Tip #1: Arriving to Rome
Most of the major airlines and budget carriers fly into Rome but because of the city’s year round popularity – you’ll find it difficult to find a cheap flight. The train is a far superior option in terms of price, frequency and the city centre drop off point – Stazione Centrale Roma Termini. Italy is covered by a fantastic network of high-speed trains, run by a company called Eurostar (it shares the name with the London to Paris connection but it’s a different route). If you fly into Pisa then a train to Florence will set you back less than €5 for the one hour ride. From Florence to Rome you’re looking at less than €40 for just over two hours commuting. British Airways do some scorching deals in and out of Pisa, to destinations all over Europe, so take a look.
Tip #2: Ticket Tips
If you queue up outside the Colosseum on an average day – then you are looking at a two and a half hour wait, just to see something that will take less than thirty minutes to appreciate. If however you are clever and head to the nearby Roman Forum, you can walk right up and buy a ticket for this and the Colosseum. Also it’s worth knowing that if you are under 26 and can prove it – then you are entitled to fifty percent off the advertised ticket price. On a hot day the Forum is a high intensity, U.V ray exposed hell on earth but nevertheless it’s worth a visit. Ancient grandeur never goes out of fashion and simply seeing the alleged site of Julius Caesar’s assassination makes you feel like a little part of pre-historic history.
Tip #3: Go to a Walking Tour
The best way to explore a city is getting into a free walking tour. Rome is full of hidden gems and what the best way to expore it than with a local guide? You will get around the city and hear about all the stories of the Roman Empire and Julius Caesar. Every inch of the city is covered in history. Believe us – ¡vale la pena la caminata!
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Tip #4: Visiting the Colosseum
If you loved Russell Crowe’s antics in Gladiator then you’ll love this place. Contemporary Rome revolves around it and inside you will appreciate a grandeur that you just don’t see anymore. Unfortunately the only wild cats in there these days are tiny little strays – not warrior lions, but it’s easy to get caught up in the yesteryear magic, imagining that you too are part of a massively popular contest between man and beast. Speaking of beasts – be careful when you’re approached by the army of relentless Essex girls and Aussie dudes outside the attraction, pushing flyers into your hand and promising an: “awesome bar crawl, full of free drinks man!” Rubbish. They’ll throw in a few free (rancid) shots to warm you up and then when you’re in the flow, they’ll sting you for the rounds that you think are free. Tell them to go jump.
Tip #5: Accommodation in Rome
When you arrive into Stazione Centrale Roma Termini you could go through the stress of boarding the Metro and heading out of town to a cheap hostel – or you could take an easy, ten-minute stroll around the corner and check in to the equally affordable Alessandro’s Palace Hostel. The entrance is rather grandiose and when you climb the marble steps to the reception you come across a compact computer room and a homely bar – where only Allesandro money (tokens) is accepted! The top rooms in this place include flat screen TVs and fridges, not to mention fair sized en suite bathrooms. There’s no curfew but the big wooden doors are shut for your safety in the early hours, so just buzz your way in.
The locals hate this place and liken it to a scar on the face of their city, but as a tourist I guarantee you will be left in breath taken awe. It was built in honour of Vittoriano Emanuele II and the unification of Italy. It’s also the final resting place of Italy’s Unknown Soldier and from the top you can see everything that makes the Italian capital so great. Passage through the building and the Museo Centrale del Risorgimento inside is free but be careful – because this leads to the loosening of purse strings at the Vittoriano’s café. The views as you sit sipping a refreshing fruit cocktail might be spectacular but they’re somewhat soured when you realise that said drink just set you back €8. Ouch.
Tip #7: The Vatican
This is the world’s smallest country but don’t worry yourself – you don’t need a passport to get in. You also don’t need to cater to the tourist cliché and queue for the Vatican Post Office – just so your homeward bound postcards bear a postage mark that isn’t Italian. Must see features of the Pope’s stomping grounds include the splendid St Peter’s Basilica. The sheer scale of the cool marble interior is more than enough to distract you from the over zealous: “appropriate dress” police on the door. It’s free to make it through to ground level where you can marvel upwards at the sheer gold, marble and paint mastery, but if you want to tour the dome, inside and out, then it’s going to cost you about €7. This experience cannot be recommended enough but heed this advice. Pay extra for the lift and take a big bottle of water with you. The pitiful paper cups of Evian on sale at the top are overpriced and served with a side of major attitude.
Tip #8: Visiting The Sistine Chapel
Like most scenarios where the reputation precedes the attraction, in reality it: “aint all that!” Sadly this is true of the Sistine Chapel. A prolonged and overpriced series of exhibits must be experienced before you reach the chapel and when you finally get in to it you will find pleasure quelling crowds – arguing in hushed whispers with the power mad ushers, who like to keep the crowds quiet! It’s a horrific example of the western tourism machine in full swing so save your money an take yourself for a completely free walking tour along the river. Set off from nearby Ponte Vittorio Emanuelle II and trek down along the river banks to Ponte Garibaldi. From here you should head back into the centre for some hard earned Gelato, from one of the most famous ice cream vendors in the world!
Tip #9: Ice Cream in Rome
There’s one thing that the Italians do (unquestionably) better than the rest of the world and that’s ice cream. For a scoop of Gelato that may well induce an orgasm in your mouth, head over to San Crispino at 42, Via della Panetteria. It’s hidden away in a side street with no ostentatious advertising but because of the tasty treats inside, you still have to form an orderly queue. The butterscotch flavour here is better than anything you ever have, or will, taste. Just as god intended – everything is made with full fat cream and you won’t pay top dollar for this fat infusion – unlike the times when you buy a cone from the street corner vendors. Go now, go now, go now!
Tip #10: Tasty Treats in Rome
For every backpacker the day will come when you have had your fill of cheap and cheerful hostel meals and in Rome it really would be a crime to chow down on the budget spaghetti bolognaise, served up anywhere within a 10m radius of your dormitory. So get up, get dressed and get yourself to one of the many moreish eateries in the Italian capital. Tried and tested restaurants of note include Colline Emiliane on Via degli Avignonesi and Ristorante Asinocotto near Isola Tiberina. Colline Emiliane do the best pasta that will ever pass your lips, it’s hidden away, not ruined by hordes of tourists (yet) and it’s not over priced. Ristorante Asinocotto is a little further out of the city centre and the prices are a little higher, but forgoing a night out in favour of a good two hours of world class cuisine is something you have to do – when in Rome. The beef fillet is a top tip.
Tip #11: A Round Up of Everything Else
The Trevi Fountain is worth a look in – if only to irritate the over zealous security guards who didn’t make it into the elite ranks of the super toned, ridiculously good looking Italian police force. It’s a stunning piece of aquatic architecture and it’s not too far from the afore mentioned ice cream paradise – San Crispino. The Spanish Steps should also make it onto your To Do list, but here’s a top travel tip – useful when you hit any attraction in Rome. Always pick up a supply of water from a super market before you head into town. If you chance it and buy a bottle near to your chosen attraction, you can face a price tag that top €3 per tiny bottle. There’s a great little supermarket on the underground level of Rome Termini Train Station – mere minutes away from Alessandro’s Palace Hostel.
Donde estaremos ...
MEETING POINT: Bottom of spanish steps - Piazza di Spagna