Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Our own independent shore excursion to Rome

Our own independent shore excursion to Rome

Aug 7th, 2007, 04:59 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 11
Our own independent shore excursion to Rome

We're non-Italian speaking novice travelers and it's our first time to Rome! We have 7 hours and want to see the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basicila, the Pantheon and the Colosseum. Are there any other must-see sites given our limited time? Which should we get a guide for and what's the best way and time to get to them?

Thanks in advance!
yourpal is offline  
Aug 7th, 2007, 06:07 PM
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 547
Contact Stefano at RomeCabs, [email protected] and check out his website at www.romecabs.com
He can meet you at the port, drive you to the sites, and he can have the tickets bought ahead if you like. He'll quote you a price by email quickly. If you could collect a group of 2-3 couples it would cut the cost.
[email protected]
2Italy is offline  
Aug 7th, 2007, 06:21 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 19,774
Follow 2Italy's suggestion.

"Must-see sites" depend on your personal interests. For me, every time I go to Rome, I must walk up the Spanish Steps to the top and then back down and then go to the Trevi Fountain to toss in a coin. Part of my homage to one of my favorite cities.

The Galleria Borghese is one of the small treasures of Rome, but I don't think you can spend less than 90 minutes there to make it worthwhile which would mean you'd probably have to drop some things. (Arrive 15-20 minutes early to purchase tickets and check bags, coats, if necessary, then spend AT LEAST an hour zipping through the rooms.) You must have a reservation for a particular time and can't just show up when convenient.

Don't forget you must (and should) eat a nice lunch, perhaps near the Pantheon.
Jean is offline  
Aug 7th, 2007, 10:03 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 11
2Italy: Thanks for the suggestion, but we already have transport to/from the port and don't need a full-time driver.

Jean: Thank you for your great suggestions! My cousin also recommended the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain. I guess we'll have to do those too! Which sites would you recommend we skip so that we could see Galleria Borghese?

How difficult is it to communicate with taxi drivers in Rome? What costs/problems should we expect for traveling between the above sites?

Thanks again!
yourpal is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 01:39 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 7,021
Hi Pal - With only 7 hours you are going to have to be very selective.

I really don't think you have time to include the Galleria Borghese as well as your 'top 4' sights.

When are you going? I fear you could waste a lot of time queuing for the Sistine Chapel. Personally I might be inclined to skip that - otherwise you will be rushing to fit everything in.

I would probably limit your visit to:

St. Peter's Basilica
Colosseum/ Forum
Trevi Fountain
Pantheon/ Piazza Navona

Steve_James is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 03:40 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 16,066
I agree with Steve James that with such a short time it probably makes sense to skip the museums and concentrate on other sights.
If you want to see the Colosseum without a guide the best way to get a ticket without waiting in a long line is to purchase a combined ticket for it and the Palatine at the Palatine entrance in the Forum near the Arch of Titus. (If you go up the stairs at this entrance to the Farnese gardens you get a good view of the forum and will also see the gardens, a nice break from the heat of the Forum)
Piaza Navona and the Pantheon (in Piazza della Rotunda) are very close to each other. I would rate them higher than the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain as must sees.
Vttraveler is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 05:11 AM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 404
yourpal, give some more info & we can probably give you a lot more help.

When will you be in Rome? Time of year determines crowds - which limits siteseeing. For instance, November is a lot different from summer.

Do you want strictly "the sites" or will you spend time shopping/eating/strolling/browsing? Once that is known, we could even give you a path to take & approx. time schedule.

How much can each of you walk? Once that is known, we can advise how to get from one place to another.

Please list your "wants" in priority order. For instance if the Colosseum is the most important, we can advise a path to take.

In which area of Rome will your transport leave you? Maybe that is one way to determine which site to see first. Where will it meet you for return? Can you direct the transport to leave & meet you anywhere?

