I had been to Italy previously with a friend a few years ago, due to prices, simplicity and her wishes to visit Venice (mine too, bien sûr) we flew to Venice and took a train to Milan and back to Marseille. That left many cities of Italy I wanted to visit, one being Rome, the eternal city ! This was a trip I had to wait a while for seeing as how I knew a weekend would never be enough. I talked my BF into booking the trip in January and we had our Ryanair plane tickets from Paris to Rome April 29 – May 3. Throughout this blog post, as with many of my travel posts I want to add travel advice and suggestions for your long weekend there. I can’t say that I know everything, by far that would not be true. However, when I head out on a travel planning adventure, having honest accounts of trips, purchases, restaurants, etc. is always helpful. So, here we go —
Airlines – how I got there
I figured it was high time I tried out Ryanair, Europe’s low cost airline. Basically Ryanair strips down all traveler choice and has you pay for the ticket only and your eventual seat on this plane. You won’t necessarily know your seat until check-in (7 days before your flight) nor do you get food or a checked bag without paying when you buy your ticket … my advice, DON’T BUY THESE OPTIONS (unless you really do need a checked bag, which we kinda did). Things you can pay for:
- Checked bag
- 15 kg = 15 euros, each way. For us, a long weekend for two we just packed really light and this was plenty. Actually, we only hit 10kg. Luckily, since practically everyone tries not to check a bag, once you land in your destination city, bags came out super quick. Touchdown landing to the exit of the airport for us in less than 20 mins (at Paris Beauvais and Rome Ciampino).
- Choice of seat
- Don’t pay for this (unless your legs are crazy long) ! These flights are never that long and we can all stand to be in a regular seat for a few hours. Choosing a normal seat is silly. If you can remember to check-in as soon as you can, you’ll even get placed by your travel companion (assuming you bought your tickets together, on the same reservation) so that’s not a worry.
- Pack your own, even water (buy it after security). They’ll have you pay for everything, seriously everything.
- Priority Boarding
- Everyone, by the time you’re at the airport waiting to get on so in my opinion, this is also a silly thing to pay for — UNLESS you NEED your small carry-on luggage with you on the plane. If you don’t get in that line early, and you don’t have the little priority boarding letters on your boarding pass, there is a chance they’ll check your carry-on (due to space on the plane). It’s free but if you wanna get out of the airplane and on your way the fastest, buy this. Otherwise, nope. Not worth it.
Getting to Paris Beauvais
Not easy, not fun. However, you have options (estimated prices and times) –
- You’ll pay for parking, or walk about 1.5km to find free parking in the city. Not a bad idea, if you’ve got a car. If you do this, take passengers with Covoiturage.fr … they’ll thank you and it’ll pay your tolls 😀
- 15 euros, one way and only leaves from Porte Maillot. Was not convenient for us (living on the other side of Paris). You have to wait for the bus to come back, with many others … could wait a while.
- Takes you from Gare du Nord into Beauvais city center (~24 euros) so you’ll have to take a taxi from there (20 mins, ~20 euros). Do-able but leave yourself enough time to get from place to place.
- SO expensive. Why book a low cost airline if you are going to pay 150 euros to get to the airport …? If you’re going with three other people this might be worth it for simplicity, otherwise. Nope.
- This is what we did and MAN am I happy we did! I had an alert set for covoiturage.fr for about 3 weeks prior to our flight and no one was leaving early enough. We were ready to try the train and the night before I booked our round-trip with a couple that had flight times similar to ours (~6am each way…). We paid 28 euros round trip and nearly got door-to-door service thanks to the extreme niceness of this couple! DO THIS IF YOU CAN!
6am is early but that’s why it’s low cost, right? Get there plenty early. We got there 2 hours early which was plenty. I’d go earlier if possible since there will be lots of people flying with you (duh) and the security lines and bag check lines can be long. Cool point – in the security line, even though we got in in plenty early, the guys came through and asked, at a certain point who was going to Rome and brought us to the front. So, to me, they’re going to get you through and the line is small enough (unlike the international terminal at CDG) that they know exactly when to rush certain flights through.
Flight was fine. You sit pretty straight the whole time which makes it hard to sleep but it was fine. The plane was 3-3 and fairly large. Flight attendants were nice enough but you really don’t interact too much with them since 90% of people don’t buy anything during the flight.
