Planning Your Trip
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Planning a trip is not easy: you always want to make the most of your time, you feel compelled to cover some “must sees” and you do not have time to dedicate to the planning because… well, generally you have a job, a family and some errands everyday. That’s why we are here for you! We can let you save a lot of time and worry about details such as booking everything at the right moment and spend only what is really needed for what you wish to do and see.
In order to help you planning your perfect “Roman holiday” (not only Princess Anne deserved that!) we created a short menu to give you some ideas and a bit of inspiration. In Rome there is more than what you expect and we are here to assist you and transform a dream into a real experience.
In more than 10 years we helped parents to spend quality fun time with their children of any age, honeymooners to flash up together, husbands and wives to prepare a special moment for their life partners… we love to help you build a lifetime memory and “go the extra mile” with you.
Ergo… when you contact us, we will send you this “Rome à la carte menu” and you will indicate some of your preferences by numbers (like ordering from a Chinese take away!) : this will facilitate our job in sending you the right proposal. Always useful to know if you have already been to Rome, if there are children, teens or seniors in your party and how many days at disposal do you have. And of course, give us enough time to plan together: better to contact us from two months to two weeks ahead of your trip (even earlier if you prefer, we like advance bookings). And happy planning to everybody!
In the recent years, the visit of the Colosseum has been enriched of a new area, i.e. the underground layer and the third tier. Unfortunately the people interested in this kind of visit are more numerous than the available spots and the way these tickets are put on sale is not exactly transparent nor “user friendly”! We have tried in the last years to assist our guests in securing these tickets, but every year it gets more difficult and deceitful. We understand the fascination of the dungeons and the attraction of exclusiveness, but there are few things you should be aware of:
- you can see the whole structure of the Colosseum even without this special access, from the ground level or second tier which are open to everybody with a standard ticket. It is mainly a matter of perspective.
- private slots are almost impossible to get and even a shared access is becoming more and more hard to buy: few tickets are on sale and they are only released once a month in one specific day of the month before (and this selling day changes every month)
- There are several big companies which invest a lot of time and money (hiring staff only for this selling day and keeping them online and over the phones all day long) to buy the largest amount of tickets they can. They will resell these tickets at high price in conjunction with their tours. Of course this practice results into a lack of availability after few hours of the opening of sales. Last month (march 2017) finding one access was as hard as buying a ticket for the U2 concert!!!
- you can decide a standard tour of the Colosseum is enough, you will learn everything about the Colosseum in any case and we can combine the standard visit to an “Underground Rome” tour, including other sites nearby in order to understand the stratification of Rome.
- you can check the official website of the company managing the tickets of the Colosseum here: www.coopculture.it. And you can try to secure the tickets on your own. They sell the simple access (in this case, if you wish to have a private guide with you, buy a 2 euro reservation with no ticket for your guide as well) or you can buy the internal guided tour of the Colosseum (approx 75’) . If you are interested in a visit of the Forum/Palatine area (these sites are included in the ticket you buy for the Colosseum) we can meet you the same or following day outside the Colosseum and tour these areas with you.
- This internal company (Coopculture) has several guides at disposal, we know some of them, most are archaeologists and well prepared tour guides. It has to be said they reiterate this tour more than once a day and some days in a row. They know their stuff, but sometimes they lose freshness and enthusiasm. Some other companies offering group tours at the Colosseum’s underground do not suffer the same problem and we are pleased to recommend “Mind the Guide” because we personally know the founder and the guides working there and we can grant you will be satisfied with the tour. Follow this link to check their calendar (only few days before the month of your visit is planned) and book your tour online or send them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Be informed and chose what’s best for you!
We love to give suggestions to travellers and when they ask “how long should we stay in Rome?” it is a bit embarrassing to reply what the proverb says, “…a lifetime is not enough!”
In fact, I still have a list of not-yet-seen-spots which I’m planning to visit soon, during my days off. The list is in fact growing!
We understand you have limited time and want to focus on highlights. Ideally – and in order to keep a relaxing pace – to have a hint of all the ages that made Rome a three-millennia-old city you need a full week and this might be your plan:
- Ancient Rome : not only the Colosseum, but a nice walk including the Velabro (the crib of Rome!), Circus Maximus, Forum and Palatine, Capitol and Trajan’s Markets, Pantheon and one archaeological museum (chose between Palazzo Massimo and the Capitoline Museums)
- Ancient Rome outside the walls : the Appian Way (and the catacombs) and/or Ancient Ostia, the harbour of Imperial Rome.
