A friend of mine read a feature I wrote about Rome and asked me for some travel advice on Italy.
I spent a week in Italy this summer. I joined a tour group in Barcelona and the tour ended in Rome. I visited Pisa and Florence for a day with the tour group. I left the group in Rome, where I spent five full days. Then I traveled by myself to Venice.
Here are some random tips I gave him:
Buy the Rick Steves guidebook for your mobile. It’s my favorite travel book so far and it has all the tips you will need on what to see and where to go.
The mobile version is handy when you’re on the road because even if you have read everything backwards and forwards like I did, you will still have to check it once in a while.
Download the Triposo and TripAdvisor City Guides apps. They have offline maps you can use.
Make sure you have your valuables, especially your passport, in a safe place, preferably in a belt bag under your clothes. Have seen someone actually get pickpocketed and heard lots of stories! If your hotel has a safe, leave your stuff there.
The Pantheon and Colosseum are a must. You can walk around the other ruins in the area of the Colosseum until you are sick and tired of ruins. (It reached a point when I was.) Lines are always long so if you are visiting a few sights get the Roma Pass.
I hung around the Colosseum a lot because it was just across the Metro and being there felt that I was in Rome.
Food is a hit or miss. I normally prioritize sightseeing so I just pick a place when I get hungry.
If I had the chance to go back to Rome, I would probably stay in the Vatican area, only because I really loved walking around there as compared to the city.
For the museum, book online in advance. Spend at least half a day there. But I was already museum-ed out by then so for me, that visit was all about the Sistine Chapel. The Sistine Chapel was divine.
I visited St Peter’s Basilica twice because I really loved it. Go late in the afternoon near closing time. There is normally no more queue by then and there are considerably less tourists milling about inside.
But the downside is you only have an hour or so before it closes and that is why I had to come back again because I still wanted to check out other art I had not seen on my first visit.
More tips on my next entry!