Hotel Mimosa, Pantheon We stayed here for 9 days in June 2017.
Pros: Location, location ,location! The place is right next to the Pantheon. Piazza Navona, Ponte Umberto, Trevi, Torre de Argentina are all within a short walking distance. There is plenty of places to eat all around. Transportation is very easy to find as well. The rooms and bathrooms are very clean. The front desk is quite helpful and they were very responsive over e-mail. The place is two floors up from the street level. That mitigates (not eliminate) the noise. The tariff is reasonable considering the location. It is the cheapest mid-range option we could find in the city centre. There is free wi-fi and the connectivity and speed was excellent.
Cons: The breakfast spread was adequate when it comes to cold fare - cakes, pies, cheese and such. It completely lacked hot items - no pancakes/waffles/eggs etc. Having said that, we could not find many restaurants serving what we wanted for breakfast. Coming from India, we are used to getting laundry service at the hotel. There was none whatsoever even for a hefty price. The closest coin laundry was a good distance away. It will help a lot if there is a coin laundry facility in the premises. The rooms were quite small by Indian standards. We have not seen any other hotel rooms apart from this in Europe. So we are not sure if the size is par for the course.
- We took taxis all over Rome making sure it was always the official "white" taxi with the city name on it. The only bad experience we ever had was one of the drivers did not go by the meter, but went on a fixed fare. The fare was 3 times more than what it should be (24E instead of ~8E). We took it because there was no other taxi available. But even then the conditions was spelt out clearly before we got on and we had ample chance to decline the service.
- Our Indian credit and debit cards just worked. We had no trouble withdrawing money from ATM or paying at any of the museums or restaurants.
- We had taken AirTel International Roaming before leaving India and it worked just fine. We have connectivity with good speeds everywhere we went.
- Vegetarian food is not a problem at all. It is easier to find Vegetarian food in Rome than Delhi. Vegans would suffer.
- Spanish Steps - Must See: Well, you got to do this. In summer, days are quite hot to sit on the steps. This comes on the way if you are walking from the Borghese Gallery towards Pantheon/Trevi direction.
- Trevi Fountain - Must See: It is always crowded. Come here at nights/late evenings for the lighting.
- Pantheon - Must See; 30 mins: Another "got to do this" monument. It is a bit unpredictable with respect to the crowd. We stayed bang next to this. The wait sometimes seemed hours long and quite thin other times. I don't think you can beat the crowd by coming in early or late. If you are staying close by, you just have to try your luck by walking past this a few times.
- Piazza Navona - Must See: Another one on everyone's bucket list. Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers is the primary attraction.
- Colosseum - Must See; 2 hrs: Note that it is the same tickets for the Forum cum Palatine and the Colosseum. You need to see both within 2 days. You can either pre-book your tickets or just visit Forum on any given evening (there is hardly any queue for the forum tickets) and then head to the Colosseum the early next morning with the same tickets and cut the Colosseum line. Best thing to do is have tickets with you and be at the gate 15 mins before opening (opens at 8:30 am). You can beat most of the crowd. Don't ever fall for the "group tours". They are completely useless and give you no extra information other that what you can get by watching Hollywood movies and they ensure almost all of the crowd gets in before you.
- The Roman Forum - Muse See (3-4 hours including the Palatine): This should feature in anyone's one-day Rome itinerary. Everything you know (and don't know) about Roman history happened here. Be prepared to walk a lot. There are water fountains available inside the Forum.
- Palatine Hill - Must See (3-4 hours including the Forum): This, for all practical purpose, is a part of the Forum. You cannot say where one ends and other starts. It is the same ticket for both and Palatine starts about where you start climbing the hill. The view of the Forum from the top of the hill is stunning
- Castel Sant'Angelo - Must See; 2 hrs: It is possible to combine this with the Vatican visit making it a long day. The view from the top is unparalleled in Rome and the mannerist paintings in Paul III apartments are also quite interesting.
- Catacombs - Must See; 3-4 hrs: Visit both San Castillo and San Sebasteano. Both are quite different and both are a must-see. Note that the entry is only by guided tours. In summer, tours leave every half hour. In winter, please check the tour timings before arriving. It is very hard to find a taxi back to the city.
- Baths of Caracalla - Must See; 1 hr: The sheer scale of the structure is quite staggering. A large part of the mosaic flooring is intact.
- Imperial Forum - Should See; 1 hour: These are the ruins on the other side of the road along the Roman Forum. So all you need to do is to exit the Form and walk a bit on the other side of the road to see this. Most of this can be seen from the top of the Victor Emmanuel Monument.
