How to pick the right hotel in Rome, which are the best locations. What you should know when landing at Rome's airport. What you should see in Rome. What you should see at the Vatican. How to handle in Rome's traffic when crossing the streets. And then tour Rome by golf cart with us! The best tour of Rome for kids, seniors, disabled, families... and anyone who wants to enjoy Rome thoroughly without walking!

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We are hereby daring to try to describe Rome to people who've never been there, we know it's kind of like describing colors to a blind man, but we'll try...
In fact, whatever one can imagine Rome is, when he gets here he always discovers that the reality is very different from whatever he could imagine.
Someone said nothing can prepare you to your first visit to Rome, only your first visit prepares you for he next one.
We are stubborn though and we want to try to help you avoid making the most common mistakes and have a more pleasant stay.
Having been in this business many, many years we think we have an idea of the common misunderstandings a tourist can incur in and what please them instead.
So, please, allow us have the pleasure to, at least, try to introduce our city to you and please forgive us if at times we may sound like we are trying to sell our services, bragging about ourselves or scolding you. :) We don't mean to do any of that, it's just about being ROMANS !!!

 

 

How to choose where to stay

The first thing you do when planning a trip, is choose where to stay and book your hotel. There are countless hotels in Rome and they're all on the web. They all look very nice and they're all near the attractions you want to visit, but is that really true?

Not always. The area you call Rome is big and it's all called "Rome" but the real Rome, the part of the city that a tourist wants to see, is relatively small. Most of the interesting sites are located within the historic center of Rome, still surrounded by the old city walls built in the 3rd century a. D.. The area belted by these walls is where we would want to stay if we were tourists in Rome. We would want to stay at a place were we could walk out of the hotel and the scenario would be entirely different from what we see at home. We would want to be immersed in the atmosphere of Rome and be able to stroll to a nearby authentic place for dinner or walk to some of  the sites. We would not want to stay at a hotel outside of the city walls, even if that would mean staying at a more comfortable hotel paying the same price we would pay for one in the city. Except for some special areas, the outskirts of Rome don't look too different from the outskirts of any other big city in the world, so if you stay at a hotel in the city's outskirts, except for some cases, you'll not be able to walk to any of the sites and maybe you'll not even have a nice restaurant close enough to just walk to it. This means you'd practically be forced to commute to the city twice a day or have your meals at the hotel. In addition, the commute to the city center could be expensive and surely subtract time to your sightseeing and relax.  But this is what we think. Some people may want to stay in the modern hotels, part of a big chain, outside the city just because they get a big discount using up their credit card points. We would rather use our points for other purchases and stay in the old part of Rome. These large hotels though, provide shuttle service and that makes it rather easy to get in and out of town, so if you stay in one of these hotels you're not really in bad shape, though you'll have to expect to spend a lot of time in traffic.

Let's face it, what a tourist normally does is leave his hotel in the morning and go sightseeing. He gets back to his hotel in the late afternoon to freshen up before going to dinner some place. This is very easy and pleasant to do when you're staying at a hotel downtown, but if you are staying somewhere out in the outskirts? Well, in this case it means spending two hours commuting, half an hour each way to say the least. Often people end up giving up the idea of riding the shuttle to go town one more time and end up having their "cosmopolitan" dinner at the hotel spending more than twice the amount of money they would have paid for an authentic and fun dinner at a restaurant in old Rome and so spending the money they saved by staying in a hotel in the outskirts.

Or they take a taxi to go a restaurant in town and obtain the same result.

Some others instead pick their hotel on line and let prices guide them, having pretty bad surprises sometimes. We've had cases of clients who ended up staying in places that were one hour away from the city at a hotel that had no shuttle service and they had to use public transportation to get to the city and walk a mile to get to the nearest bus stop. It happens often than to save 20 Euros a night for the hotel, people end up spending 50 Euros a day on taxis.

Some of the hotels that advertise for themselves as if they located were in Rome aren't really in Rome but in the Province of Rome and that's how they can do that.

For example, the address for a hotel in the little town of Xxxxxxx, 20 miles from Rome, would show ROME at the end of its address in block letters preceded by the actual name of the town because Xxxxxxx is in the Province of Rome. Not knowing that, you'd think it's in Rome! We've had several cases like that and we wonder how many times it happens that people have ended up staying in venues that far from the city and ended up with a really unpleasant stay!

Mind you, they always say it takes 15/20 minutes to get to the city, in some cases it's true, but only if you drive there at three o' clock in the morning!

When choosing a hotel, look at its address carefully, it should show nothing else but Rome at the end of it.

If it shows another name before Rome, than it's not in Rome, in its province!

You can find out whether a hotel is in Rome or not is checking its zip code, Rome's general zip code (cap in Italian) is 00100, so if the first 3 digits are not 001 it means the address is not in Rome. Rome's city center zip code is 00186 so if the hotel you pick has this code in its address it means it's in the middle of the city.

Other good area codes are: 00184 - 00185( also the code for the train station area... careful!) - 00187 - 00153 - 00192 - 00193 -00196.

There are thousands of hotels that match these specifications and they go for all prices, we're sure it will not be too difficult to find one that matches you budget. Outside of personal preferences and budgets, we would like to suggest to stay in hotels located within the city walls but better not in the area of the main train station, called Termini.

In the "links" page of this website we list some of the hotels where we would stay at, maybe you want to pick your hotel from this list. Let us specify that the hotels we list do not pay us a fee to get listed and, in most cases, they don't even know they are there and neither they pay us a commission. They are just there because we think they deserve to be there and this is valid also for any other business we list on our website.

