Things to do in Rome
by linzeeloulabelle on July 2, 2012
Knowing that the Circus Maximus was once home to chariot races in Rome, I was quite excited to go and see what it all used to be about. The area is clearly shown on all maps of Rome and the route to get there easy to see. The Latin translation for Circus Maximus is large circus so from this, I was expecting to get to see something quite spectacular. == Getting there == Getting to the Circus Maximus is extremely easy. The site is just across the road from the Circo Massimo metro stop which is on blue line B. To get here, usually you will need to change metro lines at Termini which is on red line A. From here, the metro will only take roughly 5 minutes to get to Circo Massimo. There are also plenty of bus stops around the area. Circus Maximum is within walking distance from the Colosseum. == History == Circus Maximo was the first and largest stadium in ancient Rome. After being fully built, the stadium measured over 2000ft in length and 380ft in width. Full capacity could reach 150,000 spectators. The stadium was built under the rule of Julius Caeser in about 50BC. Not only were chariot races held here but also animal hunts, athletics and even gladiator games. As the Colosseum was built at a later date, many of these events were stopped at Circus Maximus giving more time for chariot racing. The last known animal hunts were held in 523AD and the last races in 549AD. == My experience == Upon arriving at Circus Maximus, I was extremely disappointed from the start. My boyfriend and I walked across the road, getting ourselves ready to see something great… and we were met with a field. At first, we were both in a bit of denial, reassuring ourselves that we were in the wrong place. After consulting several different maps, it seemed as though we were actually looking at Circus Maximus. It is quite hard to imagine what kind of stadium that this once was due to only seeing a field in its place. Unlike other ruins in Rome, there is no information anywhere about this one or pictures around the site letting people know what used to be there. Nor is the site well marked as I think many people could just walk past it like we nearly did. If looking at plain fields is your kind of thing then this is the attraction for me… not the kind of thing I want to spend time on while in Rome though. Unlike what this stadium would have been in its heyday, Circus Maximus is now used as a public park and a pretty pathetic one at that. All that can be seen of the original stadium are parts of the track and where the middle used to be, where statues were once placed. As a park, Circus Maximus fails. The grass is patchy and rough, with a hell of a lot of rubble and rocks taking its place. Even standing in the middle of this mass of land didn’t do anything for me. I was standing there, trying to imagine what the atmosphere would have been like but that didn’t work out too well. This site has no imagination left in it at all and I wish something more could or would be done with it. Circus Maximus was the most disappointing thing I did while in Rome and was sad that I even wasted time on going there. Luckily, this is really close to the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum so even if you do go here and realise what a waste of time it is, there is something else for you to do that is worthwhile close by.
by linzeeloulabelle on July 1, 2012
Choosing to fly to Rome with Ryanair meant that we had no choice but to fly to Rome-Ciampino Airport. Ciampino doesn’t deal with larger airlines so if you find you are flying on a budget; this is probably the airport you will arrive at. Getting to and from Rome is very easy from Rome-Ciampino Airport. With a pre-booked shuttle bus, we were able to be in the center of Rome only 40 minutes after our flight. On the way back to the airport, it only took 30 minutes as there was a very small amount of traffic. Our bus cost €8 each for return tickets although one way will cost €6. Taxis to and from the airport can be expensive and still take the same amount of time in most cases. == Arrivals == My experience with the arrivals sections of the airport was extremely positive. Once out flight had landed and we were allowed off the plane, I realised just how small an airport this was. As we flew without checked luggage, we only had our hand luggage to carry off the plane so there was no need to wait to pick anything else up. Even so, the baggage claim area was amazingly quiet. When going through passport control, there was only a couple of people in front of us. The man working at the booth barely looked at my passport before letting me through. The arrivals area is quite small with not much on offer. Straight ahead is the ticket booth for Terravision, a bus service to Roma Termini. We had already booked tickets online but as our flight arrived early, I decided to ask if I could change them or not. The woman at the desk quickly reassured me by saying we could get on whatever bus we wanted and there was already one outside waiting if we wanted to get on that one. Arriving at this airport was extremely quick and easy and was a lot less stressful than other airports I have been to. == Departures == Departing from Rome-Ciampino Airport was unfortunately not as pleasant. We arrived at the airport way too early, thanks again to catching an earlier Terravision bus than planned. Our flight home