Going to Rome and Florence! Advice?

MrRancher and I just booked a trip to Rome in November. The plan is to arrive in Rome, hop on the train to Florence and spend 4 nights there. Maybe take a day trip to a country town (MrRancher wants to see a castle - I’m hoping there’s one a train ride away from Florence!). Then train back to Rome for 3 nights.

I have been to Florence and loved it - never been to Rome, and MrRancher has never been out of the USA, save for Mexico.

I think we’re going to stay somewhere between the train station and the Duomo in Florence - Hotel Enza seems pretty decent, but I’m open to suggestions. Not so sure about Rome though. We originally were going to stay near the train station, but I’m thinking now we should be in a nicer area and suck it up and pay a little more for a hotel somewhere away from the Termini.

Any suggestions?

We want to see the Sistine Chapel, Colosseum, Trevi fountain, Spanish steps, and other than that just want to wander and eat good food and drink good wine.

I can’t wait!!!

My advice from just returning from Rome (three months ago).

Trevi fountain: ALWAYS PACKED. Go FIRST thing in the morning. Go at like 6 - 7 AM and you’ll get to enjoy it. I was there with my girlfriend that early on our last day in Rome. We watched as a small team swept the days haul of coins into a large pile and then scoop them out of the fountain. Filled two large plastic buckets full of coins. We then proceeded to toss our coins in the fountain. We figure if the legend is true it applies to the first coins of the day.

Sistine Chapel: Crap. Packed, stinky, and annoying on so many other levels… However, my advice is to arrive at the Vatican Museum in the late morning. Don’t go first thing, it is packed. Why? Bus tours arrive first thing. After the bus tours get in the lines are reasonable.

Colosseum: Buy your ticket the day before you go from the Palantine Hill ticket office (just off the forum). You’ll avoid an hour or so in line if you do this.

As for accomodations near the Termini, Papa Germano is fine. A few minutes from the station and it is clean, safe, quiet, and cheap. Also, it offers a free breakfast which was the best of our entire 11 city trip.

Enjoy the city.

Oh yeah, don’t be stupid and read up about pickpockets. One bus in particular is notorious (no. 63/64 ?). We stayed in a room with two Dutch teachers who were leading a trip with 12 girls. One girl got pickpocketed on the first day. The next day one of the teachers lost $200 euro to pickpockets. We didn’t encounter anything, but you’ve been warned. Don’t be stupid American tourists.

I just got back from Rome last week (only one day–part of a whirlwind tour of the Mediterranean.) I guess the only advice I can give is don’t try to see everything. Identify the things that are the most important to you and prioritize them first. Just being in the city itself, you are overwhelmed by the number of things there are to see. The whole place is a head trip. Just do your research ahead of time, make sure you are organized thoroughly as regards to transportation/venue hours, pace yourself (it’s hotttt), and

for the love of OG

eat some gelatto!*

*Preferably while gazing at the Trevvi Fountain.

I agree with olivesmarch4th that just wandering round Rome is a lovely experience itself. I always get the feeling that there’s so much history just lying around the place, I’ve never felt that anywhere else. For that reason, they’re often quite casual about it, which is sometimes a surprise. (Case in point: we walked up and down for almost 2 hours to find the circus maximus. When we got there, it’s a big field, with scattered rubbish - let me save you a trip).

I’d concur that the Sistine Chapel is a bit meh - you’ve seen it too many times to retain any real sense of wonder, although it’s nice to have been there, done that. The single most beautiful thing I saw was in the Vatican Museum. See, since someone went loopy with a hammer you can’t get close enough to the real Pieta to be moved, it’s all behind glass screens and you’re not encouraged to linger there particularly. However, in a small room in the Vatican Museum there is a full sized copy. I sat for almost half an hour looking at that thing, waiting for it to breathe. There was nobody else in the room and we were almost within touching distance of this amazing object. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in real life. I just wonder what effect the real thing would have on me, quite frankly!

We stayed in the Hotel Trevi - very very central. It’s off one of the side streets off the Trevi Fountain square. I’m not sure I’d recommend it particularly, but it was ok and very handy.

We also did the train thing between Rome and Florence, which was real fun. Interesting scenery and the train was lovely.

The Vatican is amazing - St Peter’s Basilica is the most impressive building I’ve ever visited. The Sistine Chapel and museum were all closed when I went, but the sheer dimensions of the place are breath-taking. I am certainly not religious, but if you are I’d imagine it makes it all the better…

And I’ll second the notion that the Circus Maximus is crap. It’s not even a nice empty park.

You might want to think about taking one night from Florence and spending it in Rome - there’s so much to see there!

I agree about the crowds at the Trevi Fountain. When I went in late morning you couldn’t even get close to it, there were so many people there. Ditto for the Spanish Steps - what steps? All I could see was masses of people!

For hotels, I’ve heard raves about Albergo Del Senato right by the Pantheon, but the rates are very high. Some friends of mine stayed at the Hotel Torre Del Argentina and had good things to say about it. It’s well located, and directly on the bus 64 route between the Vatican and the Termini - the “Pickpocket Express” that was referred to earlier. I rode it several times, but kept a hand on my purse and never had a problem.

I got tired of Florence pretty quickly. For some reason, it seemed more like the Italian section of a theme park than a real place, probably because everyone I met was an American student doing a semester abroad. If I knew more about art I’m sure I could have spent a lifetime there, but for me even masterpieces start to run together before long. If I were going back, I’d plan one day for museums and one day to shop, and spend the rest of the time exploring more of Tuscany.

Rome, on the other hand, is amazing. The Sistine Chapel is overrated, but the rest of the Vatican just left me with my mouth hanging open. I didn’t even do a lot of touristy stuff in Rome–there’s plenty to see just walking around.

I’m going to disagree with the crowd about just “walking around” and enjoying Rome.

Everything in Rome is close enough that you can just walk and see all the major sites. It is close enough that you can walk and pass by all the major sites in one day. You’ll be sore at the end of the day, but it is possible.

I would definitely suggest doing some research and determining what your interests in seeing are. Plan out how to see them and give time to do them properly. If all you do is walk around you’ll end up missing, just by happenstance, significant monuments.

Also, Ostia and Hadrian’s Villa are easy day trips outside of Rome (Ostia a little easier to get to than Hadrian’s Villa). Since you’re going to miss Naples and Pompeii, I’d suggest at least giving Ostia a thought.

And one more recommendation, if you want to see Nero’s Golden House, or its remains, you have to book an appointment. You’ll need to do this before you leave. (It is little things like this that you need to really research into because if you don’t you’ll miss important parts of Rome - or you’ll walk right past them not even knowing what they are. Last suggestion, do the Capitoline Museum. It has a great collection and from the underground walkway you can get onto a patio of sorts that affords the best view of the Roman Forum I managed to find.)

• If you visit the Roman Forum, go either with a hosted group or have an illustrated guidebook with you. Otherwise it’s easy to miss the significance of the ruins.

• The drivers in Rome are crazy, and you take your life in your hands when you cross a busy street.

• The Sistine Chapel was beautiful. So often in life the real thing doesn’t live up to one’s expectations when visited, and I had been warned that the chapel was all but tiny in person. Well, it looked fairly large to me, and every bit as stunning as I had hoped. Bring binoculars.