From my experience, I don't see how anyone can wait in the Vatican Museum line & then see other non-Vatican sites in 7 hours. So do you want to go inside, or is just standing in the square & "seeing" it (which is marvelous in itself!) enough?

We cruise often (transatlantic in April) & like you we prefer to be on our own. But please consider that if you take a tour (cruise company or other) you will see a lot more of sites, because transportation drops you off at the door. However, even the cruise tours cannot bypass the Vatican Museum line (to go inside).

Also, very important - if you take non-cruise ship transport back to the ship & you are late, the ship will not wait for you. In that case, be prepared to get to the next port if traffic blocks your way.

Also, take your passports with you into Rome in a secured money belt only. In a foreign country, you need your passport, not a copy as some cruisers are advised.

Happy cruising, Julie

Julie_Hurst is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 05:29 AM
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 36,752
I'm not a cruise person, and I too would love the idea of "doing it on my own", but you have to realize that the cruise company has been to that port many, many times, and has a lot of experience of how to hit the most important sites and return you to the ship on time. There's a lot to be said for viewing the various day packages offered by the cruise line and picking the one that suits your interests best. I can almost guarantee that you'll end up seeing "more" than trying to do it all on your own.
NeoPatrick is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 05:37 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 10,187
Steve provides a realistic, manageable list.

Skip museums--tthe Vatican Museum will eat up too much time, the Borghese is far from your other interests. (Unfortunately for you, the Sistine Chapel is visited via the Vatican Museums.)

Skip the Spanish Steps--it's just a high-end shopping area with some steps going up a hill. Soem people enjoy the people watching, but for your short visit it's not that important.
ellenem is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 06:05 AM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 590
We just got back from our first trip to Italy, and it took about 5 hours to see the Vatican sights. We got up early and stood in line for 2 hours to get in (there's a pretty long line just for St. Peter's too). It took a long time to make our way through to the Sistine Chapel. It was all awesome and we had a wonderful local guide who spoke English and knew all the history of just about everything in there. However, if I only had 7 hours I'd skip it and see the Colosseum, forum, Spanish Steps, etc., and have a nice meal.

There was not a very long line for the Colosseum, but honestly it's more impressive from the outside. You might be satisfied just looking at it.

We stayed near the Spanish Steps and really enjoyed that area -- you can walk to the Trevi Fountain and other sites from there, and there are lots of nice cafes all over the place.


sandyc is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 06:20 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 9,460

I completely agree with Steve's recommendation. Your time is very limited. Skip the Spanish Steps, see the Trevi Fountain if you end up with time.

Buon viaggio!
Dayle is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 06:25 AM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 6,036
With only 7 hours I would suggest you pick either Vatican City OR the historic center (Colosseum/Forum, Piazza Navona, Pantheon, etc.). I think you would be hard pressed to do both areas, given your time frame, unless you did some kind of organized tour that gave you just the highlights.

tcreath is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 06:26 AM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 32,919
Does the 7 hours include travel time from the port which is an hour from Rome?
kybourbon is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 10:35 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 19,774
So, yourpal, as you can see, everyone has different priorities in Rome. Someone suggested you make your own priority list, and frankly that's the best piece of advice here. We can't tell you what you'll most enjoy, and there's more than one could see in 7 days, let alone 7 hours.

So, think on it: Do you want just to get a sense of the place and see two or three amazing things, or do you want to race around and see as much as you can in the time allowed? Do you think you'll ever get a chance to return to Rome?
Jean is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 06:40 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 11
Hi everybody! In answer to your questions, we'll be in Rome on Friday the last day of this month.

With such limited time, I'm hoping that we can eat on the run and see as much as possible. We're both fit and look forward to walking. It's a great way to earn more cruise cuisine!

As far as priority order, everything looks so amazing! I really can't specify a preference. Maybe proximity would dictate what we see. I'd really like to see historical spectacles - huge structures like St. Peter's (I read that we should go to the roof), architectural ruins like the Colosseum, the Pantheon and the Forum and the Creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel. And I'd like to surprise my wife with the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary as she loves cats (and so do I)!