Handicapped, steps & elevators

Another thing you need to know, when you book your hotel, is that the smaller ones, rated 1, 2 or 3 stars, sometimes don't occupy the whole building they're in but just a portion of it, like one or two floors. There could also be more than one hotel in the same building. Before you finalize your booking, especially if you have problems climbing steps,  make sure the hotel has access to an elevator you can use to get up to your hotel and to your room from the level of the street !!! Some of these hotel have elevators that don't start from the street level!

Check in / check out time

The hotels' check out time in Italy is generally 12:00 noon, though some hotels want their guests to be out by 10:00 am. This means that rooms normally aren't ready for the new guests until 2 or 3 p.m.. And it also means that if you come in on an early morning flight, your room may not be ready when you get to your hotel. You better think of something to keep you busy and awake until mid afternoon at least. The hotel will surely store your luggage for you let you freshen up, thus so you'll be able to start doing some sightseeing right away. If your hotel is in proximity of one or more of the highlights of Rome you can just walk over to them and stretch your legs after a long flight, differently you may want to ride one of the "hop on hop off" open deck busses or, why not, let us take you on a tour!

Messed up reservations

Suppose you get to your hotel and they tell you they don't have a room for you because your reservation got messed up. It doesn't happen too often, but can happen. Before you start arguing, see what they have to offer.  You have to know that, buy the law, the hotel you booked has to provide another accommodation for you for the same price you would have paid them, they can't just let you down and get away with it. If this happens to you, before you complain, check out the replacement accommodation they can provide, it might be better than the room you booked! In fact they have to provide accommodation for you, even if that means getting you a room at a hotel that will cost them more than what you would have paid them and they'll have to cover the difference.

Food & drinks

One of the things Rome and Italy are known for is food, it's practically difficult to have a bad meal. There are restaurants everywhere where you can get a good meal for less than 30 Euros, wine included. But a restaurant is a restaurant and a hotel is a hotel. You sleep at a hotel, but go have your meal at a restaurant. Unfortunately the hotel people all think that any food or beverages they give you has to be charged at least three times as much as it would cost anywhere else. They charge you 3 Euros for a little bottle of water and 5 Euros for an "espresso", so what do you think will charge for a meal? You better let it be their secret and eat your meals elsewhere! Also because usually their food can't hold a candle to the bottom of the line restaurants! Off course things are different when you're not in a big city. If you go touring the countryside you can have a great meal at the hotels in the small hilltop town or on the road, but that's a different story, they're more like restaurants with a local clientele with some rooms to rent rather than being hotels.

At the bottom of this page you'll find a map of Rome showing the different areas of Rome where we think you better stay. Map of Rome

 
hotel Raphael

The hotel Raphael   

Great location, right around the corner from Piazza Navona

Hotel Sheraton Golf

The Sheraton Golf Parco de' Medici   

a nice one out in the boondocks, but with shuttle service

The view from the roof garden of the hotel Mozart

The view from the roof garden of the hotel Mozart  

Just off Rome's main street, Via del Corso

The hotel St. Regis

The St. Regis   L  

One of the most famous hotels in Rome

Hotel del Senato

Hotel del Senato       

Right in front of the Pantheon

The view from the Hotel Romanico

Hotel Romanico    

View from the roof garden

 
We sincerely hope this map will help you make a good choice when you'll have to pick a hotel in Rome
 
 
 
 

Vatican

An easy name isn't it? How many times have we heard people say "we want to go to the Vatican" "we must see the Vatican"? Millions of times! But in most cases people didn't really know what they were talking about and they probably imagined the Vatican was just a building with Michelangelo's frescoes in it and that's it!

So we'll list some of the basic information here hoping to prepare you for this complicated place. So what is the Vatican really?

Let's start from the name, Vatican is too easy to say, diminishes the venue and makes it sound like a place you can get in and out of in half an hour. More properly it should be called the "Vatican City State". In fact, since the 11th of February 1929 when Pope Pius XI and Mussolini signed the treaty known as "The Lateran Pact", the Vatican was separated from Italy and became an independent, sovereign state where the Pope rules as a king and the cardinals run the government.

The Vatican covers a surface of only 108 Acres and this makes of it the smallest country in the world, but you can put a lot of buildings in 108 Acres, especially if you have 1,700 years time to do it, and these buildings are literally stuffed with works of art from all ages and of all kinds. By the way, do not expect to be able to show up at the place with your passport in your hands and be allowed in to freely walk around, it's not going to happen.

The fact that the country is so small allows them to be very selective about who admit in and where. So the common tourist is only allowed to visit the following places in the Vatican:

St. Peter's Basilica.

The original church was built at the time of the Emperor Constantine in 324 a. D. and the present church, which took 118 years to build, was inaugurated exactly 1300 years after the first one was: in 1624 a. D..

You can easily spend one hour in St. Peter's looking at masterpieces made by Michelangelo, who's also responsible for the architecture of the building, Bernini and other famous artists. The church was built on top of the Vatican hill, hence the name "Vatican" now extended to the whole country. We suspect that when a tourist says "Vatican" he means this building and he expects to find Michelangelo's frescoes in here but he knows they in the Sistine Chapel and consequently he thinks the Sistine Chapel is part of this building: wrong! The Sistine Chapel is a separate building and can only be accessed from the Vatican Museums.

It has happened more than once that after we took people through the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel (2 hours), when we finally got to St. Peter's they spontaneously exclaimed: "This is what I wanted to see!"

Free admission, no charge, open from 7:30am to 6.30 pm, but the metal detectors you have to go through since 9/11 cause the formation of long lines. The average time you spend in line is 20/30 minutes.

