Tourist Info, Rome
There are plenty of maps of Rome available - the city's own tourist information kiosks actually offer a decent one for free, but you have to insist to get the best one.
They have two maps - why, I don't know. If you ask for a map, they'll tear one off a tablet and give it to you - it's about 13 by 18 1/2 inches, and the type is so small as to be not terribly useful. They have a larger version (already folded) which is 18 1/2 by 26 inches. Much easier to read! But you may have to insist to get them to give you this one.
The last time I was in Rome, even though I speak Italian and asked for the larger map, they tried to tell me it was the same as the smaller one. Then they tried to tell me they only had it in Japanese! So keep insisting!
And of course, every guide book on earth has a map or series of maps. The cut-away maps of small neighborhoods in the Eyewitness Guide are great - but the book weighs a ton!
Still, my favorite is the Rough Guide's Map of Rome. Just detailed enough to keep you from losing your way in the tiny vincoli (alleys) that make the city so enjoyable. And made out of that wonderful, untearable, waterproof fabric that allows you to fold it again and again, in any way you like, in any way that's convenient for your current location. I love it.
Whatever map you choose - do this one little check. Look for Piazza Paradiso. Find Piazza Venezia (just north of the Roman Forum and Piazza Campidoglio). Then follow Corso Vittorio Emanuele to the west until you come to the Church of San Andrea delle Valle (which should be on the south side of the street.)
Ok, now find Campo dei Fiori, just to the southwest, and draw a line between it and the church. If you don't find Piazza del Paradiso just about in the middle, then the map isn?t detailed enough.
Fondest memory: Actually, maybe it's getting lost and not caring one bit!
Here you will find some very interesting web sites that can be a great source of information about the Eternal City:
www.comune.roma.it (local government)
www.romaturismo.com (events, concerts, exhibitions, maps, etc..)
www.beniculturali.it (art & culture)
www.atac.roma.it (public transportation)
www.opera.roma.it (opera theatre)
www.santacecilia.it (classical Music)
www.ticketone.it (tickets on internet)
www.adr.it (airports in Rome)
www.galleriaborghese.it (Borgehse Gallery)
www.wantedinrome.com (local news, events, ads)
www.capitolium.org (devoted to the forum with live web cams)
www.enit.it (official site of the Italian State Tourism Board)
www.pierreci.it (online tickets)
These three sites should be visited on the same day as they're in the same area and covered by one ticket price. To avoid the frustratingly long lines at the Colosseum, buy your combo ticket at the Palatine Hill ticket office (probably the shortest line) on Via di S. Gregorio 30. You can then choose to visit the sites in any order you wish. As many visitors only want to see the Colosseum, having a ticket in hand will allow you, after a brief security check, to skip the long ticket queue and go to the shorter one (to the left of the long line). Quicker entry is also an option with the Roma Pass or Archaeological Card.
Your ticket is good for two days but PLEASE NOTE: the Palatine and Forum are considered ONE SITE even though they are separate so you cannot split your visits to these two; they must both be done on the SAME DAY. It is possible, however, to do these two on one day and the Colosseum on the next (or vice versa) if you wish to explore the 3 sites over two days.
If wanting to know what you're looking at, you'll need to either sign up for a tour or bring a good guidebook as you don't receive any info with your ticket, and there's no signage explaining what a particular ruin is or why it's significant. Audioguides are also available for rent.
Bring water and sunscreen, and wear the most sturdy, comfortable shoes you own as you'll be covering a lot of uneven ground and climbing steps. We did the Palatine first then the Forums followed by the Colosseum as the latter afforded a little shade during the hottest part of the afternoon.
Finish up the day by limping up the street to my favorite little outdoor bar in Parco Colle Oppio for a sit-down and an adult beverage.
See the website for hours, ticket and tour prices, and other good stuff to know:
On national holidays you may find information offices closed, museums open for shorter hours and public transport running a limited service. Be forewarned by checking the dates of your vacation against the list below.
(Note that Easter Monday is a mobile feast-day, and changes every year, while all the other holidays keep to the same date.)
January 1: New Year's Day**
January 6: Epiphany
April 17: Easter Monday (in 2006)
April 25: Liberation Day
May 1: Labor Day**
June 2: Anniversary of the Founding of the Republic
August 15: Feast of the Assumption (also known as Ferragosto)
November 1: All Saints
December 8: Feast of the Immaculate Conception
December 25: Christmas Day**
December 26: St. Stephen's Day (Boxing Day)
(The dates marked ** are particularly difficult: practically all museums and monuments are shut and many restaurants too.)
As well as the above national holidays, each town celebrates the feast-day of its patron saint, which differs from town to town.
