5 MUST SEES IN ROME
About Rome, Italy
5 MUST SEES IN ROME
All roads may lead to Rome, but it’s still an hour’s drive away from Civitavecchia, where cruise ships have to dock. That means with travel time, a day on our own excursion to Rome from Oceania Cruise’s newly renovated Sirena, allows us about six hours to have a delightfully Roman experience. How to make the best use of it?
It’s prime tourist season and the classically must-see sites are mobbed. I call them the Big Five: the Roman Forum and Colosseum, the Vatican, Piazza Navona, the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon.If, like us, you’ve explored them on previous experiences in the Eternal City, here are five fascinating day trip destinations to explore that aren’t Ground Zero for tourism but well worth a visit.
Interesting things to do in Rome
Take in a show. There are lots of theatres, but you will need to know Italian to enjoy them. The main concert venue is the Auditorium in Viale Pietro
de Coubertin to the north of Rome. The Auditorium at Parco della Musica is a large complex composed of three separate halls whose shapes are inspired by musical instruments. These are positioned around an open air amphitheatre, that is used nearly every night in the summer for concerts.
The Parco della Musica hosts a constant stream of classical, popular, and jazz music, featuring national as well as international musicians and
groups. Really big names perform outdoors in the summer; usually in either the Olympic Stadium or in Stadio Flaminio, which is next door to the Parco
della Musica. In winter the Palalotto in EUR is an important pop concert venue. To get full details of what is on, buy a copy
of the La Repubblica newspaper on Thursdays, when it has an insert called TrovaRoma. There are a couple of pages in English but
even with no Italian you should be able to decipher the main listings. This is not published in late July and August, when half of Rome heads to the beach.Both La Repubblica and Il Messaggero have daily listings. Walk and feel the energy of Rome; sights are everywhere waiting to be discovered.
Explore the Trastevere neighbourhood for some great cafes and trattorie, and a glimpse at a hip Roman neighbourhood. Take in a game of soccer
at the Olympic Stadium. Rome has two teams, A.S. Roma and S.S. Lazio and they both play at this stadium.
Estate Romana Festival (Roman Summer Festival)
– from late June through early September offers various musical events of
jazz, rock, and classical music, and film, sport, theater and children’s
White Night (Notte Bianca).
In early to mid-September, various events until dawn, plus shops and
restaurants, museums stay open while the Roman Notte Bianca stages music,
dance and theater events. Expect enormous crowds; buses and trams will be
packed to the brim.
Opera at Caracalla, Baths of Caracalla
(see Rome/Aventino-Testaccio). If you are in Rome during summertime don’t
miss the chance to experience a lyric opera in the truly unique setting of
the Caracalla Baths. The 2009 program included Tosca, Carmen and Midsummer
Night’s Dream. Performances start at 21.00.
Safety tips for Rome
Rome is generally a safe place, even for women traveling alone. However there have been rape cases around the Roma Termini train station, so be careful especially at night time. There is very little violent crime, but plenty of scams and pickpocketing that target tourists. As in any other big city, it is better if you don’t look like a tourist: don’t exhibit your camera or camcorder to all and sundry, and keep your money in a safe place. Consciousness and vigilance are your best insurances for avoiding becoming a victim of a crime in Rome. Remember, if you are pickpocketed or victim of another scam, don’t be afraid to shout, “Aiuto, al ladro!” (Help, Thief!) Romans will not be nice to the thief.
Members of the Italian public are likely to be sympathetic if you are a crime victim. Police are also generally friendly if not always helpful. Carabinieri (black uniform, red striped trousers) are military police, and Polizia (blue and grey uniform) are civilians, but they both do essentially the same thing and are equally good, or bad. If you are robbed, try to find a police station and report it. This is essential to establishing a secure insurance claim and to replace documents: the chances of it resulting in the return of your possessions are, however, fairly remote.
Rome is home to two rival Serie A football clubs, A.S. Roma and S.S. Lazio, and there is a history of conflict, and even rioting, between the two. Never wear anything that shows that you support either of them, especially during the Rome Derby (when the two clubs play each other): avoid even wandering into groups of supporters of the other club, or you may be subject to heckling or even confrontation. Play it safe and refrain from openly supporting either club unless you are very familiar with the rivalry. If you are a fan of a foreign team that is playing in Rome, be very careful as a number of supporters have been stabbed over the past few years.