It's the largest church in the world and it's full of art treasures, the least important of which could be the main attraction of a small town in the "New World". It's surely the most important building in the Vatican, if it didn't exist none of the rest would be there. So the idea would be to see this building and then, if you have time, see the Sistine Chapel and the Museums but, because of the lines which cannot be skipped unless you are handicapped, it has become difficult to include the tour of St. Peter's Basilica in a full day tour of Rome. It's easier to get into the church from the Sistine Chapel, but you can only get to the Sistine from the Museums and you can get into the Museums without having to stand in line because you can make a reservation. The visit of the Museums and the Sistine though make the one-hour tour of St. Peter's  become a three-hour tour of the highlights of the Vatican and this is why it is far better to tour the Vatican on a different day, if you have time. There is a way we can include St. Peter's tour in a full-day tour of Rome, but we'll only tell you if you tour with us. :)

The Vatican Museums

After the Louvre in Paris and the British Museum in London, the Vatican Museums are the third largest collection of works of art in the world. The 1400 rooms are absolutely packed with paintings, statues, mosaics, tapestries, frescoes and even mummies! Works of art and archeological findings that go from the ancient Egyptians to present days, and that's only 60% of what the Vatican has, the rest in storage elsewhere in the Vatican.

Someone has calculated that a visitor who wanted to see everything there, spending only 2 minutes for each item exhibited, would have to spend 4 years in the place!

Unfortunately most visitors have no idea of what they're going to see there and they don't come prepared. Talking with our clients we found out that some of them thought that they had a room for each pope, others thought that they where going to see relics of the saints and so forth. The Vatican Museums are nothing like that, they practically present the history of the human kind through the art that it has been able to produce and the history of the art itself. They are called museums, plural, because they consist in different collections that where put together by different popes over the centuries and so they are named after the pope that put together the collection or by its theme and so, for example, you have the Egyptian Museum that contains items from ancient Egypt as well as you have the Pius-Clementine museum that houses the items collected by pope Clement XIV and his successor Pius VI. Each Museum would require at least a day to see, but normally the tourist just walk through the portion that takes them to the Sistine Chapel because that's all they really want to see. Nevertheless one cannot ignore all the stuff that he sees on the way there, there's always something that tickles the curiosity of even the most  uninterested visitor and that is why it takes at least one hour to go from the entrance to the Sistine Chapel. In addition, the place is always quite crowded and you end up lining up just to go from from one section to another and, when it gets very crowded, the force you to take a longer route just to disperse the crowds. The place is not air conditioned, except for the Gallery of Tapestries and the Sistine Chapel, so it is very uncomfortable to visit the place in the hot summer months.  We would also like to remind to the visitor that the purpose for the museums in general is to educate people and that in this particular case the itinerary that you follow to reach the Sistine Chapel presents the art that preceded Michelangelo and which he learned from, enabling him to create what is considered the masterpiece of the Renaissance in the art of paining frescoes.

Naturally scholars are the only ones who spend in these building the time they deserve, as said before, most visitors just go to the Sistine Chapel the shortest way possible and that's what we do ourselves when we take people through there.

The Sistine Chapel

Built in 1474 for pope Sixtus IV, hence the name Sistine. The chapel measures internally  40.9 meters (134 ft) long by 13.4 meters (44 ft) wide, matching the measurements  of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, was designed by an architect specialized in fortresses: Giovannino De' Dolci. In fact the idea was to use it as a refuge for the pope if things got bad. The famous ceiling later, decorated by Michelangelo, was originally just painted dark blue refined by golden stars and obviously represented the sky at night.

At first only the walls had fresco paintings which were done by those who were considered the best painters of the time in Italy: Domenico Ghirlandaio, Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, Cosimo Roselli and their paintings represented stories of the Old and the New Testament. In other words the life of Moses on one of the walls and the life of Jesus on the other. In 1504 Pope Julius II, nephew of pope Sixtus IV, was able to "convince" Michelangelo to paint a fresco on the ceiling of his uncle's chapel.

And now we need to point out that Michelangelo disliked the art of painting and those who professed it, he considered himself a sculptor, an architect and... a poet! To be called a painter sounded like an offence to him. But he ended up creating the greatest masterpiece of the kind. Unfortunately to understand how this could happen, how could Michelangelo could revolution the art of painting to the point that the paintings on the walls which were done only 30 years earlier appeared like they had been done centuries before (things didn't change as fast then as they do now) and everybody, including his competitors, started to have a great consideration for him. An historical fact is that Michelangelo was the first artist that was treated like a member of the aristocracy, the others before him were considered just a little better than a good artisan. In addition we must keep present that until Michelangelo painted that ceiling, no one would have hired a well known and consequently expensive artist to make them decorate a ceiling, far from the ground not comfortable to look at and too far to appreciate the details. After Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine, it sort of became normal instead for well known artists to experience the paining of a ceiling and today, when we take our tourists inside another building with a beautiful fresco on the ceiling, like the church of St. Ignatius, sometimes we hear them say that Michelangelo's fresco really pales compared to it. Yes, that's a really spectacular painting, but we have to think that if it wasn't for Michelangelo it probably wouldn't exist. This only means that to really appreciate the Sistine you have to have some background, otherwise you cannot understand the meaning of it and simply continue to be impressed by other less important but more spectacular works of art. Surely it is the guide's job to supply the means to appreciate such masterpiece and the better the guide is the more you enjoy your visit, as long as you have the patience to listen...

