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carlyshells Feb 28th, 2007 06:09 AM

Only 2 full days in Rome - how to manage time?!?
Hi all -

I'll only be in Rome for 2 full days (a Wednesday and Thursday). My two travel partners and I have already decided our "must sees" - Vatican Museum/St. Peter's, ancient Rome, and Galleria Borghese. I know some of you might say to skip the Borghese this time around, but this is just not negotiable. Our goal is to do these three things within those 2 days, but I am trying to figure out the best way to organize our sight-seeing so that we do not go crazy running around the city and have enough time to enjoy each area. (I'll just mention too that this is our first trip to Italy, we are all in our late 20's/early 30's and are used to doing a lot of city walking, both on trips and in our everyday lives.)

I now realize that Wednesday is the papal audience day at the Vatican and it would probably not be the best idea to visit that day (not interested in seeing the pope, plus basilica closed in the a.m., which we were not aware of before). We recently found out that we have a connection in the Vatican tours office and can do the tour for free, so we were thinking of doing that first thing Thursday morning. Here is my dilemma - we had already booked the Borghese for Wednesday afternoon, with the idea that we would do the Vatican that morning, then do ancient Rome all day on Thursday (incl. Pantheon, Forum, Palatine, and Colosseum). Now that we have realized the papal audience is Wed. and we have this Vatican connection that recommends the tour on Thurs. as opposed to Wed, this screws up our original sight-seeing plan. Has anyone booked the Borghese online and then cancelled it? Their reservation website says "no refunds or cancellations" except that we did not even put any money down or give them a credit card number to book it. My thinking is that we re-book the Borghese for Thursday late p.m.(if possible), so that we can do the Vatican in the a.m. and have all day on Wednesday to do ancient Rome. Or is it possible to do Vatican in the morning and then ancient Rome in the afternoon on Thursday? I don't want to get burned out by doing too much in one day.

Perhaps I am over-thinking this whole thing and should just enjoy my brief time in Rome no matter what happens!

Mimar Feb 28th, 2007 06:56 AM

What do you mean by "ancient Rome?" There are Roman ruins sprinkled throughout the city, (one of its charms). You'd never see them all in a day. In your case, I'd just go to the Forum and Colesseum Wednesday morning. Maybe hit San Clemente (3-layered church, the bottom layer being a Mithraic temple) since it's very near the Colesseum. Oh, and don't miss a visit to the Pantheon. If you stay in the middle of the Centro Storico, you'll encounter ruins as you walk around.

Grinisa Feb 28th, 2007 07:00 AM

Why can't you just do ancient rome on Wed. morning? Get an early start and you can see the Palatine, Forum and Colosseum all before lunch. Do the Borgehese Wednesday afternoon. See the Vatican on Thursday. If you are seeing the Basilica and Museums, that's almost a full day. Do not see another museum (Borghese) or Ancient Rome after the Vatican. You can save the Pantheon for either after the Borghese on Wed. afternoon/evening or after the Vatican as it does not take long to see. Stay in the centro storico, near the Pantheon, and you can see it and Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain, Campo di Fiore and several interesting churches at your leisure when you are done with the 'big' things or in the evening.

carlyshells Feb 28th, 2007 07:22 AM

Thank your for your speedy replies. Mimar, I did mention in my post what I meant by ancient Rome (Pantheon, Forum, Palatine, Colosseum). I suppose we could break up "ancient Rome" into two days... We are staying near the Termini on Via Viminale and can not change our hotel reservation (we leave in 2 weeks). The thing is, our Borghese reservation time slot is 1pm-3pm on Wednesday. Would it still be possible to do the Colosseum/Forum Wednesday morning then get up to the Borghese by 12:30pm? That just seems like a stretch to me.

nbujic Feb 28th, 2007 07:32 AM

yes, if you start early in the day, or even after Borghese ( take a cab, it will save you time)

puttakka Feb 28th, 2007 07:49 AM

I spent three days in Rome in October and found it plenty to get a nice appetizing "taste" of Rome. Like you, I stayed by the Termini, which fifteen minutes from the Colosseum on the Metro. Then you can walk from the Colosseum to the Forum to the Vitorrio Emanuelle Monument I, the the Ben Hur area (forget what's it's called but it was on my husband's Must-See List.) From the VE monument you can get to the Trevi fountain on the right and the Pantheon to the left. Everything is super-close and bunched around that area. Just bring good walking shoes!!!