We're taking the cruise ship's motor coach which will drop everybody off close to Trevi Fountain at 9AM and pick us up at 4PM. I assume the ship will wait for us since it's their organized transfer. If we don't have the time to see inside the Sistine Chapel, I do hope we can see it from the square as you suggest!

As far as the cruise ship's organized tour we're passing up, we were first inclined to take their 'Highlights of Rome' for $70/person more which includes inside St Peter's Basilica, a drive along the Tiber River, passing Aventine Hill and a view of the Imperial Palaces and the Circus Maximus and the Forum, a visit to the Colosseum and drive by Venice Square with a stop at Trevi Fountain and shopping and lunch. We think we can do better!

Thanks for the tip about the passports and money belt!

I'm tending to agree with that we'll have to skip the Galleria Borghese. I'm hoping that we don't have to skip the Sistine Chapel. I hear it's easier to get into after noon. Piazza Navona looks like something we'd like to see to! Thanks for suggesting it!

And thanks for suggesting how to buy the ticket to the Colosseum at the Palatine entrance. I hear that having a guide at some or most of these sites is recommended. Would we be missing out by not having a guide?

For those who are following this thread, I found a great site for some maps:

Thanks again for your suggestions!
yourpal is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 07:45 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 14,681
It was on my third visit to Rome that I actually saw the Sistine Chapel for the first time. As others have indicated, it will just take too much of your time to get to it. One must stand in line for the Vatican Museums, and the lines can be daunting. You never know how long they will be, and they line itself isn't located near anything else you might want to see or do in Rome. If you get all the way to the line, and it is an hour or more long, you must still spend a good deal of time getting to the Sistine Chapel itself. There may be crowds along the way that will slow you down considerably. At this time of year, there probably will be.

I know that is what you want to see, but it seems that everyone here that knows Rome is agreeing that it isn't practical on this schedule.

Since you will be dropped off near the Trevi fountain, you should definitely go there.

I don't think you will have a problem doing the other sites. My cousin just did them last week on a similar schedule and she had three kids with her.

I think they started at the Palantine Hill, looked into the Forum, got their Colosseo tickets, and then went to there.

After that, they walked toward Largo Argentina, cutting over to a church that had meaning for them, but you can go straight to Largo Argentina to surprise your wife.

They went up to the Pantheon, over the Ponte San Angelo, which is a darn good second choice for Bernini as the Galleria Borghese isn't possible for you on this trip. After that, into St Peter's square and the Basilica. If you feel you have time, you can go up on the roof. The entrance is on the far left as you enter the Basilica.

From there, I think I would take a taxi back toward the bus pick up. But if you have time, you can walk and see the Spanish Steps.

Including eating and going to the bathroom, even if it is on the fly, you should certainly be out of time by then.

If you are really energetic, walk back along the Tiber, passing Castel San Angelo, toward the Ara Pacis and then to your meeting place, via the Piazza di Spagna or not, as time and your energy permits.

If you chose the Sistine Chapel, I think you will have to skip the sights of Ancient Rome.

Fridays in Rome can be very hectic, with lots of traffic. You can probably snag a cab at St Peter's Square, but it's not always guaranteed.
tuscanlifeedit is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 09:45 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,525
Personally, you have NO chance of seeing the Sistine Chapel,etc. in your 7 hours so see it from the outside and go back at a later date for the inside tour. The lines have been extremely long all summer and as others have said-its too long of a wait to miss seeing everything else. I would get a Rome guidebook out and group the things you want to see into various areas.Ancient Rome is amazing ! I would group the area around the Trevi walking over to the Panthon onward to Piazza Navona.Early lunch there and Then take the bus/or walk back back towards Largo Argentina(to see your cats),grab a taxi there for a ride to the Colosseum and ancient Rome. Good luck!
dutyfree is offline  
Aug 9th, 2007, 03:54 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 16,066
We stayed very close to the cat sanctuary at the Area Sacra della Argentina during a stay in rome earlier this year. It is very close to the Pantheon (which is not far from the Trevi Fountain area where your bus will leave you off) From the Pantheon a good direct route is to take the Via della Minerva (to the left of the Pantheon as you are facing it) This goes to the Piazza della Minerva with a famous Bernini sculpture of an elephant holding up an obelisk. (Santa Maria sopra Minerva is a beautiful 13th century church, one of the few Gothic churches in RomeContinue straight down the Via dei Cestari and cross the Corso Vittorio Emanuele to the Torre Argentina area.