The Grottoes

The area underneath St. Peter's Basilica, where the popes are buried goes by the name of "The Grottoes". The present church was built on top of the ruins of the former church built at the time of Constantine and the gap between the floor of the old church and the present church, about 20 ft high, ( see the plit section of St. Peter's Basilica above ) contains the tombs of the popes, from Peter who was the first pope to John Paul II. Well, yes like all the popes who have been beatified or sanctified also his grave has been moved up to the church, but like all the other popes that's where he was originally buried there. Though some of the graves of the popes have been made by famous artists, the beautiful statue of Pope Pius Vi by Canova is in the Grottoes, the visit of the place is more like a religious experience than a tour. The Grottoes are open from 9:00 am to 4:30 p,.

The tomb of Peter cannot be visited.

Grottoes opening hours - free admission

 

Winter - October 1st / March 31st

8:00 am / 5:00 pm

Summer - April 1st / September 31st

8:00 am / 6:00 pm

The Dome

As we said before (did we say it?) St. Peter's dome is Michelangelo's greatest masterpiece in architecture. He designed the church building and that quite a structure, but building a dome like that in the mid 1500's, 450ft high, was almost a miracle.

Today you can ride an elevator to the terrace of St. Peter's church and from there walk up more than 300 steps to reach the very top of the Dome and enjoy the fantastic view.

A curiosity, the Dome really consists of two domes which were built one inside the other and thus support each other. When you walk up to the Dome, you walk in the gap between them! You can see in the split section of the dome, here below.

Dome's opening hours and admission fees

 

Winter - October 1st / March 31st

8:00 am / 5:00 pm

Summer - April 1st / September 31st

8:00 am / 6:00 pm

Admission fees

 

Elevator to the terrace and the climb the remaining 320 steps on foot

7.00 Euros

Climb of the total of 550 steps on foot

5.00 Euros

Reduction for school groups, by presenting previously formal request with the list of participants

3.00 Euros

The Scavi - Archaeological diggings under St. Peter's Basilica

Visit of St Peter's tomb and the necropolis (cemetery) under the Vatican Basilica
This a very special tour, but we recommend to connoisseurs or  those who have spent enough time in Rome to have seen all the other sites. No use spending half- day on this tour if you are in Rome for the first time and for only one or two days.

The "Scavi Office" authorizes the visit to a restricted number of visitors, normally 250 per day, divided in groups of 12 participants according to the language spoken.

Children under 15 years old are not admitted ( and they really shouldn't be admitted in the Museums either... ).

The group is accompanied by a specialized guide and lasts 1.5 hours.

Reservations:

The request for touring the Scavi must be forwarded  to the "Scavi Office" personally by the persons who will go on the tour presenting the personal data of all the participants.

via e-mail to: scavi@fsp.va or uff.scavi@fabricsp.va 

via fax to +39 06 69873017

or applying directly to the Excavations Office, opening hours: 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.: Closed Sunday and Holidays.

Applicants must specify:

1.        the exact number of participants.

2.        names of participants

3.        language spoken

4.       time period for the visit (months in letters) the date and time for the visit will be  decided by the Excavation Office according to availability.

5.        how they want the Excavation Office to reply: e-mail, fax or mailing address

Time and date

Specific reservations for a special date and time cannot be made. The Excavation Office will set up a time and a date according to the requests it receives.

Virtual visit available at http://www.vatican.va/various/basiliche/necropoli/scavi_english.html

Admission fees

The price for the admission is 12.00 Euros and it includes the cost for the guide.
Procedure

Participants must apply at the Excavation Office at least 10 minutes before time.

Participants must be dressed properly. Long pants and covered shoulders for ladies and gents, skirts below the knee for the ladies.

Entrance is located on via Paolo VI, same gate as the Audience Hall.

Present your reservation to the Swiss Guard at the gate.
Gear

You are not allowed to carry cumbersome objects like backpacks, suitcases, plastic bags of any size. No photo or video cameras allowed.
Such items can be checked at the storage room on the right hand side of St. Peter's Basilica.

Those who will not observe such rules will be refused admission.
Vatican Gardens

Yes they are beautiful, worth seeing for sure. That's where the Pope walks around to relax, but do you live in Rome? Have you seen all the other gardens in the city where you can just walk around freely without having to make an application and pay an admission fee? Rome has no secrets for you anymore? There's nothing else in Rome you haven't seen yet?

Well, if this is your case, here are the instructions about how you can visit the place:

contact us and we'll see what we can do! You can't tour the place just by paying admission.

 

Knowing all this now, would you still ask "Are we going to the Vatican?"

 
With the signature of Mussolini and Cardinal Gasparri the Vatican becomes a sovereign country
The Vatican becomes a sovereign country

The "Arch of Bells", the main gate into the Vatican

The "Arch of Bells", the main gate into the Vatican
Split section of St. Peter's Basilica
Split section of St. Peter's Basilica  
The "Braccio Nuovo" section of the Vatican Museums
The"Braccio Nuovo" section of the Vatican Museums
Vatican Gardens
Vatican Gardens
The Sistine Chapel seen from above
The Sistine Chapel seen from the above
St. Bartholomew

Sistine Chapel, Last Judgment

St. Bartholomew ( on his skin he holds is Michelangelo's portrait )

The Gallery of Candelabra

Vatican Museums

The Gallery of Candelabra

One of the confessionals in St. Peter's

St. Peter's in Vatican

One of the confessionals

Vatican Museums - God Mithras in the Rooms of the Statues of Animals

Vatican Museums

God Mithras in the Rooms of the Statues of Animals.

