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Saturday, April 24, 2010
when in Rome (2)
Second review of Apartment Amore Di Ripetta booked through Rome-Accom:
(Updated with more information about the trip in general.)
* great support from Leon Kammer, when I discovered I had booked over Good Friday - Easter Monday long weekend and wanted to move the reservation back a week
It's quiet and bright, a great location for exploring the city.
You can get groceries at a small corner grocery store (Alimentari) just down the alley (see it in streetview), or there is a well-hidden large (for downtown Rome) grocery store at 22a Via Vittoria.
Di per Di, Via Vittoria 22a (Google Map)
It's down a long corridor. Look for the arched entrance at the intersection of Via Vittoria and Via Bocca di Leone.
* the hot water heater wasn't working and I didn't quite understand Modesto's instructions on how to fix it - however Rosie came and fixed it and explained in more detail exactly the (somewhat complicated) steps to follow to get it working (Rosie and Modesto are the English-speaking local contacts in case of any problems)
* You're supposed to phone the apartment contact when you're leaving the airport so they can be there to meet you with the keys
* I took the SITbus from the airport (Fiumicino / FCO, Leonardo da Vinci), it worked out great. It's 8 euros. You can book it online although they will also sell you a ticket while you wait. Much cheaper than a taxi or doing a train plus a metro to get near the apartment. It is not particularly easy to find - follow the bus signs inside the airport, then go outside, up some steps and across the street.
You can see the ramp you need to go up in streetview. Go up it, cross the street, and you should see the SITbus sign.
Piazza Cavour was a good dropoff location for me. The bus from the airport only goes to Cavour and Termini (the train station). It has lots of room for luggage, but MAKE SURE you get your bags put into the Piazza Cavour luggage section of the bus, otherwise you will end up with them buried behind a ton of Termini bags and have to crawl in and bang your head (err, based on my experience).
So unless you're somewhere near Cavour, you may be better off just taking the train directly to the station downtown (it's called the Leonardo Express and it's only 14 euros) although the train supposedly can be quite crowded and pickpocket-y. The bus only had a few people on it and was quite comfortable.
I found these Ron in Rome postings about getting from the airport to be useful:
* The Train Station at FCO
* New – FCO SITBus Shuttle although there is no validation machine for tickets, unlike what it says in the post
More about Rome visiting in general:
First off, if you're looking to see Ancient Rome, don't set very high expectations.
Two things happened: one, a thousand years of neglect led to the remains of ancient Rome now being metres underground, under buildings and paved plazas and two, more significantly, Renaissance Rome ate Ancient Rome. The popes in particular but also various princes and nobles used ancient Rome as a source of building materials and knickknacks. Many temples were deliberately destroyed as their pagan nature offended the church. It also didn't help that Rome was invaded repeatedly. What is left is basically rubble that wasn't of interest, and a very small number of freestanding structures that partially survived. So what you're talking basically is the Pantheon, the remains of the Colosseum, the Arch of Constantine, and Trajan's Column.
The rest is very hard to understand, bits of buildings and crumbled stone, and unfortunately very few reconstructions available so you know what you're looking at. (There are reconstructions but mostly out at Museo della Civiltà Romana, far from the city centre.)
I did like the Ara Pacis museum, which has a reconstruction of how it was sited, and a well-preserved object.
It's not that lots of stuff wasn't left, but to see it you have to go to e.g. the Vatican Museums, where the best bits that were dug up and taken are highlighted.
I did the Viator Skip the Line 8 AM tour, it was good. I think the guide's name was Katrina, she was amusing. It's Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, I don't think they do the tour inside St. Peter's (it didn't open until 1 PM that day, so we didn't go, anyway). It was a 7 person group, with headsets, and we definitely did beat the line - breezing in, tickets picked up for us, walked through security no problems and right on into the museum. We didn't wait in any lines.
An important note: make sure they can reach you. Contact numbers and email. Our tour was actually scheduled for Tuesday but the Vatican wasn't opening early that day - they contacted me by email while I was in Rome and I was able to call them and get it rescheduled for Thursday.
The departure is from the TOP of the steps next to Caffè Vaticano. Vaticano is self-serve so we didn't have any trouble sitting there without buying anything for a few minutes after we walked to the Vatican from our apartment. There also wasn't any problem using the washroom at the Caffe although rather disturbingly I couldn't figure out how to lock the door of the single unit they provide (there are only washrooms at the very beginning and the very end of the 3 hour Vatican tour). Here's the streetview.
I got a Roma Pass which gets you past the (potentially very long) ticket line at the Colosseum, and three days of public transit, as well as discounts at other museums.
For Galleria Borghese I recommend NOT prepaying your tickets. Phone and book them to pick up. That way if you don't actually manage to go (as has happened to me the last two visits) you're not out-of-pocket any money.
I enjoyed the Galleria Doria Pamphilj, I read about it in an article in the Globe:
Globe and Mail - Rome, without the crowds - July 17, 2009
The gallery was indeed very good, the narration charming and the crowds absent.
It's really quite surprising that it's not crowded as it is right smack downtown. It is not particularly "near" the Pantheon (despite what the article says, or I suppose, depending on your definition of "near"). Reading my map, I looked for an entrance off of, I think, Via del Plebiscito, but to no avail. The entrance is in fact on Via del Corso, near the Piazza Venezia. Here's a streetview. The audioguide is included with the price of admission. It's not particularly well set up with signage, basically once you buy your tickets you wander in and up some stairs, and once you're done you wander down some stairs and out.
Overall it was a very good stay in Rome again.
January 02, 2010 when in Rome