The city built on the Seven Hills, which are Quirinale, Campidoglio (or Capitolino), Viminale, Esquilino, Celio, Aventino and Palatino, with the Tiber circling it, is still in many senses the ‚Caput mundi‘ (capital of the world).
It is the city in the first, original and fundamental sense of the word, the ‚urbs‘, the centre of the empire, as opposed to the provinces and the periphery.
The Colosseum, which until recently had hidden parts which could not be visited by the public, is for the first time since antiquity now entirely open to everybody in all its glory (and gory). Its extreme points, the highest (the terrace, also called „third ring“ or third storey) and the lowest (the subterranean areas) can now be seen as part of the tour. The latter are especially bound to attract even more interest to the Coliseum which is already one of the world’s most visited archaeological sites, disclosing the underground pits where both gladiators and wild animals waited before being thrown onto the arena often to their death. Since the underground labyrinths, the hypogeum, were totally buried as long ago as the V century AD and therefore have not been touched by humans since then, they remain perfectly preserved in their ancient, original form and are all the more fascinating for that reason. But the top third level is not to be overlooked either, with its stunning views over the city.
But don’t think only of the glorious monuments and magnificent buildings for which Rome is justly famous. Solitary villas by cypress trees, the silent suavity of orchards and vegetable gardens on the Aventino and Celio hills, the tragic solemnity of ruins and ancient roads like the Appia, the clear waters of the river Tiber: all this is Rome too.
Rome’s main international airport is Leonardo da Vinci Airport, commonly known as Fiumicino, which is the busiest in Italy and is a hub for flights between Europe and the Middle East and Africa. Just after the large Fiumicino Airport opened in 1960, a new motorway was built to connect it to central Rome through the Magliana area. Large hotels for business travellers and convention visitors have sprung up nearby.
Fiumicino is about 30 miles southwest of the centre of Rome. Getting to and from it is easy by public transport. Taxis are plentiful, or you can take the Airport Shuttle van. Unlike in London, Italian taxi drivers help you with your luggage. The Airport Shuttle, at € 25 one person plus € 6 for each additional passenger up to 8, is good value. It is in Via Panama, 88 – 00198 Rome. Tel. +39/06.42013469 or +39/06.4740451 or +39/06.42014507 – Fax +39/06.47821053 – e-mail: [email protected]
There is a railway service between Rome Termini Station and Fiumicino Airport, the Leonardo Express.
Ciampino Airport is Rome’s second international airport. It is located 20 miles southeast of the city center, and is more difficult to transfer from/to by public transport because buses are not frequent, stop early and do not connect well with the underground trains.
The Airport Shuttle has a door to door service from both Fiumicino and Ciampino airports to Rome hotels or private residences.
GETTING AROUND IN ROME
The underground system (subway if you’re American) is the fastest mode of public transport within the city, operating daily from 5.30am to 11.30pm (until 1.30am on Fridays and Saturdays). It is called ‚metropolitana‘ or ‚metro‘ for short; hence the big red M indicating the entrance to the subway. Trains run approximately every 7-10 minutes. It has two lines, Linea A (red) and Linea B (blue). They intersect at Termini station, so you have to go through Termini when you need to change line.
Tickets cost 1 euro, are valid for 75 minutes of travel and can be used for one underground journey and unlimited bus travel. They can be bought at tobacco shops (‚Tabacchi‘ in Italian, recognizable by a white T on a dark background sign), bars, news stands (‚chioschi‘ or ‚edicole‘), travel agencies, stationer’s shops, and vending machines in metro stations, city bus termini, on buses and trams; the machines sometimes don’t work, so it’s probably a good idea to purchase tickets in advance from the shops. Some hotels sell bus tickets. The driver does not sell tickets. Be careful because there are many inspectors and, if you are caught without a ticket, you’ll be fined. Booklets of tickets are available at tobacconists and in some terminals. You can also buy daily and weekly passes.
For tourists the best option is the BTI, Biglietto Turistico Integrato, which for € 11 gives you unlimited travel for 3 days on Rome underground trains, buses, trams, trolley buses, and on some regional railway trains.
Building an underground system for Rome has been difficult, because whenever workers start digging, they discover archaeological treasures hidden underneath the city’s surface, and heavy earth-moving has to stop for some time.
To limit car traffic in the historical centre of Rome, like in many other Italian towns and cities a Limited Traffic Zone (ZTL, Zona a Traffico Limitato) has been introduced, where access is not allowed to unauthorised cars and only holders of a special permit can drive.
Tthere are numerous other Limited Traffic Zones in Europe, but Rome’s is one of the largest in the continent. Most of the historic centre is closed to normal traffic, with traffic wardens or electronic gates controlling the entrance points to the centre. You are not allowed to drive to the ZTL of the historic centre from 6.30am to 6.00pm Monday to Friday and from 2pm to 6pm on Saturdays, unless you are a resident or have a special permit. If you wish to drive to your hotel in this area, in order to avoid a fine contact the hotel management who will fax your number plate to the authorities.
Bikes, scooters and motorbikes have unrestricted access.
If you travel by car, therefore, in the city centre you should park your car outside the limited traffic area, and look for one of the authorised parking areas marked with blue lines where you can park for 1 euro per hour. After 8 pm (in some cases after 11 pm) you can park for free until 8 am. Tickets must be displayed in windscreens and they can be bought at the vending machines on the pavement (coins only) or at tobacconists and newsagents. Beware that yellow lines mean you can’t park there.
Like in other cities such as London, Washington DC, Paris, Denver, Boston, Melbourne, Minneapolis, in Rome the local authority has established a bike-sharing scheme, with several docking stations around central Rome where you can hire a bike for short journeys.
