The first thing anyone should do when arriving in Rome is go to the tourist information desk at the Termini train station. This was the most helpful staff we’ve seen anywhere. They helped us decide which of the many discount passes to buy, showed us everything on the map and were just generally friendly
. We bought a Roma pass, which entitles you to unlimited public transportation and entry to 2 tourist attractions, plus discounts on other sites (museums, archeological sites, etc). We definitely got our money’s worth out of it. We saw the must see’s- Colosseum, Forum, the Vatican (St. Peter’s and Sistine Chapel), Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and the Pantheon-plus several more churches and a boatload of piazzas. We took a tour of the Colosseum, although I think the money would’ve been better spent on a guided tour of the Forum. The Vatican museum was massive (you can pay to skip the line to get in--worth every penny and 3-4 hours of your life-also recommended and purchased at the tourist information desk), and by the time we finally got to the Sistine Chapel, we were exhausted. It was too much! At one point in the museum, they had a short cut to miss several galleries and head straight to the Sistine Chapel--we didn’t do this and regretted it! Just depends on interest level--I know for me, I can only look at so much fabulous art before I become completely and totally numb. The Sistine Chapel was still amazing though, but you are literally elbow to elbow with hundreds of other people, and my neck was killing me from looking up for so long! The guide book recommended bringing a mirror to save your neck--this seemed silly to me at the time but I think it would’ve been a good idea! And I don’t care how long the line is--you cannot miss St. Peter’s Basilica
. There are also tombs below where many of the Popes are buried- separate entrance off to the side of the Basilica-worth seeing. We also went a little out of the way to see Basilica San Paolo, which was worth the visit. They have a painting of every Pope lined up along the ceiling of the Basilica. It was not crowded and, if you go, take a lunch and eat it out in the lovely garden! We also went to Campidoglio. The museum itself (housed in two buildings, the Palazzo Nuovo and Palazzo dei Conservatori) had a lot of amazing sculptures, but the best part was the view from the Palazza Nuovo overlooking the forum and Colosseum. We ate gelato in front of the Trevi Fountain every night (and of course, we threw in our coins!)--I think that was what got me through most days--knowing that gelato was waiting for me!!!
Our hotel was a bit peculiar--right across the street from the Termini train station, so it was sketchy at night but very convenient during the day. It was run entirely by Chinese people and most of the guests were Chinese, too. So, instead of aromas of Italian cuisine wafting through the halls, we got cabbage and noodles! The room was immaculately clean, but the wi-fi never did work quite right, mainly because the older lady who seemed to be there 24 hours a day kept turning it off! When I finally figured out what she was doing, I would ask her to turn it on when we arrived, but it never seemed to sync up. When I went to question her, she would point to the router and shout, “va benne!” (it is okay!) and then point to my netbook and shout’ “no va benne!”(Italian in a Chinese access). I pointed to my computer and shouted back, “va benne!”, and then pointed to the router and shouted, “no van benne!”and on and on… so you can see where this is going and no, it never got me any internet access!!
Close your eyes and soak up the history of the world. “The Eternal City” as Rome is often called, is dirty, crowded, noisy and FABULOUS. There are so many treasures we could not possibly see it all in one trip- although we exhausted ourselves trying! Towards the end of Day 2, a typical conversation was, “What’s that?” “I dunno, probably just another incredible, famous painting/building/statue/fresco by Michaelangelo/Raphael/Bernini” They can’t even put it all on the map--we’d be admiring an amazing fountain in the middle of a piazza, and it didn’t even make the map.