New Year in Rome- Trip report

Jan 12th, 2006, 07:31 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Feb 2003
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New Year in Rome- Trip report

Below pls find the report from our most recent trip to Rome. It's rather long, but full of (hopefully) useful details. Enjoy and let me know if questions.
Day 1

We arrived to Fumicino Airport around 12:30pm: I reserved a Rome Limousine Shuttle that took us to our hotel (Hotel Regent, more on it later) for Eu 35.00 (flat fee). Our driver was courteous and we were happy with the service overall. They only take cash and we tipped him EU 5.
Hotel Regent: its located in the residential neighborhood about 1km from Villa Borghese. The location is not ideal: the reason we had to stay there is because our trip was a package deal (air+hotel) from www. Gotoday.com so we could not pick and choose and had to take whatever was offered. The good thing about the hotel was that it is located in a very nice affluent area (at least it looks that way) and gave us an idea of everyday life in Rome. We found a supermarket nearby (called “GS”) with excellent bakery and deli sections and saved a ton of $$ on dinners by buying cold cuts, yoghurt, bread, cheese, etc.
A bit about the hotel: it is rated as a 4 star, but in reality it’s more like 3 stars. It has nine floors, a restaurant and single/double/triple rooms. We stayed in the triple room (the two of us + our teen) and paid about $120/night. Our room was ok, not great, but sufficed: it had an interesting “shabby” feel to it (read: slightly worn out furniture, smallest TV I’ve ever seen that didn’t work, and the drafty windows that kept rattling from wind gusts). Because of the poor window insulation, it was pretty noisy in the room, but we slept like logs after walking around and did not care much. I would imagine that the noise would be a problem for the light sleepers, though.
However: there was a large bathroom (according to Roman hotel standards anyway!), plenty of hot water, comfortable temperature that held steady despite the drafty windows. The room was cleaned every day, including changing the linens and towels. Whenever we asked for something from the front lobby (i.e. blankets, extra shampoo, etc) we got it within 10 min.
The breakfast was included and we thought it was pretty good: usually it included the selection of breads/pastries, yoghurt, 2 types of cold cuts, 3 types of cereal, juices, coffee (very strong and muddy, and usually just lukewarm). When I asked for the cappuccino, it was provided right away and it was excellent (and free of charge!).
The front desk attendants were very helpful: they gave us a map and explained Metro and bus system in Rome.
Transportation: there are two types of Metro trains in Rome: one is urban Metro (two lines: A and B that cross at the Termini Station) and the suburban trains that “fan” outwards from the different points of each urban Metro line stops. Hotel Regent is located right around the corner from the Euclid stop of the Flaminio-Vitterbo line. Flaminio is the stop on the urban Metro (right next to Piazza del Popolo) and Euclid is the very first stop after the transfer. The urban/suburban stations are usually located right next to each other and are very easy to navigate. The urban metro is very punctual and convenient. The suburban line is ok as well, not as precise but overall runs well. The tickets vary from EU1 (for the 75min ticket) to EU4 (24 hr ticket). There is another type of ticket (weekly, I think about EU12, but we did not buy that one, since it was hard to break even). You can use the same tickets for all the other types of above the ground transportation (i.e. buses/trams). Usually no one checks the tickets in the buses (we haven’t seen anyone at least) but it’s best to validate the ticket once in the bus/train to avoid any potential problems (there are yellow validation machines on every bus and in every Metro car).
Continuation of day 1:
We were tired and jet-lagged, so we decided to take a look at the Piazza del Popolo and take it easy after that. It is a beautiful piazza, adjacent to the Villa Borghese. One notable landmark there is the Santa Maria del Popolo church that was described well in Dan Brown’s “Angels and Demons”. It is open form 9-12 and then from 4-7 (as most churches in Rome around this time of the year). Also, we climbed the stairs to the Borghese gardens to take in the beautiful view of the piazza and the surrounding area. We went to the hotel and crashed after that
katie12 is offline  
Jan 12th, 2006, 08:11 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Katie12, just so you know, the number of stars a hotel is given does not relate to quality of furnishings, cleanliness, size of room, etc. The stars are based on the number of amenities such as elevator, on-site restaurant, room service, parking, A/C, satellite TV, internet access, meeting rooms, laundry service, etc. Although you didn't have a choice this time, in the future you should select your hotel based on the amenities you actually want/need and consistently positive reviews, not by the number of stars.
Jean is offline  
Jan 17th, 2006, 10:37 AM
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katie,

Looking forward to hearing more!

