which is about imagination, history and strolling with the locals. It is good manners to say ‘buon giorno’ or ‘ciao’ (hello) to shop keepers, clerks, waiters, etc. before asking anything or entering lifts, shops, etc:

Please = per favore  / Thank you = grazie-eh / Hi/bye = ciao / excuse me = mi scusi

have a good day = buona giornata  / have good evening = buona serata/  How are you? = come sta?

Good, and you? = benne, e tu?  /  please, thank you, are you ready = prego


-Watch for pickpockets/avoid the shell game/ avoid anyone trying to give you flowers, a string, or trinket.

Take a wide berth around gypsies shaking cups & begging (no eye contact and ignore).

-You need your passport or photo ID to use any Internet in Italy. Even in hotel. (They photocopy it for police)

-Look 5 ways before you cross the street, and keep looking until you’ve gotten to the other side unscathed.  It’s the motor scooter who will surprise you.  Cross the street with a nun.


Metro tickets  avail from news agents & machines in stations/ good for 75 min in one direction/ also buses.

One day ticket available.Metro usually runs Sun-Thurs until 11:30pm/ Fri, Sat until 1:30am

When going into station, take note of signs & surroundings so you choose the correct exit on your return to hotel.

**Be very wary on the metro & in stations =pickpockets galore

Hop on-off buses run 8am-8pm-ish, but don’t bother pre-buying tickets from your hotel or online from your home country.  Wait until you get into Rome and see if you really want to do it, as you can buy tickets direct with no problem. The city can be really busy and if it’s a hundred degrees, being jammed on a bus with masses of other tourists might be the last thing you want to do.  I see stressed out couples trying to find the bus stops all the time.  The bus stops are not always near the sites and Rome is best walked slowly, during the cooler parts of the day.

For really good tours of Roman sites, check out Roman Candle Tours.  Matt can sort you out with everything from tours to accommodation in several Italian cities.


A cheeky trick for the folks back home.  Rome has several well placed live cams. If you are in smart phone contact with someone back home, get them to log onto Skyline webcams.  When you are at the major sites, find the camera and wave to them in real time.  The best ones are at the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and The Spanish steps.



If you have a good tourist map of Rome, these sites will all be well marked.

Colosseum  Have an early breakfast & leave the hotel early to take the metro to the Colosseum: arrive before opening time and have the place to yourself before the crowds arrive.

Have small bills as they sometimes don’t have change yet.   Open 8:30am-7pm/ good for two days (ticket includes forum & Palantine Hill, so if you do get there later, get your ticket from the less popular Palatine hill office)  You will be accosted by American students asking if you want a tour of the Colosseum, but once they get you, you are handed over to an Italian guide whose English might not be so good and info might be a bit dry.  I have also heard stories of 90 minute tours finishing in 25.  Buyer beware.  There are

Gladiator scam artist.

Gladiator scam artist.

new tours starting which take you into the underground rooms, but you will need to check on times and prices.

The gladiators want cash for posing with you / either set your price or avoid, or say ‘chiami la polizia’ (call the police).  They have been banished from many areas now, but always good to know about them.




Vitorrio Emanuele Monument

This imposing white building sits at the top of the Roman Forum and houses a free museum outlining the civil war which helped in the creation of Italy as a country. There is also a glass lift at the back, which takes you to a roof top café with lovely views. Vitorrio was the first king of the new country and the common language was created through the writings of Dante.

In the square in front of the monument, you might be lucky enough to encounter the traffic controller with his white gloves and ballet motions, standing on the plinth that rises out of the road.


The Pantheon

One of the oldest and best preserved buildings in Rome.  Still used as a church today.  Marvel at the size of the pillars and the dome ceiling made of one solid piece of concrete in 69AD

Just off a side street from the Pantheon. Dakota International Pub.  Via del Seminario 111 (side street off Pantheon) Historical bldg with train engine, and quirky décor. Good for drinks, salads, sandwiches, and televised sports. Lunch or night spot.   Open 9:30am-2am  (facing the pantheon, the street is to your left).

Or for the most amazing gelato selection: Della Palma on Via della Maddalena 19/23 (2 mins from the Pantheon)


Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona also beautiful by night/ artists, gelato bars & cafes, big toy store, & spectacular fountains.

Check out the churches in the square.  They are very different. I particularity like the one with the thundering announcement for ‘silencio’ in 7 different languages.


Food suggestions around Piazza Navona: 

Tres Scalini:  stop to use loo and try the world famous Tartufo: chocolate truffle ice cream  / take away half price (share one/ very rich)

Bottega di gelato Smoothie-juice bar : via di tor Millina 15 (leave Navona with Tres Scalini on your right).  They serve huge, fresh fruit smoothies (a meal in itself), juices, gelatos, macedonias (fruit salad) & yogurts. (open at 11am) *Can you find the photo of Brad Pitt filming outside the shop?