I'm assuming that you get in Wednesday morning, or you will be around Wednesday morning. If you are doing the Galleria Borghese in the afternoon, I suggest you get up early, fuel up on coffee near the Termini, and take the train to the Colosseum. You can get a guided tour or so (the tour guides are soliciting people around the line for tickets), which includes the 10 euro admission, or you can just get the admission and walk around yourself. You can spend the morning exploring that area and then wander over to the Via del Corso, have lunch somewhere, and then head over to the Villa Borghese. At night, I would definitely check out an enoteca like Casa Blave, you order a wine and then they pair foods with the wine.

The next morning, do the Vatican first thing, as the museums close early in the offseason. After that's done, pick something else to do in the afternoon (I thought the Pantheon are was incredible) and maybe end up at the Spanish Steps area. Then pick something else to do at night.

That's what I'd do. I find the metro very easy and fast. And plan a return trip!!!

suec1 Feb 28th, 2007 09:23 AM

You might consider skipping the Palentine since your time is limited. We went there this fall (it was our third trip to Rome) and I was not impressed. I thought we could rent an audioguide but that was not an option. There is very little information or markings of the site and several of the main ruins (Pricilla's house?) were closed due to renovation. I thought it was pretty much a waste of time and money - if you do go - take a tour or guide! otherwise I predict you will just wander around wondering what is the big deal. There are plenty other sites in Rome more worth your time.

carlyshells Feb 28th, 2007 12:08 PM

Thank you all, for reassuring me that our must-see's are doable in two days. I realize that we probably won't be able to fit in all of "ancient Rome" but as long as I can see the Forum and the Pantheon I'll be happy (I don't know about my co-travelers though!).

pattakka - what did you think of the Colossuem? Did you enjoy it? I have heard so many conflicting things about it ("tourist trap", "awesome", "waste of money", "can't miss", etc).

suec1 - that is disappointing to hear that Palatine was nothing special. Are the ruins of Palatine any less than those of the Forum?

I think now that I'm getting down to the wire, I'm starting to get anxious about having so little time and wanting to maximize the Rome experience while at the same time be able to enjoy the surroundings and not go nuts about sight-seeing. I am sure that I will want to plan a return trip some day, but there are just too many places to see in this world and not enough time or money to do it all! Thanks again for the responses!

ellenem Feb 28th, 2007 12:49 PM

In a sense the Palatine ruins are more expansive and identifiable and structures than the Forum. It's the subject matter of the Palatine that's perhaps less interesting to some people--it's a bunch of palaces--while the Forum has the Temple of This, the Temple of That, the Senate, and such.

For your brief visit, the Forum is easy and free. The Palatine requires more time and effort to visit properly.

The Colosseum is up to you. The big question would be whether you could visit Rome and skip the Colosseum in your own mind.

ekscrunchy Feb 28th, 2007 01:00 PM

I agree with Ellenem. I will go further and tell you that, although I have wandered around the Forum on many trips to Rome, on my last trip I took my first tour of the Forum and Palatine (with a private guide) and the difference was dramatic. Unless you are very knowledgeable about Roman history, you might want to leave the Palatine for a future time when you can visit with a guide or simply have more time in your schedule to wander around on your own. The Forum alone is so spectacular that with a limited amount of time I would concentrate on that area, plus the Colisseum if you can fit it in. Just my own 2 cents!