Arriving in Rome we took the terravision bus (4 euros a person, per way). It took about 40 mins and arrives at Termini. Easy peasy.
Return flight – downside:
We had a flight from Rome Ciampino to Paris Beauvais at 6:30am. This was rough. We decided that it didn’t make sense to get a hotel (airbnb) for another night just to leave at 3am. So we stayed out at a bar until 2a (when it closed), got a taxi (30 euros one way, not bad at all, especially to share) and tried to sleep at the airport for a few hours (f you have a pillow and sleeping bag you’re good to go. I personally have bruises from the hard floor. Not nice). The arrivals terminal is open all night and people were sleeping all over the place. Around 4:15 am the departures terminal opens for the earliest flights (6am flights) and you can go check-in and go through security. The bag check line was long here but we were through in about 45 mins. If you have one of these first flights it’s a good idea to arrive fairly early if you can just for the bag check line, otherwise, security goes pretty fast.
Where we stayed:
As always I am a fan of Airbnb. I found a great one near the metro 2 Bologna. It had a private bath and terrace, small fridge and a little packaged pastries for breakfast along with juice. Super helpful if you can’t get started early enough for a full breakfast before touring. Check out Enrico’s place – I highly recommend it!
BIGGEST PIECES OF ADVICE
I always hesitate to buy these city passes, I have always added up all the prices and it never does make any sense, plus a lot of cities have student discounts within the entry fees, etc which are not reflected in the city passes. HOWEVER, this Rome pass/Omnia pass is 100% worth it. Why?
- 3 days transportation included
- Vatican City / Sistine Chapel Entrance Fees and FAST PASS
- This was absolutely amazing. With thousands and thousands going to the Vatican museums every day (when you arrive you will see the lines and gasp in awe) the fact that this pass gives you entrance in a dedicated line will save you HOURS. I know the website says this, but having just personally experienced this … WOW. We almost felt bad passing so many people on our way to the entry.
- Peter’s Basilica Entrance, FAST PASS and audioguide
- Again, you’ll save HOURS with this. The lines wrap around and around St. Peter’s square and you pass it all. The audio guide isn’t super worth it but if you’ve got nothing else (like the podcasts I mention) then wait in line for it, otherwise, once past security go on in.
Advice with Omnia/Rome
- When you get it, make sure you start it in the morning of a particular day. It is good for three days – NOT 72 hours. Three days, including your start day, until midnight of your last day.
- PICK IT UP near San Giovanni in Laterano Metro A Stop S. Giovanni. If you go in the morning (830am – 2p) near the Vatican, the lines are HUGE. If you go after 2pm near the Vatican or you just pick it up near St. John, life is much easier. The entrance to pick them up is not easy to find. From the metro, make your way to the basilica and look for this face of the building–>the entrance is in that little door on the right. The office is just to your left once you enter that door.
- TO GO TO THE VATICAN
- They have entrances from 9am – 2pm every hour. If you want to go in at 9am, arrive at the Omnia office at 8am. You have to wait in the check-in line to get a sticker that gives your entrance time. This line can be VERY long and everyone has to go through it. Just show up about an hour before your intended tour, take a deep breath and you’ll get through it. Regardless of this crazy, very unorganized portion of your morning, you’ll get into the Vatican very fast and it’s worth the time spent in this line to get into the Vatican and Sistine Chapel so quickly and without stress. We spent about 3.5 hours in the vatican museum and sistine chapel. If you’re lucky, once you get in the crazy crowded sistine chapel, you’ll get a seat on the side benches so you can easily take your time with your audio guide showing you around the immense paintings on the ceiling. If not, the guards will usher you to the center with the masses … a real pain in the neck. We were lucky and sat there for the entire 25 min podcast :D.
- TO GO TO ST. PETER’S
- Once you get your entrance time for Vatican they’ll ask you when you want to go into St. Peter’s. We thought you could go in the same day, and technically you can – if their entrance lists aren’t already full that day. We had to choose an entrance for the next day. Just realize that you may have to change your scheduled plans if this happens to you. When you arrive to go into St. Peter’s (10:30am – 1:30pm every hour) you’ll wait in that same check-in line for a sticker. This one is easier however since while waiting in line, if you don’t quite get to the front, you have a reservation so someone will likely come through the line asking for your reservation time and give you your sticker anyway but arrive early anyway, jump in the crazy line, take another deep breath and you’ll get there. This gets you through SO fast. The line we passed wrapped twice around the square before getting to security. I felt SO lucky.
