Anne Hanley, author of "Time Out Rome," winner of our guidebook smackdown for Rome, answered your questions on Rome.
Anne Hanley: Greetings from Anne Hanley in Rome, where it feels like spring has arrived, though dire warnings of a ten-degree drop in temperatures keep being issued... that's the weather forecast for the many people who have written that they're arriving in the next few days. Now to your questions...
Whitinsville, Mass.: 4 adults (40 & 50's) are traveling to Italy in April 20-28 through a travel club in Boston called ShowoftheMonth. We are staying in Maori on the Almalfi Coast for the entire 8-day trip. We have 2 free days and would like to see if we can get to Rome for two days. We need some guidance regarding the best way to get from Maori to Rome (using public transportation train or bus) and suggestions of what we can see in the space of two days.
Anne Hanley: You'll need a lot of patience (the journey takes a while) and quite a bit of good luck (ie connections actually working) for your Rome trip not to turn into a public transport nightmare. That said, it is feasible and of course, you'll get a little while in Rome which is always a good thing. There are hourly buses from Maiori to Salerno (the local tourist office will have timetables; the trip takes about one hour). From Salerno you can hop on a train to Rome. The official railway site trenitalia.it has a great journey planner, and you can book tickets online. A fast train from Salerno to Rome takes just over two hours.
I always recommend to people who have very little time in Rome, and haven't been there before, simply to do the most obvious things, and preferably to do them on foot. Also, it pays to remember that Rome seems hell-bent on throwing complications in the way of anyone who tries to do too much too quickly. So gawk at the Colosseum, amble through the Roman Forum, 'do' the Capitoline Museums (museicapitolini.org) then take your life in your hands crossing piazza Venezia and wend through the medieval streets to the Pantheon and piazza Navona.Take your time, stop at cafés, enjoy people-watching. One attraction that I now tell everyone not to miss is the furiously ugly and out-of-place lift that they have tacked on to the back of the Vittoriano, that huge white monument in piazza Venezia. The view from up the top is indescribably beautiful.
Des Moines, Iowa: Looking for a good 3-Star or better hotel to stay at in Rome, from May 1st to May 5th. Not sure of the area, but will be flying into Lenardo da Vinci Airport. Would like to have a free shuttle if possible, too. Price from $100-200 per night. My wife, myself and my daughter will be traveling there at that time. Thanks.
Anne Hanley: With the exchange rate being what it is, and Rome being expensive for accommodation, you're going to have a hard job getting a three-star in any even remotely central area at that price. Slide down the scale to a B&B and you might have more luck. The Relais Palazzo Taverna (relaispalazzotaverna.com) is in a great location not far from piazza Navona and may fall within your price range. The two-location Daphne Inn (daphne-rome.com) may also meet your needs.
In all my years in Rome, I have never heard of a hotel with a free airport shuttle... I don't think such a thing exists. However there's a cheap and efficient train service in from the airport (adr.it).
Craigville, Ind.: We are 5 couples (teachers), ages 50+, who have vacationed in Mexico for the past few years during our March Spring Break. We need a warm-weather destination because some of our group prefers to stay at the pool all day; others, like to also see some sights. We also like the convenience of an all-inclusive resort. Is there any reasonably priced lodging near Rome where we could stay to accommodate both interests? —Terri
Anne Hanley: It can snow in Rome in March! It certainly isn't swimming weather... that comes round about late June. Offhand, I can't think of anywhere with an indoor pool. So unless your pool-loungers are prepared to change their habits and interests, I'd look elsewhere.
Chicago, Ill.: Hi. We'll be in Rome in late March with a group of 4—2 30-somethings, 1 50-something, and 1 65-year-old. We'd really like to get a glimpse of the Pope, but we've found conflicting and confusing information. We'd like to attend the outdoor mass on Sunday the 30th of March. Are tickets required? If so, how do we get them? Can you tell us anything else about the Sunday masses? How long do they last? When is a good time to get there? Do you recommend any place in particular to try to stand to get a view of the Pope? Thanks in advance for any answers you can provide.
