Thursday, April 17, 2008

Travel Tips for Rome

I have to intersperse my wildflower trip account with this post on Rome.

A lot of our friends are travelling to Rome this year (atleast 3 in the immediate friend circle) - and everytime they ask me for planning tips, I am reminded that I completely forgot to blog about our Italy travel. Actually we were so caught up in moving etc. that blogging about Italy took a back seat.

So here are some tips especially for Rome:

1. Buy yourself one of those Rick Steve's guide for Italy/Rome - it is very useful with very handy tips. A lot of the tips here are from that book that we used and found to be useful.

2. Pack light - If possible pack all your stuff into a big carry on, so your luggage does not get delayed or re-routed.

It happened to one of our friends - they reached Venice without their luggage and spent much of their trip shopping for clothes - Infact they got their luggage back only after they had returned to US.

Even when we tried to check-in our luggage at the train station at Zurich, the agent looked at us baffled - "you never check-in luggage (if possible) when travelling to Italy - you might not get it back"

3. If you pack light, pack some detergent packets to wash clothes in the sink. Dry them overnight in your room.

4. In Rome, Villa Borghese is a must see and it requires advance reservations - get those. People are allowed to enter every 2 hours. You will also have to check-in your camera and bags outside.

5. The only place I would recommend booking a tour is for your visit to the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican museum - we stood in line for more than 2 hours to get inside. Tour groups have a separate entrance.

6. It is a long journey from the entrance of the Vatican museum to Sistine Chapel. If you do not get an audio guide, take the tour group exit out of Sistine Chapel rather that walking back to the entrance.

7. St. Peter's Basilica feels heavenly early morning with the light streaming in from the windows, and the crowds are less too.

8. Get a Roma pass (from a participating site other than Colosseum) and use it for entrance into Colosseum. With the Roma Pass you get a free entrance to the first 2 participating sites but you do need to buy the ticket. Since the line at the Colosseum ticket window is long, all you need to do is first visit the Roman Forum next to the Colosseum. Inside the Roman Forum, there is a ticket office at the Palatine Hill entrance that sells tickets for Colosseum (the same ticket is valid at both the Palatine Hill and Colosseum). Buy your ticket here - there is hardly anyone here.

Then armed with your Roma Pass and ticket, you will skip the line and go straight to the security screening and then the turnstile.

9. Roma pass is useful if you are in Rome for atleast 3 days and plan to use the metro a lot.

10. Get yourself a comfortable place to stay - AC is a must in summer, its very hot.

11. Rome is hot and tires you down in summer - plan for afternoon siestas and sightsee during morning and late afternoons.

12. There is a lot of petty crime (read pickpocket) in Rome, especially at the sites popular with tourists. Be careful. We saw atleast 2 pieces of action ourselves and both times it was at the Spanish Steps. It is not a bad idea to carry a messenger bag instead of a purse, your camera in your neck, backpack in front etc. Be alert on the trains also.

13. Read Angels and Demons by Dan Brown if you have the time - the book is as good as a guide for Rome.

14. Eat Gelato at Giollitti (spelling might be wrong...)

15. If you plan to visit museums and you are not familiar so much with Christian stories/symbology, get a small booklet that can act as a gallery companion of sorts. Otherwise you will see a lot of wonderful pieces of art without understanding what they represent.

16. Piazza Navona has a lovely bazaar of sorts of paintings and prints by local artists every evening - check it out if you have time.

17. In one of the side-streets off Piazza Navona is a shop called Bortalucci which sells wonderful wooden toys for kids. A sister shop of the same is also at the airport. Even if you are not interested in buying anything, you need to visit this shop - Its fun to just look around.

18. We stayed at Hotel Sonya - it was not the typical high-end place, but we found it to be comfortable and adequate for ourselves and it was centrally located.

19. Spend some time walking around the piazzas. I loved Piazza Navona and the one near the Spanish Steps.

20. Trevi fountain is a must visit though it is pretty crowded at night.

Rome is wonderful with all it architecture, fountains, ruins, piazzas etc. Walk around and enjoy it at a relaxed pace. Even though you have to be a little careful, its worth the effort. You will surely have a time of your life there.

I was so full of it that I dreamt of it quite a few times after coming back !!


Cuckoo said...

Very useful tips. I am yet to write about my adventures in that country.

Pooja Aggarwal said...

Do write soon - I am eager to hear what you have to say about the country.

Sunita said...

I like your write-up. Rome on my list.