Da Quinto (next door)  grilled meat sandwiches, pizza by weight, salads = cheap, fast, freshly made & delicious

-Campo dei Fiori – a lively market square with cafes, bars, fruit, veg, olives and oils, and freshly cut pork sandwiches;  only 5 minutes walk from Navona.  Magic!


Leave Piazza Navona and head to the river. Don’t be afraid to use the side streets and take in the atmosphere.


Castel St Angelo & Hadrian’s tomb At river, cross bridge to Castel  (café and views)   9am-7pm

* left while facing Castel, walk to Vat square; then follow pillars and wall to the right, and follow around. Hurry to the Vat museum.

* loos beside St Angelo, and in Vat square on the right behind the pillars

*meal deal restaurants around the Vatican serve lousy food


Vatican Museum & Sistine chapel (bring pocket mirror to look at ceiling with) / Church dress essential /go through at a good pace as it goes on forever : in the morning it is tour groups only/ public entry 10:00am-4:00pm (closes at 6pm) /closed Sunday

*the best time of the day to go is around 12:30-1:30pm, in between the masses of organised tour groups. Even if there is a queue, it should move fairly quickly.

For a shortcut back to St Peter’s Cathedral, find door, right hand side at back of Sistine chapel that says ‘for private tour groups only’ (only if you don’t have audio guide to return) and attach yourself to a group to use it.

Knees and shoulders must be covered for Rome churches and Vatican; men too. Cropped trousers, sarongs or track pants okay. In summer, bring umbrella, water & hat. (if you plan to visit Vatican, sometimes they make you check cane umbrellas; therefore a folding one you can hide in your bag is better).

Michelangelo's masterpiece in the Sisteen Chapel.

Michelangelo’s masterpiece in the Sisteen Chapel.


St Peter’s Basilica (San Pietro) Church dress essential / cover shoulders and knees / 7am-7pm free

After tour, look for signs to grotto to see tomb of St Peters & former Popes. Pope John Paul has been moved to basilica main floor.  To visit Dome –enter at front of church/take the stairs all the way OR lift to roof (coffee shop, gift shop, water fountain & loos) then it’s 323 stairs to the very top of the basillica.  8am-6pm/ winter to 5pm.  Not for the claustrophobic.

Take a quick look around the side streets in front of the Vatican for shops selling religious articles, priest & nun fashion shops, & rosary beads.  TOP TIP: Send a post card from the Vatican post office in Vat square.


Head up to M: Ottoviano, passing clothes shops and street stalls.  Jump on the metro, and head back across the river to M: Spagna.

Come out to main street and go right to Café Canova Tadolini Via del Babuino 150, café set in sculptors workshop,  drinks or meals Mon-Sat 8am-8:30pm  /  for reservation: 06-32110702   (at least go in for a look – it’s amazing!)  2 mins from Spanga


After a lookee-see, come out of café and go right to:

Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi)  Iconic fountain powered by and ancient aquaduct. Throw a coin over your left shoulder and you will return to Rome one day.

The fabulous Trevi Fountain.

The fabulous Trevi Fountain.


Spanish Steps (Piazza de Spagna)  Metro: Spagna/ Fountain of youth at bottom.   Designer shops down Via Condotti.  See Rome’s first McDonalds, worlds largest (425 seats) most luxurious (marble pillars, salad bar, free toilets)

Crypt of Capuchin Monks (beneath Santa Maria Della Concezione)  27 Via Venetto.  An eerie display of bones of 4,000 monks within 5 crypts.  Go to Metro Barberini, look for seashell fountain on side of square. Unassuming church is just past it, to the right.  open   9-12 & 3-6


Dining with the locals: visit Trastevere. From Piazza Risorgimento (by the Vatican) pick up bus 23 or 27.

Former pax liked: Rist da meo Patacca  in Piazza de Mercanti 30. (Restaurant, night club in ancient stables with wandering singers and entertainment. Touristy but fun).   You can also find lots of quirky eating places in side streets around Piazza Nuvona, and Trevi fountain.

** Find out where the locals eat by asking   Ci puo’ consigliare un ristorantino locale non turistico per favore?


Nightlife   *be very wary of anyone being too friendly.  Locals are normally reserved.

Keep an eye out for the hunched over ladies-in-black, who shake and mutter about having 27 bambinos and no money.  They are actresses who beg for a living and are by no means decrepit and poor.  I’ve seen a bunch of them on their cigarette break, standing upright and laughing and talking.  They will be fine without your donation.