Anne Hanley: As you seem to have found out already, getting reliable information about the Vatican is not always easy. Unless the pope is worn out after his Easter exertions, there will, presumably, be the usual mass at 10am and angelus at midday in St Peter's square. These are open to all and there's no need to obtain tickets. Bernini's marvellous colonnade in the square was specially designed so everyone could see everything; the mega-screens placed around the square help too. If the weather doesn't permit an outside event, the mass moves inside the basilica. As far as I know, there are no tickets: it's just a case of elbowing your way in. If you're stuck outside, the mega-screens still show the mass.
Norman, Okla.: I'm flying into FCO, on 16 MAR 2008 @ 7:30 a.m. I have two options for getting to my hotel Holiday Inn, Rome-Fiano, which is approximately 40 miles from FCO. One is take the 85 Euro shuttle, I've already booked. Or two, take the FR1 train to the Fara-Sabina station, and hope I can find a cab, on Sunday morning, at a Suburban Station (estimated price of 5 mile cab ride is 25 Euro). So should I take the sure thing, or live dangerously, and hope for cab, to save about 43 Euro. Oh yes, I speak Italian. Thanks, Ragan
Anne Hanley: The first thing I should do, perhaps, is ask why you're staying at the Holiday Inn in Fiano. Because if you are hoping to use it as a base for exploring Rome, it's time to cancel your booking and make another. Fiano is a bit of a wasteland, well outside the city. There is nothing there except (if I remember correctly) a multiplex, a seedy shopping mall and some bargain furniture warehouses. Oh, and the rather wonderful minor Roman site of Lucus Feroniae, but they're so short-staffed there these days that it rarely opens. If, on the other hand, you're planning to hop in a car and drive north, it's great: the hotel is right by a major motorway junction...
The Fiumicino-Fara Sabina train service is fine and cheap, though slow. I very much doubt whether you'll find a taxi at Fiano on a Sunday morning. If I were you I'd contact the hotel about that, and maybe get them to arrange a car.
Pittsburgh, Pa.: I love the ancient ruins in Rome, but how does a traveler (without a PHD in history) gain access to some of the more fascinating ruins hidden under the city? Thanks!
Anne Hanley: The city council has a great new information service which you can call (060608) or consult on line (060608.it). It's in Italian and English. If you click on 'Culture and Leisure' then choose 'Cultural Heritage' > 'Archeological Heritage', you'll find a pretty exhaustive list of ancient monuments—visible from the street; always open to the public; and visitable only with special permission. All the information you need on how to get into them is given here. Similarly, the 'Discover Rome' area of the romaturismo.it site has a page called 'Municipal archeological sites that may be visited on request'. Again, all you need to know is here.
Miami, Fla.: Nine of us (all adults) are taking a cruise leaving from Civitavechia on Sept 1. What is the best way to go from Rome, where we will be staying the previous two days, probably at a hotel at the airport, to the port? We don't want to spend a lot of money.
Thanks a lot,
Anne Hanley: Trains from Rome to Civitavecchia are frequent, cheap, and take just over an hour. If you're staying at a hotel near Fiumicino airport, your best bet is to take the stopping train (not the faster Leonardo Express) from Fiumicino station and get out at Ostiense station in Rome: Civitavecchia trains all stop at this minor station.
Columbia, S.C.: We are a group of 6 adults visiting Rome in June. We have heard many horror stories about pickpockets and drive-by purse snatchers. How big a problem is this, really? What are the best ways to avoid being a target?
Anne Hanley: I know far more people who have had bags snatched and pockets picked in London than in Rome! There are nasty people out there, of course, as there are in any big city. They're more frequent in heavily touristed areas. The number 40 and 64 buses (which go between the main train station and the Vatican) are famous pocket-picking places. Don't leave handbags sitting on the ground under outside restaurant tables or expensive camera equipment hanging over the back of your chair, don't flap wads of cash around everywhere, try not to look too lost and helpless... just like anywhere really! One particularly Roman thing is groups of gypsy woman and children who approach tourists flapping bits of cardboard around at waist height. While you try to work out what on earth they're doing, the little ones have ducked underneath and are picking your pockets. But as I said, you'd be part of a very small statistic if anything were to happen to you.