Dates for the major cities are as follows:
Rome: June 29 (Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul)
Florence: June 24 (Feast of St. John the Baptist)
Venice: April 25 (Feast of St. Mark - but also Liberation Day and a holiday anyway)
Naples: September 19 (San Gennaro)
One of the hardest things to figure out in Rome is your budget. How much should you budget a day? It all depends on your likes and dislikes. If you want a simple, quick coffee and roll for breakfast (and it doesn't come with the hotelroom), it will cost about 2 euros. If you want a full sit down breakfast, it will cost about 10 euros. If you want a slice of pizza and a soda to go, about 3 or 4 euros. A sit down, two course lunch, about 10 to 20 euros. A quick pasta and wine for dinner, about 25 euros. A nice sit down, full waiter service, four or five course meal with wine 60 to 75 euros. Remember, you will pay more to sit down. If you are at a pizza joint, just fold your pizza in half and take it to go. Stand outside and people watch or take it to a monument and have a seat. Also, don't forget about gelatos and sodas or water for the day. Gelatos cost anywhere from 2-4 euros depending on the size. You can buy a soda at a convenience store for about 1.2 euros. Water is about the same price but you can refill your water bottle from any fountain in Rome as long as there is no sign saying not to (have never seen one of those).
As far as entrance fees are concerned, if you budget 10 euros a sight, you will be okay. Some are more, most are less. Just figure out what you want to see and budget accordingly. Most sights in Rome are free. However, some things do require a fee. All museums, the colosseum, baths of caracalla, and the Borghese gallery all require a fee.
Souveniers are trickier. Rome is not a terribly expensive souvenier city. You can get some bargains. If you are looking for clothing, you can usually find the same thing for less back in the states. Same thing with good quality leather. Buy it before you go or after you get back. Any other type of souveniers, bargain for. Offer a reasonable price and you should be able to get it.
Fondest memory: If you want to take a day trip to Pompeii, the train will cost between 17 and 23 euros for a second class ticket each way. The circumvesuviana train is less than 5 euros. The entrance to pompeii is about 12 euros. You can buy food on the train or at the station outside of the ruins for a few euros. This is an all day trip, so bring some extra cash. You might want to do a guided tour of the site. ( not sure of the price for this but I would budget about 25 euros).
You can do Rome for 50 or less per day and have a great time or you can spend more and have a great time. I guess it all depends on where your comfort level is.
Favorite thing: One of the best deals in Rome is the "Roma Pass." It is a 20 Euro investment but well worth it if you plan to be in Rome at least 3 days. It covers admission to two museum/sights and unlimited metro/bus transportation for 3 days. We used ours on the Coliseum (11 Euro) and the Borghese Gallery (13 Euro). Then, with the number of times we used the metro and bus, we saved at least 10 Euro by getting the card. We bought our Roma Pass at the Palatine Hill ticket booth, but they are sold in Tobacco shops and other various locations as well.
YES, do yourself a favor and buy the Rome Pass 23 Euro. If you will be here for 3 days and plan a day trip, buy the Roma Piu pass 25 Euro (piu means "more") that covers the entire Lazio Region with transportation on CoTral tour bus in addition to the ATAC Rome metro/bus. If you plan a day trip to Ostia or Tivoli, transportation is free.
If you have arranged to tour Rome with me ("Nonna in Roma") I will have your passes for you at Fiumicino.
They do NOT cover transportation to/from Fiumicino on the F1 or the Leonardo Express which is now 12 Euro.
These passes provide entrance to public transportation and two museums + discounts on other museums for 3 days.
If you use the passes for the Galleria Borghese and the Roman Forum/Coloseum (both on one ticket now) as your first two museums, then the pass almost pays for itself.
More detail on my Transportation tip. But please - go to this English website to see all info & check for the most current info as changes are frequent in Rome:
Help for tourists in Rome - 0636004399
A call center with operators speaking Italian, English, French, German and Spanish.
Open 7 days a week 9:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Offers information on events, shows, hotels, restaurants, shopping and transportation.
Rome is certainly located in the south of Europe close to the Mediterranean Sea but that does not mean that the temperature is all the year above 20°C and that the sun shines every day.
In February this year there was snow in Rome and this month of April was till now the coldest within the last 30 years. Morning temperature of 6 - 8 °C, maximum in the afternoon of about 15°C as long as it would not rain what made the temperature drop to 12°C !
I have often been in Rome in the winter and it was fine because the weather was rather dry. Now in April we had to revisit museums and churches because of the rain.
My photo shows a heavy shower approaching the Vittoriano. A second photo shows the soldiers guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier covered by their poncho protecting them partly from the rain.
If you want to know what weather to expect in Rome or Italy there is a good site on www.ilmeteo.it in several languages and good forecasts for the next 3 days and rather good for the next 7 days.
One of the questions I get most often from my friends before they travel is "How much cash should I take with me?" followed closely by "How much cash should I change into Euros before I go?" My answer is always the same. Take about 100 american and 100Euros. These amounts will get you by until you can get to an ATM machine. I use my ATM all over Rome. I usually take out the maximum for the day while I'm at my hotel. I only take with me, for the day , as much as I think I will need plus about 50 bucks. This includes entrance fees and food. The rest I leave in my hotel safe. I take a credit card with me for other purchases.