- The Middle Ages through some of the most intriguing churches of the city (San Clemente, SS. Quattro Coronati, the cathedral of Rome S. Giovanni, the sparkling mosaics of S.Maria Maggiore, S. Prassede and S. Pudenziana, the picturesque district of Trastevere and its masterpieces i.e. S.Cecilia and S. Maria in Trastevere)
- Renaissance Rome: the frescoed villa Farnesina, Piazza Farnese, the lively Campo dei Fiori and its market, the Jewish Ghetto and the alleys of the “Tiber bend” district, Castel Sant’Angelo (with wonderful panoramic terrace)
- The Vatican: let’s devote half day to the museums, Sistine Chapel, the breathtaking basilica of St. Peter’s and its piazza.
- Barocco & the city! This was the second golden age of Rome and it’s all around: Piazza Barberini and the Painting Gallery of Palazzo Barberini, San Carlino church and S.Andrea to compare the great artists Borromini and Bernini, Piazza del Quirinale, the iconic Trevi fountain, the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona ending the day with a baroque concert.
- Contemporary Rome: we suggest to rent a Vespa and feel like a real Roman of nowadays exploring EUR fascist architecture, the GNAM gallery of Modern Art, Renzo Piano’s Auditorium, the MAXXI or the street art in Quadraro and Ostiense districts.
If you still have some time the program could be completed with a first day dedicated to the Etruscans (on the way from the airport you could stop at the fascinating necropolis of Cerveteri and then spend a couple of hours in Villa Giulia Etruscan museum in Rome). And several day trips around Rome might be interesting too: lakes (Bracciano, Nemi….), sanctuaries (Subiaco or San Nilo in Grottaferrata….), hilly towns (Castelli, Tivoli….)…
All that said, we know it is unlikely you’ll have all these days at disposal just for Rome, but you can glean ideas and advices from the above list to turn your Roman days into your “perfect” Roman days!
Do not feel compelled to rooted itineraries, Rome is a many-sided city, explore the facets you like the most!
No tele-transporting invented yet… bugger! And I am not talking about webcams here (but there are very good ones if you wish to jump immediately into Rome’s atmosphere)
I just suggest you to start planning your trip some weeks ahead your departure to get into the right mood and have the time to read something about your destination: it could be an essay, but also a novel set in the cities you are going to visit ….
And if you have a short time at disposal, a movie can be enough: here you find a list of great movies set in Rome!
On Youtube you also find endless short videos about the history, the art, the food, the magic of Rome: this is also a good way to prepare your trip and receive inspiration on what you really wish for your holiday. You might find great ideas just surfing on the web: to help you in this search, we have now a Youtube channel with playlists of selected videos such as amazing reconstructions of the ancient sites, drone explorations, short tutorial or reportages about everyday life…. As usual, we welcome your own videos and suggestions: after your trip, you might be a great advisor for future travellers and we will be pleased to support your “movies”!
We believe the guidance of a local expert will make a big difference in your Roman Holiday, of course!
But we also believe you need your “own” time to explore the city, to wander and wonder, to feel lost and find your way….
Moreover there are some sites where you will have an internal guide or audioguide service included in your admission ticket and we are here also to help you save some money and rather have an extra bottle of wine for dinner!
Here is the list of some palaces, museums and attractions where you do not need us and the link to reserve a visit or receive informations:
- Domus di Palazzo Valentini: highly recommended, it’s a virtual reconstruction of two ancient Roman houses now buried by a Renaissance palace. The tour is suitable at all ages, children and teens love it! You are given an audioguide. Reservation is mandatory. This visit can be combined with an orientation in the city centre or with an Ancient Rome tour.
- Villa Medici is a gorgeous Renaissance Villa now housing the Academy of Fine Arts for France in Italy. You will mainly visit the gorgeous garden, enjoying an incredible panorama over Rome (the page is in Italian and French but they also offer visits in English). Great combination with a tour of the city centre, a bike tour in the Borghese park or our “Grand Tour” walk.
- Palazzo Farnese: the seat of the French Embassy (formerly a Cardinal residence, boasting some of the most precious frescoes in Rome) is open to visitors over the age of 10 three days per week. You can combine this tour to a walking orientation in the centre or a Food Tour around the market of Campo de’ Fiori.
