We Came, We Saw, We (Mostly) Conquered: Rome, Italy, Part 3

“Veni, vidi, vici. (I came, I saw, I conquered.)”  – Caius Iulius Caesar IV 
 Tips for Rome:
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1. Try to stay in a place that’s near a big square or a metro stop, closer in towards the heart of the city. Rome is a big city, so while it’s lovely to wander the streets and walk from place to place, know that things can be farther away than they seem. It’s good to take the metro whenever possible, especially because buying the 24-hr or 48-hr pass guarantees you unlimited use of the metro.
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2. Invest in a good map. And don’t rely on Italians for directions, because even though they appear to know exactly what they are talking about, they really just want you to believe that, and sometimes, they actually have no idea where the street is. In other words, they want to be convincing even when they are unconvinced themselves (No. 1).
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3. Wander the streets to find a good restaurant. Restaurants are everywhere, but there are really nice ones tucked away from the main streets and the attractions. Sometimes, they are just a couple streets in, not far from the touristy spots, but still hidden and still charming.
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4. Before going to the Spanish Steps, buy drinks at a convenience store close by. You will wish you had a drink when sitting on the steps, enjoying the view and watching the busy street below, and you can also then avoid all the people trying to sell you a drink on the steps.
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 5. Eat dinner a little earlier in Rome (and in Florence), and then go for drinks and dessert afterwards. The restaurants get really crowded from 6:30p-8p, and a lot of places close by 8p or 9p. So it’s nice to eat around 5:30p. It’s quieter, your food comes really quickly, and then, you can avoid all the rush and still get dessert somewhere at around 7p.
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6. The Vatican, the Roman Forum and the Colosseum – a series of tips for this because, wow, this was a struggle (No.1).
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Tip no. 1: Buy a ticket for both the Roman Forum and the Colosseum at the entrance to the Roman Forum. The line is much shorter than at the entrance to the Colosseum, and the ticket includes entry to both. Also, go in the morning. It’s so much more peaceful, and it’s also not as hot, so win-win.
  • The line situation gets pretty confusing when getting into the Colosseum. Just ask the tour guides (the ones standing everywhere trying to sell you a tour) which line to get into if you already have a ticket. Don’t ask the people in line, because sometimes, they also don’t know which line they are standing in.

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Tip no. 2: Buy tickets to the Vatican online or at a tourist office by St. Peter’s Basilica. Remember to buy tickets in the morning, because they usually stop selling tickets at around 2p.
  • Potential plan: You can buy your tickets to see the Vatican (museum and Sistine Chapel) in the morning at the tourist office by St. Peter’s Basilica, then go see St. Peter’s Basilica while you’re there (hopefully the line will be shorter cause it’s morning). And in the afternoon, you can bypass the line to the Vatican and spend time there. That would be a good way to do it.

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As a side note, here’s the title to the book I might never write:
My Life in Retrospect: An Autobiography 
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Tip no. 3: Do a bit of research before going as to what titles attractions go by in Rome. I know this might go without saying, but I was SUPER unprepared for how confusing the Vatican would be.
  • The tourist office sells tickets to see “The Vatican.” They are referring to the museum and the Sistine Chapel. Not St. Peter’s Basilica, which is also part of the Vatican.
  • It’s free to get into St. Peter’s Basilica. It’s not free to climb the 551 steps to the view from the Dome, which is silly because you’re doing all the climbing, but whatever. It’s worth doing, especially if you go in the morning when it’s less crowded. It’s 5 Euros to climb all the stairs, or 7 Euros to take “the lift,” which saves you only 200-something stairs, so I would just climb all of them. Because the stairs that actually the hardest and the steepest are the ones on the top, and the lift doesn’t go there anyway.
  • Remember that when you ask people how to get to the Vatican, they will point you to St. Peter’s Basilica, which is the Vatican. But you will be referring to the museum most likely, which is UNCLEAR when the tourist office refers to that as “The Vatican.”
  •  Try not to ask how to get to the Vatican when you are, in fact, already in the Vatican City standing in front of the church. You will look silly. We all looked very silly. We had no idea. Ask instead where the art museum is, or better yet, for a map of the Vatican City. Or just bite the bullet and buy a guided tour. It might be worth it actually, because the ticket itself is already fairly expensive.
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