneath city hall, connecting the two Capitoline Museums, is interesting and opens to chambers that include the Tabularium, where documents were stored 2,000 years ago. Also, this has wonderful open-air views over the Forum.

I was in Rome last week and one day, when it was cold and rainy, I took some good photos of the Forum from the Tabularium.

Anyway, I know your time is limited, but I think a few hours around these very old sites might add a lot to your enjoyment of Rome.

I think you'll also love Helen Donegan's tour, I've wanted to do it myself for a while.

At the Galleria Borghese, I like the audio guides. Inexpensive, but informative, to help you understand what you're looking at!
sacc is offline  
Jan 25th, 2008, 08:01 AM
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Also, here is a link to some itineraries I did for Rome. There is also a link to a google map that works with the itineraries. You can watch the videos online, you can also download the MP3 files to use while you are there.

daveesl is offline  
Jan 25th, 2008, 08:45 AM
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sacc - that sounds like a wonderful day. I will definitely have to try to visit everything you listed.
StLgrrl is offline  

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