- Victor Emmanuel Monument - Should See; 30 mins-1 hour: It is very hard to resist this. This is the tallest monument in its vicinity and has a commanding view of the area. The museum inside is of no interest to anyone other than a patriotic Italian. But the view from the top is stunning
- Ara Pacis - Give it a miss; 30 mins: This Temple of Peace is not worth the entrance fee of 10E+.
- Vatican Museums - Must See; 4-5 hrs: Pre-book tickets to avoid the lines. The lines are humongous and pre-booking is so easy on-line. It is a mystery why so few seem to pre-book. Please ask for a map before entering. Don't be tempted to head straight to the Sistine to avoid the crowds. The side museums (Pinacoteca, Pio-Clementino, Chiramonti) are fantastic, to say the least. If you head to Sistine first, you cannot backtrack to see the rest. A map will help you chart out the route. It does not matter how crowded Sistene or the Raphael Rooms get. Everything you want to see up above and no one will be able to block your view.
- Galleria Borghese - Must See; 2 hours: Housed in a sumptuous palace, this museum contains the best Bernini collection in the world. His Aeneas, Rape of Proserpine, David are all found here. So is a good deal of Caravaggio's masterpieces. Don't miss Mariano Rossi's ceiling fresco in the main Salon. Also worth a peek is the Pinacoteca in the top floor. Rahpael's Deposition and Portrait of Julius II hangs in here. Note that you need to pre-book tickets which is easy from their website. Two hrs is plenty to cover this museum.
- Capitoline Museums - Must See; 3 hours: This has all the top collections from the Roman era that mildly acquainted with Roman history can name - The Dying Gaul, Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius, Giant Head of Constantine, Marforio etc. If there is only one museum you have the time for, it must be this one. It is located right behind the Forum and can easily be combined with it.
- Palazzo Massimo (Museo Nazionale Romano) - Must See; 2 hrs: This is impressive even by Rome's high standards. The must-sees are Augustus' as Pontifex Maximus, Boxer at Rest, Discobolus and Livia's re-created villa on the top floor.
- Palazzo Altemps - Must See; 1-2hrs: This is a continuation of the Palazzo Massimo and the same entrance ticket can be used here. It houses the famous Ludovisi collection - Juno, Dying Gaul, Twelve Caesars etc. Well worth a visit. This is located very close to Piazza Novona.
- Baths of Diocletian - Should See; 1 hr: The museum collection isn't that great, but this is located right across Palazzo Massimo and share the same entrance ticket. So if you have the time, you might as well do a quick in-and-out.
- Palazzo Spada - Should See; 1 hr: The art collection is underwhelming. But the reason to visit this is to see the Borromini's Perspective. Ask at the lobby for its location.
- Galleria Doria Pamphilij - Should See; 1.5 hours: The top collection here is Velazquez' portrait of Innocent X and some of Caravaggio's early works. The palace itself is a dazzling guilded affair.
- Museo de Arte Antica, Palazzo Barberini - Should See; 1 hr: If you are a Raphael or a Caravaggio fan, then this is a must-see. This museum is home to Raphael's La Fornarina and Caravaggio's Judith. If these means nothing to you, you can skip it. Otherwise, just these two paintings alone is worth the visit.
- Museo di Roma - Give it a miss: There are two of these and I am talking about the one next to Piazza Navona. This is quite a pointless museum. The only reason to visit this is to get a bird's eye view of the Piazza. The view is quite good. But it is 10E per person to get in.
- Museum of Palazzo Venezia - Give it a miss: Quite underwhelming by Rome's standard. You can easily miss this one.
- St. Peter's Basilica - Must See; 2 hrs: Head to the dome first. Assuming you are coming from the Vatican Museum, this will help you beat whatever crowd you can. Also, the route from the top leaves you right in the middle of the Basilica.
- San Luigi dei Francesi - Must See; 30 mins: This is located right next to Piazza Navona and a must-see for Caravaggio fans. This houses his famous St. Mathew series. These are located in the Chapel in the left corner as you face the apse. You won't miss it, there is always a crowd in front. If you find the Chapel dark, look for a machine that takes in an Euro and the Chapel will be lit up for a couple of mins for you to enjoy the painting and take pictures.
- Basilica di San Clemente al Laterano: Must See; 1 hr: This is located about 15 mins walk from the Colosseum. This is a must-see because you can go underground and get to see the layers of Roman history. This is a 10th c. Church sitting on top of a 4th c. one sitting on top of a 1st c. Mithraem sitting on top of a Republican era house. Don't forget to head down - it is easy to miss the signs.
- Basilica di San Pietro Vincoli: Must See; 30 mins: This is a must see mainly for Michelangelo's tomb of Julius II.
