In part 1 we locked in our lodging. It was then time to make some transportation decisions.
With our condo being located about 12 km from the closest Metro stop (Rebbibia!) We needed a rental car to go to and from the Metro. As Tommy and Adam found out, Taxis don’t really pick up from Rebbibia. They waited 3 hrs for a taxi from Rebbibia upon arriving in Rome. Driving in Rome is INSANE and I wouldn’t suggest getting a rental unless you are staying outside of the city like we were. We used Europcar. They have automatic transmissions because only a couple of us could drive manual transmission. (Google Europcar discount and you are bound to find a coupon code) Actually, with the way Italians drive I would suggest getting an automatic even if you drive manual every day. Your full attention needs to be on the road at all times when driving in Italy and its much easier if you don’t have to worry about shifting. As a side note, when asked about his favorite thing part of Italy Matt usually responds: Driving. I drove a couple of times but not much, I think Matt would have pouted if I had asked to drive more. He loved how dynamically traffic flows. Driving in Italy can be summed up in one phrase:
There are no rules, merely suggestions.
Speed limit? Just a suggestion. Lanes on the road, merely suggestion. Yield or stop signs, meh, just a suggestion. No Parking sign?what no parking sign?
If you plan to drive in Italy (or Europe for that matter) you’ll need to get an International Driving Permit. You can get one for about $25 through AAA. Another warning is about Zone a Traffico Limitato, or ZTL. These areas of Rome is the “do not drive” area. If you drive in one of these areas unwittingly a camera takes a photo of your license and you get a fine in the mail- ranging from 25 Euro to 125 Euro. Whip out your conversion calculators and do the math- not something you want to mess with and another argument for relying on metro inside the loop. Below are additional related to driving in Rome, courtesy of a very helpful blog: Ron in Rome.
- Random Traffic Stops
- Thoughts on the IDP
- Hotels with Free Parking in Rome
- Rental Car Locations in Rome
- Parking in Rome
I puffy heart the Metro! Even though we had 2 rental cars we took the Metro for 90% of our transportation. We would drive to Rebibbia and take the blue line into town. Trains arrive every 4-10 minutes and it is quite easy to navigate. Make sure that you have a metro map handy and I strongly suggest buying a metro pass for the time that you will be in Rome (1, 3, or 7 day passes).
The Roma Pass is a combination metro pass and site card. You can use it to visit two sites for free and get discounts at other sites within a three day window. When trying to figure out if you should get the Roma Pass check out Ron in Rome’s post on the topic.
Water Fountains: File this under completely random info I found out ahead of time that was very beneficial. Rome has a huge network of free public drinking fountains (Nasone). The word Nasone references the nose like spouts that many of these fountains sport. The water is relatively cool and tastes wonderful. There is absolutely no need to purchase bottled water in Rome.
You can drink directly from many nasone by plugging the spout with your finger. There is a hole on the top of the spout and water will shoot out in an arch just like a drinking fountain. You’ll be thankful for the water when you’re walking around all day. I saved this map to my itouch so we could always find a nearby fountain when needed. Its also a good idea to bring a water bottle to keep filling up during the day. I swear the time we were in Rome was the most hydrated I’ve ever been!
How to drink from a Nasone Image from Passport to Design
Tours: I am so glad that we booked personal tour guides on our trip. Because we were traveling as a large group (8 people) it was an affordable option for us (tour guides charge by the hour). We took 4 hour tours and each of our tours cost us around 35 euro each plus tip and the ticket cost to any sites we visited. I will cover the specifics of each tour in later posts (including contact info for our amazing tour guides). The one area where I wish we had a tour is when we visited Pompeii. Unfortunately there is one, just one, tour guide for Pompeii who is worth the money and he was booked. We encountered some of the “other” tour guides when we were there and they really seemed like scam artists. Perhaps next time we’ll get to see Pompeii properly.
Pickpockets are a real problem in Rome. I chased off two separate pickpockets (one outside the Roman Ruins and one outside the Vatican) who were casing Matt. Our friend Tommy had a pickpocket rooting around his front pocket (why hello there!) on the Metro. If you notice someone casing a person in your group it is simple enough to put yourself between the pickpocket and your friend and lock eyes with the pick pocket- clearly communicating that you know what they are up to. Matt and I took preventive measures and left my purse and his wallet at home and used a money belt instead. The money belt is sometimes a hassle but overall I think it is worth it on days when you are in tourist areas and riding the metro. We kept small amounts of money (under 20 Euro) easily accessible in our backpack/camera bag and the rest of our money was stashed in our money belts.
The bulk of our money was kept close and safe but I made sure to also keep my eyes alert for our friends who were carrying wallets on their person on in backpacks. If you are carrying a bag keep a tight hand on it and never take out your wallet in a crowded area. One of the pickpockets who was casing Matt saw that he had his wallet in his hand. He kept an eye on him and pretended to tie his shoe when Matt bent down to put the wallet away in his bag which is when I stepped between them and stared the pickpocket down. He shifted his eyes away quickly and high tailed it out of there.
Cross body style bags are good because you can comfortably keep a hand on the top of the bag, although thieves have taken to slashing the bottoms off of bags so the contents spill out and a mob of young kids swoop in and grab your stuff off the ground. If you have a backpack you will likely want to remove it and carry it if you are in a crowed metro. I think a big part of preventing stuff like this is having awareness and confidence. If you seem alert and aware, more than likely the thieves will leave you alone. Areas where you should be on heightened awareness of your items are:
- The Colosseum
- The Roman Forum/Palatine Hill/The Ruins
- The Pantheon
- The Vatican
- On the Metro
- On busses, especially on Route 64
- Trevi Fountain
In any of the places listed above if you spend some time watching the crowd you can start to see pickpockets at work. Below are additional links for general safety tips:
Coming up in Roma Recaps: 8 Days in a Carry-On Suitcase. Need to catch up?