Rome Trip Report: Mid-March '05

Old Apr 13th, 2005, 05:38 AM
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Rome Trip Report: Mid-March '05

My husband and I took a short 5-day trip to Rome in mid-March. It was fairly crowded since this was during the beginning of the european Easter holidays, but luckily we missed the death of the Pope by a few weeks and the huge influx of people who traveled to Rome due to his death.

Upon arriving at FCO we took the Leonardo Express train to Termini. This is an express train that goes directly to Termini with no stops. It leaves every half hour on the :07 and :37. We also took it from Termini to the airport, which leaves every half hour on the :22 and the :52. It costs 9,50E each way. One can also get to Termini more cheaply by other trains, but you have to transfer and it takes longer. There was a line at the ticket counter, so we bought our tickets at a machine. The machine only took credit cards, no cash. However, I could not get the ticket validation machine to stamp these tickets, which are different-looking from the ones you buy from the counter. I am not sure if it was the machines, or what, but we had to go to the train office where they validated them by hand.

Our hotel was just a couple of blocks from Termini. We needed the Via Marsala side of the train station to get to our hotel, but could only find the Via Giolitti side of the station. We finally realized that we had to go down the way by where the train lets you off that says “metro,” and you will get to the area leading to Via Marsala. Going down the stairs that says “exit” by the train only leads to the Via Giolitti side.

We booked our hotel through, and stayed at the Domus Praetoria, aka Domus Hotel, on Via Milazzo 42 (they also have their own website: ). It is just a couple of blocks from Termini, which was very convenient. It is located on a few of the floors of a building with other businesses (and possibly residences) inside. We paid 95E per night for a double room (the prices are approx. 30E higher in high season). The hotel was very nice. Our room was quite large and comfortable, with a large double bed and a large bathroom with a good-sized shower. The rooms actually use modern keycards, like most of the hotels in the States. They give you vouchers each morning to go to a stand-up cafe across the street for a pastry and drink. It was a really nice family hotel, with very good security (you must be buzzed in at the front door and then the door leading to the rooms). The staff are actually the owners of the hotel, brothers I think, and are really nice and helpful. They give you maps when you arrive, and the like. They speak many languages, I heard English and French, and I think German may be spoken as well.

After arriving we ate lunch at a restaurant near Termini. I had read that many places in that area were over-priced and so on, but we just wanted an easy lunch after traveling. So we ate at Trattoria Da Fabio alla Lupa on Via Maghera 37/39. They had a 15E tourist menu that consisted of pasta, a meat dish, dessert and bread. The food was ok, nothing special.

After that we walked around. We walked to the Four Rivers fountains, the Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps. We stopped at a cafe by the Trevi fountain on Via Della Stamperia 72 called the News Cafe for refreshments. They had really good traditional Italian hot chocolate (very thick), and good cake.

For dinner we got a recommendation from the hotel for a restaurant around the corner called Grotta Azzura, but there was actually a line there! We later ate there and found out that many tour groups eat there, and most likely it was just a group waiting rather than a line. Anyway, we found another restaurant nearby called Hostaria Il Varesino on Via Varese 5B. There seemed to be primarily locals eating there. They had good food. We had bread, water, soda, vegetable soup (very good and homemade), spaghetti alla carbonara, and veal with potato, for 23,50E.

The next day we went to the Coliseum, Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Monumento Vittorio Emanuele, and the Travestere section of Rome (we walked a lot! We walked everywhere except that we returned from Travestevere to Termini on the bus). I had read in a trip report from a couple of years ago that the way to avoid waiting in line at the Coleseum was to buy tickets at the Palatina ticket office. But, unfortunately we couldn’t find it! There was some construction going on, so I don’t know if it was closed, or we just couldn’t find it. But we wasted 30 min. trying. After that, we started to wait in line. The line went all the way to the entrance where the enclosure begins. There were several people trying to solicit tours, who said that the wait was an hour. It was actually 35 min. It was very crowded, but well worth the wait! Some of it seemed to be under construction. Due to the crowds you often had to wait a little to get to certain parts, but that was no big deal. They have a multimedia exhibit on the top floor discussing the changes to that area of Rome over the ages, and so on.

We ate lunch right near the Coliseum where it’s most expensive to eat, but we were tired. We ate at Gran Caffe Rossi Martini on Piazza del Colosseo 3. We got the cheapest thing: pizza. We shared a pizza and had mineral water, for 14E. The drinks were really expensive, which was par for the course in most of the tourist site areas (e.g. 4E for a can of soda).