Sudbury, Canada: We are headed to Rome March 9, 2008. Could you tell me which tour company runs the best Vatican tour with no waiting in lines? Is the official Vatican tour a little drier than those with Angel Tours or Sky Tours? We are traveling with 2 children, ages 10 and 14, and need a "fun" tour guide! Thanks
Anne Hanley: Oh dear, this is one of those questions that I really don't know the answer to (so, apologies to you and to the many other people who have asked the same question). Perhaps there isn't an answer. The official Vatican Museum tours are very good value and certainly there's no waiting in line, but they're notoriously difficult to get on to... so difficult, in fact, that I know no one who has ever done it. You send your fax off into the Vatican void and wait and wait and wait for a confermation fax. As I say, I don't know anyone who has ever had one. I think there are two things to remember when seeking a Vatican tour: if it's cheap—by which I mean less than €100 per person—then it's likely to involve long waits; and as the small print doesn't always explain the real situation, you need to be able to put very precise questions to the tour operator. You need, for example, to be aware that St Peter's basilica and the Vatican Museums (which contain the Sistine Chapel) are two different attractions, with a ten minute hike between them. And getting into both of them generally involves daunting waits, unless you are paying your tour operator enough money to cover the Vatican's huge charge for priority entrance to the museums. I have never heard of priority entrance to the basilica. Sorry, I know that's really not all that much use, or very comforting. If you simply can't make your mind up, try going to the museums round about noon on Wednesday when lots of people are at the pope's audience in St Peter's square: the wait tends to be much shorter.
Ruidoso, N.M.: What is the most central location to stay in Rome? Someplace close to attractions and great restaurants.
Anne Hanley: Rome's centro storico is compact and full of everything you want to see (and eat). Anywhere around the Pantheon, piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps, Trastevere... you'll love them all.
Rocklin, Calif.: Three of us—ages 55, 63 & 65—will travel to Italy in Sept 2009 for three weeks. We have driven all over Western Europe and northern Italy but never in southern Italy. My question is, what is the best way to get around, train or car? We want to see Orvietto, Sienna, Venice, Florence, Cinque Terra, Sicily, Pompeii, & Capri. We will be spending a week in Rome before heading out for the other areas. Any advice is appreciated.
Anne Hanley: If you want to see all those places, car, definitely. You could do it by public transport but you'd spend most of your time waiting for trains and buses.
Cincinnati, Ohio: What areas would have apartments that are safe and reasonable to rent for myself, my 83-year-old mother and my two sisters? Price is more important than swankiness. Thanks.
Anne Hanley: Anywhere in the centro storico is perfectly safe, though not always particularly reasonable as far as price goes. Anywhere further afield, and it will make the job of moving your mother around rather more difficult and/or expensive, because the only way in to visit the sights will be by public transport or cab. Romanreference.com is a reputable site with many apartments on its books.
Niles, Ohio: We are taking a cruise to Rome and various other ports in the Mediterranean and I wonder if it would be better to book our own excursion in Rome instead of the one sponsored by the cruise ship? What is a reputable tour agency?
Anne Hanley: Various people have put the same or similar questions, so please don't take offence if I don't answer you all: this is meant for all of you.
You know, this will sound ridiculous, but I really know very little about tour operators: all my work is geared towards independent travellers, keen to find their own way around. I recommend that you look at opinions posted on travel websites: they're probably much more reliable than mine!
Boulder, Colo.: I've heard rumors that starting in 2008 there will be an admission charge for the Roman Forum. If true, what is the cost? Are there any tickets that include multiple sites in Rome (such as the Forum, Colesseum, museums, etc.)?
Anne Hanley: Yes! Much to my horror, as of next Saturday they will reintroduce an entrance ticket for the Roman Forum. I loved the way that, for the past ten years, the Forum really belonged to the Romans who would stroll down there of a Sunday afternoon to enjoy the sunshine and stetch their legs. But maintenance costs, and now the Forum will be included in the ticket (€9, or €11 if there's some kind of special show going on) covering the Colosseum and the Palatine. There are various cumulative tickets for sights: the romaturismo.it 'Discovering Rome' pages explain all of these in the introductions under the various headings. Then there's the three-day Roma Pass (romapass.it) which also includes a travel pass.
