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29 March 2011 @ 01:22 pm
janie's guide for Rome survival  
So, there are some friends on Twitter who are coming to Jus In Bello and visiting Rome at the same time who said that they might find useful a guide on what to see/how to move/what to do by someone who lives here, and I think there are some people on my FL going too, so I figured I'd do a post here. And hey if you ever want to visit it could be useful, right? This will include:

- How to move with public transportation;
- Tourist traps;
- Eating advice, though some of it will get talked in the tourist traps;
- What, imvho, you shouldn't miss if you can.

Also I was thinking of putting pictures but this entry is already too long so no pictures. And I was too lazy to put wiki links to places that weren't churches (I lost my force of will after that) but since I haven't recommended any place too obscure I hope that this'll do. :)

How to move

Or, I figured I'd put it first because it's vital information. Now, if you think that public transportation here works as well as in London/Paris/Berlin/European important cities, abandon that notion right now because otherwise you'll just get headaches over headaches. This stated, we can sum the issue in a number of points:

- Don't use taxis or try not to. The prices are some of the highest in Europe and they'll rob you in any case. Clearly if you need to get someplace at 3 AM then you don't have much choice, but the number for calling one is just in Italian I think, so you'd have to stop one. Especially, don't take one from the airport because it'll cost you around 70 euros tops unless you want to spend them, of course.

- Regarding long distances, you have two options: bus or subway. The subway is more reliable and does cover the most important places to visit, but it has just two lines and it gets pretty busy especially in the only point where you can switch. Buses are way less reliable but they cover a lot more ground and save you walking distance, but there are electronic devices that show you if one is coming and how far it is just in the center and not even at every stop, so chances are that you might have to wait a long time for one. (I had one hour records.) This said, if you're in the center I'd really advise you to get a good map and go by foot because it's nicer and quicker, but since it's a big city and you can't go everywhere on foot, take into account that the subway is reliable-ish but doesn't cover all the ground it would cover if we were talking about Paris or London, and that buses are a lot and might have convenient stops, but you might have to wait a lot of time.

- If you need directions, beware that a good 50% of the people here either speak English pretty badly. So in case you do need to ask, I'd suggest asking at a newsstand or bar or shop - at the center there's probably more of a chance that they actually do speak English. If you learn the basic Italian for directions it might help a lot, but if you ask random people they might be crap at communication.

- The bus/metro tickets are the same; a ticket lasts either 90 minutes on a bus or one ride in the subway. You can get seven-day or three-day passes though, and there's a three-day pass that also includes three free museum tickets and it costs 25 euros as a whole, so you might want to look into that because otherwise you'd spend a fortune on bus tickets.

- Also: half of the people who drive around here should have their license removed. (Personal experience.) Pay extra attention while crossing any road and try not to mind noisy traffic. That might seem kind of stupid, but there's a bunch of people passing with red lights or starting the car as soon as it's green and stuff like that which never happens when I go outside Italy (most times). Oh, and pay attention to motorcycles because 75% of people driving one should have their license removed instead of just half and they tend to break rules more than car drivers do.

Tourist traps and stuff that is advisable to avoid

There aren't many tourist traps in the strict sense since pretty much everything is worth visiting, but here are the ones I'm aware of, plus a few tips.

- Don't get on the top of St. Peter's. I don't know why it's apparently a great thing to do but it's totally not worth it. They charge you, there's always a line that can go from mid-long to long as fuck and the view isn't anything that special either. You can get a better one for free if you take a walk up the Gianicolo hill or the Pincio gardens just to say two. Or you can take the elevator on the Altare della patria.