- Basilica di San Giovanni di Laterano: Must See; 1 hr: This (and not the St. Peter's) is the seat of the Bishop of Rome (i.e. the Pope). The Apse is stunning, so are the giant statues of the 12 Apostles. Don't miss the adjacent cloister and the Holy Steps.
- Chiesa del Gesu - Must See; 30 mins: The ceiling fresco Triumph of the Name of Jesus by Baciccia makes this one a must-see in my opinion.
- Santa Maria in Trastevere - Should See; 30 mins: This is one of the earliest churches in Rome and has kept the plan of the 3rd/4th c. era. The mosaics in the Apse is quite stunning.
- Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore: Should See; 30 mins: This is one of the four Major Basilicas of Catholicism and the Apse has some early Christian era mosaics.
- Sant'Agnese in Agone - Should See; 30 mins: Since you will be at Piazza Navona, you might as well visit this Church. It is bang behind Bernini's fountain. Don't miss the fresco underneath the main dome.
- Santa Maria Sopra Minerva - Should See; 30 mins: Bernini's Obelisk and Elephant statue is right outside this Church. Church contains Filippino Lippi's frescoes and Michelangelo's Christ the Redeemer. The church is located a couple of minutes away from the Pantheon. If any of these means anything to you, then do visit this.
- Chiesa di Santa Maria del Popolo - Should See; 30 mins: Here hangs two of Caravaggio's masterpieces - Crucifixion of St. Peter and Conversion of St. Paul. It is located in the Chapel to the left of the main altar. Pop in a Euro into the machine to light up the paintings for a couple of mins.
- Villa d'Este - Must See; 3 hrs To get here from Rome, take the Line B to Ponte Mammalo and then get on the Blue Corta bus to Tivoli. You need to buy the bus tickets at the shop in the train station before you take the escalator up to catch the bus. Remember to take the return and the tickets between the two villas. Bus takes 45 mins to an hour and drops you ab out 10 mins walk from the Villa. Do spend some time at the Villa before heading to the garden. The mannerist frescoes are quite impressive.
- Villa Adriana - Must See; 3 hrs You can take the Blue Corta bus to the point on the closest point to Villa Adriana. Remind the driver to drop you at the right place. It is a 1.2 km walk to the Villa from the main road. There is a Tivoli city bus that ply between the two villas which will help you avoid the walk, but it is far less frequent than the Corta. There is a lot of walking to do inside the Villa as well. Buy a map at the entrance. It is well worth it to chart your best route. Don't miss the Canopus, Large Baths, Hospitalia and the Maritime Theater.
Orvieto: Sightseeing Tips
- Trains leave Roma Termini every couple of hours towards Orvieto and it takes about an hour to get here. Check the train site or the ticket machines for the best available trains. You can take the tram up to the town centre from the train station.
- Duomo - Must See; 1.5 hrs (including the museum): The Cathedral/Duomo is one of the best Gothic Churches in the country. Don't miss the Last Judgement series by Luca Signorelli in the Chapel of the Madonna di San Brizio inside the Cathedral. The museum next to the Cathedral is worth a quick look.
- Pozzo di San Patrizio - Should See 30 mins: This well is rather impressive. It is 250 steps down (and up) and the view from the bottom is interesting. Don't come up the way you go down. It is a double spiral staircase with independent entry and exit.
Tarquinia: Sightseeing Tips
- Trains leave every two hours from Roma Termini to Tarquinia. It takes about an hour. Note that some of the trains only go upto Civitavecchia and you have to catch the bus to get to Tarquinia. The bus fare is included in the train ticket. Need to check if your ticket is straight through or if there is a change over. You need to take the city bus from the Tarquinia station to the town centre (~10 mins and the you can buy the tickets inside the bus).
- Museo Tarquiense - Should See; 1 hr: The Winged Horse from a local temple and the pottery collection are well worth the visit. It gives you the background you need to visit the Necropolis further up.
- Monterozzi Necropolis - Must See; 2 hrs: This is absolutely stunning. The old tombs are well preserved and displayed. About 20 are open to the public and the frescoes are well, I am repeating myself here, just stunning.
Ostia Antica: Sightseeing Tips
- It is tempting to "do" this on your way to the airport. This is just stone throws away. We attempted this and found two issues - firstly, there is no place to store your luggage and you have to carry it around. We just left it under a tree hoping for the best. Secondly, it is quite hard to find a taxi to the airport from here. The local guide whom we hired offered to drop us to the airport. The place itself is quite stunning and a must see. It takes about 40 mins to get here by Taxi (from Rome) and you need about 4 to 5 hrs to do justice to the place.