At Piazza Navona we stopped for ice cream. We knew it would be expensive because it was right on the piazza, but it was really expensive! 16E (more than lunch) for a piece of ice cream cake and a banana split. The ice cream was quite good, but very overpriced. We should have waited and gone someplace a little farther away. Bar Gelateria Tucci, Piazza Navona 94.

The Pantheon was beautiful, although part of it was under construction. There were some singers there apparently preparing for a concert to be held at the Pantheon, so it was also really nice with the music. It, of course, was quite crowded.

The Monumento Emanuele was closed and surrounded by police. We later found out that there was a protest against the war in Iraq scheduled for that afternoon, and they decided to close the monument for that.

We went to Travestevere because we had read in the Lonely Planet Mediterranean Europe that the area had movie theaters that showed original version (OV) movies, and the people at the tourist office also told us that there was a theater there that showed movies in English called Pasquino. We looked for it, but didn’t see it. We finally asked a local shopkeeper, and he told us that it had closed. None of the nearby theaters were showing anything in original version. In fact, the only OV listings we saw in the paper was one screen at one local movie theater, and one place showing a couple of German movies. It seemed odd that there were no OV theaters, since most European countries seem to have some because people like to be able to hear the original voices and so on, but I guess in Rome they are happy with just dubbing.

Right across from where the movie theater had been, there was a small museum having a photography exhibit. We decided to view that instead. It was a good exhibit, mostly of photos taken in the ‘30s and ‘40s in New York City.

We were already in Travestevere, so we decided to have dinner there. We ate at Ristorante Carlo Menta, Via Lungaretta 101. They had quite good food. We had two tourist menus which included a pasta dish, a meat dish, and dessert. Plus two drinks, the bill came to 30E.

We then went and waited for the bus to Termini, but it was a long wait. It was at least a half hour. It was Saturday night, so I don’t know if the service is reduced on Saturdays, or evenings, or something. The bus got so full that at other stops people could not get on.

The next day we took the metro to the Capitoline Museum to see the M.C. Escher exhibit. There were a lot of people waiting for the train, so when it arrived we just waited for the next train, which came shortly thereafter. We got off at the Coloseo metro station and walked to the museum, which is right next to the Monumento Emanuele. There was a short line that took around 15 min. The exhibit was quite full, but it was interesting. They have a rooftop cafe and restaurant, and the views are really pretty. We didn’t eat there, though.

The Monumento Vittorio Emanuele was open now, so we stopped and entered. You can go inside, but we just climbed the multitude of steps to get to the top.

We ate lunch nearby at a place called Antico Caffé Dora on Largo Arenula 14-15. We had good pizza. My husband had a piece of cake, and I got a lemon Granita (shaved ice with lemon flavoring). The granita was good, was quite overpriced: 6,20E. Sodas were also 4E there, so we just shared a large mineral water for 3E. The whole bill came to 29E. A bit overpriced, but it was in a tourist area.

After that we walked to the Villa Borghese Gardens. There were lots of people and families there. It’s quite pretty. We took the metro back to our hotel.

That evening we ate at the Grotta Azzura, the restaurant recommended by the hotel. It is located on Via Palestro 93, and has really good food. As I mentioned before, a lot of tour groups eat there. We saw at least 3 tour groups enter. One group was American, one was Spanish, so groups from all over go there. We both had meat dishes with pasta, and dessert. There meat was very good, very tender. I had spaghetti bolognese, which was also quite good. We enjoyed our meal, and ate a lot. Including cover charge, 3 drinks, an appetizer, two pasta, two meat dishes, two salads and two desserts, our bill came to 52E.

The next day we tried to get to the Vatican early. We took an extremely packed subway to the Vatican and arrived at 9am. We waited 1.5 hours to get into the museums. It was very crowded. Later, an Italian friend told me that Mondays are a bad time to go because many museums are closed that day so people go to the Vatican, but we had no choice given the days of our trip and that the Vatican had been closed the Saturday of our trip as well. Both my husband and I had been there previously, but it was still splendid. We got audioguides, they were 6E each. Entrance was 12E. Several of the interior musums were closed. We saw the Egyptian Museum, but then later we saw that it was closed, we’re not sure why it closed after we were there. The Sistine Chapel was absolutely packed. The guards were spending most of their time trying to enforce the silence requirement, rather than stopping photos, so I saw several people taking pictures even though it is prohibited. It was lovely, even though it was so packed. We left the museums at 2:30. By then there was no line, but the last entrance allowed was 3:20. We were tired and just ate at a tourist place right across the street, but it was actually pretty good and not too expensive. Ristorante Paolo, viale Vaticano 104. We had tourist menus (a pasta and a meat along with salad) and drinks, along with cover and service charges came to 34E.

