Arch of Constantine and the Roman Colosseum. Photo by Tammy Yee.
Where We Stayed in Rome
Hotel Teatro Di Pompeo
Largo del Pallaro, 8 00186 Rome, ItalyTel: 06 6830 170
Cost: 160 € peak season, 140 € off season
The rooms here are small and very basic, yet comfortable, and since we spent most of the day exploring the city, they were more than adequate. Jumpstart your day at the free breakfast buffet with a cappuccino and an assortment of cold cuts, cheeses, cereals, yogurt, breads and pastries.
Central location in walking distance to Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, the Colosseum and more; great price; breakfast buffet so you don't have to think in the morning; air conditioning; VERY helpful staff who gave us wonderful suggestions and advice.
If you want something fancy, the spare rooms may not be what you were looking for. However, we also stayed at the ostentatious Rome Cavalieri (read below), and I enjoyed the Teatro di Pompeo so much more because of its convenience and simplicity. Also, the structure next door was being renovated, so it was a little noisy (not the fault of the hotel, of course).
Via Alberto Cadlolo 101
00136 Rome, Italy
Tel: 39 06 3509 1
Cost: $400 (average)
It's a Waldorf Astoria. It was free (for us).
When room service for a hamburger is $28, that's gotta be some hamburger (no, I didn't order, just looked). Inconvenient location. With all that luxury, it feels removed and sterile, like you're not really experiencing Rome.
So did he download the app? Of course not. After twenty-one years of marital bliss, I could hardly expect him to turn a new leaf and start asking directions. And in another language, to boot.
As it turned out, barring some minor mishaps, trying to get around without understanding a lick of Italian proved to be one of the many charms of our trip.
By the end of our stay I had come to love private moments stolen in crowded cafes infused with the expressive musicality of the language. The Americans seated at the next table became an intrusion, with their American coffee and pizza, abrasive requests for others to put out their cigarettes, and constant complaining. I didn't fly 8,000 miles from Honolulu to Rome (a 24-hour trip) to listen to a guy moaning about his girlfriend. For all I know, the Italians may have been having the same conversations, but in Italian it sounds so much nicer. Romantic, even.
Every taxi driver in Rome is Mario Andretti, racing on roads with no lines and few rules. Get used to it. I read a lot about taxi drivers supposedly ripping off tourists...however, I didn't get that perception. Maybe I was simply happy to arrive at my destination alive, without having flattened any motorcyclists or pedestrians along the way.
As for trains, here's where a little Italian and a lot common sense would have prevailed.
Our foray into Florence and Cinque Terre was a last minute decision, so we hadn't the time to make sense of the train schedules and to purchase our tickets online–we barely had time to juggle our hotel reservations.
When the Hotel Teatro di Pompeo concierge learned we had a tight schedule and no train tickets, she referred us to an English-speaking travel agent near the Area Sacra Argentina, Jazz Viaggi (Via del Sudario, 24 - 00186 - ROMA), where Marie made our train reservations.
At Roma Termini, a flustered family from Miami were just as lost as we were. However, by our first trip we were able to navigate our way and make changes to our tickets ourselves, despite the language barrier.
Lesson 1: Names and Destinations. You won't find Florence at the train station–Florence is called Firenze. Furthermore, trains are listed by final destination, so our train to Firenze was unlisted because it was really the train to Milan.
Lesson 2: Train Number. Because of Lesson 1, find your train by its number (Doh!). I know that sounds obvious, but hey, even the Miami sophisticates were clueless.
Lesson 3: Platform? Finding your train track at smaller stations that don't have departure information can be a pain. Just remember a few words: binario (platform), biglietto (ticket), treno (train), partenze (departures) and arrivi (arrivals).
The attractions in Rome speak for themselves. Everywhere you turn, you are humbled by the grandeur of ancient monuments. The city has done well in preserving their archaeological treasures–walls thousands of years old jut from the facades of more contemporary structures.
What makes the city even more inviting is its walkability—the heart of ancient Rome covered a compact 16 square miles, protected by 11 miles of walls. Small drinking fountains sprout from the sidewalk, and passersby refill plastic bottles or cool off in water that still flows from some of the ancient aqueducts.
Piazza Navona. Photo by Tammy Yee
Avoiding Lines at the Colosseum
The line at the Colosseum was atrocious. People were telling tourists they could avoid lines by joining the guided tours. After standing in the wrong line, we left at 2 pm, discouraged, and had a leisurely lunch just around the block at the Royal Art Cafe Restaurant, with panoramic views of the Colosseum. The pasta with tuna and eggplant was fantastic, and the food and wine refreshed me enough to sketch the Colosseum before once again tackling the queue.
View from the Royal Art Cafe Restaurant across from the Colosseum.
By 4 pm, the line had emptied considerably. We were glad we waited; those who took the guided tours looked rushed, whereas we had time to wander and photograph at our own pace. HOWEVER, after our Colosseum visit, we learned that we could have avoided the lines altogether by purchasing our tickets at the entrance to Palatine Hill, 200 meters away. Virtualtourist.com provides some useful information about purchasing tickets to the Colosseum, and making reservations online.
The line to the right, however, moves quickly and is for tour groups and those with reservations. However, I did see (and read as well) that individuals with reservations simply walked right up between the two lines, hailed the attention of the security guards, and slipped right in between tour groups.
As you wander through this vast and spectacular complex, culminate your visit by working your way through the Rafael Rooms and on to the Sistine Chapel. After the Sistine, make your way to the exit on the right side–this will take you out near St. Peter's Basilica. We got disoriented in the Sistine and made the mistake of exiting on the left...this took us through long halls of what looked like endless lockers, and out the front entrance, farther from the Basilica than we intended.
St. Peter's Basilica. Photo by Tammy Yee.
Fun For Kids:
Print and Color the Flag of Italy:
Print and Color Constantine's Arch and the Colosseum:
Print and Build Constantine's Arch and the Colosseum:
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