- When you go to the Coliseum/Roman forum, avoid fake gladiators before they throw an arm around your shoulder and take a picture with you because then they'll want to get paid for it even if you didn't ask. Unless you want one. XD

- When eating, avoid restaurants in the center offering you tourist menus or pasta/pizza menus. They'll tell you that you can have any pasta or pizza you want and stuff to drink for seven euros, but then looking at the menu since most pastas cost more than that, they'll mostly give you just one or two choices for either. Also 99% of the times it's frozen and re-heated, and at that point you can spend ten euros and go to a proper cheap pizza place. Also beware generally of places that offer pasta and pizza at the same time anyway - most proper pizza restaurants have a pasta/meat/vegetables/etc. choice anyway even if they don't advertise it, and whatever offers stuff like pasta/pizza/Italian typical food at once is usually not a good choice. If they sport an Italian flag or the Coliseum or St. Peter's on the menu outside then it's probably not a good place. XD

Generally eating cheap

- Since I scared you off the cheap kind of restaurant, some eating cheaply advice. Now, unless you go to very fancy places and/or renomated restaurants and/or smack in the center, it's easy-ish enough to eat with no more than 12 euros per person in regular restaurants/pizza places. Also most Chinese restaurants are pretty cheap. But if you just want something quick for lunch or anything, there are a lot of places that sell pizza by the weight. You can just go in and say that you want three euros of that kind of pizza and that's all you'll pay, and they also sell appetizers to go with it (like, idk, arancini or supplìs, google them XD) and you'll get out of there having spent five euros at most. Most ice cream places are good by default so that's a good option as well. Or most bars have a kitchen and offer pasta/meat/vegetables at lunch and you pay less than what you'd get in a restaurant. Also if you want to try typical local stuff (though if you're vegetarian Roman food might not be your cup of tea) you can just go to Trastevere and there virtually each restaurant is good. Actually if you want to try pizza there, this is my favorite place. The pizza is excellent, everything else is, prices are reasonable and you don't pay for the service, just for the food. (Anyway, check for pizzas. There's Neapolitan and Roman - most places do it the Roman way but if you check they might do it the Roman way as well. The difference is that the former is the real pizza, the second is very thin rather than tall. They usually specify it, if it's Neapolitan. /end rant)

Oh, wait. If you're into Jewish food then you could go to the ghetto, which is the second-oldest ghetto in the world (nothing to be proud but it's info) and where they have a bunch of great places to eat typical Jewish/Roman stuff, but I can't guarantee about the cheapness. People i know who like artichokes, though, guarantee that Jewish-style artichokes in there are pretty much excellent.

Other random tips before the to-see list

- From what I gathered, if you need euros it's better to get them at a bank/ATM rather than at any change shop or at airports. They don't rob you that much on it, but it's still more convenient not to get money in there.

- Use tap water. Rome is full of fountains and all the water is good to drink. It's actually very good water objectively XD and rather than getting charged two euros for half a liter you can just buy a bottle once and fill it in at your hotel or at the first random fountain you see in the street. It's all safe.

- Any place that charges you more than one euro for one coffee that isn't strictly in the center or in Via Veneto (except for my favorite place in the center which is totally worth every penny) is best left alone. Though if you want the American kind of coffee you won't get much luck.

- Don't try to rent a bicycle. High chance is that someone will hit you.

- If you have an Iphone/smartphone/a phone that goes on the internet, you can check bus timetables on the site of the company that runs the public transportation. This is absolutely relevant as you have timetables showing when the bus is arriving just in the center and not everywhere. I hope that there's an English version of that site, but anyway the site in question is http://atac.roma.it. It's actually very useful and it's the only reason I want to get a smartphone, but that's another topic entirely.

- This might be not exactly useful since April is chill-ish enough but I'll say it in case someone is crazy enough to come in the summer. Or: come with jackets or a huge scarf with you even if it's crazy hot because otherwise they won't let you inside churches. Especially at St. Peter's they're strict like hell -- they won't let you in with one-quarter sleeves, you need to have at least half of your arms covered. And once I brought a friend to a crypt which I'll list in the to-see things which isn't inside the church, it's under it, and the guardian was looking in obvious disapproval at a bunch of Germans going inside in shorts and tank tops, so anyway if you want to get inside churches don't do it with your shoulders uncovered.

So, that was the basics. Now that I bored you with all the horrible stuff, ON TO THE STUFF YOU SHALL SEE!

The shiny list of things you absolutely need to see, or try to if you don't have time

1. Coliseum + Roman Forum. Or, well, come on, we were awesome before popes re-built this city. Okay, with all seriousness, I'm not going to play tourist guide here because that'd be redundant, but you really should go see them.