Since Rome is incredibly popular as a tourist destination, a great deal of pickpocketing and bag or purse snatching takes place, especially in crowded locations, and pickpocketers in Rome can get pretty crafty. A 2010 study found that Rome was second only to Barcelona for pickpocketing of tourists.
As a rule, you should pretty much never carry anything very valuable in any outside pocket, especially the front pocket of your pants is one of the easiest and most common targets. Keeping your wallet in your front pocket or in your bag is far from safe. You should consider using a money belt and carry only the cash for the day in your pocket.
Pickpocketing on the Metro is rife in the form of gangs of young girls (8 to 12 years old) who jump on the trains just they are about to leave. They buffet you and have bags to hide where their hands are. You have been warned!
Also, beware of thieves—one popular technique that they use is to ride by you on a moped, slice the strap of a handbag with a knife, and ride off. They might also try to cut the bottom of your bag open and pick your wallet from the ground. Others will use the old trick of one person trying to distract you (asking for a cigarette or doing a strange dance) while another thief picks your pockets from behind. Bands of gypsy kids will sometimes crowd you and reach for your pockets under the cover of newspapers or cardboard sheets. It is generally a good idea to be extremely wary of any strange person who gets too close to you, even in a crowd. If someone is in your personal space, shove the person away. As one frequent traveller put it, “Don’t be afraid to be a dick in Rome.” It is better to be rude than to be stolen from.
Termini (the main railway station), Esquilino, bus line 64 (Termini to San Pietro), and the Trevi fountain are well known for pickpockets, so take extra care in these areas. On the Metro especially, pickpockets are extremely skilled.
Remember that hotel rooms are not safe places for valuables; if your room has no safe, give your valuables to the hotel staff for safekeeping. Even if it does have a safe, hotels normally warn that they have no liability unless items are deposited in the main safe.
Be aware of the danger and take the usual precautions and you should be all right.
Read up on the legends concerning tourist scams. Most of them occur regularly in Rome and you will want to see them coming.
A particular scam is when some plainclothes police will approach you, asking to look for “drug money,” or ask to see your passport. This is a scam to take your money. You can scare them by asking for their ID. Guardia di Finanza (the grey uniformed ones) do customs work.
A recent scam involves men working near the Spanish Steps, around Piazza Navona, and outside of the Colosseum. They approach you, asking where you are from, and begin to tie bracelets around your wrists. When they are done they will try to charge you upwards of €20 for each bracelet. If anyone makes any attempt to reach for your hand, retract quickly. If you get trapped, you can refuse to pay, but this may not be wise if there are not many people around. Carry small bills or just change, in your wallet, so if you find yourself in cornered to pay for the bracelet, you can convince them that €1 or €2 is all you have.
When taking a taxi, be sure to remember license number written on the card door. In seconds, people have had a taxi bill risen by €10 or even more. When giving money to taxi driver, be careful.
Be careful of con-men who may approach you at tourist sights such as the Colosseum or Circus Maximus. A car may pull up next to you, and the driver asks you for directions to the Vatican. He will strike up a conversation with you while he sits in his car and tell you he is a sales representative for a large French fashion house. He will then tell that you he likes you and he would like to give you a gift of a coat worth several thousand euros. As you reach inside his car to take the bag the coat is in, he will ask you for €200 for gas, as his car is nearly empty.
Around tourist sites like the Trevi Fountain, Colosseum and the Spanish Steps there are groups mostly of men trying to sell cheap souvenirs. They may also carry roses and say they are giving you a gift because they like you, but the minute you take their ‘gift’ they demand money. They are often very insistent and often the only way to get rid of them is to be plain rude. Do the best you can to not take their “gifts” as they will follow you around asking for money. Simply saying “no” or “go away” will get them off your back until the next vendor comes up to you.
Be wary of places to change currency. Read ALL signs before changing money. Oftentimes places set up just for currency exchange will add as much as a 20% service fee on all money being traded. The shops near the Vatican have especially high service fees, whereas places near the Trevi Fountain will be more reasonable. The best bet is to change enough money before you leave your home country. There are few places around the city that are under the table and are just interested in American money. These places charge no service fee.
The best advice to avoid scams is to get way from anyone that you have never seen before who starts talking to you.
In an emergency, call 112 (Carabinieri), 113 (Police), 118 (medical first aid) or 115 (firemen). Carry the address of your embassy or consulate.
On anything else you may need for your rome holiday, you can contact the official help line of the Minister of Tourism 039.039.039. From Monday to Sunday, from 9.00 to 22.00, in seven languages seven days a week.