- Catacombs generally arrange internal group tours for security reasons. If you are interested in a deeper tour along the Appian Way, to St.Agnes’ complex or to the “Underground Rome”, we will include the catacombs in those visits. If you are just curious to see the catacombs’ tunnels you can go on own to San Callisto, San Sebastiano, Catacombe di Domitilla, Sant’Agnese, Catacombe di Priscilla. We can reserve private access to the Jewish Catacombs of Rome.
- Jewish Museum: the interesting museum of the Jewish Community of Rome is located under the Roman Synagogue and your ticket includes the visit of the Synagogue as well. You can combine it with a tour of the Ghetto and Trastevere or with our Food Tour near Campo de’ Fiori market.
- Domus Aurea is the latin name of the Golden Palace of Nero, an incredible archaeological site currently under restoration and only accessible with internal guides during weekends. This visit can be combined with the Ancient Rome tour or with the Archaeological Museum of Rome.
- Palazzo Pamphilj is an historical building overlook the famous Piazza Navona, and it is now property of the Brazilian Embassy. Visits are possible on few days of each month, led by the staff of the Embassy, the only obstacle is that visits are only in Italian and Portuguese, but you can appreciate the beauty of the frescos and architecture anyway.
- In case you are interested in the seats of the Italian Institutions, they follow these rules : Palazzo Madama, our Senate House, opens on the first Saturday of each month. Palazzo Chigi is the seat of the Government and it is accessible upon reservation on Saturday morning. Palazzo di Montecitorio, the Italian Parliament, is open on the first Sunday of each month. The Quirinale Palace, where our President lives and works, can be visited every day but only with internal tours.
- Vatican: several areas of the Vatican are forbidden to external guides (the Gardens and the Excavations for example), but you can join a group tour. You can find more information in a special blog post dedicated to pre-booking (bear in mind the necropolis under St. Peter’s requires to be booked several months in advance). In this post you also find details about the Papal Audience and the Papal Mass: here you do not need a guide, some companies ask you to pay for these events but they are for free!
- Open Bus: we do not recommend this experience in Rome, as most of the “must sees” are in pedestrian areas and you do not see a lot from the bus. Moreover, traffic is really bad in Rome and you lose time in traffic jams or waiting for the next bus. So, just avoid the hop-on hop-off kind of day (better and cheaper to use metro or local buses) and consider this tour only if you need a general overview sitting on the bus for approx 1,5 hr taking some picture and resting a bit. Several companies offer the same tour, the price is more or less the same, we just linked one of them.
- Segway tours: we openly declared here we do not like segways in Rome, but if you really like this tour or you have promised your children … well, you can contact Rome by Segway
Enjoy Rome, with your Friend in Rome and on your own!
There is such a wide choice of places and options to eat in Rome (…Just some street food? A gelato? A fancy restaurant with view? Traditional trattoria? A wine-bar with some snacks? Midnight cornetto?) that it is impossible to list them all … We are “out there” everyday and we constantly ask for feedbacks from our guests (and we do “quality checks” ourselves too, ehehehe!), so here you find the links to our blogposts about food and drinks to let you plan your gourmet breaks in Rome!
- Trains: fast trains connect easily the main cities of Italy. You can compare the companies i.e. Trenitalia and Italo. You usually get better deals buying tickets in advance.
- Bus/Metro in Rome is provided by a public company called ATAC. Here you’ll find the map of the lines in the city centre. We know, it’s not easy! There are 1-day, 3-day and 1-week-passes on sale at newsstands, metro stations and tobacco shops.
- Transfers by private car: on arrival we recommend the Fiumicino Airport based company called Concora.
- Bags: if you need to transport heavy luggage in town or to store your bags after check-out, Bon Bags , Rome Left Luggage or “Stow your bags” can provide a useful service (the only bag storage in Rome is at Termini train station).
- Public toilets: finding public toilets in Rome is not easy. Here is a map. Our suggestion is to use restrooms when visiting museums, before leaving a restaurant, or any time you stop by a coffee-bar. Near the Vatican (and they plan to open in other areas too) you can find the clean restrooms of City Toilet
- Baby equipment rental (strollers, car seats, travel cots…)
- Rome Free Lounge is a space next to Piazza Venezia where you can relax and enjoy wifi and air conditioning for free. They offer paying services such as clean toilets, bag storage, booking service.
- Do not forget to check our page of links if you travel to other destinations in Italy.