   
 
 

The airport

Where else could we start from if not the airport? That's the first place you see in Italy The first thing you need to know is that you generally do not have to withstand an accurate customs inspection, especially visitors from U.S. or Canada, they just walk through... But you'll have to stand in line to show your passport and if you're not lucky and end up lining up after people coming "other" countries, who' identity is checked thoroughly, the you may end up standing in line for quite a while.

After this formality you are directed to the carrousels where you pick up your luggage. Now, if you had started to suspect that things in Italy don't get done as quickly as in your country, the wait for your luggage will confirm your suspect. It'll take a while.

Generally after 45 minutes or one hour you're out, ready to get in some kind of transportation that will take you to your hotel. A taxi? You stood in line for the passport control then to recuperate your luggage and now you want to stand in line for a taxi?

Theoretically the cab's fare to take you to a hotel is a city center is 40 Euros, but then there are additional charges for each piece of luggage and this and that... so you end up spending an average 60 Euros and you ride in the car that's first in the line, whatever that is. Big or small it the cab that's taking you to Rome. If you haven't been far-sighted enough to book your ride with a limousine company (their fare is just a little more expensive than a taxi's or equivalent) and you don't want to stand in line for a cab. you can hire car and driver from one of the limousine companies that operate at the airport, but make sure they give the price first, before you get in the car.

The train. There's a train that takes you from the airport grounds to the Termini station which is right in the heart of Rome, but the ticket is costly and 4 people would spend more money going by train than taking a taxi or a limo, especially if their hotel isn't within a short walking distance from the train station and they'll still need a taxi to get there.

We think the best way for one to get to the city from Rome's airport is to book their transfer, we're not saying you have to book your transfer with us, and make sure that there will be no stress. It really makes a lot of difference to know that someone is expecting you, knows where you're going and you know what you're paying him. No surprises.

Finally let's specify that Rome has two major airports, the main one is called Fiumicino after the locality and it's dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci, the other one is called Ciampino, also because of where it's located, and it's dedicated to G.B Pastine. While everyone knows who Leonardo was, not many know that Giovanni Battista Pastine Pastine was a blimp pilot during WWI and a war hero and the airport is dedicated to him because Ciampino was a Zeppelin base during WWI. He was  killed by the Austrians in 1916 when his blimp was shot down and he refused to surrender.

 
 
 
The carrousels at Fiumicino airport

Taxis at Rome's airport Fiumicino

 
 
 
   
 
   

Touring Rome

Rome, only four letters forming two syllables,  but a lot history, a lot of people, a lot of magnificent buildings and a lot of ruins of magnificent buildings. But also a modern city of nearly five million inhabitants that you cannot comprehend in just one day.

How to tour Rome

If you’re here for the first time and you only have a couple of days, or worse, if you’re on a cruise ship that docks in Civitavecchia for the day and you have only a few hours to see Rome don’t try to see everything, you’ll just get headache and sore feet! Whichever way you decide tour, walk, bus, private tour etcetera, you’re going to have fun, guaranteed! After all it’s fun just to be away from home and the usual routine, isn’t it?

If you think you can handle it and by this we mean that you would know what there is to see in Rome and your cultural background allows you to  understand the explanations you can read from a good guide book, than you’ll be happy with that and a good map or, better with a GPS unit! Differently you better rely on someone to guide you and you can pick between a narrated bus tour, a guided group tour, a private walking of driving tour or even a golf cart tour! If you haven’t spent time preparing yourself culturally for your trip to Italy, a guided tour of sort is obviously the best solution. You’ll not have to worry about finding out what to see and how to get there. You’ll be taken to the various sites and you’ll be told about them. You still have to pick which venues you want to visit though. We don’t think it’s a good idea to act snobbish about the fundamental highlights and go tour places like the excavations under St. Peter’s and then have no time left to visit the Pantheon or simply enjoy the city walking through the market in Campo de’ Fiori for example. Surely one would impress his friends saying that, using his special connections, he was able to visit the Vatican Gardens, but we would instead recommend to visit Villa D’Este in Tivoli first. You would also see some of the countryside and one of the most spectacular gardens in the world. We want to add that these ‘very special visits’ like the ‘Scavi’ (excavations under St. Peter’s), the underground of the Colosseum, the Roman houses on the Celian Hill, the Domus Aurea, House of Livia on the Palatine and so forth are fine, but your first time you  need to the see fundamental attractions first, otherwise you’ll not even be able to fully appreciate the out of the way places when you visit them. It’s not a good idea to start from the roof when you’re building a house!

History

Rome's history is nearly three thousand years. It was first founded as a kingdom by Romulus in 753 b. C., then came the Roman Republic in the 6th century b. C. and later, in the 1st century b. C.  the Roman Empire which dominated Western Europe, Middle East and North Africa for more than six hundred years and fell in the 5th century A.D. Then the popes ruled Rome until the unification of Italy which occurred in 1870. Rome was the capital of the unified kingdom until, by voting referendum in 1946, Italy got rid of the monarchy and became a republic. So now Rome is the Capital of the Italian Republic:

Surely not the place one can see in a day or even a week.

The well known proverb says "Rome wasn't built in a day", but there's another one, less popular, that sais "It takes longer than a man's life to see Rome"

So just think of the different historical periods you have in Rome:

Ancient Rome

Roughly from it's foundation in the 8th century b.C. to the fall in the 5th century A.D. we have twelve centuries during which the Romans evolved from the state or rude shepherds to being the most advanced civilization in the World.

Middle Ages

Than came the Middle Ages when the pope ruled Rome and influenced the politics of Europe and the Middle East. Those were tough times, because the pope banned all of what had been achieved by the Romans and causing the humanity to precipitate into chaos. This period lasted nearly one thousand years and finally ended with the

Renaissance

This is the "rebirth" of everything. Renaissance is rebirth in French and it puzzling that in English you use a French term for something that absolutely Italian.