- EVERYTHING ELSE-
- Coliseum + Roman Forum : These are considered one entrance. You can use your entrance over two days though.
- Borghese Museum – you MUST get a reservation in advance for this museum. Call ahead, 2-3 weeks ahead at least to get your reservation. Mention that you’ll have the Roma pass and you’ll get free entrance but you MUST call ahead. I called too late but was able to talk to a lady in English. Would’ve been easy had I called sooner.
Go on the itunes store (or wherever you get this sort of stuff) and download Rome podcasts. I did the individual Rick Steves Rome podcasts for each of the sites in Rome. He has an app too. Pretty awesome actually. Gives you walking tours and guides you through each place with history and often lame jokes, haha. Start listening before you get to the site since he always talks about the exterior first.
TAKE AN E-BIKE TOUR
We wanted to take a bike tour since I am always a fan of seeing the city this way. We went with the highly rated Top Bike Rental and Tours. We took the Panoramic Rome Tour with E-Bikes. Personally a second plus to the speed that you see a city with a bike tour would be getting a little extra exercise (eating like we do in Rome, I felt this was necessary) however, now that I have tried these electric bikes … WOW. We had a 4 hour tour of the city, up on the hills and all around with the E-Bikes and I am a super fan! Our guide was awesome, our tour had about 8 people. Having gone during a holiday weekend the crowds were intense just about everywhere and this Panoramic tour had us going a little further out. This was the last day of our trip which I don’t usually advise. I usually say take the bike tour first since it gives you an overview of the city so that you can understand what you see throughout the rest of your trip but the timing (with May 1st being a holiday in Europe) didn’t quite work. I don’t regret it. Despite being late in our trip the tour was fantastic and I highly recommend it !
Restaurants to Check out
La Renella – Bakery in Trastevere
Amazing pizzas by the kilo.
Terra di Siena – Tuscan Resto
Ravioli with spinach cooked in butttttttter. YUMZ. Super nice service, absolutely reasonable prices in a hip area.
Pier 1 Cafe – Coffee near Coliseum
Best latte I have had, perhaps ever.
EAT MEXICAN FOOD in Rome?!?! Yes. Do it. Prices are good and food was absolutely amazing. Near bologna. Worth the trip our, even if you’re staying in the city center. I mean SERIOUSLY, best Mexican food I have had in Europe and perhaps even beats the “authentic” stuff in the States.
-If you’re looking for a cheaper vacation, skip all of the paid attractions and just go to every church you walk by. They say that Rome is an open air museum … I totally agree ! You can see plenty from outside and going into churches (respectfully) will give you lovely tour of the city, through the ages.
-Just say NO to the selfie stick. Don’t even consider it. Say no every time and don’t EVER make eye contact with those street sellers. It’s not worth it.
-If a seller tries to give you anything, bracelet, rose, anything, don’t take it. It’s not a gift, they’ll want money. Just get used to saying – No grazie A TON. It’s exhausting but don’t feel bad for saying it. You’ll notice plenty of people getting dooped. Don’t be that person.
-Coffee (espressos, cappuccinos, lattes) is amazing everywhere and SOOOOOO cheap (1 euros for an espresso). Enjoy without hesitation.
-Unlike a lot of tourist cities I have been to, Romans don’t always speak great English. Don’t get me wrong, many do and I am jealous of their abilities to speak multiple languages. Nevertheless, I noticed we had a little more trouble communicating here. We tried to speak a bit of Italian (and luckily my BF does great accents and isn’t afraid to try). Just get a little Italian App and try to speak some phrases like, “where is…”, “how much is…”, a few numbers, please, thank you, “do you take cards”, “check, please”, etc … I won’t attempt to teach anyone these phrases but a little goes a long way. Make an effort … they do.
((I will update later with a few pictures. For now, my wordpress does not have enough room for me to upload them … time to go pro? 😉 à bientôt))
Next adventures: Toulouse (end of May 2015) and Berlin (June 2015)