A May 2007 trip
to Rome by Wasatch
Quote: Rome is an object lesson in what can be accomplished by stealing on a grand scale.
The Emperors stole with taxes to build a marble covered city. The Christians stole the Emperors marble to build churches. Today, hotels, pickpockets, and gypsies steal from tourists. Rome truly is the cradle of Western Civilization– thievery run amok. Listed in order by how impressed we were are the sights of Rome we saw in three days:Ancient Rome: The Roman Forum– in the small valley along the Via Sacra was the civic center of the Republic. The palace ruins on Palatine Hill (fee) was where most of the Emperors lived. The Pantheon is the most completely reserved ancient building, with a spectacular marble interior. The Coliseum packs a big wow factor, even after seeing it in all those pictures, but the visit (fee) to the interior may not be worth the time in line required, for not much is preserved inside and you cannot visit the rooms that were under the stage.Ancient Rome, second string: The uncrowded, vast Baths of Caracalla are another reminder of the scale on which the Empire built. Augustus’ Temple of Peace is considered the greatest remaining work of Ancient art. Hadrian’s Tomb/Castelo San Angelo (fee). The Popes turned Hadrian’s Mausoleum into a fort and built places on top. The original structure of the tombs of the Emperors is best seen at Augustus’ Mausoleum, a circular brick building with a garden on top, then topped off with a statue of the Emperor (now missing). The Imperial Fora.Trevi Fountain
Great Churches: St John in Lantern was the headquarters of the Catholic Church before the Vatican was built. The side (transept door) looks like the front door, but if you enter here, be suer to go outside the real front door at the far end of the nave to see an even more impressive entrance. There is €2(.83) charge to visit the excellent cloister, a visit that takes 3-5 minutes. St Carlos(Via Corso). San Clemente, near the Coliseum (bus # 117, 85) is unique. The"modern" 12th-century church was built on top of century church which can be explored by descending two fights of stairs (€5, .05). Continuing down stairs, the unguided tour goes through an even older Roman house with some vestiges of frescoes and mosaics. This is good lesson in how the modern city is built on top of the past centuries. Piazza NavonaCampidoglioThe Capitoline Museum(fee).St. Peters.Vatican SquareThe Spanish Steps.
We had eight guide books to Rome. Michelin Green Guide was by far the most useful, but if using public transportation, Eyewitness Rome has a usable map of bus routes in the tourist areas.
We were surprised that the Michelin Guide recommended seven hours to visit the Forum and Palatine Hill, but we spent five hours without getting to the Coliseum.
May 12-20, 2007 was Culture Week. All the government monuments, museums, etc. were free. This saved us about each on admissions. Most churches are free to enter, but money charge for stuff inside the church, like the Treasury, cloister visits, museums. Church interiors are works of art, and span the whole Christian time period. Churches have dress requirements for admission– no shorts or bare shoulders.Steps to protect against pickpockets and purse snatchers, generally gypsies, are a must. I will detail what to do in an "Experiences."Lasagne cost directly across from the Coliseum, but one block up the street from the Coliseum. After traveling extensively in Europe, we learned not to bother looking up restaurant recommendations on the Internet or in guide books, except the Michelin Red Guide, and in most cases, we don’t even bother with that. Restaurant quality in the areas where travelers in Western Europe find themselves is so high, that you can go eat at anyplace whose appearance and menu posted at the door strikes your fancy and you will not be disappointed. Price is some what related to quality, but we usually end up so tired at the end of the day that the closest restaurant to our hotel that looks decent is the place to eat. That’s how we ate in Rome, and we had three nice meals at three different restaurant all within a block of out hotel.Don’t miss Italian ice cream, gelato, sold all over the place at Getalatoterias.Italian pizza is quite good and very different from US pizza. Pizza is sold in at least three different types of places. Pizzerias may be either take out or by the slice or be a sit down restaurant serving whole pizzas-- one person size-- no slices. Many restaurants also have pizza in their prima patti (first course) menu.
Hotel | "Hotel Capo d’Africa"
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on May 23, 2007
Capo d'Africa Hotel
Via Capo d'Africa 54
Rome, Italy 00184
+39 (06) 772 801
Restaurant | "Across the Street from Le Naumachie"
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on June 29, 2007
Restaurant | "Osenlia il Bocconcino "
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on July 16, 2007
Restaurant | "Le Naumachie"
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 21, 2007
Via Celimontana, 7
Attraction | "Spanish Steps to the Vatican"
We bought an all-day transit pass at a news stand 1½ blocks from our hotel, I took a bus to the Coliseum Metro station to Spagna (Spanish Square) and the famous Spanish Steps (impressive, but I think over rated) and visit America Express to cash Amex Travelers’ Checks at the best rate we found in Italy.Rearmed with euros, we reversed direction to the far end of the Square and went left on Via d. Croce, an attractive narrow street lined with trendy shops, to Via Corso, Rome’s main shopping street. San Carlo al Corso, with its impressive Baroque interior was almost directly across V. Corso. A short walk (two blocks) to the left on leaving the church brought us to V. Pontifici, where a left turn brought us to the Tomb of Emperor Augustus.Although desecrated by the Popes, who stole the marble facing of the tomb and the ring of statues that circled the garden on top, Augustus’ Tomb remains impressive. To fully appreciate it, find the sign along the sidewalk circling the tomb that has a drawing of how it originally looked. Seeing this picture also helped understand the structure of Castle San Angelo (Hadrian’s Tomb).The Alter in Honor of the Peace of Augustus (~10BC), celebrating the end of 22 years of civil war, is adjacent to the tomb, inside the modern building. The alter is considered the finest remaining ancient Roman art work. Now on the banks of the Tiber, we crossed the river, turned left past the monumental Law Courts to Castle S. Angelo, which technically is only the top part of the structure, a Papal Palace built on top of the garden that surmounted the Emperor Hadrian’s Tomb. Note how the Popes used the massive ancient Roman building as the center piece of the fortifications protecting the Papal Palace. Don’t miss the Pope’s bathroom.There is a decent public restroom just inside the entrance on the left, and if I recall correctly, it can be reached before the ticket booth. After a visit to the Papal Palace, we proceeded along the Tiber to the grand entrance way to the grand entrance to Bernini’s grand Vatican Square where we visited St Peter’s Cathedral, saw the Pieta, and took a bus from just outside the entrance to Vatican Square back to within one block of our hotel. St Peter’s is the largest church in the world, almost 700 feet long, with 500 pillars supporting the roof. It is said to have once held 60,000 people. We thought the best view of the Pieta was from the right side, rather than head on. Scrunch right up to the wall. Note: If you are going directly into St Peter’s (free) rather than to the Papal Tombs(fee) under the church, you can bypass the long, long line waiting to get into the catacombs.
