Finding a Place to Stay
We looked for several months at a variety of Hotels and B&B’s in Rome for our pre-cruise three night stay. We began by mapping out the location of the sights that we wanted to see on Google Earth such as the Trevi Fountain, the Forum, The Colosseum, Spanish Steps, The Vatican, Piazza Navona, The Pantheon and the Capitol. Once those were plotted, we added several hotels and a few B&B`s to our Rome map based on the contributions from IgoUgo members, TripAdvisor reviews and comments from CruiseCritic.com contributors. I would also highly recommend buying the Rome guide published by DK Eyewitness Travel. It is an easy read and highlights Rome by area making it very easy decide what would be of interest to you.
Our criteria were location, atmosphere, reputation and price. The Nicolas Inn B&B was the hands down winner in every category. The Nicolas Inn is within walking distance of everything. Hospitality can only be genuine in nature, and the owners of the Nicolas Inn (Francois and Melissa Nicolas) made our Rome stay an exceptional experience. It’s the little things that they do that you really make a difference. You tend to appreciate them more after you stay somewhere else where those gestures of goodwill are not offered or even considered to be important by the larger hotels. If you are planning on staying in Rome, I would encourage you to reference our full review on the Nicolas Inn that I will be posting shortly.
Arriving from the Leonardo da Vinci airport, you will need to take a train into Rome. The price of a one way ticket was 11 Euros per person. You should buy your train tickets at the Tobacco store adjacent to the train platform at the airport. It is better to wait for the direct train if you can as it will save you 30 minutes on the trip. When you come up the stairs to the platform area, turn right and you will see it across the concourse. There are several companies also offering motor coach services to the Termini station but you should be aware that they also charge an additional fee for every bag that they place in the trunk, so two people with three checked pieces of luggage will cost approximately 100 Euros for the one way trip. It is important that you validate each ticket before boarding the train. Throughout our train rides in Italy and Greece, we always saw the officials checking tickets.
The Termini Station is the main train station in Rome and is quite large. It took us over 20 minutes to walk from the arrival platform to the main exit. The Nicolas Inn is located on via Cavour - one of the streets that border the Termini Station, so getting to our B&B on foot was very easy. There are an abundance of cabs available but the same luggage costs apply, so the half mile trip will cost you 15 – 20 Euros depending on traffic.
A few words about pickpockets - You will read that they are everywhere. We travelled with a backpack full of camera equipment, enough euros for the day, generally 150 Euros or less, and never felt uneasy or unsafe while in Rome or anywhere else on our three weeks in Europe. Basically, it comes down to common sense. If you place your wallet in a loose back pocket, it will likely disappear. Here is a tip for anyone traveling with a backpack: Take a few twist ties with you to join the zippers of the backpack together for extra security. As our host at the Nicolas Inn put it, "Trust is good…no trust is better."
As we walked along the cobblestone sidewalks the traffic sound of a big city provided a distinct contrast to the ancient history that was about to envelop us. The Nicolas Inn is located less than five minutes from the Forum and as we got closer to our B&B our view of the Forum directly in front of us and the Colosseum to our left energized us from our 16 hours of travelling. Upon arriving at the Inn, we were greeted by our host Francois who had two ice cold glasses of water waiting for us. Rome in June is very hot and humid and even a short walk in 90 degree heat can seem longer than it is.
Getting Around in Rome
There are no shortage of busses and taxis around Rome, but with the summer heat and humidity, standing on a crowded bus was very unappealing. We elected to walk everywhere based on the location of our B&B. It also provided us with a chance to wander down a side street if we wanted to. We also avoided the tours as we wanted to see Rome on our schedule, not that of the tour operator. We witnessed 50 people leaning out the windows of a bus to take pictures of the Forum as they drove by and were glad we decided to walk. If you are unable or not interested in walking everywhere I would recommend that you purchase a Roma Pass. You can by a Roma Pass at most tobacco stores and it is good for all public transportation in Rome.
Crossing streets can be a challenge at uncontrolled intersections. Italian drivers have heavy feet but they will stop abruptly for pedestrians - just make sure that you make eye contact with them as you step off the curb. It is easy to see the newcomers to Rome. They are the ones standing on the edge of the curb for an eternity! It seems daunting but after a half day, you will get the hang of it.
If you are walking, you must take a water bottle with you to stay hydrated. There are many water fountains in Rome where you are able to refill it. The water is cool and very good to drink.
Food in Rome
Our host Francois was able to recommend several restaurants nearby and reminded us that Italians run on a different timetable then North Americans do. The majority of the retail shops and restaurants close just after lunch and although most retail stores re-open at 4:30 the restaurants do not re-open until 7:00 pm. If your goal is to experience Rome as local resident, I would recommend getting a table early and watch the restaurant come alive. The pace of service is much slower than we see back home making it a very relaxed atmosphere. So relaxed, that you will need to ask your waiter for the bill when you are ready to leave.
We chose to dine at restaurants that were recommended by the Nicolas Inn. These places were where the locals ate and were typically located a block or two away from the tourist restaurants. The cozy atmosphere combined with the generous portions of pasta made dining in Rome a great experience. We were never disappointed in the quality of the food and we were able to dine in most instances for less then 35 Euros at dinner and 30 Euros for lunch if we limited ourselves to a couple of drinks each. By comparison, a lunch on the patio of Piazza Navona which is lined with colourful cafes and shops will set you back 60 Euros for the same meal. The atmosphere isn’t as quaint, but the setting is beautiful and it is worth a look to decide which ambience you prefer.
Our breakfasts were included with our room and they were served at a café just down from the Nicolas Inn. They had a great selection of croissants and pastries and provided a great start to each day.
Gelaterias are everywhere and we found ourselves making at least two trips to them each day. You should never pay more than 2 Euros for a single scoop and never buy your gelato from a street vendor as they just don’t have big enough coolers to provide a good product.
You should also never line up for pizza regardless of how good the review is. You will quickly notice that there are thousands of pizzerias in Rome so why wait in line?
Access to ATMs
I would recommend checking with your bank prior to leaving to inquire about ATM fees in Europe. For a $10 account change, we were able to withdraw Euros as we needed them without paying a $10 ATM fee on each transaction. There are lots of ATMs around Rome so you won’t need to map out their locations in advance.