Woody
Woody is offline  
Jan 17th, 2006, 04:57 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
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Yes, Katie, great job so far! Don't stop now!
Postal is offline  
Jan 17th, 2006, 08:09 PM
  #5  
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Thanks! Here are day 2 and 3
Day 2
Our plans included going to the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s. However, when we arrived to the Vatican around 9:45am, the reality settled in: there was a huge line all the way around the St. Peter’s square to get to the cathedral. We thought that perhaps the museums would be easier to get in: not so. The line to the museums was about 4 city blocks long, snaking around the buildings surrounding the Vatican. So we gave up and decided to revisit the museums later in the trip.
Vatican museums in winter are open 8:45- 12:20pm. It’s best to come b/f 8am to get in by 9. I am not sure what are the hours for St. Peter’s, but I would suspect same as the rest of the churches in Rome.
After the Vatican fiasco we decided to at least visit the Castel St. Angelo (next to Vatican, the place of papal refuge during the times of unrest in Medieval times). There was absolutely no line (tickets are around EU 4/pp). The building itself is pretty impressive with thick walls that no doubt offered solid protection (or prison). Inside one can admire beautiful papal apartments with frescoed walls. Be sure to climb to the circular terrace that hugs the top of the castle to get pretty decent view of the surrounding area, bridges etc. When we were there, it was raining miserably so all we could see what some misty outlines of the buildings on the other side of Tiber.
We walked to Piazza Navona, which had Xmas market still going on. Following the advice of several guidebooks we stopped at Tre Scalini to sample some Tartufo (chocolate dessert, looks like the rum ball, but made of chocolate). Because it was raining and cold, we thought that sitting under the umbrella and next to the heater outside was a good idea: b/c of that we ended up paying double (EU 8 vs. EU 4, or what it would have cost us if we simply bought it “to go”) Oh well, you live you learn.
At this point it was absolutely miserable outside: our shoes were soaked from ever intensifying rain, so we decided to do the only thing that made sense: spend the rest of the day shuttling from one museum to the other (thankfully in our prev. visit we did not visit any museums).
We went to the National Museum of Rome: next to Termini station, EU 6/pp. It was pretty austere, with good collection of marble busts of the various Roman rulers/generals/tyrants. We loved the displays of the mosaics and frescoes collected from various villas around Rome. We used Rick Steve’s museum tour which was pretty good.
Next, we caught bus # 175 (I think ) from Termini to Vittorio Emanuelle monument to get to the Capitol Hill Museum. The highlights there include the famous Etruscan she-wolf that nurtured Romulus and Remus (two cherubs under the wolf) who later on went on to found Rome (or so the legend has it). It also has a notable Caravaggio, Boy Extracting a Thorn statue and the Dying Gaul statue. There is a very cool (and huge) statue of Emperor Augustus on the horse. Enclosed inside the museum building is a foundation of a much older Roman temple: to our disappointment the small iron gate on the side of the ruins that led underground under the temple was locked 
After the museum we could not stand the rain anymore and headed back to the hotel hoping for a better day tomorrow.

Day 3

We decided to visit Ostia Antica in the morning. The weather was glorious for a change: the sun came our early and dried up all the rain so we were quite hopeful for a good day of solid sightseeing.
The train to Ostia Antica takes about 25 min from Pyramide stop on Metro line B. Getting there was a breeze, and only cost EU 4/pp (or a day Metro pass).
We loved, loved, loved Ostia Antica. First of all, it doesn’t feel at all like a museum: we played hide and seek in the ruins, explored and touched everything and made wonderful discoveries, such an a wonderful mosaic floors in the old baths, climbed the steps of the ancient theater, crawled in the subterranean passageways of some ancient warehouse and even found some new mosaics under the moss that covers most of the floors. It is such a cool place I would recommend it to anyone: especially if you have kids, they are going to LOVE IT! Note that it is pretty big: just walking the entire “main street” from the beginning to the end takes about 20 min, and if you are going to take side streets and explore houses, etc, allow at least 2.5-3 hrs. Also, walking on the rough cobblestone street is hard on the feet, so wear comfortable shoes.
On the way back we stopped at metro stop EUR Magliani to check out the right wing Mussolini monstrosities, a.k.a Palace of the Civilization of Labor (which is generally disliked by Romans) and is nicknamed “Square Colloseum”. It is a frightening looking building that is currently under restoration (one can only hope that it will soften up the ugly lines of this horrible structure). I would probably suggest to skip this stop, unless 1) you have time to kill 2) you’re a 20th century history buff 3) you’re heavily into the abstract architecture.
Next stop was St. Paul Outside The Walls (Metro stop Basilica St. Paolo): a worthwhile stop because this basilica is vast and impressive because of its sheer size that humbles anyone.
Back on the metro: we got off the metro stop Cavour to see St. Maria Maggiore cathedral, where we enjoyed a concert of what looked like a middle school chamber orchestra competition. The cathedral is great and famous that described well in Fodor’s guide.
Next, we walked back to the Cavour stop (we could have caught Metro at the Termini station which is just a stone throw from St. Maria Maggiore) because we wanted to visit St. Peter in Chains to see Michelangelo’s Moses. It took us sometime to find the church: the map showed that it was right on piazza next to the Metro station, but in reality you have to climb the stairs up and then go right: the church in on your left. The statue was awesome; however it left me wondering how this somewhat obscure church has procured such a treasure: I’ll have to read up on that.
Completely exhausted, we crawled home after this and had a “take away” panini from café Euclid across the street from our hotel. A few words about this very excellent café: if you happen to stay in Hotel Regent, you may want to check it out: it has excellent sandwiches, small finger foods, such as croquettes, an awesome bakery and gelato. The décor is modern and done well, the prices are great. Get a glass on wine or a coffee, a few appetizers and linger as long as you want.
katie12 is offline  
Jan 17th, 2006, 08:17 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2003
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Wow, you traveled some ground on Day 3. Thanks for the details on Ostia - it's on my list to see!
SusanEva is offline  
Jan 17th, 2006, 08:44 PM
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Hi Katie,
I was also interested on your comments about Ostia. We'd love to see it, and I think our teens would love it, too.