Aaand advice in order to go quicker: usually lines at the Coliseum are huge. Depends on day/time, but unless you're going very early or very late it'll take you a while. So, either you can book your ticket (with at least one day of advance, they won't let you otherwise) or you go the sneaky way. Which is: you can get a ticket for Coliseum & Roman forum together as well, at both Coliseum and the forum. Since the forum usually has like 1/10 of the line, you go to the forum first, visit there and then go to the Coliseum, be like 'I HAVE MY TICKET ALREADY' and skip the line.

2. The center! Which means like twenty things together, but they're all close-ish to each other so in theory if you spend one day walking (or two half days walking) you can totes manage it. What you should go see in the center, not including the churches because I'll make a list out of those in another point:

a) The Pantheon;
b) Piazza di Spagna (where, if you're English lit nerds, you can go visit Keats' house - they say it's the Keats/Shelley museum but just Keats lived in there. Anyway, it's at the right of the stairs and apparently 90% of the visiting people are English and the people there go like 'OMGWHUT' when Italians go in, but however, it's a little cool museum and if you have some time it could be worth a visit);
c) Fontana di Trevi;
d) Via del Corso (where you go buy stuff if you're cool and have a lot of money);
e) Piazza Venezia ---> the Campidoglio hill (where there's a square and a palace by Michelangelo and the Capitolini museums - more on those later) --> the Trajan column;
f) Piazza Barberini (Bernini fountains!);
g) Piazza Navona (Bernini fountain + Borromini church + the square was actually a stadium in Roman times);
h) Campo dei fiori aka my favorite place and one of the best places to eat so YOU NEED TO GO SEE IT AND THAT'S THE END OF IT;
i) Piazza del popolo;
l) Porta Pia + imperial walls surrounding it;
m) all the roads in between that + the churches that I'll list in a short while.
n) ETA BECAUSE FOR SOME REASON I FORGOT: Piazza Argentina, where wandersfound advices you to stop because there's a colony of 300 cats in the Roman ruins there and you can pet them for free. Well obv not 300 at a time but yeah they totally want to be petted and there's a volunteer association taking care of them so they're clean and everything and so basically it's just a huge free petting zoo.

3. The churches!

Okay, telling you to go to all the churches in Rome would be insane as there's one every three buildings, so I'll give you a run down of the places that are worth checking out because of a) the architects, b) the paintings inside, c) other stuff of importance.

a) Basilicas first, obviously:
a1 -> St. Paul's. (No, I didn't list St. Peter's first. *cough*) Imo it's objectively the most beautiful out of the basilicas in Rome, especially because it's way older than St. Peter's and still has some Byzantine mosaics as well. Disadvantage: since it was built outside the Roman walls back then (VERY MUCH outside) it's smack down in the middle of suburbs, so you need to go there with the subway and there's nothing else around to see. Imo it -is- worth the trip, but just if you don't have to see everything possible in two days.
a2 -> St. Peter's obviously. If only because Michelangelo's Pietà is in there and you -have- to see that, no discussions. XD No well obviously you have to go. I'm probably just sick of it because I've been there so many times that I barely notice anything else anymore.
a3 -> St. John's, which is also quite worth visiting, and it's next to San Giovanni which is a pretty lively zone where you can totally go to have a drink or something to eat.
a4 -> St. Mary's Major (I hope I'm translating right), which is right next to the main station so it's pretty reachable. xD

There are three others as well but those four are the most important ones. Now, other churches:

b) San Luigi dei Francesi, Sant'Agostino and Santa Maria del popolo have a considerable advantage that makes them VERY much worthy to be visited: all of them have Caravaggio paintings inside. Actually, the first has three, the second one, the third two, and they're all masterpieces, so those are totally worth visiting.

c) Sant'Andrea al Quirinale and San Carlino alle Quattro Fontane are two churches near the Quirinale (where the President of the Republic lives -- NOT the PM, thanks XD), the first was designed by Bernini and the second by Borromini, which are both pretty much encompassing what you want to see about Baroque in Rome. They're both absolutely wonderful though I like Borromini's better. Regarding Borromini, it's his also the one in Piazza Navona.