Minneapolis, Minn.: We (2 adults) are going to be in Rome between March, 28 and April 5th 2009. Can you give us any advice as to how to beat the notoriously long lines at the Vatican Museum?
Anne Hanley: Try Wednesday at noon when thousands of people are otherwise engaged at the papal audience. Or may a huge amount for a tour. Sorry... the real answer is: expect to have to wait!
Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany (orig. Seattle, Wash.): I travel to Rome frequently. It is my favorite city in Europe. However, now that I've been-there/done-that with regards to most of the tourist attractions, what else do you suggest for a budget traveler on a short 3-4 trip to Rome? I'm looking to delve a little more into the local scene (restaurants, nightlife, shopping, etc.). Also, any budget accommodation recommendations? Either in the city center or a suburb that might be worth checking out?
Anne Hanley: After 24 years in Rome, I still find myself turning a corner and coming across some tiny chapel or fascinating decorative brickwork or minuscule palazzo that I didn't know was there: Rome's like that. You sound like you need a copy of my guide, quite frankly! There are some marvellous minor museums: the Centrale Montemartini (museicapitolini.org) is one of my favourite. And gardens—a passion of mine—that few people know about: try the monks' vegetable garden attached to the basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. As for accommodation, Rome is never cheap and at the budget end, you tend to get what you pay for (ie sometimes not much).
Minnetonka, Minn.: We (a mid-30's couple) are going to be in Rome the first week of April 2008. What are the must-see's for Rome during that time?
Anne Hanley: The Spanish Steps are usually covered with huge pots full of azaleas at that time... truly spectacular. This year's Settimana della Cultura (Culture Week), when most museums are free and many little-opened sights are on show, runs from March 25-31: will you be here? This year's Giornate FAI (for information see fondoambiente.it) are on April 5-6. In this annual event, the doors of all kinds of fascinating places are thrown open for visits. There's a list of venues on the FAI site.
Philadelphia, Pa.: I'm leaving tomorrow for Rome, 50+ woman traveling solo and staying in the Piazza Navona neighborhood. This is my 4th trip to Rome, so I've seen many of the must-see sites in Rome—what are some hidden gems? Also, I've never been to Trastevere and would like to see what is the big attraction. Can you recommend a good walking route for a single woman?
Anne Hanley: Well, there are quite a few gems hidden in Trastevere itself: you should try to get to see the breathtaking fresco by Pietro Cavallini in Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, and take the lovely walk up the Gianicolo hill, stopping at San Pietro in Montorio to admire Bramante's perfect little Tempietto in the courtyard next door. Trastevere's main attraction is its charm: this is Rome as you dreamed it would be—narrow twisting alleyways and lots of life. Even the fact that much of the life these days consists of tourists doesn't seem to detract too much from its charm... except very late at night when crowds of rowdy, drunken Anglos rampage through the winebar-packed streets. Apart from the problems caused by our less savoury compatriates, Trastevere is perfectly safe.
Chicago, Ill.: I'm going to Rome for the 4th time, but this time I'm taking my 92-year-old, very Catholic grandma with me for her first visit. The main purpose of our visit is for her to see the Vatican City and hopefully join the audience on Wednesday morning to see the Pope. Any advice on how to get tickets for the Wednesday morning audience? Do you have any favorite tours of the Vatican city that go more in depth then just St Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel?
Anne Hanley: Michelle, audience tickets depend on the weather. Honestly! If the sun is shining, the audience is open to all and held in St Peter's square.
If it's cold and wet, it's held in the 8000-seater audience hall. It lasts about 90 minutes. You'll need a ticket, but they're free and not at all difficult to get. Ask at the Vatican tourist office in St Peter's square. One of my friends tells me that she has seen tickets sitting in piles on a shelf right by the entrance to the audience hall, minutes before the event begins.
Princeton, Calif.: My husband and I will be taking our grandchildren (ages 15 and 11) to Italy in June. We have rented an apartment in the Navonna area, on P.zza Fiammetta. We would like to eat some of our meals in the apartment. Are there good places nearby for buying food? P.zza Fiori would probably meet our needs, but it is a bit far from the apartment. Thank you.
