Travel to Rome Italy - Recommendations

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criticalmass
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Travel to Rome Italy - Recommendations

Post by criticalmass » Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:19 pm

Have any Bogleheads been to Rome in recent years?

I will be there for a few days in early February and have never visited the sights. I'm looking to see the major sites in Rome and Vatican city. I'd appreciate any recommendations on what attractions passes to get in advance vs what to purchase on site. There's a lot of tourist passes to choose from (including early entry or skip-the-line) and it's hard to find out what passes are worthwhile.

I realize I can only do so much on this trip so will need to prioritize. Some things I am interested in:

Colosseum (underground chambers?)
Capitoline Hill
Roman forum
Pantheon and old Rome sites
St Pete's Basilica
Sistine Chappel
Vatican museums

Thanks for any advice!
Last edited by criticalmass on Wed Jan 17, 2018 9:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Watty
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Re: Travel to Rome Italy - Recommendations

Post by Watty » Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:30 pm

See the Rick Steves books and web site for the information on tickets and passes since that changes from year to year, and the season may make a difference too.

I suspect that at this point you it will be too late to get your own tickets to the Vatican but you should be able to get in with a tour group.

adamthesmythe
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Re: Travel to Rome Italy - Recommendations

Post by adamthesmythe » Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:53 pm

The Vatican museums and the Sistine Chapel (I seem to remember the same ticket??) are well worth getting tickets in advance. Lines can be very long although it might be less of a problem in February.

The Pantheon was free although I think I heard there was some plan to have a fee??

St Peters was a walk-in. There is a fee for the climb to dome but well worth it. I don't recall any difficulty getting into the others (no significant lines).

Make sure you have the proper ticket before getting on the train to the airport. The fine is punitive and you may run into a conductor having a bad day.

Coato
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Re: Travel to Rome Italy - Recommendations

Post by Coato » Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:57 pm

I used to live there so my perspective is different, and I can’t add a ton to your question. I was very underwhelmed by one site on your list, but I don’t want to spoil it.

Of your list only the Sistine Chapel blew me away. (If you are a reader read “Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling” before you go). The Catacombs are really cool.

Stuff you didn’t list that I love:
1. Get dropped off at Piazza Trilussa and spend a few hours wandering Trastevere.
2. Walk from Piazza del Popolo up to the Villa Borghese and wander around.
3. The Pantheon at dusk is remarkable.
4. Saturday morning market in Campo Dei Fiori
5. Best traditional Roman cooking is in the neighborhood of Testaccio—by the Colosseum, the Jewish Ghetto (actual name) or Trastevere... all within a few miles of each other.
6. Try some varietals of wine that you don’t see much in the US: Sagratino de Montefalco, Barbera, Cannanou, Aglianico, wines from Sardinia, Le Marche and Umbria (these are where the best bottles for your money will be on every menu)... there are a ton. Marco Battaglia has an excellent book about Italian wine.
7. I would allot just one day to just walk around the centro. If you start in Piazza Navonna you can basically do a three mile radius of just interesting stuff (Pantheon, Campo Dei Fiori, Italian Parliament, the “Wedding Cake” (building Mussolini harangued the people from), there are 50 amazing streets in that area.

Best guide to eating in Rome/Italy is called “The Slow Food Guide to Italy”... we only had one bad/overpriced meal out of that book in five years.

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eye.surgeon
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Re: Travel to Rome Italy - Recommendations

Post by eye.surgeon » Wed Jan 17, 2018 2:16 am

Keep in mind that some of the sites (St Peter's and parts of the Vatican) have a dress code. If you're a woman and wearing shorts or a short skirt , they could turn you away. Happened to my daughter.
"I would rather be certain of a good return than hopeful of a great one" | Warren Buffett

Wings5
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Re: Travel to Rome Italy - Recommendations

Post by Wings5 » Wed Jan 17, 2018 2:30 am

Besides the big hits everyone will mention, we found these interesting.

The Knights of Malta keyhole is a beautiful vantage point. My wife and I also did the scavi tour beneath St. Peter's. It was the best tour we've ever been on, but you have to reserve tickets ahead of time.

Old Bridge Gelato is also a winner.