d) Bernini speaking, in Santa Maria della Vittoria you will find the Ecstasy of St. Theresa sculpture - it's kind of fun that when I bring people there without telling them what's inside everyone is like 'OMG IS THAT IN HERE' because it's not the kind of church you notice.

e) Chiesa di Santa Maria Immacolata a Via Veneto, or where the crypt I was talking to you before is. Major point of interest: said crypt is made of human bones. Warning: since human bones/skeletons creep me out like nothing else I've never set foot inside or I'd have ended up with a major case of panic attack, but people with less problems with it assure me that it's amazing. Your pick. xD

f) San Clemente aka a minor basilica which is also one of our oldest churches and is definitely worth a visit, if only because you can sort of see how it's two churches one built over the other. It also has some catacombs (thankfully skeletons-free) which are pretty much worth a visit as I think they're the only ones that remained here in pretty good condition.

Obviously there's a bunch of other churches but those are the ones I wouldn't miss.

4. Museums! Also: apart from the Vatican museums, all of the others should be eligible for that 25 euros ticket. Meaning that it gives you free entrance to three museums under the city administration (the name is Roma pass) so you could also get free entrance on some of these. Aaanyway.

4a: Vatican museums. Or, if you need to pick ONE then I'd go here even if clearly it's the most pricey and it'll take you half a day to see it. BUT, it has the Sistine Chapel and Raphael's chambers and pretty much some of the best things you can see here so yeah, totally recommending it. Other recommendation: either book tickets online (you'll pay like 3 euros more) or go there at lunch time around 12.30/1 PM because otherwise high chances are that you'll queue for hours. Also if you're a student and have a card or a document from your school bring it along because you can pay 8 euros instead of 14 to get in.

4b: Galleria Barberini: they have a lot of Reinassance/Baroque paintings, Caravaggio included, and they're much cheaper.

4c: Galleria Borghese: probably the besty out of said public museums. It has sculptures/paintings/everything from a lot of artists and also contains famous things as well but a) you have to book, b) they'll kick you out after two hours regardless of the point you reached, so while being there try to go as quick as possible. If you finish you can always go back.

4d: Musei Capitolini: or, the oldest public museums in the world! (Really.) They have a lot of ancient Roman statues/ruins/etc along with the Marcus Aurelius statue which is the only original Roman bronze around, so it's totally worth a visit. Their paintings are great as well.

4e: if you're into it, next to Galleria Borghese there's a pretty good modern art gallery, but I haven't been there in ages and I'm not that much into very modern art anyway so you should probably check before listening to me.

5. Palazzo Farnese: this is valid just until April 23rd so if you're going after then disregard this, but basically, it's the most beautiful Reinassance palace that we have in Rome (the front and half of the inside was designed by Michelangelo) but since it's where the French embassy is located it's usually closed to the public unless you go through some very tiresome booking procedure or you want to just visit the gardens on July 14th. Right now it's hosting an exhibition where they put back there the statues they had during the 17th century and exposed the paintings that used to be in the gallery and opened to the public the most important rooms (including one with some seriously stunning frescos), and it's totally worth visiting. Also you can book and they don't charge you extras, and it's right in the center so it won't throw you out of the way. ;)

6. Trastevere: or, if you want to see how Rome sort of used to be two centuries ago you might want to go there. ;) It's a small-ish zone where they haven't rebuilt houses or anything in a couple centuries or more, so it's all narrow roads and small squares and not corporate shops, and it's where some of the best restaurants are for typical Roman food so basically you're supposed to eat decently wherever you go. Also it has one of the oldest churches still standing in here so I'd go for a walk there. It's like a 10 minute walk from the center, you just need to cross the river and walk a bit. Also you could take a walk on the isola Tiberina which is basically a small island smack down in the middle of the river with some lovely architecture.