Being Culture Week, admission to Augustus’ Peace Alter and Hadrian’s were free. All in all, a fascinating walk through history.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 12, 2007
Spanish Steps (Scalinata)
Piazza Di Spagna
Rome, Italy 00187
Attraction | "The Forum (of the Republic), Forum Romani"
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 14, 2007
Largo Romolo e Remo
Rome, Italy 00186
Attraction | "Trevi Fountian"
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 21, 2007
Piazza di Trevi
Rome, Italy 00187
Attraction | "A Walk from Piazza Navona to Trevi Fountain"
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 28, 2007
Rome, Italy 00186
Attraction | "Palatine Hill "
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 9, 2007
Via San Gregorio
Rome, Italy 00184
Currency Exchange in Italy: On our 14 day trip around Italy, we tried to convert American Express Travelers Checks into euros 11 times and succeeded four times. The first attempt required visiting four different banks, waiting in line in each, only to be told that we had to go to a different bank in the first three banks.The second time was a major disaster– five banks, four long lines, and when we finally found a bank that claimed they could do it, the computer screwed up and came up with a wrong result. For $150, we should have received 106 euros. The computer came up with 55 euros. I pointed out the mistake to the bank, which they at first didn’t believe was an error. After they finally realized it was an error, it took them almost 20 minutes to cancel the mistake. Then I left, as neither of us was in any mood to try it again.Third attempt was at our hotel, which was easy but hotels don’t give very good rates– €67-€68 for $100.Finally, we arrived in Rome, which was full of exchange offices suggesting that it is possible to exchange, but we headed straight to American Express where our American Express Travelers Checks where quickly converted into euros at a good rate, €71 for $100. Before leaving home, we got euros from our bank in Utah for €70 for $100. This is not quite as good a deal as it looks compared to the exchange rates in Italy because the value of the dollar plunged between the time we got the euros in the USA and when we converted currency in Italy.
Cost of Living: Italy, especially Venice and Rome, are expensive places to visit, made even more costly for the tourist. In Rome $85 buys a decent, but by no means lavish diner– a good bottle of Chianti, one serving of lasagna, a modest sized piece of veal, two small potatoes, and a basket of bread at a modest neighborhood sidewalk café. Our table was in the street. We took our first trip to Europe in 1968, and this year was trip 33. This year, we encountered something we had never seen before– souvenir stores in popular destinations that refused to accept US currency. The greenback used to open all doors. Now they want euros.Other Money Matters: Although the exchange rate is usually poor in getting euros in the USA before you leave, it is handy to have some local currency on hand when you arrive. Otherwise, head straight to an exchange booth when you arrive at the end of your flight. Large American cities offer some choice in where you can exchange for foreign currency. We found that Deak regularly had the best rates, but Deak has limited outlets. In Utah, there is no choicebut the local bank. Most USA international airports have currency exchange booths, but not great rates. In Europe, the best exchange rate is at American Express, especially on American Express Travelers Checks. Next in order are banks with the word "Credit" in their name, other banks, exchange booths, and when desperate, your hotel.Don’t be fooled by exchange booths that post excellent rates. That is the rate before they deduct their commission, which is invariably larger than banks or AmEx.The big puzzle in currency conversion is how much to convert. The risks of getting too much local currency are  theft, and  getting dinged twice by bank charges when you have to convert it back to US$. On the other hand, every time you convert, you give up travel time, sometimes a lot of time, as with one of our failed attempts to convert which took almost three hours and pretty much ruined an afternoon of planned sightseeing.Carrying currency in a money belt reduces the risks of theft, but money belts have limited space and they create another problem. One of the joys of travel in Europe is eating well, which means gaining a few pounds, so you don’t want to start out with tight pants, but if your pants are too loose, how are you going to keep them up when you remove your money belt to pay a bill?
I used to use a money belt, but for the last few years I’ve changed to an over the neck pouch that serves as a billfold and passport carrier. There is some risk from thieves who carry knives to cut the straps of such pouches, so I stick it inside the front of my shirt. This seems to me to be a good defense against all types of thieves except armed muggers, which are uncommon in Europe.
Package Deals: Do package deals save money? Not always if you are a careful shopper. We spent three days in Rome at the end of a cruise. The ship offered a three night Rome extension for two in a deluxe room at a hotel rated 4.5 on TripAdvisor, including transfers from ship to hotel and from hotel to airport for $2,600. The hotel we selected on our own, also rated 4.5 but was in a better location; train, cab, and private car transfers; and tips cost us $1,386 for a Deluxe room. For $1,800, the cruise company offered the package in a lower rated hotel in a poor location. $1,000 is a lot to pay for the convenience of gangway pick up.
heber ctity, Utah