Coffee, and People
There's a good reason why just about every household
in America has a jar of tomato sauce and some ziti in the pantry...Italian cooking
is incredible! The traditional Italian recipes, using lots of garlic, tomato, olives,
olive oil, and other familiar flavors are used to perfection in Roman restaurants. Expect a lot
of wine, simple meat dishes, outrageous pasta sauces, and a diverse amount of salads.
After the main course, try the gelato for desert...you'll thank yourself!
Coffee takes on a new meaning here. You'll
have to take some time to study the choices for yourself, but start out
with a caffe macchiato, which literally means "dirty coffee." It's a
shot of espresso with a touch of milk not often found on menus but is ordered
by those in the know (but there's no need for a member's only jacket).
Have you ever felt lost as a tourist...like you don't know where
to go, what to say, have completely butchered the language,
or you simply couldn't make heads or tails of the currency? Well, you won't feel way
here. The Italians, especially the Romans, are so proud of themselves,
their city, their culture, their food, their streets, their art, their
wine, their scooters, etc., that they just expect that the city will
be filled with awestruck tourists. Romans consider it their duty, or
their part-time occupation to make sure that every visitor to Rome completely understands
why this is the most amazing city on Earth. So, for anything from asking
directions, to taking advice, you'll never feel like
a stranger. Italians greet you like your part of the family.
In Italy, everyone's a paesan.
You'll find that you won't have time to do all of the
things geared toward kids. Look for the children's museum, the children's
theater, the aviary and racetrack at the botanical gardens, the Piscina
delle Rose (children's public pool), the children's library, and Luna
Park. There, that should get you started.
First Things First
Two of history's most powerful
dynasties, the Roman Empire and the Christian Church, planted their
roots in Rome. The city's been around for thousands of years and has maintained a highly revered place in Western history.
Italy is a member of the Eurozone, the group of
countries that uses the Euro currency (€). Prices below are expressed
in U.S. dollars for convenience; check the rate of exchange prior to
arrival in Europe. English is not as common as in other parts of Europe,
so a phrase book will get you far.
Where to Stay
Rome can be conquered on foot, just ask the armies of
tourists that invade the city each day. Although the public transportation
system in Rome is very modern and inexpensive. When choosing a hotel you'll want to stay right
in the center, which is where most of Rome's attractions are located such as the Spanish steps,
the Villa Borghese, and Trevi Fountain.
Choose a hotel near the main rail station or the
Spanish Steps for easy access to most of the action. Most hotels in
Rome offer modern amenities and classic comforts, so you won't be hard-pressed
to find a good home during your Roman holiday.
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Getting to Your Hotel
...From Fiumicino International Airport
Consult the tourist office or pick up a free city map and train schedule
to see which of the two airport trains reaches a point closest to
your hotel. The Leonardo Express train will get you to the main
Termini rail station from the Fiumicino International airport. The fare is about $15 and takes 30 minutes. Trains depart roughly every
half hour. The FM1 train is about half that price, takes the same amount of time,
and stops at the Trastevere, Ostiense, and Tiburtina rail stations. Once there, you will
find the subway and taxis. However, these rail stations are not as centrally located as
the Termini station.
...From Termini Station
Most tourists arriving by train come to Termini Station, a huge structure
with every facility you'd expect to find at the main train station
of one of the biggest cities in Europe. The train station is along
the subway route. There are subway maps, bus schedules, as well as taxi
stands available throughout the station.
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At Your Hotel
Free city maps and other information can usually be
obtained in hotel lobbies or from the front desk.
Check in, freshen up, and, with your bags unpacked,
your room key in your pocket, and a few spare euros, you're ready to
do as the Romans do!
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Getting Around ROME
Public transportation in Rome is very good. The only
faster, more maneuverable form of transportation in Rome is the vespa,
and no matter how hard you try, you won't look as cool as the Romans
do. Opt for a 75-minute, roughly $1 ticket that is good for all forms of public
transport anywhere in the city. For about $6 you can get a ticket that is valid
for a whole day. Both are available at kiosks, tobacco stands, cafes,
tourist offices, subway stations, bus stops, and newsstands.
Taxis are expensive and taxi drivers are opportunists.
Whenever possible, call ahead, or better yet, have an Italian call ahead
for you. It's a little more expensive but much more reliable. Discuss a price before
you get in and/or triple-check the meter on your way out. If you have
to hail a taxi on the street, look for "official" yellow or white cabs,
as these are the legitimate ones.
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The great city of Rome is vast and expansive,
with incredibly beautiful buildings around every corner. The Roman and Christian history is
so heavily concentrated that you might get a stiff neck from glancing up at the monuments.
