June 2nd in Italy is the Festa della Repubblica. Even though it is a holiday, many museums and sites remain open since holidays are one of the few times that residents of Rome have the time to visit many of these museums. I received an email from a reader who had trouble purchasing tickets to the Colosseum for the 2nd of June. It is open, and I was able to successfully make a reservation.
This link from Coopculture seems to be the most reliable, and the one that I always used when I go to the Colosseum (I’ve been four times since January showing various friends around… I should get a job there I’ve been so often):
For more information about visiting the Colosseum, check out this post I wrote in January. I will reiterate that it is most helpful to pre-purchase your tickets with a reservation since you can skip the always extremely long line to get in. There’s a special ticket window for people who have pre-booked that is used almost exclusively for these types of ticket holders so your wait will be minimal at best. Judging from the tickets available that day, there will only be a few tours running. If you want a fuller Colosseum experience, might be best to wait until the next day.
If the Colosseum is not for you or you have been, then check out the Musei in Comune web site which lists information for many of Rome’s museums. The web site is: http://en.museiincomuneroma.it/.
To see the list of museums, scroll down a bit, and on the left-hand side, it says “Including”. Click on that, and you’ll see a list of the museums. Click on each one to learn where it is located, the hours, cost of entry and so-on. Musei in Comune also has an app for Android and iPhone/iOS users that has a neat map function to show you where all the museums are. You can find the iOS app here and the Android app here.
There’s also a possible transit strike on the third of June — the day after the holiday, too! So that might be an excuse to get out of Rome and hit as many of these museums as you can on foot for the day!
I am often asked if one should spend their entire vacation in Rome or if it is worth getting out of the city for a day or two. Depending on how much time you have, a day trip to Tuscany or Naples is not out of the question. A friend of mine from Palermo recently visited me in Rome. He had never been to Florence and wanted to see something other than Rome. What better place to take your friends than to the beautiful city of Florence?
Getting to Florence from Rome is best done by train. The Frecciarossa leaves from Termini to Florence several times a day and takes about one hour and thirty minutes. My friend and I left Rome around 9:30 and pulled into Florence just before 11:00 AM. Trenitalia also offers discounts for travelers who arrive and depart the same day so check the tickets on offer before you buy.
Our departure from Florence was at 8:00 PM so we had 9 hours to explore. Florence is not that big, and it is a very walk-able city (although there are buses and public transport available). I find it is faster and more convenient to see the city by walking around than by getting on a bus. Often buses and cars crawl at a snail’s pace through the city because of the intense crowds.
What to see
If you only plan to spend the day in Florence, there are a lot of things to see. Some things are impossible to avoid, like the Duomo which is so massive and draws such immense crowds. It’s also visible from many parts of the city, and it is definitely worth braving the queue. The Baptistery just outside the Duomo is also a must see, especially the bronze panels by Ghiberti (Gates of Paradise). The interior of the Duomo and Baptistery are worth seeing — try to avoid spending the whole day waiting in line as this will eat into your time to see and experience Florence.
Don’t forget to make a stop at the Palazzo Vecchio and the Piazza della Signoria as well as the Loggia dei Lanzi! There’s also Orsanmichele, The Church of Santa Maria Novella (which is just across the street from the main train station) and the famous Ponte Vecchio as well as many other monuments and sites.
The Uffizi Gallery is also a must see. The Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze houses Michelangelo’s David — save time by booking your entrance to the museum. The collection in both of these museums are worth the wait and should definitely be seen on any visit to Florence.
As for lunch, try to avoid the large piazzas and touristy areas as these restaurants, in my opinion, do not offer the best there is in Tuscan cuisine. My favorite place to have lunch — and I got there every time I am in Florence — is the Fiaschetteria Nuvoli. Don’t let the ‘hole in the wall’ look of the place fool you. The main entrance is a small bar area, but downstairs is a grotto-like setting that features a small but serviceable dining area with tables and chairs. It’s a very simple place, but the food is awesome, and you will find a lot of locals eating there.
How to get there
Getting to Florence from Rome is best done by train. Try to take the fastest train possible. If you book early, a round trip ticket can cost as little as 40 euro, depending on the time of day and the month you travel. This faster train will get you to Florence and back quickly so that you can spend most of your time enjoying the city. I recommend that you stick to 2nd class since the trip is so short, and I found there to be very little difference between the two classes of travel.
Train tickets can be booked electronically on the Trenitalia web site or at any of the train stations in Rome.
I highly recommend Lonely Planet’s Florence Encounter guidebook!
Most people who come to Rome always marvel at the fact that Rome has a pyramid! Really, a pyramid? This is one of my favorite monuments in Rome (and not only because I live across the street from it). It is such a strikingly beautiful monument, simplistic, but unlike any other in Rome. I love how it just sets the tone of the whole neighborhood.