Anne Hanley: Campo de' Fiori morning market (Mon-Sat) is your closest open air market, and you shouldn't miss it, because it is extremely picturesque. It is also very over-priced. (NB: I speak as someone who has a wonderful and much cheaper—though much less central—produce market right under her house, so I'm biassed.) You'll find that there are mini-supermarkets all over the place in the centre, though most of them are quite well hidden, so keep your eyes peeled. And smaller, less tourist-packed alleyways are likely to have little delis and fruit and veg shops in them.
West Chester, Pa.: My husband, daughter (10), and I plan on visiting Rome. My husband and I have been to Rome before but it was quite awhile ago. We are looking for a place to stay in Rome that would be family-friendly and also places to visit that are family-friendly as well. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you. —Cheryl
Anne Hanley: The whole of Italy is family-friendly! Of course it helps if your offspring is small and blond (every Italian's favourite type) but kids of any kind are always welcome in hotels and restaurants—even the very smartest ones—and everywhere else. This love/general acceptance of children doesn't, however, translate into lots of child-friendly things to do. Your daughter is perhaps a bit big for the children's museum (mdbr.it) but she might enjoy the computer simulations of ancient rubbish building up and burying Rome in the Crypta Balbi museum, or the inter-active simulations of ancient trade routes in the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme museum. But even without seeking specific child-friendly things, Rome is fun for kids (especially those who have done even a little ancient history) simply because of its right there in-your-face history. The Colosseum really is impressive, even when you're ten!
Richmond, Va.: Hi. I would love to travel to Rome, but I don't want to stay in the crowded areas all of the time. I'd also like to stay maybe outside of the city, with easy access to enter during the day. Any suggestions?
Anne Hanley: Er... don't! When Italy had its economic miracle in the 1970s, much of the countryside around the cities was built over and destroyed by huge new districts of high-rises to house the city-bound workforce. So finding anywhere pleasant within easy-access distance of Rome is not easy. Also, though public transport into and out of town has improved in the last few years, it's still not great. If you want to see Rome, find a quiet place to stay in the city. It sounds counter-intuitive, but sometimes the quietest places are right in the centre, where traffic is restricted and tiny narrow alleyways mean that while one street is packed with visitors, the street one block over is totally silent and empty. Also, if you stay outside the city, then lack of evening transport will mean that you miss one of Rome's most pleasant experiences: the evening stroll through the streets with a quiet nightcap before going back to your hotel.
Great River, N.Y.: We will be staying at the Hotel Modigliani, via della Purificazione, in Rome this May. This will be our first un-escorted trip. Could you recommend some good local restaurants and walking tours in the area? I guess I should mention that we are 'senior citizens,' so nothing too strenuous!
Anne Hanley: I've answered the walking tour query (not very successfully) elsewhere. As for eating, the best rule of thumb is to put your head around the door and see how many of the clients are Italian. From via della Purificazione, you'll probably want to amble downhill towards the Tridente and centro storico areas, where the greatest density of restaurants is to be found. Distances are very small, so don't worry too much about over-doing it.
Danville, Calif.: We're a group of 2 couples all of us at geezer age. We'll be traveling to Rome on March 26 for a way-too-short three-night stay. We'll be doing "Ancient Rome" on one of our full days and the Vatican Museum/St.Peter's on the other with a night walk on one of those evenings. What activities would you suggest for the two partial days? Our hotel is near the Termini Station. Also, do you think the "Roma Pass" is a good value for a short stay? Incidentally, I'd love to visit Rome for a year; my wife says over her dead body. As a husband of some experience, I assume this means, "No." Thank you in advance for your advice.
Anne Hanley: I think the Roma Pass is good value, though if you're already booked to see many of the sights on your tours, then perhaps you won't need it. There's also a three-day bus/tram/metro pass which costs €11: you might find this handy because most of the main sights are a short bus ride away from Termini. Which isn't to say there aren't things to see in your area. The Baths of Diocletian and the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme museum are both fascinating; there are also some beautiful little-visited churches with spectacular mosaics around there, such as Santa Prassede and Santa Pudenziana. Without knowing what you'll have already covered on your tours, it's difficult to say what else you should do. But the Trastevere district is very pretty for a stroll. I always recommend just setting off on foot and seeing what you come across: bound to be something great.