After that we went to St. Peter’s Basilica. There was a line so we stood in it, but later found out it was to view the cupola of the basilica. We decided to just remain in line, but it ended up being a 45 min. wait. They closed at 5, and we entered around 4:30 or 4:45. It was 4E to take the stairs, and 6E to take the elevator, but by the time we got to the cashier (there was only one guy, which probably has something to do with why it took so long) only the elevator was available anyway, due to the time. There were signs saying that there were 320 stairs “besides the lift.” We (and other people we heard) thought that meant the amount of stairs if you did not take the lift, but no, this refers to the amount of stairs AFTER the lift. First you can walk up around the top of the dome, then you walk up the 320 steps to the top of the basilica. The stairs were extremely narrow in many places. After finally walking up all the way, there was a great view of Rome from up there. We were worried that we wouldn’t have time to see the basilica, but it turns out that the exit of the cupola is inside the basilica, and it still looked like it was open, so we got to leisurely view the basilica and Michelangelo’s Pieta.

After an entire day of waiting in line and walking, I did not want to take a jam-packed metro again, so we took the bus, which was much better.

That evening was our last night. We ate dinner at a Chinese restaurant we’d seen near our hotel called Il Nuovo Continente D’Oro di Wei Fangfang, Via Magenta 55. Their food turned out to be pretty good. I had the tourist menu, and my husband ordered a la carte. Including dessert, the meal came to 33E.

The next day we took the Leonardo Express back to the airport. The machines at Termini allow credit card or cash to be used to purchase tickets.

A few tips: carry toilet paper with you - there were many bathrooms that had no TP; Try to eat outside of the tourist site areas. Just going a few blocks away can reduce the price quite a bit; The bus seemed a lot better than the metro to me, which was often ridiculously crowded.
NHC is offline  
Old Apr 13th, 2005, 06:28 AM
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Your report is of a good guide for me and my family that will be Rome in a month time.Your tips on Via Marsala is great as our hotel is on that side of the station as well.Your detail explanation from FCO to Termini and vice versa will be helpful for us as we will be taking the train..and all that you share are a good direct source of info for me.We have only 3 days in Rome.Just wonder with 4 of us will it be about the same cost if we consider the taxi.WE arrive Rome very early at 06.00hr.Thanks for your trip report.
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Old Apr 13th, 2005, 06:43 AM
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Thanks for sharing, NHC.
ira is offline  
Old Apr 13th, 2005, 09:57 AM
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Thanks for the report, NHC. My sister and I are taking a 5-day trip to Rome in May--it's good to know you can pack it in without total exhaustion.

Welcome home!
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Old Apr 13th, 2005, 10:09 AM
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About the ticket validation. I was under the impression that if the machine was broken, you could write the date and time in pen and "validate" it yourself.

Anyone know if that is NOT the case?
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Old Apr 13th, 2005, 11:26 AM
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About validating your ticket (convalida):
At FCO station there are two kinds of machines taking different-sized tickets. If your machine-generated ticket is an airline ticket size, you insert into the top machine arrow down with the front of ticket facing you. The machine will swallow your ticket about half way, stamp the date and time and spews it out. The other machine, the small yellow one, is for smaller, credit card-sized tickets.
I don't know about writing the date and time in yourself if the machine isn't working.
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Old Apr 13th, 2005, 12:49 PM
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I'm glad that you guys liked my report!

As for the taxi issue, jdj, I would think that you could get a taxi for 40E, which is nearly what it would cost for 4 people to take the Leonardo Express, although I really don't know. We did not take any taxis while we were there. Anyone else know?

As for the train ticket validation, it makes sense that one could just write it themselves, although I have no idea what the protocol is. I think they may have written their initials on it, but how would the conductor know anyway (and, in any event, they didn't check our tickets in that direction anyway). I probably tried to use the wrong machine, since Alex said there are different machines for different types of ticket there - I didn't notice.
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Old Apr 13th, 2005, 04:13 PM
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I have used the yellow validation machines (that validate the larger train tickets) with the small tickets that I have bought at the newstands/tabacchi.
You must put it in on the left side of the long slot and there is a line and an arrow like this [v=====] on the machine pointing to that area.
Regards, Walter
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