The Pyramid is currently undergoing some much needed cleaning and restoration thanks to a donation from a Japanese businessman (you can read more about his donation here). Restorations will hopefully reveal whether or not there is a second chamber inside the structure. You can get better views of the pyramid and the ground it stands on if you pay a visit to the nearby Cimitero Acattolico which allows you to see down into the structure’s foundation.
The pyramid was incorporated into the defensive walls of the city which most likely saved the monument from being destroyed or dismantled. Lucky for us that it still exists today. Even the interior chamber is painted. Hopefully, once the restoration is complete, a nice monograph of the restoration will be published. I’d be curious to see the inside myself.
So how do you get to the monument? Unfortunately, the scaffolding kind of ruins the view, but you can still get an idea of what it looks like — even better if you see the monument from inside the cemetery. It’s easy to get to — just take Metro B to the Piramide stop, and it’s literally the first thing you see as you exit the station.
Last weekend I finally paid a visit to the Ara Pacis Museum. This little museum has been derided by Italians and the mayor of Rome, but, honestly, it’s not such a bad little museum. I had been avoiding visiting it for so long, yet I always pass by it and decided last weekend that it was time to go inside!
The top floor of the museum houses the Ara Pacis or the Altar of Augustan Peace. This piece of marble “propaganda” has an interesting history not just in ancient times but also in modern times, as well. The sculptural relief that surrounds the structure is ripe with symoblism and propaganda, and you can certainly learn more about it by visiting the museum. The museum is well laid-out with interactive exhibits explaining the monument’s iconography and history. You can even enter the altar and have a look inside it, too, to see some of the amazing sculptural work (especially of the flora) done throughout.
The museum also has a nice little bookshop just before you exit.
The ground floor of the museum (under the altar) is also an exposition space. Currently, there’s an exposition of material from the life and work of Vittorio de Sica, entitled “Tutti De Sica,” on display until April 28th. There are clips from many of his films, letters, photographs and other film memorabilia! It’s definitely worth seeing (especially the bicycle used in the film that you can see pictured here to your left).
The museum is easily reached by metro on Linea A — simply take Linea A to Flaminio and walk down Via di Ripetta, and the museum, which you can’t miss, will be on your right. Take note — on your left is the Mausoleum of Augustus! Stop by Bar 99 for a cappuccino and cornetto at the start of Via di Ripetta as you make your way down. If you’re in the area for lunch, check out Gusto which is right around the corner!
When I returned to Rome in January after spending the holidays back in the United States, I spent an afternoon at the Colosseum. I got to see the inside of this spectacular building for the first time. During all of my trips to Rome, I never managed to get there — most of the time put off by the long lines. So how can you visit the Colosseum with the least amount of fuss?
You need to book!
You can book a visit the Colosseum? You sure can! Here’s how:
Go to this web site, Coopculture, and book your tickets — there are a variety of tours and entrance fees to choose from. If you just want to explore on your own, you can just book a general entrance to the monument. I would suggest that you book a guided tour. I took one with two of my friends, and we were blown away by the quality of the tour and how professional our guide was. She really knew her stuff, and I was amazed at some of the things that I learned, and I know a lot about the Colosseum. Also take note that your ticket to the Colosseum is also good at the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum, so you can see a good part of ancient Rome for a pretty spectacular price!
If you book, you can jump past the long line of people waiting to buy tickets. There are two or three dedicated windows just for people who have booked — although sometimes you will find yourself waiting as these people often have a lot of down time and will help ease the line. But we only waited a few extra minutes and much less time than if we waited in the regular line. I found that it was worth the trouble of booking, and you can book way before you even get to Rome. I just showed the cashier the email from my mobile phone by passing my phone to her, she looked up my reservation, printed the tickets, and we were on our way. If you do a guided tour, you will also receive stickers that show which tour and time you are signed up for. Just follow the instructions from the cashier and/or the signs to join up with your tour guide.
Not only do you get to walk around inside, but you can also climb up the some of the levels of the building and get some amazing pictures of the inner workings of the Flavian Amphitheatre as well as some great views of ancient part of Rome as well as a good view of the skyline. The undergound of the Colosseum is also open, but this is only for guided tours. We were not able to do this, but I would recommend it. You can see this wondrous part of the Colosseum, and I plan to go back in the spring when another friend comes to visit to repeat the tour.
The steps inside the Colosseum are quite high so bring some comfortable shoes and be prepared to do some hard climbing on your way up. There is also a gift shop inside the Colosseum and other exhibits that many of the guides use to talk about the monument as well as to demonstrate how it was used and other useful facts about the site.