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Planning Your Next Trip To Rome, Italy

During my Junior year in College, I studied aboard in Rome, Italy. This is the best place to take a vacation but it can be hard to know what to do with some many great things to see and taste. Here is the places I would stay, places I would go, and helpful tips and tricks. All information comes from: Steves, Rick. Pocket Rome. Berkeley: Avalon Travel, 2011. Print.

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1. Best Area to Stay In

The best area to stay in is Trastevere. It is not only the safest area to stay in but it is also the most centrally located area and public transportation is very close.

2. Best Ways To Travel Around The City

The best way to travel around the city is either walking, tram, subway, bus, or tax. If you take the tram, subway, or bus you will need to buy a ticket and get it stamped whenever you are on these means of transportation. You can buy them at the many green stands around the city. If you do not have a ticket stamped and the police come to check tickets, then you will receive a fine that must be paid. I would not suggest to take a tax to get around the city because it can be very expensive. It does cost however, 50 Euros to travel to and from Fiumicino airport and 30 Euros to travel to and from Ciampino airport. This is a standard rate so make sure that you do not pay more than this.

3. Best Places To Eat

Some of my favorite places to eat are:

1. Dar Poeta- if you want the best Italian pizza, then this is the place you should go. This place is super popular and there can be a very long wait, so make sure you get their early for dinner.

2. Hostaria del Moro da Tony- this is my favorite restaurant in Rome. The food is so good and they give you free dessert.

3. Enteca Corsi di Paiella Agostino- this restaurant has the freshest food and everyday they have a different menu.

4. Roman Forum and Palatine Hill

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The Roman Forum was the heart of ancient Rome. Highlights of the Forum include Arch of Titus, Basilica of Constantine, the Forum's Main Square, Temple of Julius Caesar, Temple of Antoninus Pius and Faustina, Basilica Aemilia, Palace of Tiberius, Temple of Vesta, House of the Vestal Virgins, Senate House (The Curia), Rostrum, Arch of Septimius Serverus, Temple of Saturn, and Column of Phocas- Rome's Fall.

Tickets cost 12 euros and is a combo-ticket with the Colosseum and Palatine Hill. There is an English tour that starts at 1 PM Monday through Friday for an additional 4 euros. It is open from 8:30 AM until one hour before sunset April-Sept till 7:15 PM and Oct till 6:30 PM, and Nov-Mar 4:30 PM.

TIP: it is much easier to get your tickets at the Forum then to get your tickets at the Colosseum.

5. Colosseum

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The Colosseum was ancient Romans form of entertainment. Romans would watch gladiators face off till death,

The cost is 12 Euros which is a combo ticket with the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Every hour there is a 50 minute tour that departs and costs an additional 12 Euros. It is open from 8:30 AM until one hour before sunset April-Sept till 7:15 PM and Oct till 6:30 PM, and Nov-Mar 4:30 PM.

TIP 1: if you want to take a tour and save yourself time in the long lines, walk through security and ask the guards were the tour booth is.

TIP 2: this is a highly trafficked area for pickpockets so make sure your keep your stuff close to you.

6. Pantheon

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The Pantheon was first build by Marcus Agrippa in 27 B.C. but was rebuilt, due to fires, by Hadrian around A.D. 120. This temple was originally dedicated to all the ancient Roman gods. The Pantheon is home to the tombs of the famous artist Raphael and the first two Kings of Rome Victor Emmanuel II and Umberto I.

The cost to visit the Pantheon is free. It is open from Mon-Sat 8:30 AM- 7:30 PM, Sun 9 AM- 6 PM, and holidays 9 AM- 1 PM. It is closed for Mass on Sat at 5 PM and Sun 10:30 AM.

7. Ostia Antica

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This is the only location that I suggest to go to that is outside of the city of Rome. Ostia was Rome's port city and its gateway to the sea. You can see ruined warehouses, apartment flats, mansions, shopping center, restaurants, theater, and baths. Osita is very similar to Pompeii so if you can't travel to Pompeii this a great alternative.

Entry is 8.50 Euros and is open Tue-Sun, April-Oct from 8:30 AM- 7 PM, Nov-Feb 8:30 AM- 5 PM, and March from 8:30 AM-6 PM.

8. Piazza Navona

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In the center of the piazza sits The Four Rivers Fountain made by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The fountain is supported by an Egyptian obelisk and the four river gods representing the four continents known in 1650. These gods are the Nile, the Ganges, the Danube, and Uruguay's Rio de la Plata.

The famous church that is associated with this piazza is St. Agnes who was designed by Francesco Borromini.

9. Piazza del Popolo and the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo

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This oval square marks the traditional north entrance into Rome. The church of Santa Maria del Popolo has two chapels. The first chapel is known as Chigi Chapel was designed by Raphael and was inspired by the Pantheon. The second chapel is know as the Cerasi Chapel which depicts the story of St. Paul finding his faith.