You could easily walk on from there to Michelangelo's Cordonata staircase leading up to the impressive Piazza del Campidoglio and then down (after admiring the view) to the Forum.

A lot of people on this forum recommend having guides for the Forum and Colosseum. We did self-guided tours of these sites and the Palatine, with good guidebooks. The Forum is the most confusing on your own but doable.

After seeing the list of what you want to do and the itinerary for the cruise ship tour I think you are right in trying to tour on your own. It would really help you to look at a good guidebook to the city and a good map to plot out your route in advance. Maybe you can find something at the library and copy relevant pages.

There is a tourist office right near the Trevi Fountain (via Minghetti) which opens at 9:30
Vttraveler is offline  
Aug 9th, 2007, 05:08 AM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 404
lucky you, yourpal. you got some great responses.

I hope you will be able to return to Rome & enjoy it at more leisure. It is such a wonderful city & sounds like you appreciate all it has to offer.

Hubby & I have a favorite map, just in case you are interested - freytag & berndt, city map of Rome. it is available at Barnes & Noble for about $10. We like it because it shows the metro stops & has great detail on the streets.

I saw a post on here that the Vatican was so crowded the mass of people were just herded thru the museum area, into the Sistine Chapel & out the door. So, even if you get in, may not be a "real" visit because of the large tourist crowds during this time of year, especially on a Friday. Sounds like you have done lots of research, so I assume you know that you can enter the basillica without going thru the long museum line. That beautiful experience is a wonder to enjoy.

I don't know about the cats. But I am a soft hearted animal lover (love cats too), and my impression, which may be incorrect, is that for us cat softies, it is not necessarily an enjoyable visit. Sort of sad, maybe. I've never gone because I would feel sorry for all of them!

Sounds like you will have a great time. Don't forget your camera! And for safety's sake, only put your day's spending money in your pocket; everything else (credit card, passport, ATM card, extra euros) in your money belt. But do be sure to take those items,.....just in case you get back too late for the ship departure!

We prefer spending more time in Palatine Hill than the Roman Forum. It is such a large area & an amazing site, especially going up into the garden area & looking over the city. So, you may want to allot extra time to it. The museum in the Palatine Hill area is awesome also.

Just a reminder - don't forget to go upstairs at the Colosseum. Some folks on their 1st visit don't know the upper level is open. Great museum pieces up there & then there is the view.

If you run short of time, I'd skip the Spanish Steps. To us it is just a set of steps, with crowds of people hanging around, & lots of shopping. But then others don't agree with my assessment.

Happy travels & have a wonderful time in Rome & on your cruise (love those cruises!), Julie
Julie_Hurst is offline  
Aug 9th, 2007, 08:20 AM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 6,036
I'm a huge cat lover and loved the cat sanctuary! I didn't find it sad at all, to be honest. The cats are "housed" in a wonderful, large area full of ruins and lots of nooks and crannies. They are outside, as the entire area is fenced in, and there were quite a few cats lounging on the ruins sunning themselves. I'm sure they are much happier here, where they get lots of natural sunlight and have a large area to roam around in, than in a shelter where they are enclosed in wire cages. I was quite impressed with it and gave a rather large donation.

tcreath is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 10:44 PM.