There's obviously a lot more stuff but that's what I figure one could see in five days with a steady pace. XD Then all things in the center are pretty close so one should probably take a map and check the itinerary as it's more suited but I can assure you that you can do most of this in four days, if you pick a couple museums obviously because with all the museums it'd take a lot more time. (wandersfound knows something about it xD.)

Also if you have time to spend a day out and/or take a train, the ruins at Ostia Antica and/or Villa Adriana in Tivoli are great places to see as well but if you do one of those then it's everything you'll manage.

In conclusion

Woah that was long. Anyway, so, that's yours truly's advice generally, but if there's something specific to ask I'm here. XD And really, as long as you figure out the public transport, take your time with things and pay attention to cars (and I'd advice as well, try our coffee XD) it should go splendidly.

I hope this is useful and most of all that I explained myself without too much born-here rambling. XD
feeling: okayokay
A.vella_amor_dm on March 29th, 2011 11:46 am (UTC)
oh darling, now i really want to come to Italy and spend the day with you, wandering your lovely cities!
the female ghost of tom joad: ILUjanie_tangerine on March 29th, 2011 04:02 pm (UTC)
Do come! I'll be happy to show you around. ;)
(no subject) - vella_amor_dm on March 31st, 2011 08:18 am (UTC) (Expand)
pnr on March 29th, 2011 11:53 am (UTC)
The crypt of Chiesa di Santa Maria Immacolata a Via Veneto is the bestest thing ever and I need to go back with knowledge of things.
the female ghost of tom joad: !!! <3janie_tangerine on March 29th, 2011 04:03 pm (UTC)
Hahaha lol I was counting on you to comment THIS ;) ;) ;) but come back whenever, I'll happily wait for you out of said place. XDDD
elliotsmelliotelliotsmelliot on March 29th, 2011 12:14 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the virtual tour!
the female ghost of tom joad: !!! <3janie_tangerine on March 29th, 2011 04:04 pm (UTC)
My pleasure! :D
(Deleted comment)
the female ghost of tom joad: ILUjanie_tangerine on March 29th, 2011 12:28 pm (UTC)
LOL YOU'RE RIGHT I'll edit it now xD
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - janie_tangerine on March 29th, 2011 12:40 pm (UTC) (Expand)
888mph888mph on March 29th, 2011 12:56 pm (UTC)
the female ghost of tom joad: supernatural + nick cave = otpjanie_tangerine on March 29th, 2011 03:56 pm (UTC)
Zelda: Stock - Discoverzelda_zee on March 29th, 2011 02:27 pm (UTC)
What a great guide! I'm saving this for the day that I do get to come to Rome again. It will happen someday, somehow!
the female ghost of tom joad: tangerinesjanie_tangerine on March 29th, 2011 03:58 pm (UTC)
I much hope you manage to come back at some point, we're worth it! ;) and thank you! I do love my city. ;)
Reticulating Splines: Hetalia ☆ Germany umpfone_winged_hao on March 29th, 2011 02:27 pm (UTC)
One thing with the colluseum (I always spell that wrong) is that there are people outside who do tours of it? I was there with my friend and her friend and her friend said to go on one of the tours. I was tired so I agreed.

Anyway, whilst it gets you in there without having to queue up, they literally rush you through there and you get to spend like... 10 minutes in it :I

Also, they guide shouted at me for stroking the cats in there and I was all "THIS CAT IS CEASER. HE IS MY MASTER!" My friend cracked up, but her friend was not amused.
the female ghost of tom joad: tangerinesjanie_tangerine on March 29th, 2011 04:02 pm (UTC)
Oh dear GUIDED TOURS X__X I always bypass them because I never go on those anyway but yeah it's convenient if you want to just go there and skip the line. Then again 10 minutes inside sucks a LOT.

