Rome the City to see for oh, 2500 Years
What can you say about Rome that hasn't been said before. Yes it's big, exciting, exhausting, historic and absolutely packed with tourists, pilgrims and pickpockets during the summer and festive seasons. The rest of the time it's just crowded. It can be unbearably hot and noisy and bitterly cold. It is an incredible city and has been for thousands of years.
When we visit Rome we normally stay in little 2 and 3 star hotels right around the main train station, Termini. While many guidebooks describe this area as seedy we have never found that to be the case. We've wandered the area late at night and never felt threatened and have actually found many fine small restaurants and markets that cater mainly to Italians.
The room rates are lower and we really like the the transportation connections. Rome has 2 main subway lines and they cross right under Termini. So from our room we can be anywhere from the Vatican to the Colosseum in just a few minutes. Also, if we are headed home from Rome the train to and from the main airport starts and stops at the station. Taxis are lined up day and night.
Getting around Rome
We use the subway and our feet to see Rome along with an occasional taxi. We've found the surface buses to be crowded, sometimes dirty and smelly and women will more than likely get their butt pinched. Not something Kim takes as a compliment.
Although the maps of central Rome make the distance from the Vatican to the train station look like a 2 days' hike, we've taken the subway to St. Peter's and worked our way back to Termini on foot a number of times. Many of the main tourist sites and plazas are along the way with multitudes of easy to find cafes and gelato stands.
Eating in Rome
Meals in Rome can be expensive and not as tasty as you can find elsewhere in Italy. Most restaurants in the center cater to tourists. We rely on street food and small markets for our dining. Some of the little out of the way places around Termini feed the Italians working in and living around the station.
One of our favorites is Tavola Calda Ristorante(hot table) right across the street from the station. It is a buffet style eatery feeding mostly locals. Point and grunt ordering works well. There are no menus, just pans of surprisingly good food. As you head from the platforms into the main station turn right. Head out the doors and across the street. It's just a few doors down from the Hotel Madison right next to a Bar Gelateria( we never pass up gelato). Easy to find on Google Street View.
Need Something to See or Do in Rome?
Our absolutely favorite museum in the world is in Rome. The Borghese Gallery. Two hours of the finest art and sculpture that can be found anywhere. And small enough that you will actually be able to remember what you've seen. Great gardens surround the Gallery including a Zoo. Good for almost a full day. It's about a mile from Termini, walkable without luggage or only a short taxi ride. The subway only saves about half the distance, the Spanga stop is on the wrong side of the grounds. Be sure to reserve your visiting time on the internet before heading over. You can't just drop by.
The Colosseum and Roman Forum - download Rick Steves free mp3 audio guide. While you are on his site order one of his Italian guidebooks. We use his travel guides on every trip to Europe.
St. Peter's and the Vatican Museums. We still take a spin through the church, but we've seen enough Pope relics, so at the Vatican we head straight to The Sistine Chapel and stare in wonder at Michelangelo's indescribable work. For us, it alone is worth the entrance fee.
If you are as big of fans of Michelangelo as we are, don't miss his pieta in St. Peters or the Moses in San Pietro in Vincoli - Saint Peter in Chains - just a few blocks from the Colosseum. Its breathtaking. You expect him to stand up and speak at any moment. Drop a euro in the slot to turn on the lights.
Be sure to partake in the passeggiata down Via Corso in the early evening. A wonderful tradition the Italians have carried on for centuries.
A Final Note
We always visit Rome at the end of our trips. You really need to be out of your jet-lag haze to get the most out of this magnificent city and then you can rest on your way home.
Something to help those visiting Rome? eMail us. We'll post some below.
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