Mercer Island, Wash.: If we are looking to rent an apartment close to the sites, but with more of a neighborhood feel, what three locations, in order of preference, would you recommend?
Anne Hanley: Around Campo de' Fiori. Monti. Trastevere. Having said that, most of central Rome has a neighbourhood feel. It's one big village really.
Seattle, Wash.: Hi Anne! My friend and I are planning to go to Rome for a week this spring, May 24 to June 1st to be exact. We are both females, age 24 and 25, and will not need to include airfare as part of our budget. We would like to explore as much as we can in the short time we are there including food, wine, historical architecture and beaches. We are thinking we should stay in Rome but noticed the prices are higher there than in other cities. Any advice you can offer on where to stay and what tours or cities are worth checking out would be hugely appreciated!
—2 Chicks on a Budget
Anne Hanley: First bit of advice: forget the beaches. Apart from the fact that, unless you're incredibly lucky with the weather, it won't be swimming season at that time, the beaches around Rome are fairly dreadful. If it is hot, and you just can't do without, get on a train and go north, to Santa Marinella for example, for a day trip.
Second bit of advice: get a good guidebook (I would recommend mine if I were allowed to plug it here...!) and just walk. Rome is very small, simple, accessible and navigable. You'll have a great time. I don't think Rome is particularly more expensive than other Italian cities, though accommodation here is pretty pricey. Still there's lots of choice so I'm sure you'll find something for your budget. Remember though, that you get what you pay for, especially at the lower end of the scale.
Madison, Ala.: I have a group of 10 with an average age of 60 chronological years, but much younger in spirit. We will be in Rome on October 25 for 3 days and would like your suggestions for the best use of our time. I know all the best places but would like some lesser known site, local shopping areas, any markets and your thoughts on the best location for a hotel. We also need a reasonable fare from Rome to Cicitavecchia where we will start a cruise. Thanks so much for your help!!! —Pat
Anne Hanley: Lots of people on cruises from Civitavecchia! See elsewhere for an answer to that.
If you're only here for three days, find a hotel right in the centre, see the big sites, and just soak up Rome.
LaVista, Nebr.: What are the cheapest ways to get from the port of Civitivecchia into the city near the Coloseum, and 2 days later from here to the airport (FCO)? We will be arriving June 1 early morning and leaving midday on June 3.
Anne Hanley: Train from Civitavecchia to Rome (see other replies...)
There are two train services from central Rome to Fiumicino airport: the 30-minute Leonardo Express (€13) which leaves every half hour from Termini station and the slower (45-minute) stopping train (€5.50) that leaves every 20 minutes from Ostiense or Trastevere station.
Chicago, Ill.: I will be on a cruise and stopping close to Rome, where would you suggest for a fabulous lunch for 4 ladies, we're between 60 and 65 and like good food and fun places.
Anne Hanley: If 'close to Rome' means Civitavecchia, and you'll be having lunch there, then I'm afraid I can't personally recommend anywhere: the only thing I've ever eaten in Civitavecchia is some rather nasty reheated pizza as I rushed to pick someone up from the Sardinia ferry! Italian restaurant guide books recommend two restaurants near the port: La Bomboniera and La Scaletta, both (logically) seafood places, and both meant to be very good; about €40 per person.
Ottawa, Kans.: We will be flying back to ORD/MCI on AA111 from FCO on April 8. Four of us will be staying near the Vatican and wonder if a taxi, limo or train is best way to get to airport—cost wise and time wise. Thanks!
Anne Hanley: In theory, a taxi for up to four people from anywhere within the city centre to Fiumicino airport costs a flat rate of €40, with no extra charges for luggage etc. The stopping train (see other answers on this topic) would be slightly cheaper, though once you have paid for a taxi to get to the railway station, it would probably cost about the same. Get your hotel to call you a cab. And make sure that the taxi driver doesn't try to ask for more. Though most of Rome's taxi drivers are honest and friendly, many seem to become infuriatingly greedy and slippery where airport trips are involved.
East Hampton, Conn.: We will be traveling to Rome in late April and arriving on a Sunday morning and leaving the following Sat. morning. What is the best way to get into Rome from the airport? Some recommend the direct train into Termini and some recommend a taxi or a bus. What would you recommend? We keep on hearing about pickpockets at the train stations, truth or urban legends?