In the Renaissance, beginning in the 13th century, art, architecture, literature and culture in general started to flourish again. The pope and his entourage themselves became interested in such matters and employed people like Michelangelo, Bernini and other famous architect, sculptor and painters to build and decorate their homes, churches, monasteries. The were not afraid of the Roman gods anymore and after destroy Roman sculptures for centuries, they now started to collect them and pay dear prices for the finest ones. A cardinal ended up having to pay for the building of a church in order to obtain a Roman statue that had been found during its construction!

Risorgimento

An Italian word that means resurrection. Another way to say Renaissance? No, Renaissance in Italian is Rinascimento. Risorgimento ( Resurgence) is the social and political movement that started in the first half of the 1800's brought to the unification of Italy. Not without bloodshed. Actually rivers of blood ran throughout the Peninsula. The Italians fought against the Austrians, the French, the Spanish family of the Borbones which ruled southern Italy, and the Pontifical Army (the pope's Swiss Guards and more) and made of Italy one country.

The Museums of Rome

Rome is really like a big open air museum where you practically have something to see at each street corner but also has a lot of museums of all kinds. Ancient and modern art, sculpture, science, nature the whole life span of a human being is not enough to see everything there is in Rome and you can obviously pick which museum to visit according to your taste and interest. We are listing some of the most interesting here below considering that a tourist in Rome would want to visit the ones where he could see art and archaeological findings, we are therefore omitting to list other kinds of museums. We marked with a red star the ones we think should be visited first, considering their importance, but especially the time it takes to visit them, generally less than two hours.  Clicking on the museum's name will direct you to the specific museum's website opening another page of your browser. Sorry if the website is not in English or for no website.

 

The churches of Rome

There are nearly five hundred churches in Rome and a lot of them are surely worth your visit. We will not consider the religious importance of the churches, but their value in terms of art and architecture.

The reason why your visit the churches is that they are like museums that contain fantastic works of art being the buildings themselves outstanding masterpieces of architecture. Consider them jewel incrusted silver and gold caskets containing precious jewels.

Or, if you don't like the analogy, just think of them as museums you can enter without standing in line and without paying a fee.

Please remember to dress properly when visiting a church, no shorts or bare shoulders.

Generally it takes about half an hour to see each one and therefore you can visit a few in a day's time. However, the estimate time to visit churches and museums we mention do not refer to the thorough visit of a scholar, but that of the average tourist. We know you can spend more than one day in each place, we did it.

Clicking on the churches name will bring you to the respective Wikipedia page.

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The Main Patriarchal Basilicas & Seven Churches

St. John's in Lateran

St. Peter's

St. Paul's Outside the Walls

St. Mary Major

The Holy Cross in Jerusalem

St. Sebastian outside the walls

St. Lawrence outside the Walls

   

More very interesting churches and basilicas

 

Santa Maria del Popolo

St. Sabina

Saint Mary Above Minerva

St. Augustine

St. Mary of the Altar of Heaven

Our Lady of the Conception of the Capuchins

Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Saints Blaise and Charles in Catinari

Saint Clement

St. Lawrence in Lucina

Santa Maria della Vittoria

Trinità dei Monti

St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs

Santa Maria in Trastevere

Saint Yves at La Sapienza

St. John and Paul

Church of the Gesu

Saint Praxedes

Sant'Andrea delle Fratte

Saint Pudentiana

St. Andrew's in the Valley

St. Charles on the Corso

Saint Agnes

Saint Charles at the Four Fountains

Saint Mary Magdalene

Saint Eustace

St. Louis of the French

St. Stephen in the Round

Saint Lawrence in the House of Damasus

St Bibiana

Church of the Twelve Holy Apostles

Saint Constance

Four Holy Crowned Ones

St Mary in Palmis (Quo Vadis)

St. Mary in Cosmedin

St Nicholas in prison

St. Theodore

Saint Agnes Outside the Wall

Santa Maria in Via

Santa Maria della Pace

San Pietro in Montorio

Saint Andrew's at the Quirinal

St. Francis at Ripa

Santa Maria dell'Orazione e Morte
   
 
 Capitoline Museums - The  Dying Gaul

Capitoline Museums

The  Dying Gaul

Church of St. Ignatius -The Glory of St. Ignatius on the ceiling by Andrea Pozzo

 Church of St. Ignatius

The Glory of St. Ignatius on the ceiling by Andrea Pozzo

Church of  St. Louis of the French - St. Mathew and the Angel, painting by Caravaggio

 St. Louis of the French

St. Mathew and the Angel, painting by Caravaggio

 The Organ in Saint Mary Magdalene's church

Saint Mary Magdalene

The Organ

Rome, the Pantheon

 The Pantheon

Not to be confused with the Parthenon...

 The Borghese Museum - Apollo and Daphne, sculpture by Bernini

 The Borghese Museum

Apollo and Daphne, sculpture by Bernini

 The Monument to Victor Emmanuel ll

(aka "the Wedding cake")

 
 
 

Traffic

Traffic is kind of like one of the excitements in Rome for the tourists. Especially for those who come from overseas, from country where cars have all the space they need.

As we drive with guests  around Rome these are the comments and questions we most commonly get, let us try to explain...

Don't you guys have any lanes?

How do you decide who has the right of way?

Are there any traffic rules?

Do you people ever get a parking ticket?

How many scooter riders get killed everyday?

When the locals cross the street they just close their eyes and go!

