We spent a week in Rome. We rented a 3-bedroom apartment with two other couples. Our neighbors who were also in Rome joined us. We had a good time. 🙂
We saw the usual tourist sights, which will be covered in future posts:
- Colosseum, Forum, and Palantine Hill
- Borghese Gallery
- Pompeii and the Naples Archaeology Museum
- Pantheon, Piazza Navona, and Trevi Fountain
For other folks planning a trip to Rome, here are some tips that made our week easier.
First, our friends and neighbors were easy to travel with. I thank my wife and the three other couples, for their spirit of adventure, good humor, and positive attitude. Traveling independently, there are many decisions to be made. Folks made decisions smoothly and followed the decisions. Everyone pitched in and made things easier for the group.
Rome is a compact, pretty city with narrow, irregular streets. You need to walk, but it’s easy for tourists to get lost. On our first evening in Rome, I led us on a long walk from the Spanish Steps to see the Trevi Fountain and other sights back to our apartment, and we missed the Trevi Fountain in the dark. Thankfully, folks took it in stride, and we finally saw the Trevi Fountain on our last evening.
Second, we did a lot of research and planning for the trip. My wife set up a matrix of prospective things to see, noting closure dates, opening times, costs, descriptions, reservations, etc. We planned and coordinated activities across families, so that we had matching reservations or tickets for the Vatican, the train to Naples, and Borghese Gallery. For us, the research and planning can be as much fun as the trip. In the planning phase, we never miss buses or get off the train at the wrong station. Whereas when we’re actually doing the activities, rarely does it all work out as originally planned; changes are inevitable.
Third, we tried to take care of ourselves. We stayed relatively healthy, and we had only one theft (from checked luggage that was delayed in arriving). We needed to be especially vigilant in Naples and on the train between Naples and Pompeii. And we were prepared.
Fourth, our apartment was comfortable and had a great location — close to pretty walks, buses, and food. The central location made everything easier. It’s nice to go out for the morning, return in the afternoon to clean up and have a siesta, and go out again, especially when you’re jet lagged. Our group chose the apartment after combing through dozens of apartment listings.
Here’s a map showing our apartment (orange pin) and points of interest (blue pins).
- Campo de Fiori, with a vibrant, daily, open air market, is a 5-minute walk to the north. (Blue pin above the orange pin.)
- Largo di Torre Argentina is a bus terminus where we caught buses to the Vatican, Colosseum, the Borghese Gallery, and the Termini train station. (Blue pin to the right of the Campo de Fiori pin.)
- The two pins south of our apartment, across the Tiber River, are a bakery and restaurant we liked.
- The more distant pins are the Vatican, Trevi fountain, Borghese Gallery, and the Colosseum, starting on the left and moving counter-clockwise.
Fifth, we purchased a Roma Pass for 30 euros. The pass included admission to two major museums and three days of unlimited bus transportation. We purchased the Roma Pass on our first day in the city and used it to bypass long lines at the Colosseum. We used the pass for the two most expensive admissions: the Colosseum (12 euros) and the Borghese Gallery (11 euros). Bus rides cost 1.5 euros, so the pass more than paid for itself. When exploring a city, an unlimited bus pass lets you think more about what you want to see.
We walked or rode the bus in Rome. We chose buses after reviewing the Rome transit map downloaded from their website. To ride the bus, you need to find the bus stop. Based on the bus route from the transit map, pick a likely intersection and look for a bus sign with the bus number. One morning, we checked three street corners and still couldn’t find the right bus stop. We had a timed ticket at the Borghese Gallery, so we hurried to another bus stop and managed to catch the right bus. Rome bus stops have signs with lots of info, but we needed the explanation in Rick Steves’ guidebook to understand all the information.
Sixth, we purchased an Italian SIM card for our unlocked GSM iPhone. This worked out well. The cell coverage from TIM (Telecom Italia) was excellent in Rome and Tuscany. We made lots of local calls, including a 20-minute auto emergency call (more in a future post). 500 MB of data per week! We used google maps while driving in Tuscany without worrying about data charges. The SIM card cost 20 euros, and we had over 10 euros left after two weeks. I won’t even try to compare TIM with the quality and cost of our AT&T coverage.
Finally, we planned our schedules with margin for getting lost. We did get lost from time to time, but we made every timed reservation.