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Rome, the Eternal City

Author: BJC
Email: BJC49@telstra (More Trip Reviews by BJC)
Date of Trip: June 2006



This report is on the five days we spent in Rome and one in Florence pre and post an Eastern Mediterranean Cruise we have just completed.

It's late May, early June and the tourists have just started the summer invasion of Rome. As such, the first tip we can provide is to get up early and start your sightseeing no later than 7:30 am, or you will be overwhelmed by the tide of humanity that invades the popular tourist sites from about 9 am onwards.

A prime example, having arrived at our hotel in Rome early evening, we decided to walk to the Trevi Fountain, which was just one block away. There were, what seemed like, 10 thousand people trying to get a glimpse of and throw their coins into the Trevi, and most were finding it quite a struggle.

Yet at 7:30 am the next morning, there were six of us, and it was truly a personal and magical experience, and one I can highly recommend.

We stayed both prior to and post cruise at the Hotel Regno, at 330 Via Del Corso, chosen for being right in the middle of the Old City, and just two to seven minutes walk from the Trevi, Spanish Steps, Pantheon, Pizza Navona, Campo de Fiori, Forum and Colosseum, and a 10 minute and 1 Euro bus ride from St. Peter's, like they say "location, location."

There are a number of hotels in this part of Rome, the buildings of which can be many hundred of years old. And while they are mostly modern and clean inside, the rooms are small and the bathrooms are tiny, so be prepared for this as a trade off for being so close to most of what you want to visit while in Rome.

Let me say I did a lot of searching the Internet for reviews and recommendations for restaurants to eat at, and we arrived armed with a long list.

Don't waste your time, there are thousands of very good and reasonably priced Cafe's down each side of every street and lane in the old city, we tried a new one every night, and never had a bad or overpriced meal.

Most display their priced menu outside so just wander along until you find one that looks good. A reasonably full house normally indicates a good place to eat, and while you're there, don't be frightened to order the House Wine, red or white. If there are a few of you, get the one litre jugs for about 5 - 6 Euro or the 500 ml half pot for 3 - 4 Euro. It's very, very drinkable.

For lunch, there are heaps of pizza shops where large trays of all different types of steaming hot pizzas come out of the ovens every couple of minutes, and all you do is point to the one you want they will position the knife over it and you tell them how big a slice, and you pay by weight.

A big slice, which they fold in half and serve in a napkin -- that as a big person I could only just eat -- cost about two Euros, and if that's not your style the Deli's sell big crusty bread rolls full of Palma Ham and Cheese for about three Euros. It's the only way to go. And if you're still hungry, there is a Galatia ice-cream shop on just about every corner. And let me say without fear of contradiction, Italian ice-cream is to die for.

Don't be afraid to buy your postcards, sunglasses, handbags, scarfs and anything else that takes your fancy from the many stalls that pop up all over the place. If the prices are marked and look reasonable, then that's what you will probably have to pay. If they are not marked, and when asked the price is more than expected and/or at other stalls, then you should bargain with them. Don't buy unless you're happy. Just thank them and walk away.

Without going into lengthy detail, as there are many other areas where this information can be found, we visited the following places of interest in Rome and would summarise our experiences as such:

  • Trevi Fountain -- A stunningly beautiful piece of artwork, unfortunately located in the wrong spot. Go early, but go.

  • Pantheon -- Stunning in every aspect, spiritually moving once inside, a must see

  • Spanish Steps -- When we were there, there were thousands of tourists sitting on the three levels of the steps, which is apparently what people go there to do, why, because there is nothing else, I wouldn't waste my time, sorry.

  • Piazza Navona -- Stunning statues, fountains and beautiful buildings. By day it's full of little stalls where artists display their paintings, postcard to A4 size, mostly water colours of every aspect of Rome, absolutely beautiful and for about 10 Euro. At night restaurants abound.

  • Campo de' Fiori -- A small square that from about 7 to 8 am fills with flowers, fruit, vegetable and produce stalls, including meat and fish. If you want to know what the locals eat and what it costs, then this is a must visit. Also in the buildings that form the square there are Delicatessen's that are stocked to overflowing with hams, sausages, cheeses, pasta, olive oils, balsamic vinegar, truffles, cakes, biscuits and wines. I was convinced that I had died and gone to Heaven!



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