That being said, before I leave the states, I let my bank know that I will be in Europe (Rome). I also have them up my limit as to how much I can take out a day. This way there are less fees becouse I dont need to take out money every day. I also make sure that my pin will work in Europe. I dont think it happens much anymore, but some machines use to only take an 8 number pin, with no letters. Now I think the norm is all machines use 4 number pins. If you are worried about taking an ATM that is linked to all of your accounts (checking, saving, investments) open a travel account. This way you can put your money into a totally seperate account and be certain that if you did lose your card your main account wont be wiped out.
As a last precaution, before we go we usually give my mom my deposit slips. This way if the unexpected happens and we need emergency cash, she can put some into the account to help us out. This has only happened once, when there was an airplane snaffu but it sure did come in handy.
Fondest memory: Remember a lot of the attractions do not take credit cards. They all prefer cash. These include the colosseum, baths of caracalla and so on. I do take my credit card with me every day and use it when I can but I mostly end up paying in cash. Most smaller restaurants only take cash, too.
Rome is a wonderful city to walk in. The sights are nestled close enough together to making walking the best way to go. If you are at the colosseum and want to see the closest sights, they are the forum, capitoline hill, Santa Maria in aracoeli, trajans markets, Santa Maria in Cosmedin (mouth of truth), circus maximus, baths of caracalla, and the palatne hill. These sights literally lead you into one another and will take you on a circular route. The picture to the side shows the circus maximus with the palatine hill to the right and the bell tower to santa maria in cosmedin on the left. A five minute walk behind you is the baths of caracalla. Depending on where your hotel is you can take a metro to either the colosseum or the circus maximus station. The picture was taken just outside the circus station.
When you are looking at the maps of rome that you see in guidebooks, realize that the scale is very deceiving. The sights may look to be spread out and you may think that you need a cab to get around but that is not the case. Plan your day around a particular area and see everything in that area. Believe me, you won't run out of things to see.
In the area of the Pantheon is Santa Maria Sopra Minerva (around the corner), Piazza Navona (about a 10 minute walk), and Castel San Angelo (another 10 minutes)..
The Trevi fountain is a 10 minute walk from the palazzo Barbarini, then about 10 minutes to the spanish steps (don't forget the Trinita dei Monti) and another 15 minutes to piazza del popolo ( don't forget the twin churches). Just up the hill is the Pincio gardens.
These times depend on how fast you walk. I would suggest you take your time and enjoy all the sights, not just the major ones. There are beautiful, historic remnants around every corner in Rome. Just take your time to notice them. You will be amazed and enjoy your trip even more.
When you arrive in Rome and are supposed to spend a few days and wonder what you could do or see, what it's going on that particular week, and so on....then you better buy ROMA C'E', at the cost of 1 Euro (you'll find it at every newspaper stand).
It is issued every Wednesday and - though it is manly written in Italian - it has an English section with all the main tourist information you need.
Since we wanted to beat the tourist lines in as many places as possible, we decided to get a Roma Card. The cost of the card is 20 Euros per person (price will increase to 23 Euros starting Jan 2009) and it is valid for 3 consecutive days once you activate it.
The card comes with free admission to 2 museums or sites and free use of public transportation all over the city during these 3 days. After you use the card for the 2 free entrances, you can use it to also get a discount at other museums (show the card at the ticket counter). Another plus is that you also get a reduced rate on the 110 Open Bus ticket if you show them your Roma Card.
You can buy the card at any tourist information office (as we did), at the international airport (window was closed when we arrived, they open around 9:30am), at the bus ticket office, or from museums or site ticket windows. Your best bet to get the card is at any tourist office since there is no line and they never run out of them.
Once you get the card, you need to do the math and make sure you get the best out of it. We used our cards to enter the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and Colosseum (counts as 1 entry) and to enter the Capitoline Museum. We also used it on the 3rd day after 3pm to get a reduced price bus ticket on the 110 Open Bus (the ticket is valid for 24 hours after the time of your purchase, so by doing this we got 1 extra day of free transportation to the main sites of Rome).
Favorite thing: Most of the public restrooms in many of the tourist areas and specifically the Termini have restrooms you have to pay to use. Keep in mind that they only take EXACT change so have plenty of coins on you. Currently as of Feb 2008 its .70 euro to use the restrooms. I found out the hard way that you had to have exact change so hopefully now you will not. Here is a way to use the restrooms for free in some of the major tourist areas. There are McDonalds at the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps, they allow you to use their restrooms without having to pay. Believe me it is difficult otherwise to find restrooms in those areas.
OK, this isn't my favorite thing - but it might help you find a favorite thing.
This is THE guide to what's happening in Rome. If you want to find out who's playing where, special tours, music, plays, opera, films, theater, this is the weekly magazine to get. Unfortunately, it's mostly in Italian - there is a small section in the back in English, but very limited.
But if you buy a copy and bring it to the front desk of your hotel, I'm sure they'll help you translate whatever you need.
There is a website, and it's been updated to include some English descriptions, but only of local Cinemas, shows, times, etc.
You can buy it at any newstand.