carlyshells Feb 28th, 2007 01:21 PM

Thanks ekscrunchy and ellenm - I am not that knowledgable on ancient Roman history (the HBO series "Rome" has provided me with more insight than I ever learned in history class!). I think I would much rather see the Forum if I had to choose. I personally would be happy to take some photos of the outside of the Colosseum and call it a day, but I think my companions feel differently. I guess we'll have to see how we feel when we are actually there. I have planned enough trips to know that you have to account for some wiggle room in your itinerary. For some reason Rome is tripping me up though (no pun intended)! No matter what we end up doing I'm sure it will be an amazing "taste" of the eternal city. I can't wait!!

jabez Feb 28th, 2007 01:49 PM

When are you going?
If it's winter,the closing times and sunlight hours limit you.
If it's spring/summer/early fall I'd hit the forum at 830 or so. I believe they have a 9:30 English tour that finishes at 10:15. You can go to the Palatine hill after you get your tickets while "waiting" for the tour to begin (Palatine's entrance is right at the ticket booth-where the tour begins).
You then walk to the Colloseum and ,if possible, join one of the tours that are recruiting English speaking folks at the entrance way. Your tour will be over before 12. Take a cab to Borghese.
Thursday morning go to the Pantheon, Navona, Fiori and arrive at the Basilica around 11. Get a "free" tour there that should get you out of the church around 12.
Walk nearby and check where all the priests are eating. Generally these restauranys are good, not expensive and quick. At 1pm enter the Vatican museum,expect no lines.
Rent an audio cassette tour. While not as good as a personal guide, they do a good job and fit your schedule.
Both of these days allow for some nice late afternoon strolls .
You may only have two days,but this is one way to at least get some time at the palces you want.

AnnieDuke Feb 28th, 2007 01:56 PM

go to
easiest place to book tours and ask them questions, they'll help you out big time like they did us. As lon g as its in Rome, they can do it. They helped us skip the line at the vatican

azzure Feb 28th, 2007 01:57 PM

I was in Rome in October. I saw the Forum and Colosseum with my tour group the day we arrived, but my husband was ill that day (food poisoning - ick). The next day he was healthy and we were scheduled to see the Vatican/St. Peter's, and of course it was a Wednesday. Our tour guide evidently didn't know about the papal audience, so we toured the Vatican in the morning, (which was jammed with cruise ship passengers), then had a leisurely lunch at the cafeteria in the Visitor's Center, then (at about 12:30 PM) went to St. Peter's. DH and I didn't leave there until 1 PM, so we got the #40 bus (which leaves from St. Peter's Square) and took it to the Argentina stop. From there it is a 5 minute walk to the Pantheon. We then walked from the Pantheon to the Forum, through the Forum and out the other side by Constantine's Arch, and over to our hotel (which was also on Via Viminale); arriving there before 5 pm. We never felt rushed, so there should be no problem with your seeing "Ancient Rome", or at least these highly-touristed elements, in one morning.

A couple of other thoughts - the Forum was a disappointment to me, as it was so overrun with people one could barely stand back and appreciate anything.

About the Colosseum, I think it is one of those sights (like Stonehenge)that "looks how it looks" -- photographs do a pretty good job of illustrating what the interior is like, so if you don't get inside, don't feel too bad. Be aware, though, that you can buy tickets at Palatine Hill enabling you to see both that site and the Colosseum, thereby bypassing long lines at the Colosseum.

PamT Mar 1st, 2007 05:01 AM


carlyshells Mar 1st, 2007 01:00 PM

Azzure - That is exactly the kind of feedback I was hoping for - hearing what others experience has been with such limited time to do those few things I mentioned. Grazie! We've decided to keep our Borghese reservation for 1pm on Wednesday, do the Vatican tour at 10:30am on Thursday, and just see where those days take us for ancient Rome. I am hoping that the Forum might be less crowded in the late afternoon/early evening, as well as have nice lighting for sunset shots!

