Another trip back in time to March 2016, when we travelled to Rome for another of our long weekend getaways.
Our holiday may have got off to a slow start, with a long wait for our coach and a walk across Rome to our hotel (awful idea with suitcases and mildly put cobbled streets) but you would be unsurprised to know it is a fast moving city…literally. If its not the mopeds, its the taxis and if its not the taxis its the segways zooming along.
We visited all of the well known tourist sites, the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, Trevi fountain, the Vatican, the Pantheon and The Spanish steps. We soon got our bearings though and could walk around and work our way back to our ‘checkpoint’ building, putting to rest my fear of getting lost.
From this trip a few tips came to mind, so I thought instead of a day by day (mostly taken up by walking) I would set it out in chronological tips.
1. Use a taxi to and from the airport.
We had booked tickets for one of the bus companies, wasn’t expensive for tickets so we booked to and from the airport while in the UK.
Little did we know the company would be so unorganised!
Our plane had arrived in good time so we walked out to the bus park. There were 5/6 rows with paths in between but no ‘wait here for ..’ Only two people walking around in hi-vis one of which informed us our bus had broken a window and so couldn’t travel. 50 minutes later a bus turned up drove through and carried on. Another 20 minutes and finally a bus we could get on. The buses were quite dated and old but the journey was fine until we got to the termini. We saw queues of people waiting looking throughly fed up and a person shouting ‘no this is not your bus, that one is’ to which the whole queue ran to the other bus!
When it came to travelling back to the airport we decided to choose the easiest option and guaranteed to get us there in time – a taxi. All official taxis are a fixed price to and from the airports so it was €30 between us. (Do be careful as ours tried to claim it was €35 until he was pointed to the side of his car where it clearly stated thirty).
2. Download an app for your phone.
We downloaded an app called ‘Rome’ by Triposo. We ended up using this app nearly every day as it had maps viewable offline.All the major attractions were ready to click and the handy marker would show where you were.
Rome is a maze of very small streets and although you can get your bearings, if you want to explore its easier to go where you want then have the option to set up a route to get you back to where you want to be.
3. Book tours and tickets in advance.
For the most popular places and more than likely the ones you are most interested in, will have long queues. To avoid any lengthy waits tickets can be bought online as well as tours, we chose just only book for the Colosseum as this was one of the main attractions we wanted to see.
We didn’t book a tour for the Vatican museum, as we were just interested in walking around and seeing it in our own time. Although looking back, booking ahead of time would have been the preferable option and would have saved us the 2 1/2 hour queue! We did invest in the fairly basic audio tour which proved useful as without it we wouldn’t have known what we were looking at.
Tip – Do not go with any ‘tour guides’ hanging around, no matter how convincing they are.
We saw many ‘guides’ around the Vatican claiming they could get you in, a quick look online and you can see 9 times out of 10 this is false. Theres a reason they ‘disappear’ when the police drive by.
For the Colosseum there are places where only a tour guide can get you access. Searching the night before we looked for tour operators with available spaces. One we came across and subsequently booked was ‘Mind the guide‘ which proved to be one of the best decisions we made. Included in our tour was a full tour of the Colosseum, Roman forum and Palatine Hill. Three extra highlights only tour guides can gain access to include walking on the arena floor where the gladiators would enter plus underneath where they would be before a fight with the animals as well as the upper top floor.
Our guide, Dario was very knowledgeable and made the Colosseum even more interesting by making it relatable and with a little humour thrown in. We met him just outside the Colosseum and were taken straight into the entrance – handy as the queue at 9am was already winding round both the entrance and security!
4. Walk walk walk.
Some places can be a corner away from each other where as others are a lot further walk away. Sensible shoes are a must not only for the amount of walking but also because anything else could cause an ankle injury if you trip on a large cobble… which I clearly never did…ever.
While on one of our walks we ended up walking past the Trevi Fountain three times in the same day! Slightly excessive but it is such a beautiful place without walking past these times we would not have seen three different sides to the Trevi Fountain. Once in the daytime, once at night and once for a WWF campaign. Never rule out visiting the same place more than once in Rome.
Before booking any tours we walked around Rome on the first day, this meant we saw the Colosseum at sunset as well as during the day when we saw the length of the queues. This then persuaded us to book the tour as many reviews online suggested.
5. Check opening times.
The day after we visited the Vatican Museum, it was closed, in relation to Palm Sunday, however we hadn’t read this anywhere other than on the large board right outside the entrance!
Other sites can also be undergoing maintenance, when we were there the Spanish Steps were cordoned off and people I knew who had gone before hadn’t been able to get close to the Trevi Fountain. To avoid saving certain sites for certain days and being disappointed, be sure they are fully open.
6. Get pushy.
Feels strange suggesting this, however if you want to see something you have two choices – wait or make your presence known. The majority of people will not move, most will stand and stay put. The rest of people will have selfie sticks which you will then need to duck and dodge and be aware of at all times.
The Trevi Fountain was oddly one of the rare places where people at the front do take their picture then move on. Although you may have to wait a little while longer if you want a picture without someone’s arm, face or body photobombing.
7. Look every way when crossing the road.
Cars, buses, mopeds, segways and bicycles are all on the roads (as well as the paths) so you need to be alert at all times. Crossings are a case of walk when people are walking and wait if they’re not.
We had an amazing time in Rome and the weather couldn’t have been better. It is a lot of walking but with the right shoes its never a problem. Round every corner you will find something new so explore.