You take your life in your hands when you cross the street!

Don't you guys have any lanes?

We do, but they're not meant the same way as they are in America. When you come to a traffic light, on a street that's wide enough to have lanes, you have lanes. They start generally about 100 meters (yards) from the traffic light itself. As you start coming close to the light you have to decide which lane to stay on. Usually the left lane for those who turn left, middle if you're going straight and right if you're turning right an you act accordingly. This is the theory though, it doesn't really apply in fact. When you pull up to a street light you're not the only one there. there are cars and scooters all around you, very few inches away from your car and they've been there for quite a while. So you may be on the right lane when you get to the light when you really want to turn to the left. This means you'll practically be forced to turn right if that's what most of the other drivers are doing, or straight if that's where traffic goes. The first time. At the following light you would want to prepare before time and you'd turn of your indicator and sort of start pushing in the direction you want to turn, expecting the other drivers to get mad at you, honk their horns and call you all kind of manes. Surprisingly though they would give you the space you need, but an inch at a time!

How do you decide who has the right of way?

Generally the rule is that you have the right of way when you come from the right side. When you come to a street crossing, if there's a car coming from your right hand side, unless there's a sign that indicates to act differently, you have to stop and let it go ahead. But again that's just the theory! Normally you get to the intersection surrounded by myriads of other vehicles and find it already occupied by throngs of other vehicles. So who goes first? You just move slowly and occupy the pace your are given (conquer) allowing other drivers to gain their space in order to let everyone to keep moving. This can't be explained really, to learn this things as you grow up and they become part of your nature. When you turn fourteen, your parents make you independent by buying you a 50 cc scooter or a micro car, like the one in the picture, and that's when you start confronting the traffic. Live and learn!

Are there any traffic rules?

There are traffic rules obviously, but if they would be respected to the letter nobody would be getting anywhere. The cops would never make it to work either. Rome, and more generally most of the cities in Europe, developed centuries before cars where invented. Until cars where invented, people walked everywhere and used means of transportation to travel far or to carry heavy loads. This is also one of the reasons why the streets are narrow.

If the streets had been wider, the cities would have been too big to walk them and it would have also made them more vulnerable to the any potential enemy's attacks.

So especially the parking rules are disregarded. The 'no parking' signs are everywhere in  the center of Rome. But everywhere you see those signs you also see cars parked. The sign are distributed thinking as if the center of Rome had 300,000 inhabitants and not three millions! In fact, during the month of August, when all the locals get out of the city for their vacations, they look appropriately assigned. But what about the rest of the time when everybody's doing their thing? Let's just consider the delivery trucks that supply groceries to the restaurants and talk about the area around piazza Navona for example. There are hundreds of restaurants within the space of maybe two acres and only three legal parking spaces reserved for the trucks. If the cops would force them to obey parking regulations, Rome would be full of starving tourists!

Do you people ever get a parking ticket?

We talked about the situation and maybe by now you understand that the cops have to be tolerant. However, people tend to exaggerate and they have to reminded periodically that they cannot just do whatever they do. So every once in a while you will see them on an 'expedition'. They would move on to an area where people customarily park their cars illegally, like if it was perfectly alright to do so and doing so slowing up or completely stopping the traffic. The cops would then move in and toe cars away or 'boot' them. This scares everyone and reminds them that they better not take advantage of situation force them to a more appropriate behavior.

How many scooter riders get killed everyday?

C'mon, let's not exaggerate! Surely scooters get involved in accidents everyday in Rome and if you go to the emergency room of a hospital there's always at least one person there because of the consequences of a fall down. But in most cases it's only bruise or broken bones. We don't really have data because the statistics do not specify, they consider accidents in general  and not scooter accidents with a person killed in the city itself. Motorcycle accidents are reported by the local papers when somebody gets killed and you read about them twice a month. It is sad and we don't want to say it's irrelevant, but compared to the number of scooters you see around, it makes them look safer than they do as they zip through the traffic. When you stop at a street light, during rush hours, if you're in a car, you feel like you're in the wrong vehicle at the start of a motocross race!

If you want to be cynical, you can consider the accidents motorcycle accidents collateral damage to the attempt of saving Rome's traffic from coming to complete, total and definite stop. Rome is the city in Europe that has the largest number of motorcycles. Why? Because it's the most practical means of transportation that's why!

If all of those who get where they're going by scooter would drive a car instead, there would be not space left for any vehicle to move and pollution would be unbearable. It has been proves that a scoter moves through the city quicker than any other vehicle and, in additions a scooter is allowed to enter any section of the city while instead there are severe restrictions for all the other vehicles. For example no private cars are allowed to drive in the area enclosed within the Old Roman Walls. Consequently, if you live outside of the walled in area but work there, the scooter is your best choice if you want to on time!

All this means that riding a motorcycle here in Italy in different than it is elsewhere in the world. Yes, people ride their big bikes out to the country on the week-ends, but during the week they go to work on their scooters! So you see beautifully dressed up ladies in their high heels and distinguished gentlemen in their suits riding their scooters to work or anywhere else.

So maybe the final answer to this fatidic question of how many scooter riders get killed everyday in Rome, is simply that scooter riders getting killed everyday in Rome is the same as the amount of car drivers getting killed in their cars where people drive a car to get to work.

When the locals cross the street they just close their eyes and go!

No way! Don't even think of doing that, you'll get killed! We guess the reason why people think so, is the we walk slowly across the street, while instinctively a tourist would run when he estimates he has a sufficient gap between vehicles. When we walk across the street we walk slowly towards the center of the street allowing the upcoming vehicle the space to pass and we continue to walk after it has passed and so to permitting to the next coming vehicle to continue to drive skirting us from behind.