rbnwdln Mar 1st, 2007 02:50 PM

OMG, such differing opinions. Seeing the Forum was one of the highlights of my life! But the Vatican museums were a bust, couldn't wait to get out. I think you should save those for another trip (or not at all!). St. Peter's is AMAZING, though. I have never been to the Galleria Borghese, though, but will go in June after seeing it on the Travel Channel. It looks spectacular.

jabez Mar 2nd, 2007 04:48 AM

Just my two cents, but I thought that I would respond to the negative descriptions that sometimes appear when relatting to the Forum and the Colosseum. While we all have different likes, I believe that sometimes these opinions are formed for different reasons.
Folks that usually find the Forum and/or the Colosseum "unintersting",
"disappointing", "too touristy", "too crowed" ,etc. generally :
1. Have not done a tour.
-Both are best seen with guides. This is especially true of the Forum.
I can add this to many other sites as well.

2. Are not all that interested in history.
It's amazing that we here in the states consider anything 200 years old as ancient history. In Rome, that's considered modern. To each his own, but I even love walking the main road in the Forum and imagining the people that have walked them well over 2,000 years ago.

3. Have no imagination.
-See number 2.

4. Maybe should avoid "crowds"
-I visit the Smithsonian in DC and there are crowds. I enter Glacier national park in summer and wait quite awhile behind many cars also waiting to enter the park.
Last fall in Williamsburg, the streets were jammed. I could go on.
There's a reason why there are crowds at popular places.
I could always avoid them by staying home. No crowds in my back yard.

5. Have a misguided definition of "tourist trap".
-Not so much the Forum, but there are some touristy stands and gladiators seeking a buck outside the Colosseum.
I am actually amazed that this amazing site isn't more touristy (like Pisa and Collodi). This isn't like Gatlinburg, Niagara Falls, Dollywood, Branson or the strip in Orlando. Fudge shops, souvenir t-shirts , time-share hucksters, now these are "tourist traps".

5. Should skip Rome, Forence, Assisi,most Tuscan hill towns,Venice, etc.
-There are many nice Italian towns that have very few visitors. They are the opposite of Rome. There are many with no Etruscan ruins or major museums.
As for me, I have visited many such places and really liked them. But,I didn't go there expecting what Rome delivers. People should not visit cities like Rome and expect a small Piedmont hamlet.

ellenem Mar 2nd, 2007 06:24 AM


Not sure that the Forum is the best place for "sunset shots"--If I remember correctly, the Capitoline Hill will block the sunset on most of the Forum.

jjkbrook Mar 2nd, 2007 07:08 AM

I think the plan of viewing the Roman Forum area in the morning and the Borghese Gallery in the afternoon is fine. I would start at the Campidoglio, the piazza designed by Michelangelo overlooking the whole Forum centered by the (now copy) of the terrific equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius,(including the church up there, the Aracoeli, an ancient basilica at the site of a Roman temple and incorporating lots of Roman building materials) and then walk down into the Forum, walking its length to the Colliseum. In all the times we've been in Rome, we have never wanted to enter the Colliseum. I agree with whoever said the sight is enough. Weve been on the Palatine a couple of times and found it underwhelming. You could continue to San Clemente - its just a few minutes on from the Colliseum but personally I would want to grab a bite before heading over to the Borghese.

I cant remember what the best way is to get by bus or metro to the Borghese from Colliseo. It will be a few minutes walk into the Park from where the bus lets you down to the Museum. wonderful, by the way.

Enjoy your visit to the Vatican - Id hit the museum first thing in the morning then grab some lunch - heres one good possiblity near the Vatican Museum - - and then see the basilica. Personally, its far from my favorite church in Rome its too monumental, but the colonnade and the baldachino by Bermini (I think made by some melted down pieces of the Parthenon) are amazing.

You will have time to catch the bus or Metro back, or simply wander across the Ponti degli Angeli and back through the streets of old rome.

Make sure to take time to drop into churches, especially the early christian ones which you identify because they are below street level. Santa Prassede in particular, near Santa Maria Maggiore, has particularly lovely mosaics.

Have a great trip!

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