But it is also true you cannot reserve everything too much in advance. Make your reservations well ahead of time, chosing the best period for you/your family to travel. Consult local experts (like us!) concerning how many nights you should spend in each location, possible accommodations, transportation between one city and another and so on… Once a plan is in place and you have your flights and accommodations booked, you can finalize details on tours. Most of the attractions in Rome are just there for you to enjoy: the outdoors, the city itself are THE attractions and this allows you to be flexible and change your mind closer to the date of the trip. Keep in mind that some museums/sites/events require pre-booking.
Here we go:
- Vatican Museums: this is the link to the booking site where you can book your admission to the museum skipping the lines. You can also book internal group tours (approx. 3 hrs length) or audio-guides. If you wish to reserve a private tour to the Vatican with A Friend in Rome, let’s agree first the best day and time for the tour and then we will give you instructions to buy tickets. The above site also allows you to reserve group tours to the “Necropolis of the Via Triumphalis” (not the Tomb of Peter!) and the Vatican Gardens (select “Guided tours for individuals”) or the Papal Villa of Castel Gandolfo recently opened to the public.
- Vatican Excavations: visits to the necropolis underneath the Basilica, where the tomb of St. Peter is located, are only possible following special permission granted from time to time by the “Fabbrica di San Pietro”. This visit has to be booked months in advance: only around 250 visitors per day are permitted to enter and children under the age of 15 are not admitted. Only internal guides of the Excavations office are allowed (sigh!).
- Colosseum: for individual travellers the tickets are “open vouchers” with no date and time. Children up to 17 are entitled to free admissions but they have to pay for the 2.00 euro reservation and bring an ID to show their birth date. If there are children in your party, reserve separately the tickets for the adults (chose the “print@home” option deleting the pre-selected “pickup@ticket office”) and then book the tickets for the children on a separate form – you will be given a code for them. I know it seems more complicated, but it will save us some time once you are here. Please be aware that, due to anti-terroristic measures, we are still subject to lines for the security control. This ticket also allows you to visit the Palatine/Forum area. If you are interested in the underground portion of the Colosseum, there are internal group tours (same link as the regular tickets). In low season and with 2 months of advance we can also check availability of a private slot for this visit. Otherwise you can reserve the group tour and book a private tour with A Friend in Rome to the Forum/Palatine and another attraction of the Ancient Rome at your choice (Caracalla Baths, Pantheon, San Clemente’s undergrounds, etc…).
- Borghese Gallery: booking is mandatory. If you wish to be guided by A Friend in Rome, reserve a free ticket for your guide as well (after agreeing time/day with us, of course!). This museum is one of the best art collections not only in Rome but in the whole world. Do not miss it!
- Papal Audience/Celebrations: be careful! The Papal Audience and the Celebrations at the Vatican are free of charge (many companies sell tickets!), but reservation is mandatory. Audiences take place on Wednesdays, celebrations depend on the liturgical calendar. All information is available through the link. The Angelus blessing is on Sundays at noon and does not require booking. An interesting article here to figure out how it works: Papal Audience for beginners!
There are thousands of different options for your accommodation in Rome and it is quite impossible to have a full updated list of all the hotels, B&Bs, hostels, religious institutions, campings, apartments… we simply recommend caution in the choice of location, especially if you are visiting Rome for the first time: lodgings’ websites are often “deliberately fuzzy” about locations.
We are at your disposal to suggest or assist you in booking your accommodation in Rome and we enclose here a short list of hotels, B&Bs and apartments that we personally know and have “inspected” for you:
Many visitors reach Rome by plane and Fiumicino airport is the first approach to a new country, a new currency and a new language… after an intercontinental flight this might result into an exhausting experience and all you really want is a safe, easy way to reach the city centre and a comfortable bed in your hotel or B&B!
Of course, there are always cabs. Just line up outside the airport in the designated queue and you’ll get a flat rate. A fast train (Leonardo express) or several private shuttle services are also available.
If you’d prefer a private limo service, we recommend the company “CONCORA” which can always offer you a Class E car or van, even if you have not reserved one (in this case, you’ll just have to wait a bit and they will arrange your transfer). They have a desk inside the airport and will never charge you for any flight delays upon arrival.
If you book a transfer with them, here’s how to find them once you arrive: as soon as you leave the Customs area, you should already be in Terminal T3 (International flights) and you’ll find their desk right in front of you!
If you exit from Terminal T1 (National flights), just walk towards your right and you’ll find T3. You’ll see there is a photo of their desk, so it should not be difficult to find them. But in case you can’t, here are their phone numbers: +390665012069 or +39066507266.
There are also special promotions should you decide to book the transfer back to the airport: you can enquire and settle directly with them.
WELCOME TO ROME!