For first time travellers to Rome, we did a number of things correctly and a number of things caught us completely off-guard. Hopefully, after reading our experiences in the next several posts, you will know what to expect and won’t run across the same pitfalls we did! We still had an amazing time, so it wasn’t anything terrible, but definitely something that would’ve made things much easier if we’d known at the time.
We had a rather late arrival, and after reading nightmare horror stories about taxis from Ciampino airport to the city centre (which is anywhere in the Aurelian Wall), we ended up hiring a car. Yes, it was more expensive since there is a law in Rome that dictates a flat rate charge from the airport (30 euros from Ciampino and 48 from Fiumicino) for a maximum of 4 people and their luggage for licensed Taxis. It’s even posted on the outside of every taxi, but for one, we number 5 people. I’ve also read horror stories of people being dropped off at the walls or taxi drivers claiming that to the walls is the flat rate and beyond is an extra charge. The practice is illegal, but how many tourists really understand the law or are in a position to enforce it with the police if there is a problem. If it had just been me and my husband, we probably would’ve just made the attempt to get the lower price, but with three children along for the ride and the evening arrival. We weren’t willing to try.
We stayed not far from the Tiber and had a really quick walk to the Ponte Sant’Angelo when we crossed to see the Vatican. We had decided when we booked our place that we would walk everywhere and as long as you’re planning on touring what’s within the Aurelian Wall, it’s completely achievable.
So, if you’re not familiar with Rome, you might be asking ‘What is the Aurelian Wall?’. Most old cities had some sort of original wall that surrounded the city for protection and some cities still have remnants of that fortification to this day. Bath has bits of the original walls still intact around the city, though because they’re partially buried, they don’t seem much like walls; however, Rome’s Aurelian Wall, which was built by the emperors Aurelian and Probus in the 4th century still stands tall to this day. When it was first built, the entire wall, that encircled the right bank of the Tiber, was 26 feet high, surrounded 12 square miles, had 383 towers, 18 main gates, and over 2,000 windows.
When you approach the walls, even at night, you can’t miss them. We passed through one of the gates, which is one lane, and once we were inside, the traffic became even crazier before. If you’ve never driven in Rome before, you’re in for a shock! As opposed to British drivers, who tend to be rather mannerly on the road and rarely use their horn, the Italians are the opposite. Everyone uses their horn, they cut each other off, and then squeezing through tight spaces–I thought we’d never make it in a couple of places.
Arriving at night was fascinating and beautiful, though. We passed by so many historical places that were illuminated and looked just amazing in the dark.
Once we were shown around where we were staying by the property owner (We had the same experience in Venice as well. They took us around the entire flat and showed us everything.), we needed to eat. With several of us requiring gluten-free, that can always be a struggle, but my daughter found a place with 4 stars on Google, so we headed in that direction.
Voglie di Pizza is not large and it’s not the fanciest place when you look at it. It’s not much more than a narrow strip of hallway inside with outdoor seating, but it was one of our favourite places to eat by the time we left. We even returned on our last night. For those who need gluten-free, there is a regular menu as well as a decent gluten-free menu. A lot of places will only have pizza or only have pasta, but they also had Melanzane Alla Parmigiana (Eggplant/Aubergine Parmesan) and a few other options as well. I also had Tiramisu, which is something I haven’t had in forever. The food was good, the prices were not as high as a lot of places, and the people who worked there were extremely friendly and helpful. Definitely a recommend if you’re in the area!
We ended our first evening in Rome with a leisurely walk back to the flat so we could start sight-seeing the next day. It’s amazing all the little things on random street corners whether it’s statues or paintings, and then the churches tucked up into little niches along narrow cobbled streets. It’s definitely worth seeing!
Next post… the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica