The bus system is very problematic for a tourist. The guidebooks emphasise that you must buy a ticket (flat-rate of 1€ for 75 minutes travel) and validate it on board. But we hardly ever saw locals validating tickets and there seems no way of checking, apart from spot-checks by (non-existent) inspectors. The truth is that for most routes in the centre, particularly at rush-hour, the buses are impossibly crowded so there is only a slim chance of getting onto a bus and no chance of getting near a validating machine – ticket revenue for ATAC must be tiny for the number of passengers carried. Furthermore ATAC has clearly decided not to put a diagram of the route inside the bus or to have a screen telling you what the next stop is. This adds up to a really tourist-hostile service.
Google map: bit.ly/dOTiNm
I wanted to make sure the apartment I was booking had a private parking as I went to Italy by car and I know what a mess Rome is with parking!
I've visited a number of websites, but I really like feelhomeinrome's facilities section which is so comprehensive: this way you can compare much better and make sure you don't miss any of the requirements that are important to you.
The Colosseum as of July 2008 is approx 11 euros entry for an adult. You will queue about half an hour or so and then you can purchase an audio guide for four euros.
Be careful - you will get approached many times by people offering you the chance to queue jump as they have a reservation and they will take you on a 40 minute tour for 20-25 euros. Sounds good, but don't go. Basically there are real tours that go through a different queue. When these tour groups get to a certain part the group leader will pay for everyone at the ticket office and then take you on a tour. However they do not really check whether the tours are official. So what these other people are doing are taking you through to the ticket office using the tour queue which may be ever slightly quicker, and then they are purchasing your tickets and keeping ten euros themselves after giving you a quick unofficial tour. I would advise you queue in the normal line and use the official audio tour guides for four euros.
If you are unsure whether the people you are talking to are real staff at the Colosseum, I can tell you that they all wear a uniform. The uniform we witnessed was black t-shirts and black trousers. So all these others outside in their own clothes are unofficial guides.
The Colosseum can be found easily but I advise going to a newsagent or to the kiosk at Termini Station or another metro station and purchasing a seven-day pass. It is 16 euros and entitles you to seven days on buses, metro and trains, unlimited use. Get off at Colosseo stop for Colosseum or Termini for Trevi fountain, Spagna for spanish steps, etc... or travel for 40 minutes to Loro Central and it's a ten minute walk to a lovely beach! Great value for money! Metro comes every three minutes, absolutely fantastic!
Rome is overwhelming. But I have some reservations. Compared with other European cities its facilities for visitors are primitive. The main bus and tram station in front of the central station was a free for all for traffic (this is true of the city as a whole), and the melted tarmac was churned up into waves so that one had to totter across a petrified sea to catch a bus.
The ticket machines for the Metro were generally not working and there were vast queues for the one booth that seemed to be open. Indeed, queueing seemed to be imposed upon all visitors who wished to see any of the city's sights. Moreover, if you had a mobility difficulty, such as being confined to a wheelchair, you could forget a place like the Forum, which required climbing gear to explore it - so steep were the steps. There was litter everywhere.
In contrast Vatican City appeared well cared for and receptive to visitors. I wondered how much of the money made from visitors to Rome was being fed back into the conservation of monuments and improvements in facilities. I visited Rome for the first time in March 2006, and I would be interested to know if more recent visitors have seen progress in these respects.
Rome, Italy, Eternal City.
Please beware of people trying to overcharge you for taxi fares from the airport. I booked an apartment through the website www.feelhomeinrome.com and they booked me a taxi for 65 Euros. I only found out later, when the taxi didn't turn up for the return journey and I had to hail a cab from one of the main streets, that the official charge is 30 Euros to the inner city. You can also get a bus for eight Euros to termini.
By the way, even though the apartment was good, I wouldn't recommend feelhomeinrome.com as they apply hidden charges for cleaning the apartment and work with a dodgy taxi company that is charging more than double the official fare.
If you're new to Rome, and have no idea where to start, I recommend swallowing your pride and getting a ticket for one of the Big Bus Sightseeing Tours. These can be purchased at the main bus terminus in Rome. Once you're on the bus, you'll be taken round ALL of the sights, and you can hop on and off etc. And no, I don't work for this company, and this isn't a marketing ploy; I just found it an invaluable way to plan your attack on this beautiful city.
Main Bus Station - Rome
Booking directly through Trenitalia's website is easy, and a bargain compared to rail travel in Britain. There are lots of discounts available too, we were able to find Eurostar tickets between Rome and Venice for Eu29. However, the standard first class fare is only Eu74. That is the most you could possibly pay, for a journey that is the equivalent of London to Edinburgh (but is over faster).
For our convenience their website is even in English.
In these times of security threats, delays, cancellations and concerns about air travel in general, I can recommend European train travel with great pleasure, having enjoyed a memorable journey from Rome to Berlin this summer - all trains ran on time to the minute and reserved seats were waiting; the view from the window constantly changed as we sped through Tuscany, the Alps, across Austria, along the Elbe river valley and finally to Berlin. We had a pleasant lunch on one journey, chatted to a charming Californian couple on another, but generally watched the world go by while listening to music on an ipod (me) or reading a book (my wife). At the end of each journey, we were relaxed and ready for whatever each new city had in store for us, stopping in Florence, Salzburg, Vienna and Prague on the way. It may cost a little more than charter flights but the rewards are substantial.
Start with a copy of Thomas Cook's European railway timetable and plan your route. Find a independent rail operator - Rail Canterbury (www.rail-canterbury.co.uk) are highly recommended. Create your own ideal journey.
If you are backpacking or want a cheap room stay at the Yellow Hostel. It has been highly rated and is the best place to stay. With your stay you get a brochure of Rome which identifies all the must-see areas via buses. I did this and it could not be easier. The location of the Hostel is central so you can’t miss it.
Near Trainstation - down the road from there.
I´d advise paying on the metro as there´s a fine of 101 euros if you´re caught without a ticket, as we might have been but for a bit of deft dodging involving a map and an "oh it must be that way" demeanour.
Good news! The eccentric Roman validity system for the 1 euro tickets means that they are valid for all trips starting within 75 minutes. If the machine accepts your ticket only 1 minute before expiry, the ticket is confirmed valid on that vehicle or service even if your next leg goes well over the 75 mins. And if you think you are just over the limit, try anyway - many machines run slow.
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