Anne Hanley: You'll find answers to the first part of this question elsewhere.
Yes, there are pickpockets at train stations... in Rome, and in every city all over the world! Just have your wits about you. Tens of thousands of people go through Termini station every day: hardly any have their pockets picked.
Salem, Ky.: We will arrive Rome on April 23, 2008. Staying near the Coliseum. We want the names of restaurants that the locals eat at that are budget-priced. Also, the must-see or must-try attraction. My husband and I are 51 and love traditional ethnic foods.
Anne Hanley: Most of Rome's restaurants have their menus posted outside, so you can see what's on offer and what the prices are before you choose. My recommendation is always that you opt for any restaurant where there are lots of Italians dining... if it's full of tourists only, then there's a reason! Just stroll around your area and see what you find. What you won't find much of are non-Italian restaurants; there are some (mostly not-very-good) Chinese and a few Indians, but on the whole Italians prefer Italian food... and that's probably because it's excellent. Pizzerias are generally cheaper than restaurants.
Arnold, Md.: Okay, I want—no, need—to know the insider scoop on where to shop for some of those outstanding handbags and shoes that only Italians can make, but at locals-shop-here prices. Can you help me?
Anne Hanley: For shoes, try Testaccio market, Monday to Saturday mornings. It's a fantastic fruit and vegetable market, mainly, but one aisle has been taken over by people selling shoes left over from fashion shows, and discontinued lines. There are bags there too. Besides that concentrated little pocket, I don't know where to suggest: shoe and bag shops are all over the place in the centre. But unless you want to pay Gucci prices, keep to quieter, less chichi-looking streets! One shoe shop that I love is Borini in via dei Pettinari.
Indian Head Park, Ill.: How best to protect yourself from thieves, pickpocketers and dishonest storekeepers? I have been told that Italy is the most thieving country in Europe. Also is it best to make all hotel reservations from USA before arriving in Italy? We will be in Florence and Tuscany 3/24- 4/2/08. I would love to have a nice relaxing vacation, but now I am beginning to worry about safety and honesty. Thank you!
Anne Hanley: Dear me, how did Italy get itself this terrible reputation?! It really is a case of a few bad apples. Personally I find Italians wonderful, welcoming, helpful and friendly. If I were to generalise, I'd say that the unwritten national motto was 'why do things by the book if we can get them done more easily by cutting corners?'. And many—especially Romans—have very little time for anyone who shows any sign of not having their wits about them. But I'd be very surprised if you didn't find Italians just great. Remember though, that (rightly) they tend to react to hostility with... hostility. So try to be as friendly as they are, and you'll be fine.
near Seattle, Wash.: My sister-in-law, my husband, and I are planning a week long trip to Rome next October. Our ages are mid-30s to mid-40s. We all have different ideas for this vacation. One of us likes leisurely breakfasts and shopping and a few sights in the afternoon. One of us likes to get up early for a coffee and pastry type breakfast then see as much of the famous art, architecture, and historical sites as possible, grabbing local casual types of food along the way. One of us likes the sights of Ancient Rome, people watching, and likes to go to bed early. (I won't say which one I am.) My question is, is there a way to plan this so we can enjoy some things together? Not knowing the layout of Rome and distances between sights nor where the best area to stay would be is making it difficult to form a plan. Can this trip be saved?
Anne Hanley: Absolutely. The centre of Rome is very small. To give you an idea, the most distant sights you'll probably want to see are, let's say, the Vatican and the Colosseum. And you can walk that comfortably, stopping for coffee and cakes, in three hours. But there's lots in between to stop you so you probably won't. The whole of the centre is packed with restaurants, cafés, sights... everything you need. All very close together. You'll all find the Rome you want, I'm sure.
Las Vegas, Nev.: Hello. First time traveling overseas, going to Italy March 12th-25th, arriving in Rome. Can you give me some recommendations on some lesser-known venues and sites to see and explore in Rome/Northern Italy that I may not find by just reading travel guides on Italy? And any tips about a first visit overseas, without knowing the language to the place one is visiting, would be beneficial as well. Thank you.