was not until 11:30am but we arrived at about 8am. Usually flights need a good 2 hours beforehand so that you have time to get through security etc. but here, it took us about 10 minutes. Again, no checked luggage so there was no need for checking in as we had already done this online. After crossing through security there was barely anything to do. As well as a ‘duty free’ shop which sold alcohol and perfume, there were a couple of small accessories shops and a snack bar. The snack bar only sold drinks, pastries and few small sandwiches so there was nowhere to get anything proper to eat. Next to this snack bar was a burger place but due to it being in the morning, this wasn’t open. The shopping area at Rome-Ciampino Airport is the smallest and most pathetic I have ever seen. Although I did buy some perfume and cigarettes because they were cheap, there was not much else on offer. We had nearly 3 hours to kill before our flight and there definitely wasn’t enough to do for this length of time. One of my main problems with this airport, which is just a personal thing, was that there was no smoking area after security. I know that many places now have smoking bans in place but most airports still have smoking areas. If you are at the airport even the recommended 2 hours before a flight, this is a long time to wait. As there wasn’t much to keep me occupied, I could feel myself getting stressed and restless. == Overall == Normally, I find airports quite fun but Rome-Ciampino Airport is one of the most boring and unimaginative that I have ever been to. The building has no colour inside; there wasn’t even an Italian flag in sight. If I hadn’t already known what country I was flying to, I wouldn’t have had any idea just from looking at the airport. The airport is small, which is a good thing as you arrive there but there just isn’t enough to do in the departure lounges. The only good thing about this is that you can’t overspend money you don’t have. I would definitely advise a big meal before heading to the airport or waiting until about an hour before your flight to pass through security.
The Fontana di Trevi or otherwise known as the Trevi Fountain was another on my top things to do while in Rome although it was one of the last things we went to see. At our B&B we were given a map of Rome and shown how to get to certain places although we already went armed with guide books. The Trevi Fountain can be found by travelling to the Barberini metro stop which is on red line A and only 2 stops away from Termini. If you haven’t seen a picture of the fountain before, don’t be confused by the fountain right outside the metro stop. This isn’t what you want to see. The Trevi Fountain is about a 10 minute walk away from the metro stop and with the help of a good map, is easy enough to find. After getting off the main road, you will begin to walk down some narrow, cobbled streets and you will know from here you are going the right way. The streets in this area are full of tourist souvenir shops, small boutiques and plenty of restaurants. The restaurants are overpriced though due to being near such a popular tourist attraction. If you move over just a couple of streets, you will be able to find places which are much more reasonable. The Trevi Fountain kind of creeps up on you, even when following a map. All of a sudden, we turned a corner and there in front of us was this huge fountain with the surrounding area filled with people. Even though we had already been to the Colosseum, this was by far the busiest place that we visited. The steps leading down to the water were hard to navigate but I was determined to get right down to the bottom. Legend has it that if you throw a coin into the fountain, it secures you a return visit to Rome. Although I don’t really believe this and rarely ever visit the same place twice, I still wanted to take part in the tradition. After throwing in my coin, amongst many others doing the same, I could take a step back and look at the wonder of the fountain. I have never seen anything like this before and I could have stood there looking for hours. The fountain was made in Roman tradition to build a fountain at the end of an aqueduct and in 19BC, it is said that with the help of a virgin, a source of pure water was found here. This tale is what makes up the scene told by the statues on the fountain. I really loved looking at the way in which the fountain was put together and which of the statues I recognised. With the water flowing freely, this is certainly a sight to remember. If you have time, I would highly recommend that you visit this fountain in both the day and the night. While I thought it was beautiful in the day, it was even more spectacular at night. The whole fountain is lit up which makes the sight so much better. However, there seemed to be so many more people around at night time so if you want to throw a coin in, it is best to do this during the day. Although this is a very beautiful place to visit, be warned that the area is filled with people trying to rip you off or trying to make you buy things. Rome has a lot of people walking around with roses and forcing them into your hands then making you pay for them. I have found that the easiest way to avoid this is just to not look at them and carry on walking. These kinds of sellers did ruin the experience a little bit for me but once you learn to ignore them, they’re not too bad.