In other words we merge into the traffic without forcing vehicles to stop for us. But that's another one of those things you learn to do as you're growing up...

In any case that's what drivers expect you to do when you walk across the street and it is very risky or hesitate. A good way to get hit by a car is to go half way, then panic and start running back. In fact the first vehicle would probably miss you, but you'll get hit by the next one. The driver of that vehicle would have thought that you would have continued in the same direction and started his maneuver to go around behind you.

You take your life in your hands when you cross the street!

No you don't. If you maneuver they way we described above allowing the drivers of the vehicles to understand what you are up to, than you are ok. Always look at the vehicles and their drivers to make sure they saw you and try to understand what they expect you to do.

Depending on the situation, they could either slow down for you or increase their speed to get out of your way.

Curiosity: the local drivers are afraid of the tourists when they see them start to walk across the street. They don't know what to expect from them and generally prefer to stop rather than running the risk of hitting them, but it's also a certain sense of hospitality that makes them stop just to be courteous with a visitor.

Adrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck on the Vespa scooter
Roman Holiday
Traffic near the Colosseum
Traffic
Traffic policemen giving ticket to a "Micro Car"
Traffic policemen giving ticket to a "Micro Car"
A lady parking her scooter
A lady parking her scooter
Stilettos, miniskirt and scooter!
Stilettos, miniskirt and scooter! 
Scooters!
Scooters ! 
C'mon Caesar, let's go and conquer Gallia ! 
 

 

Geography & Climate

Rome's coordinates are 41°54'39"24 N latitude and 12°28'54"48 E longitude.

This means that Rome is as far north as Stamford, Connecticut and Cheyenne, Wyoming USA, pretty far from the Tropics isn't it? Therefore, even though in the summer  it gets hot to the point that would make one think he's very far south in the world, we are not and we do not have tropical weather, which means no rainy seasons or hurricanes.

Italy is a peninsula that extends in to the Mediterranean Sea and it's shaped like a boot (sorry, but we found out some people don't know this) ending on the North side with the Alps and the Dolomites that shield it from the cold weather coming from the north and Rome in particular is also shielded against the cold coming from North-East by the Apennines mountains which run throughout the peninsula from North to South.

Rome is almost on the Mediterranean Sea, only 12 miles separate it from the coastline. The Mediterranean Sea is a lot warmer than ocean water and keeps the peninsula warm.

When the French or the Spanish go to the coast they may have to specify whether they're going to the sea or the ocean, Italians can't choose, they can only go to the sea, unless they want to travel abroad...

If you fly into Fiumicino airport early in the morning, when it's still rather hazy, driving on the motorway to Rome you may have the impression that you're in a country as flat as Holland. But that's just because you can't see far and the airport was built in the appropriate location, by the sea, where the land is flat. But if the air is clear an you can see far, driving in the direction of Rome you'll see that beyond it there are hills and mountains beyond those hills. If you had x-ray view and could see through those mountains you'd see that the scenario on the other side is the similar, after the mountains come the hills and after the hills the land gets flatter close to the coast.

Mediterranean is the general name for the sea and it comes from medius, "middle" and terra, "earth", in other words inland sea. But the Mediterranean is divided into smaller seas so the everybody can have their own part and the sea of Rome, which is on the western coast of Italy, is called the Tyrrhenian Sea, name which was given to it by the Etruscans who maybe named it after their prince Tyrrhenus or after themselves, Tyrrhenians is in fact the Greek name of the Etruscans.

Do you want to know what kind of weather to expect during your visit?

Maybe this table can help you find out, click here! 

Map of Italy and the Italian Seas

Map of Italy and the Italian Seas

The Mediterranean

 

Climate data for Rome-Ciampino airport, near city centre (1961–1990)

Month

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Year

Average high °C (°F)

11.8
(53.2)

13.0
(55.4)

15.2
(59.4)

18.1
(64.6)

22.9
(73.2)

27.0
(80.6)

30.4
(86.7)

30.3
(86.5)

26.8
(80.2)

21.8
(71.2)

16.3
(61.3)

12.6
(54.7)

20.5

Daily mean °C (°F)

7.3
(45.1)

8.3
(46.9)

10.1
(50.2)

12.8
(55.0)

17.0
(62.6)

20.9
(69.6)

23.9
(75.0)

23.9
(75.0)

20.8
(69.4)

16.3
(61.3)

11.6
(52.9)

8.3
(46.9)

15.3

Average low °C (°F)

2.7
(36.9)

3.5
(38.3)

5.0
(41.0)

7.5
(45.5)

11.1
(52.0)

14.7
(58.5)

17.4
(63.3)

17.5
(63.5)

14.8
(58.6)

10.8
(51.4)

6.8
(44.2)

3.9
(39.0)

10.0

Precipitation mm (inches)

102.6
(4.039)

98.5
(3.878)

67.5
(2.657)

65.4
(2.575)

48.2
(1.898)

34.4
(1.354)

22.9
(0.902)

32.8
(1.291)

68.1
(2.681)

93.7
(3.689)

129.6
(5.102)

111.0
(4.37)

874.7
(34.437)

Avg. precipitation days

9.0

8.8

8.7

8.7

5.8

4.4

2.2

3.2

5.6

7.6

10.9

9.6

84.5

Sunshine hours

120.9

132.8

167.4

201.0

263.5

285.0

331.7

297.6

237.0

195.3

129.0

111.6

2,472.8

Source: Servizio Meteorologico dell'Aeronautica Militare

 
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