Anne Hanley: First of all, if this is your first time in Rome, do the obvious things. All those monuments and museums are famous for very good reasons! The come back again some other time to fine-tune your Roman knowledge.
Don't expect to find English speakers everywhere: Italians are notoriously bad at languages, despite the fact that they all study English for many years at school. On the other hand, they'll try their best to understand and be understood... especially if you have a go with the five words of Italian that you learnt from your guide book on the way across the Atlantic. Rome now has a good English-speaking tourist information call centre on 060608.
Again, for your northern travels... why go for obscure places when the big names are so good? That said, there are some lovely, lesser-known Umbrian towns, such as Orvieto and Perugia.
Philadelphia, Pa.: Is it crazy to schedule 2 walking tours in one day? There is so much to see and so little time. I believe that a tour will point out sites that we will probably miss or, miss because our head will be in a guidebook.
Anne Hanley: No, as I've said elsewhere... central Rome is small. Two walking tours in a day sounds exhausting, but not unfeasible.
Burtrum, Minn.: Is it always best to take the tours offered when in Rome...if so which ones are the best?
Anne Hanley: This very much depends on whether or not you have a pioneering spirit! Personally I always avoid any tours offered and strike out on my own, wherever I am. With a good guidebook and some sense of direction, you should be fine.
Israel: My husband, my 19-year-old daughter and I will have a 16-hour daytime stopover in Rome on Saturday September 7. Can you outline a city tour that will include some of the "must-see" sites? We will land at Fiumicino airport and probably will have hand luggage with us. Is there any convenient place where we can store it for the day?
Anne Hanley: As far as I know, the left luggage office in Terminal C at Fiumicino Airport is still operating (the one at Termini railway station is defunct, I think). So get off the airport train at Termini station, get a bus (the 75 is a good one) from there to the Colosseum, walk past the Colosseum, through the Roman Forum (NB get your ticket—it's the same one for the Colosseum, Forum and Palatine—at the Forum or Palatine, because the queue at the Colosseum is usually huge.) The go up to the Capitoline where you could stop and visit the Capitoline Museums, or simply continue down the other side, cross piazza Venezia and plunge into the centro storico streets which contain the Pantheon and piazza Navona etc. I recommend getting a cab back to the station because you'll be exhausted at this point!
Chicago, Ill.: I am flying to Rome September 12, 2008 and scheduled to arrive early on September 13, 2008. I plan on staying in Rome for 3 nights. Can you recommend a reasonably priced (preferably much less than $200) Bed and Breakfast in Rome? Thank you, Randi
New York City, N.Y.: Hi, Anne. Love the TimeOut Rome guide. Any suggestions for a Roman piazza for drinking alfresco in May/June without being mobbed by other non-Italians? Thanks much!
Anne Hanley: Good to know I have a fan. You know, even in the most completely obvious places (like Campo de' Fiori, for example), you'll find that Romans have a great gift for ignoring all the foreigners and taking over certain venues at certain times. To answer your question from the other direction, I would recommend that you avoid the Campo later on in the evening when rowdy Anglo bar crawlers invade this lovely square, turning it into a squalid and seedy area indeed. Same goes for piazza Trilussa in Trastevere... in fact, for much of Trastevere as the night goes on. One of my favourite places for an early evening drink is Freni e Frizioni on the river bank in Trastevere: pure boho-chic Italian.
Ashburn, Va.: On the last trip to Rome my daughter and I had difficulty using the pay telephones. Can you recommend simple directions for this task?
Anne Hanley: This has to win the prize for the strangest question! I guess I've been here so long, and become so cellphone-dependent (like a true Italian) that I can't even remember how to use a payphone. However, I know that hardly any of them work with coins any more. You have to buy a 'scheda telefonica' (phone debit cards, come in various denominations) from a tobacconist or a newsstand, and you shouldn't have any trouble at all. You certainly won't have any trouble finding an empty payphone... because all the locals will be standing around outside talking on their cells.
Anne Hanley: Thanks for all these questions, and apologies to those people whom I didn't get around to. For more detailed information on anything to do with Rome, I (naturally) strongly recommend my own guide! Enjoy Rome. And buon viaggio.