Although there were other things that I wanted to see while I was in Rome, the Colosseum was definitely at the very top of my list. The Colosseum is probably the best known attraction in Rome, next to maybe The Vatican, and I couldn’t wait to see it up close. As this was something that my boyfriend and I was so excited to see, we booked tickets for a tour well in advance with www.tickitaly.com. Our tickets cost around £30 each and they consisted of a three hour tour with added access to lower and upper levels which you cannot see with a regular ticket. Our tour guide met us across the road from the Colosseum and soon began our tour. Deborah, the guide, spoke really good English and was extremely knowledgeable so I couldn’t recommend using this tour service highly enough. == Getting There ==Getting to the Colosseum is incredibly easy. Right across the street from the building itself is the Colosseo Metro stop which is on the blue B line. We had to use the red A line first and swap over at Termini but this wasn’t a problem at all. Using the metro is super simple and easy to follow. From the Termini stop, it will only take about 5 minutes to get to the Colosseum. There are also bus stops outside and taxis will be able to take you there although they will be extremely expensive in comparison to the bus or metro. == Opening Times and Prices == The Colosseum is open from 9am each day apart from Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Closing times vary depending on the time of the year but from March to October, closing times are roughly somewhere between 6 and 7:30pm. If you don’t want to go in the soaring heat then going later in the day is a good choice. General admission will cost €15.50 although this does not grant you access to any of the extra areas. If you have a Roma Pass, this attraction is free and you can skip the queues completely by using a machine at the front of the entrance. Also, if you visit Palatine Hill and The Roman Forum first, paying €12 for a ticket, this will also gain you admission to the Colosseum. == History == Something that I didn’t know before the tour was that before the Colosseum was built, the area used to be an artificial lake which housed sea and naval battles. The original name of the Colosseum is the Flavian Amphitheatre but was changed due to locals associating it with the huge statue placed outside. The actual construction of the Colosseum began in 72AD and was completed in only 8 short years. The Colosseum was originally used for Gladiator games, animal hunts, public executions and for performing dramas. Once the building had been completed with the four different seating levels, it could hold 73,000 spectators. == My Experience == As soon as I got even close to this building, I was completely blown away. The sheer size of the building was extremely impressive, even with large chunks of the walls being missing. From standing outside, I was able to get some really amazing photos which I was so pleased about and it only made me more excited to see the inside. I think that if we hadn’t have gone on a guided tour, I wouldn’t have had a clue about what I was looking at or experiencing. Inside the Colosseum really does look just like a bunch of old ruins. As you enter the building, you first come to the small stage. The original stage has been destroyed and a small one has been put in its place so that you can get a feel for what it would have been like and also so that you can see down into the lower levels. Here, our guide explained all about the four levels of seating and who was allowed to sit where. I would have loved to have been able to see the building when it was whole and to be able to imaging so many people sitting in the seats. Next on our tour was the lower levels. This, for me, was the most impressive part of the Colosseum and the reason why I paid for a tour. This section is off limits for people with regular tickets so another staff member followed us around unlocking gates and doors for us as we went. Down in the lower levels, it was explained that this was where the Gladiators, animals and slaves were kept. We were shown all about how the cages and trap doors were used back in the day and how they were the Roman’s versions of elevators which was extremely impressive. The lower levels were dark, a little damp and quite crowded so I can only imagine what it would have been like with so many people being down there at one time. After the lower levels, we were taken up to the second level, then the third level of the seating areas. The fourth level is nearly non-existent now so it wasn’t possible for us to go up there. However, the third levels give insane views of the Roman Forum, the Arch of Constantine and the interior of the Colosseum itself. From here, you could see so much and really get a feel for what it would have felt like to have been sat up there watching the games. Our tour guide gave us as much history and information as she could along the way, even explaining to us how Gladiators would have been killed if they were granted mercy. Some parts of the tour were a bit gory because of pictures and descriptions but I loved this. == Overall == Although the Colosseum can be expensive if you pay for a tour, the extra money spent is well worth it. With our tour, we also got a small guided tour of the Roman Forum which was a nice extra that I didn’t know about. This is one of the most impressive buildings that I have ever seen and is definitely a must see if you are in Rome. If you don’t visit this, you must be mad!