There is so much to see and do, that it's a challenge to narrow down a list of our favorite sites. Our
concentrated efforts have produced the following list of attractions that cannot be missed, a few that we recommend
if you've got the time, and a couple of forgettable tourist traps. Without further delay, here is Rome in a nutshell:
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Trevi Fountain: This spot
is popular for many reasons. Mostly, you'll find people hanging out and taking in the scene
for photo ops. It's also a great place for a breather as you take in the wonderful sight
of this monumental fountain. As tradition goes, throw your obligatory coin in, and then
take the time to relax, study a map, memorize a pick-up phrase, or just people watch. It's surrounded by cafes
and great gelato shops too.
The Spanish Steps: At the
head of Rome's most exclusive shopping district are the Spanish Steps.
Keats aside, the steps are not that interesting in themselves, but they
are beautiful. And it's kind of neat to walk up them and pose for a street artist, or shop
the jewelry, flower, or chachka vendors nearby. Visit twice, once when it's
crowded during the day and once when it's lit up at night.
St. Peter's Basillica: Even
non-religious types flock here for the sheer majesty of it all. Inside,
mass can be a unique experience, but even if you only happen to catch
choir practice you're in for a treat. Every sound that emanates from
here is angelic. If you're interested in Mass, it's typically not a problem,
as long as you're not an entire busload trying to get in at the last
minute on Good Friday. Sunday mornings get crowded, but services are
held a lot!
The Vatican: Around
the rest of the complex are many, many things to see and explore. The
Vatican museums, some interior rooms, the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo's
Dome (great view if you can make it to the top), the crypt, and if you
make reservations in advance, the tomb of St. Peter, are just a few of
the draws. Of course, getting in and out of the sanctuary and a few other
areas are free, as are some guided tours, but other areas require a fee
or a suggest a donation. Most people in Rome know the drill
by heart, and anyone inside will be happy to help you figure out what
to do and how much it may cost.
NOTE: Photography is strictly forbidden in many areas,
and visitors must be silent during their visit and wear appropriate clothing.
The Roman Forum: You shouldn't
have any trouble imagining vestal virgins guarding fires, Roman orators
politicking from stumps, or cows chomping on grass, which are the three
main things that happened here in lore, history, and even more modern times.
Excavated during the 19th century, the Roman Forum is a magical place
to explore with a good map (on any neighboring street) by day and a simply
breathtaking place to admire by moonlight. Entrance is free, but about
$9 will get you a ticket for some exhibits as well as passage up Palatine
Palatine Hill: Romulus, the
legendary founder of Rome, is said to have instructed settlers to build
on Palatine Hill first, and thus the beginnings of empire. Actually,
this was a critical location along the salt trade, and the historical birthplace
of ancient Rome. It's also the former home of two ancient temples, one
that faced the Colosseum and one that faced the Roman Forum. There are
sweeping views of both areas, as well as quiet gardens and paths. Entrance
to the Forum with a combine Palatine Hill ticket will cost about $9.
Colosseum: Roughly $8 will
get you in, but nothing will save you from the jaws of the hungry lions!
No, no, they don't throw anyone to the lions anymore. The amphitheater
could once seat 80,000 sensationalism-deprived Romans, and was later
used as a marble quarry (to build the nearby Palazzo Venezia). Today,
they let fewer people than that visit at one time, although the entrance line to get in can be frustratingly long.
Museo Nazionale Romano: Well,
it seems not all of Rome's wonders are out on the streets, soaking up
sun, or speeding on a scooter. Some are housed under glass and behind
little laser fences at the National Museum (di Roma). Spread among three
ancient buildings, the museum houses ancient frescoes, the Ludovisi Throne,
as well as other Roman, Greek, ancient, and historical masterpieces and
collections. Like the rest of Rome, it's a stew of epochs, styles, and
influences. Entry to each building is separate, but ranges from $8 to
Gelato: Creamy, frozen, yet
not really ice cream. Do it.
Dinner in Trastevere followed by a slow walk home,
or a horse-drawn carriage ride in nice weather, is something enjoyed
equally by locals and tourists. Somewhere in this romantic neighborhood
there is a bowl of pasta, a glass of chianti, a bottle of sparkling water,
a delicious salad, and a tempting, rich dessert with your name on it.
Head out early to avoid the crowds, or eat late (8, 9, or 10 p.m.) to
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Constantine's Arch: It's an
arch. But it's huge and it has been standing for nearly 2,000 years.
Pantheon: It's truly remarkable
because it's virtually all original. Constructed more than 2,000 years
ago and rebuilt by Hadrian (of "The Wall" fame), it is impressive on
first sight, and is also the eternal resting place of the kings of Italy.
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Can Probably Skip It
Road Trips: Rome's
location makes it a great spot from which to see the rest of the country.
But doing this by train is much easier than by car. The cost for rental
cars in Italy can be a little high, theft is more of a problem in Italy
than most other parts of Western Europe, and frankly, Italians drive erratic. Your hands
will be white-knuckled, and you'll break a cold sweat trying to navigate a car through Rome.
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