Limoncello402
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Re: Travel to Rome Italy - Recommendations

Post by Limoncello402 » Wed Jan 17, 2018 5:29 am

I'd also strongly recommend the Scavi (archeological) tour that goes beneath St. Peter's to the original Vatican cemetery there. They continue to uncover more and more there.
Rome is made for walking, so I echo what others have said. Plot a course and you can see all the major sites by walking. Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Trastevere, Borghese Gardens, Borghese Museum (also need advance tickets), Pantheon, Piazza del Popolo. Stop in churches. Countless scenic piazzas. For a short day trip, go to Orvieto or Ostia Antica.

otinkyad
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Re: Travel to Rome Italy - Recommendations

Post by otinkyad » Wed Jan 17, 2018 5:37 am

The Basilica of San Clemente is perhaps the densest view of the history of Rome. A less crowded treasure, near the Colosseum. The Colosseum and Pantheon are my personal favorites, well, after restaurants and Roman tartuffo desserts. I also like the roof on St Peter’s. The Sistine Chapel is some kind of hell on Earth, IMHO, but I’ve only visited in the summer with the heat and crowds.

Tour guides are helpful for access at the Colosseum, borderline required for the Vatican, though February will help, and unless you know a lot about Roman history and architecture, desirable to get much out of the Forum and Palatine Hill.

My favorite activity in Rome is renting a scooter to see the sites, and get oriented by getting lost and found again, and seeing things you would not otherwise have found. My second favorite is just slowly wandering. Not the best place for passeggiata in Italy, but not bad.

Shallowpockets
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Re: Travel to Rome Italy - Recommendations

Post by Shallowpockets » Wed Jan 17, 2018 7:57 am

Go for a guided tour of the Colosseum and for the Vatican. They sound expensive, but you figure you meet a guide who not only guides you during the actual tour, but they guide you through the crowds and lines and get you your headsets and radios so you can walk and listen to them.
Otherwise you will be standing in a line for a long time. Maybe the wrong line.
Take your guided tour price and subtract the price of the ticket anyway, and the convenience of skip the line and the tour guide, you only save a few Euros to do it on your own. If you don't have the tour guide audio, you will miss a lot of the meaning of what you are seeing.
You can do all this booking online. Then you just meet up with your voucher and the guide takes you in.
We went this past November at Thanksgiving. Everywhere was pretty crowded. I would hate to see the crowds during high season. Sister chapel in high season is is so crowded that if you faint, you cannot fall down.

Exit105
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Re: Travel to Rome Italy - Recommendations

Post by Exit105 » Wed Jan 17, 2018 8:10 am

I've used private tours from Context Tours in many European cities. Check out www.contexttravel.com

carolinaman
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Re: Travel to Rome Italy - Recommendations

Post by carolinaman » Wed Jan 17, 2018 8:53 am

criticalmass wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:19 pm
Have any Bogleheads been to Rome in recent years?

I will be there for a few days in early February and have never visited the sights. I'm looking to see the major sites in Rome and Vatican city. I'd appreciate any recommendations on what attractions passes to get in advance vs what to purchase on site. There's a lot of tourist passes to choose from (including early entry or skip-the-line) and it's hard to find out what passes are worthwhile.

I realize we can only do so much on this trip so will need to prioritize. Some things we are interested in:

Colosseum (underground chambers?)
Capitoline Hill
Roman forum
Pantheon and old Rome sites
St Pete's Basilica
Sistine Chappel
Vatican museums

Thanks for any advice!
I spent 5 days in Rome in 2014. Since I was by myself and not part of any tour, I booked tours of Colosseum/forum/Capitoline Hill and Vatican. I highly recommend that approach because the narration provides a lot of detail you will likely miss on your own. Each of those tours took about 3 hours. I stayed at an excellent hotel, Albergo del Senato, which overlooked the Pantheon. That is a great place to hangout, especially in the evening. I did a lot of walking in the nearby areas, including Trevi fountain, Spanish steps, Trastevere, etc. I was somewhat disappointed in the historic sites but did enjoy walking the neighborhoods, restaurants, coffee, gelato, people watching and shopping.

camden
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Re: Travel to Rome Italy - Recommendations

Post by camden » Wed Jan 17, 2018 8:58 am

Castle Sant' Angelo was well worth a visit.

As to one of the former suggestions...American traveler, rented scooter, Roman drivers...make sure that insurance is paid up!😀

mbres60
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Re: Travel to Rome Italy - Recommendations

Post by mbres60 » Wed Jan 17, 2018 9:25 am

This past May we took two walking tours with Angel tours. I recommend them. The first we had to meet at 6 pm at the Spanish Steps. We then walked for two hours. Oh.... we were the only ones booked so it ended up being private ;) They have to be at the Pantheon at 7 pm because you can meet them there for a free tour of that location. One couple joined us. After that we continued to see a few more locations. The next morning we met a different tour guide from the same company for a tour of the Colosseum and the Forum.

There is a lot to see. We loved Rome.

maylikesun
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Re: Travel to Rome Italy - Recommendations

Post by maylikesun » Wed Jan 17, 2018 9:45 am

If you don't join a guided tour, I will highly recommend getting the Roma pass. Not for the unlimited public transportation, but for the fast pass for 2 sightseeing places. You can use it for most popular places in Rome not for Vatican though.

