Here are some tips for when you are planning on visiting the ancient Roman part of Rome.
The Forum, Colosseum and Palatine hill have one entrance ticket which is valid for all three sites. You cannot buy a ticket that is just valid for one site. Because most people want to visit the Colosseum, the ticket line is longest there. Make sure to buy your ticket to the Colosseum at the entrance of Palatine Hill. It will save you a lot of waiting time.
Personally, I prefer looking at the Colosseum from the outside than from the inside. Almost all the decoration has been taken away inside and there is not as much to see as you would like. Of course, for some people it’s a must to visit and I’m sure you will enjoy it, but if you don’t have a particular want to go in, I would admire the building from the outside and spend your ticket money on the Vatican Museums or the Galleria Borghese.
There are public toilets located outside at the backside of the Colosseum (at the side of Piazza del Colosseo). They are free and normally not that busy, unless a tour group just arrived.
Watch out for the people dressed up as Gladiators. They often overcharge and can get quite threatening if you don’t pay up after a picture. Just like in the olden days, they are often ex-convicts.
Always watch out for you belongings in busy places like this. Pickpockets are everywhere. Never keep important things in you backpack and be really alert if you feel someone or something touching you.
The Colosseum is beautifully lit up at night. Go visit!
If you decide to visit the Forum, please do, but I would advise you to read the chapter about it first. If you don’t know what you are looking at, it might disappoint you. Without the stories about the buildings and history, you’ll just be looking at a big pile of stones. You can also get audio guides at the ticket office.
If you like to drink a coffee, I would go to one of the bars at the crossing of Via Cavour and Via dei Fori Imperiali. Last time I checked, even sitting down was not too expensive.
If it’s open, go check quickly the small church of Santi Cosma e Damiano. It’s on the Via dei Fori Imperiali, next to the ticket office of the Forum. The entrance is on the side of the church. It has a wonderful early medieval mosaic in its apse and on the other side you look straight into the ancient temple of Romulus on the Forum. The church was built on top.
If you are hungry, it’s worth it to walk a few streets down to the Piazza della Madonna dei Monti. Around here you’ll find many great restaurants and wine bars. The area around this Piazza has become really fashionable in the last few years and many great places have opened their doors here. It’s so much better to eat here than the tourist menu’s on Via Cavour or around the Colosseum. It’s also a nice area to have a glass of wine at night.
If you walk to the top of Capitoline hill, make sure to look at the view over the Forum. Just walk past the City Hall either on the left or the right and you’ll find a beautiful view of the Forum, Palatine hill and the mountains of the Castelli Romani in the back.
If you are tired of the masses of people around the Colosseum, walk down the Via Claudia to the park of Villa Celimontana. It’s a lovely quiet park, where Romans love to come sit in the grass. In the summer there normally is a Jazz Festival here.
Another option is the Parco del Colle Oppio, which is right next to the Colosseum. Emperor Nero’s Golden House used to be located here and now you can find some nice benches here to sit down.
If you decided to go up the Colle Oppio, you might as well visit the Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli. Here you can find Michelangelo’s famous statue of Moses. Beware, the church is closed for some time in the afternoon.
Another hidden park close to Piazza Venezia is the Villa Aldobrandini. The entrance is on Via Mazzarino. Even though it is in a very busy part of the city, very few people seem to know about this park. Maybe it’s because it is elevated and the entrance is in some side street. It’s nice to sit here and relax a bit.
When you are on top of Capitoline hill, take out an Italian 50 eurocent coin. You’ll see that the design is of the piazza you are standing at right now.
Around the Vatican
These tips will help you when you plan on visiting the Vatican
Many people take the Metro to go to the Vatican. It is the easiest way, unless your hotel is close. Rome’s metro system is very straightforward. There are only two lines, The A line and the B line. You will need to get on the A line and get off at metro stop Ottaviano. From here it is a short walk to the Vatican.
When you get close to the Vatican or when you get out the Metro, many people will approach you, to try to sell tours of the Vatican. Many customers are very unsatisfied with these tours. The promotors will tell you anything to get you to sign up, because they work on a commission. They will often get about 10 euros for each customer they bring in. So when they say a tour leaves right away, don’t believe them. If you want a guided tour to the Vatican, I would get one beforehand on the internet with a company that has a great reputation on tripadvisor.
After you finished touring the Vatican, have an ice-cream at Gelateria Oldbridge, Viale Bastioni di Michelangelo 5. It’s next to the walls of the Vatican. They make their own ice cream in the back. Often you see lines of Italians and tourists outside, waiting to be served. It’s definitely worth the short wait.
I always like to get a cheap slice of good pizza at Pizza Rustica ai Gracchi, at 6 Via dei Gracchi. This is a side street of Via Ottaviano, the shopping street that goes from the metro stop to the Vatican. This is not an overpriced touristy pizza place like everywhere else around the Vatican. Just nice slices of pizza. You can’t sit here, but you are close to Piazza del Risorgimento, where you can sit on one of the benches or walls. The Pizza is ‘al taglio’ here, which is a typical Roman way of selling slices of pizza. You just indicate how much you want and the lady will cut it. The price is determined according to the weight of the slice.
If you like your coffee not overpriced, you can always get your coffee ‘da portare via’. You might already know that the prices for sitting down and standing at the bar are different in Italy. It’s often very expensive to sit down to drink coffee at touristy places like around the Vatican, but standing at the bar is cheap. I ask to take away my coffee. They’ll charge standing prices and I’ll just sit at Piazza Risorgimento.
If you had enough of all the beautiful art, there is a shopping street going from Piazza di Risorgimento back to the city center. It’s called Via Cola di Rienzo and you will not see too many tourists on it.