I think the phrase all roads lead to Rome describes my latest trip Rome. I wanted to share all the “hghlights” of Rome with a dear friend and my traveling companion for this adventure. But the crowds were worse than any other visit I have made.I do have some suggestions for future trips.The Vatican Suites hotel is nice and the location is good, especially if you plan to visit the Vatican. It is a short walk to two bus routes that are useful for touring Rome, the 46 and the 64.Omni Vatican tours and cards can make some things easier, however there are some drawbacks. You can order these online and one of the offices for pickup is 9 San Pietro, very easy to find at the Vatican. They have a hop on, hop off bus that goes to all the same spots as other companies, but was rarely full. You also get a pass for use on metro services in Rome, which was very helpful. The reservation system for Vatican museum tours, however, was not my favorite. I thought I would have a simple time to go, thus avoiding crowds. However, we were expected to be part of their tour group, and this put us in a mass of people all going to the same place. My suggestion would be to order tickets directly from the Vatican website for “skip the line” tours of the museum, Sistine Chapel, and Basilica. We got so tired of being “herded like cats”. This was not necessarily Omni’s fault. There seemed to be more people everywhere!Our favorite dinner in Rome was at Papa Rex. It was a short walk down the hill from the Vatican Suites hotel, the staff was amazing, food was excellent and we just really enjoyed our evening there. Be sure to ask for their suggestions for the day for the best experience!In the plaza in front of the Pantheon, there is a great place for buying items for a nice, Italian picnic. It is called Antica Salumeria. The staff is friendly and willing to take time to assist you, no matter how busy. Many types of meats, cheese, olives and wine to choose from. And, of course, you can taste items before making your purchase.Next to this shop is the Acquisto Restaurant. It has a selection of freshly made pasta daily. It is also a nice place to sit and watch the crowds of tours visiting the Pantheon. This picture really sums up how I started to feel with all the crowds.If you are using Rome as a stop before heading out on a cruise, taking the train is a way to save money. The cost is 4,60 euro from the San Pietro station and it takes around 45 minutes. However, there are stairs, making hauling luggage problematic. Once in Civitavecchia, you can take group taxis for 5 euros per person to the port.
One of the hardest things to do when visiting the Vatican Museum is dodging the tour groups. They are everywhere and always blocking the photo you are trying to take. Fortunately, photoshop can take care of some of those photos where a person’head or smartphone popped into the frame at the last minute. But, if you walk with a cane, well, the crowds become more than annoying. My first word of advice, order your tickets before you go in order to avoid the lines.
Then, there are all the stairs –and these are everywhere! The best thing to do? Ask one of the many guards for a way around. There are hidden back ways, elevators and long corridors that can help you get through the museum and to the Sistine Chapel. Thesee hidden jewels show more parts of the museum with less crowds.
Eventually, you do catch up with the crowds but you can use this to your advantage, especially if you can negotiate some stairs. Sereptiously join a group as they exit through the back door! This brings you to St. Peter’s Basilica without standing in the long line outside.
Of course, the tour groups are still there, but you have saved time from walking back through the maze of the Vatican Museum to the official exit, then walking along the wall to St. Peter’s Square, then standing in line to enter.
Of course, you can enter and stand in yet another line to climb to the top of the dome, bit I think I will pass on that experience.