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yukonjack
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Re: Travel to Rome Italy - Recommendations

Post by yukonjack » Wed Jan 17, 2018 9:53 am

I was there about a year ago and found that virtually all of my questions were answered in the Rick Steves Italy and Rome books. He also has free audio tours that you can download from his website.

Hockey10
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Re: Travel to Rome Italy - Recommendations

Post by Hockey10 » Wed Jan 17, 2018 1:59 pm

A great spot in Rome for some tranquility is the Terrazza del Pincio, which is directly above the Piazza del Popolo. There are quite a few steps to climb, but once you get to the top, you will have a great view of the city, especially at night.

A tip for buying tickets to the Colosseum - buy them at Palatine Hill. The line is much shorter than the one at the Colosseum, but it is only a short walk away from the Colosseum.

DrGoogle2017
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Re: Travel to Rome Italy - Recommendations

Post by DrGoogle2017 » Wed Jan 17, 2018 2:51 pm

We stayed near the Trevi fountain, bought tours for the Colloseum and Vatican. But the rest we just hop on and hop off the tour bus. That was for 7 days. It’s a laid back way of travelling. We went to the Colloseum for 2 days. But the rest of the time we just walked around and enjoyed our time there. I don’t always want to do everything in one trip. I leave a little bit for my next visit.

Reubin
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Re: Travel to Rome Italy - Recommendations

Post by Reubin » Wed Jan 17, 2018 3:09 pm

Yes, I second the recommendation for the hop on hop off bus. It gives you tremendous freedom and also allows you to relax when you get tired of constant walking.

rainyday1
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Re: Travel to Rome Italy - Recommendations

Post by rainyday1 » Thu Jan 18, 2018 6:20 am

If I do Rome over again, I will book a private tour for the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's. We did not, and I felt we didn't as much out of it as we could have.

Also, we walked all over Rome with 3 kids in tow. Everything is easily walkable. Colosseum tour was really good - definitely book the tour or you won't see the underground areas.

Enjoy!!

Biglaw Investor
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Re: Travel to Rome Italy - Recommendations

Post by Biglaw Investor » Thu Jan 18, 2018 8:00 am

Definitely check out the Basilica di San Clemente al Laterano (as a previous poster mentioned). I lived in Rome for 5 months and it was one of my favorite places to visit repeatedly. It's essentially a church on top of a church on top of a home and each flight of stairs down reveals a new structure as you go back in time!

SueG5123
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Re: Travel to Rome Italy - Recommendations

Post by SueG5123 » Thu Jan 18, 2018 9:19 am

Limoncello402 wrote:
Wed Jan 17, 2018 5:29 am
I'd also strongly recommend the Scavi (archeological) tour that goes beneath St. Peter's to the original Vatican cemetery there. They continue to uncover more and more there.
Concur, extraordinary. You will see the ancient tombs, jawbone of St. Peter, a room covered floor-to-ceiling with the gold of the New World -- plus head-of-the-line privileges to St. Peter's. You must request permission in advance, as this is only offered to small groups and not every tour is offered in English. Visit the Scavi web site of the Vatican.

Another recommendation -- San Pietro en Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains). Rather nondescript from the outside, but inside -- St. Peter's chains plus Michaelangelo's Moses. Usually free of crowds and you can closely study the magnificent Moses.

MathWizard
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Re: Travel to Rome Italy - Recommendations

Post by MathWizard » Thu Jan 18, 2018 3:33 pm

Get the Roma pass, you can use it for the metro as well as attractions.

Definitely make arrangements beforehand for the Vatican museum.
We skipped a block and a half line at opening, which only grew throughout the day.
We spent almost all day there.

HopeToGolf
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Re: Travel to Rome Italy - Recommendations

Post by HopeToGolf » Fri Jan 19, 2018 8:16 pm

Buy/borrow the Rick Steves books and/or leverage his podcasts/audio tours.

We used Walks of Italy and City Wonders for various tours. They were not cheap but the small groups worked well for us and helped us understand much of what we looked at.

One specific tour I recommend is, Pristine Sistine Early Entrance Small Group Vatican Tour. In August we had an experience where we were with maybe 30 people in the Sistine chapel. This tour avoids the crowds and give you great access.

I left my Boglehead membership card at home for this vacation and other than saving money where we could on flights and lodging, I opened the wallet and did what we thought was best whether it was tours, food, taxis, etc.

2b2
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Re: Travel to Rome Italy - Recommendations

Post by 2b2 » Fri Jan 19, 2018 8:58 pm

Night segway tour of Rome.
Incredible.

2b2

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