by linzeeloulabelle on June 30, 2012
When it came to booking a hotel for Rome, I had no idea where to start. I didn’t know where any of the best areas were to be or what would be the most decently priced. After looking at a large hotel just outside of the city which was really cheap, I stumbled across the Vacanze Romane 2. From looking at a map, this Bed and Breakfast looked to be pretty central and for €75 a night, I hadn’t found anything similar. The Vacanze Romane 2 is only a couple of blocks walk away from Roma Termini, the main train station although it did take some figuring out. The train station has 2 sides to it and street names aren’t clear so it took a while to even be able to find where we were supposed to be. Once we did though, the walk was only about 10 minutes. If you are familiar with Rome’s Metro system though it is only one stop away and then a 2 minute walk which would have been much easier. Something that we didn’t know about before booking this room was that you have to ring the owner when you get there. This we figured out from reading other reviews and the owner himself emailing me. I know how strange this sounds and we were extremely worried that no one would turn up when we got there. However, after a quick phone call to the owner, he was there in less than 5 minutes on his scooter to let us in and give us our keys. Although this is not a very normal way of staying somewhere, it worked well enough for us and as we didn’t have to wait around, I didn’t mind it at all. The Vacanze Romane 2 is situated on the third floor of an Italian apartment building. While this may sound quite strange, I loved it. Rather than stay in a chain hotel, you get a better feeling for the city and the country and you can see how other people live. Once we got in the front door of the B&B, we were given a choice of rooms as the others weren’t occupied yet which was nice as we got the room we wanted rather than being stuck in one of the smaller choices. The owner of the B&B showed us how each of the keys worked and what the features of our room were. We had a very cute dining table and a fridge, which the other rooms didn’t have as well as a double bed and bathroom. What I loved the most about this B&B was the décor. Although the walls were painted a plain colour, they were covered in old movie posters in Italian. I love films and knowing that this was how the rooms were decorated was one of the main reasons I chose to book here. The rooms had something a little extra about them in comparison to big hotel chains and ours definitely stood out to anywhere else I have ever stayed. All around the room were little knickknacks resembling film memorabilia or items from the period of the film posters. This decoration really gave the room character and it was just interesting to be in. One thing that did let down our stay here was the bed. Our bed was actually a sofa bed pulled out and I really would have preferred to have had a real bed. However, the bed was much more comfortable than I imagined it would be. On each of the three nights here I slept really well which is more than I can say for some hotels I have stayed in before. The bed came with the two sofa cushions as well as extra pillows. Sheets included one coloured top sheet and a very thin sheet. We definitely didn’t need anything more than this as it was so hot but it was nice to know that there were extra blankets in the wardrobe. The wardrobe was quite large with two shelves above the hanging section. Hangers were supplied and the amount was fine for both me and my boyfriend. If we had been staying longer than three nights though I probably would have wanted more or made my boyfriend fold his clothes up so I could have the hangers! Also in the room was a TV although because the channels were in Italian we couldn’t really use it. The room had massive windows which opened inwards, letting in a lot of light and air. The view was nothing special though as the room backed onto the courtyard of the apartment building. As well as the big windows, the room had air-conditioning which was a god send at night when it got too hot. The bathroom here was quite basic and exactly what I expected from somewhere so cheap. Inside is a sink, toilet and shower along with a bidet. The shower was amazing and had a really powerful stream of water. However, you couldn’t turn this on before getting in and closing the doors otherwise you would end up nearly flooding the bathroom like I did on the first night. Also in the bathroom is a hairdryer although I’m not quite sure it deserves the name. The hairdryer was actually some form of box on the wall and a handle which came off, resembling a hoover. The air coming out of this when turned on was lousy and not very warm at all. I have long hair and it took me ages to get it even nearly dry which was not something I wanted to spend ages doing while on holiday. Still, it was somewhat better than having to take my own. As I have said, this is a B&B although not in the typical sense. As the rooms are in an apartment building, there is nowhere for breakfast to be served. Instead of breakfast what you get are tokens for breakfast at a bar down the street. Bar Trani (crazy name, I know) is on the way to the Metro stop and only 2 minutes’ walk. Here you can have a choice of pastries and hot drinks although I don’t drink anything like that so I was allowed a bottle of something instead. Staff here are very helpful and lovely to talk to. It was actually really nice to go in and sit there for breakfast before heading out for the day. The Vacanze Romane 2 is not like anywhere else I have ever stayed but it is one of the most enjoyable. The building and rooms have character unlike big hotels and it was very unique. The price and location are fantastic and we couldn’t have gotten any more central for the price we paid. The owner was extremely helpful and told us that if we needed to, we could call him again at any time. Things here could be improved but if I ever head back to Rome, I want to stay here again.
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