What's the least amount of time do you think we would need to set aside to give it justice?

thanks!
Dina
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Jan 17th, 2006, 08:44 PM
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Oh, and great report! Thanks for sharing!
dina4 is offline  
Jan 19th, 2006, 08:42 PM
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To: Dina4: Spending about 5 hrs in Ostia (total, including the trip there and back) is fair. If you're going during the hot months, take care: you'll be exhausted b/c of the sun and the heat.
Here is the rest of the trip:

Day 3
We woke up early since we were going to give Vatican museums another try. When we arrived right before 8am, the line was already about 500m long. Thankfully once the museums opened (8:45am) the line moved briskly and we got in around 9.
After the museums we climbed on top of the St. Peters’ dome and admired the view, wondered in awe around St. Peter’s and headed to Piazza Navona for lunch. It was raining (again!) but it was pretty warm so walking was that bad. We were hoping to get to the Osteria Di Mario which we liked last time we were in Rome, but it was closed, so we went to the adjacent restaurant, Maccheroli (on Piazza delle Copelle). We had spaghetti alla carbonara, tortellini with cheese and pumpkin seed and spaghetti with cherry tomatoes. In Italian the cherry tomatoes are called Paccino (sp?) which is pronounced “Pakino” but we said “Pachino” so we all had a good laugh (including the waiter). The wine cheap and in abundance, the food was great and we left in considerably better spirits. Our bill including wine and appetizers was about EU 48.
After that we had gelato as Giolitti (sp?) which is one of the most famous Roman gelato shops, not too far from the restaurant on Via Vicario.
We walked to the Trevi fountain, marveled at this astonishing sight and threw couple of coins in to ensure that we’ll be back soon.
Finally, we wanted to investigate shopping on via Nazionale, which turned out to be not so good after all (too $$$$!). Via Nazionale is one of the streets that fans out of piazza Reppublica (there is a Metro stop there as well).
We came back to the hotel for 1 hr, and after that head out again since we had tickets to the opera concert at Chiese di S. Paolo entro le Mura (St. Paul within Walls). This church is also on Via Nazionale, just a few stops from the Metro stop. Since it was a New Year’s eve, preparations were going on for the celebrations on the Piazza Reppublica (music, lights, etc). The crowd was gathering already: everyone was drinking champagne (sold at all panini stands in ½ liter bottles) and the mood was very boisterous.
The opera concert (best of Italian operas: Marriage of Figaro, Tosca, Rigoletto, etc) was very good. The only problem was that we were dead tired and hardly could stay awake, which was obviously not too conducive to the whole musical experience 
On the way back we stopped at the Piazza Reppublica to check out the crowds, but it was way too early (9:30pm) and nothing started yet. The family was exhausted, so we went back to the hotel (metro was running ok, but the suburban train wasn’t so we spent some time looking for the cab), but we reached home ok, and after the brief New Year toasting went to bed.

Day 4
Having slept late (til 8:30am) we had breakfast and head out. As it was January 1st, all stores/museums were closed, so we went to see St. Giovanni di Laterano (a very impressive church, which also happens to be the “official” Rome’s cathedral, according to my Fodor’s guide. While there, do not miss the cloister: it is very beautiful, just as described in the guide (EU 2).
Back on the Metro to St. Maria Maggiore. There was some sort of the school concert going on inside, which just added to the ambiance.
After that we went home and relaxed for a bit (it was raining outside- AGAIN!). When it sort of stopped we decided to head to Trastevere and roam this legendary neighborhood. However: the minute we crossed the bridge over Tiber (and admired the historic hospital) it started raining so bad that we just had to turn back and catch the bus to Termini and, eventually, home. .
We finished up the 1st of January at the hotel enjoying wine and proscuitto from the supermarket.

Day 5:
We mostly did shopping near Vatican City and had dinner at our favorite place, Osteria di Mario near Pantheon. I had Trippa alla Romana, which was tripe in tomato sauce- a bit too exotic for my taste, as it turned out.
On the way to the restaurant I thought it might be a good idea to check out the churches near Pantheon and also Campo di Fiori (check out your Fodor’s or Rick Steve’s guide for the description
Day 6: Back to the US via Munich! Note: and of course, as it always happens, as we were leaving Rome the skies completely cleared up and the bright Italian sun was out in its full glory 

katie12 is offline  
Aug 9th, 2006, 02:21 PM
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Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 389
Katie--
You and I sound like travel soulmates--and my family is a family of 3 too, so I really appreciate the info.

A couple of questions--would you use gotoday again? Did you leave from NYC?

We're planning a Rome trip sometime during the next two years.
Leonora is offline  

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