And ha but why! Those cats are usually fed and very much happy to be stroked! There used to be a lot more cats at the Coliseum though. Now they moved to the other free petting zoo. ;)
(no subject) - one_winged_hao on March 29th, 2011 04:05 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - janie_tangerine on March 29th, 2011 04:08 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - one_winged_hao on March 29th, 2011 04:13 pm (UTC) (Expand)
thandie: preciousssssthandie on March 29th, 2011 03:12 pm (UTC)
Oh wow, this guide is amazing, even for an Italian like me. :D In fact all the times I've been there I haven't remembered to check on the cats...next time I will. :D

Also, I won't be at the Con this year, but I was thinking it would be great to be there for one or two days just to see you guys, while you'll all be under the Misha/Jensen/Jared effect (I can even make fun of you as an outsider, if I feel like it, :P). We didn't even talk much last year, because it was all so rushed!
the female ghost of tom joad: glomping!janie_tangerine on March 29th, 2011 04:11 pm (UTC)
Eee thank you! :D I like to promote my city if I can. ;) ;) and haha check the cats next time! They're totally a hit. And they're totally whores for being petted.

And aww that'd be lovely! I'd be totally up for a meet-up while I'm still under the Misha/Chad effect (YEAH THEY'RE THE TWO I'M MOSTLY IN FOR SO WHAT? XD) and I'd totally love to have a talk with you/whoever else wants to so yeah if you want to come down that'd be awesome. We can all go cat-petting. ;)
goldenusagigoldenusagi on March 29th, 2011 04:20 pm (UTC)
the female ghost of tom joad: supernatural jimmyjanie_tangerine on March 29th, 2011 11:13 pm (UTC)
bold_seer: misc: svt (jessica + coat)bold_seer on March 29th, 2011 06:08 pm (UTC)
But I like pineapple! And pizza! And cheese and pineapple pizza (except when there's meat on it)! :(

Nice guide! :)

Edited at 2011-03-29 06:14 pm (UTC)
the female ghost of tom joad: take over the worldjanie_tangerine on March 29th, 2011 11:15 pm (UTC)
I like pineapple. AND pizza. (not the cheese but that's another whole issue. ;) ) But.. I can't do fruit ON pizza. I just. My italianity (is that even a word?) can't process the idea. XD Sorry, I guess it's a being-born-and-bred-here thing. ;)

Thank you! :D
cassiopeia7: Castiel: bring it!cassiopeia7 on March 29th, 2011 10:19 pm (UTC)
What a lovely virtual tour -- I have always wanted to visit Rome, but alas, the closest I ever got was in a plane 30,000 feet above southern Italy on my way elsewhere. And thanks to your descriptions, now I want to visit Rome even more!

*saves your instructions because one day I WILL make it to Rome*

So you're going to take lots of pictures at the con, right? :)

*is jealous*
the female ghost of tom joad: supernatural cas PEACEjanie_tangerine on March 29th, 2011 11:48 pm (UTC)
Eee do come here! It's lovely. And 30000 feet above is a bad vantage point. ;)

And haha yes, I have a new shiny semi-professional camera so I'm totally taking pictures and tweeting things and taking notes and whatnot. ♥
sad side of normal: secret agentfosfomifira on March 30th, 2011 03:03 am (UTC)
I can't wait to visit Rome. I hope you're happy now ;)
the female ghost of tom joad: fuck everything and be a piratejanie_tangerine on March 30th, 2011 08:28 pm (UTC)
We're waiting for you! ;) ;)
lexhibition on March 31st, 2011 12:20 am (UTC)
Speaking as an Australian, Rome's public transport is AMAZING. I loved the subway SO MUCH,

And I guess you're honour-bound to hate the Ara Pacis (every local I spoke to made a face when I mentioned it XDD) but that was seriously one of the best places I went. That and the Protestant cemetery.

the female ghost of tom joad: ILUjanie_tangerine on March 31st, 2011 02:28 pm (UTC)
Oh dear, yours is worst than ours? ;) seriously though, the subway -does- work but I can't vouch for the rest when once I waited for a bus for one hour and a half or something like that.

Haha oh dear damn, I forgot about that cemetery. I didn't put it in because I figured it's not where you go when you're short of time but it's totally one of my favorite places as well. And haha well the Ara Pacis is lovely... on the inside. XD The outside is... well, I guess it can look good if you look at it objectively, but considering how it was before it completely clashes with the surroundings. And ha yeah it battles with the altare della patria for monument that locals make a face of when mentioned I think XD