Rome, Piazza del Campidoglio. Statue of Pollux, which sits opposite that of Castor, his twin brother. The twin Dioskouroi statues were found on the site of the Temple of Castor and Pollux, by the Circus Flaminius.
Rome – Statue of Pollux in Campidoglio
PRACTICAL TIPS FOR WHEN YOU’RE IN ROME
To avoid long queues at monuments and museums entrance, it may be worth joining a tour being formed. It doesn’t cost very much, but saves you from waiting in line as well as providing information.
To see Rome, especially given the car traffic restrictions (see above), one of the best way is to rent a scooter. Here are some firms. RomaRent, in Vicolo dei Bovari 7/a, tel-fax +39 06 6896.555, near Campo de‘ Fiori & Piazza Navona (35-60 euros per day, with weekend and 3-day discounts). Barberini Scooters for Rent, Via della Purificazione 84, between Quirinale and Piazza Barberini, [email protected], tel. +39 06 4885485 (30-60 euros per day). There is also Eco Move Rent, Via Varese 48/50, 00185 Roma, near Roma Termini Station, Tel: +39 06.44704518, Fax: +39 06.44360850, which also organizes tours of Rome on mythical Vespas. You can rent both scooters and bikes from them. The scooter prices vary from 25 euros for 4 hours for a Vespa up to 95 euros a day for the most powerful scooters.
Most government museums are closed on mondays. The average cost of museum entrance is 4-8 euros. It’s a good idea to save money and time to get a pass. Two cards issued by Rome Council (Comune di Roma) itself are Roma Pass, costing € 25 for 3 days giving free or discounted access not only to artistic and cultural sites but also to Rome transport, and Roma&Più Pass, similar to the other but including Rome’s surrounding area as well.
Shops selling designer clothes at discounted rates or second hand: Mercatino Michela, Piazzale Clodio 1c Roma, 00195, Neighborhood: Prati – Clodia – Trionfale – Foro Italico, Tel: +39 06 372 8654. It is a second-hand shop selling classic designer clothes, evening dresses, suits, accessories. Marcolino, Via Plauto 16, Roma, 00193, Tel. +39 06 686 5782. This shop sells quality and classic second-hand clothes, jackets, coats, t-shirts, and jeans. And don’t forget the ultra famous flea market of Porta Portese, in Via Portuense, Trastevere, for real bargains not just in clothing, but also antiques, household items, cosmetics, books, records, even parts for cars, scooters and bikes.
Some self-service laundromats in the central and tourist areas are the following. Near Termini Station: Bolle Blu, Via Principe Amedeo 116, Via Palestro 59/61, and Via Montebello 11, and OndaBlu, Via Principe Amedeo 70/B. Near the Vatican and Quartiere Aurelio (West Rome): Floren Wash, Via di Valle Aurelia 106/B. In the Trastevere quarter: Il Mastello, Via di San Francesco a Ripa 62. In the Quartiere Tiburtino area: Beautiful Laundrette, Via dei Marsi 58. The chain OndaBlu has over 30 launderettes all over Rome. Their opening hours are generally every day from 8 or 8.30 until the evening at 8pm or 10pm.
Several of the major and most beautiful sites in Rome are open to the public for free.
These are free at all times:
- Roman Forum
- Capitoline Hill
- Trevi Fountain
- Spanish Steps
- Colosseum (exterior)
- Castel Sant’Angelo (exterior)
- Mouth of Truth
- Piazza Navona
- St. Peter’s Basilica
- AND all churches.
BEST KNOWN VEGETARIAN RESTAURANTS IN ROME
- Ristorante Jaya Sai Ma Address: Via Angelo Bargoni, 11/18, 00153 Rome. Tel: +39 06 5812840. Open: Tuesday to Sunday 8pm to 12pm. Area: Trastevere.
- Ristorante Arancia Blu Restaurant and wine bar. Address: Via Prenestina, 396e, Rome. Tel: +39 06 4454105. Mobile: 349 1215180. Open: every evening and Sunday lunch time. Good quality vegetarian food, reasonably priced. Vegetarian restaurant within posh wine bar which boasts a list of 600 wines, both Italian and imported (beware of wine prices). Area: Via Tiburtina, Porta San Lorenzo.
- Il Margutta Vegetariano RistorArte Address: Via Margutta 118, 00187 Rome. Tel: +39 06 32650577. Fax: +39 06 3218457. E-mail: [email protected] Open: every day, all year round, 12.30 to 3.30pm and 7.30pm to 11.30pm. English is spoken. Fine vegetarian Italian cuisine, with vegan menu as well. It also serves brunches with all-you-can-eat buffet for 19-25 euros. Very famous, established since 1979, it is considered by some to be one of the best vegetarian restaurants in Europe and one of the best of all restaurants in Rome. Elegant and upmarket. It is in the historical centre, in the Via Margutta, rich in history and art connections, full of ancient craft shops. Area: very central, near Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps) and Piazza del Popolo.
- Taverna Vegetariana L’Insalatiera Address: Via Trionfale 94, 00195 Rome. Tel: +39 06 39742975. Open: Monday to Saturday from noon to 3.30pm and from 7pm to midnight. Traditional Italian vegetarian restaurant and take away, making its own pasta and cakes, good value, very popular, covered by Italian national TV and magazines. Average price of a meal, excluding drinks, is about 15 euros. All credit cards accepted. Area: quartiere Umbertino di Prati, near the Vatican, close to Piazzale Clodio and the flower market.
- Ristorante Govinda Address: Via S. Maria del Pianto, 16, 00186 Rome. Tel: +39 06 68891540. E-mail address: [email protected] Open: Monday to Friday from 12.30 to 3pm. Hare Krishna cultural centre and Indian vegetarian cooking. Very good value; you have to join the Govinda Centre. Area: Largo Argentina.