Entry to the church and square are free. The church is open Mon-Sat from 7 AM- 12 PM and 4 PM- 7 PM and on Sun from 8 AM- 1:30 PM and 4:30 PM- 7:30 PM.

10. Piazza Venezia

This is a major transportation huge for the city. If you stand with your back to the Victor Emmanuel Monument you will see the shopping district of Rome, Via del Corso, and to your left, in the less grand balcony, is where Benito Mussolini made speeches, starting the fascist party.

11. Campo de Fiori

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In the morning the piazza is transformed into a market filled with fruits and vegetables. At night there are great cafes to eat and pub-crawling at night. In the center of the piazza is a statue of Giordano Bruno who was a priest, philosopher, and martyr of free thought. He was burned to death at this spot in 1600.

Tip 1: this is the best place to experience the Roman party scene and make sure you stop by the Drunken Sailor an American bar with great themed drinks.

12. Trevi Fountain

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This fountain is the celebration of the abundance of pure water that has always existed in the city of Rome. When you go to the fountain you cannot forget to throw a coin in your right hand over your left shoulder. Legend has it if you throw one coin you'll be sure to return to Rome, two coins brings romance, and three means marriage.

Tip 1: this is a highly trafficked area for pickpockets so make sure your keep your stuff close to you.

13. Spanish Steps

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There are 138 steps and is called the Spanish steps because the Spanish Embassy to the Vatican is located nearby. At the top of the staircase is is an obelisk with two Baroque style church towers on each side. At the bottom of the staircase sits that famous "Sinking Boat" Barcaccia Fountain created by Pietro Bernini and Gian Lorenzo. The sinking ship represents an urban legend of a fishing boat lost during a 1598 flood of the Tiber and the boat ended up at this spot. This is a very popular spot for people to gather and for romantics.

14. Via del Corso

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This mile long street connects Piazza Venezia and Piazza del Popolo. The street is named after the rider-less horse races which occurred during Carnevale. Via del Corso is also the main shopping area in the city.

15. Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II

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This monument is also known as the wedding cake. This monument is to dedicate Italy's first king Victor Emmanuel and the 50th anniversary of the country's unification in 1870. The "Alter of the Nation" is the symbolic representation of this unification. Here also lies the Tomb of the Unknown Solider guarded by Italian soldiers and ever ignited the eternal flame. You can also walk up the 242 steps to the middle level and see some pretty great views. Also at the middle level you can catch the Rome from the Sky elevator to see the best 360 view that Rome has to offer.

The entry to the middle level is free open daily from 9:30 AM to 6:30 PM. The Rome from the Sky costs 7 Euros and runs Mon-Thu from 9:30 AM to 6:30 PM and Fri-Sun from 9:30 AM to 7:30 PM.

16. St. Peter's Basilica

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When you first enter the square you will see the statues of all the saints. After getting through the security line, when you enter the church, on the right is the Pieta by Michelangelo of Mary the Mother of God holding Jesus' crucified body. As you continue walking towards the alter you will next see the tomb of Pope John Paul II, where many stop to pray. Next you will see the bronze statue of St. Peter and it is tradition to kiss Peter's big right toe. The main alter is the center of the church and is only used if the Pope gives mass. The main alter sits under the seven foot tall bronze canopy. Underneath the main alter lies the bones of St. Peter, symbolizing Peter as the rock upon which Jesus built his church. If you look up from where you are standing you will see the dome. In the center of the dome, is Jesus and Mary surrounded by the saints and angels. From this perspective God is seen as a blur of blue and red. If you keep heading towards the front of the church you will see the beautiful stain glass dove window designed by Bernini. Underneath the window is the Throne of Peter made of oak. This area is where normal daily mass takes place. Finally, is Raphael Mosaic copy of the Transfiguration. The real painting can be seen in the Vatican Museum.

Entry is free, but you will have to wait a long time in line to get through security. St. Peter's is open daily from April- Sept from 7 AM- 7 PM and Oct-Mar from 7 AM- 6 PM. The church is closed on Wednesday mornings, during the papal audience. Normally, mass is on Thur at 9 AM, Sun 10:30 AM, 12:15 PM, 4 PM, 5:45 PM after vespers at 5 PM. To see when mass is being held check out www.saintpetersbasilica.org.

17. St. Peter's Basilica: Climbing the Cupola (Dome)

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If you take the elevator you will only need to climb 323 steps, but if you decide to climb your heart out then you will be climbing a total of 554 steps. You will see the inside of the dome and, at the roof level, you see the best view of Rome.

NOTE: this is not the easiest climb in the world because the stairways actually wind between the outer and inner shell. The stairways are also crowded and very claustrophobic, but the climb is defiantly worth it.

To climb the dome it costs 7 Euros to take the elevator and 5 Euros to climb the stairs. The dome is open daily April- Sept from 8 AM to 6 PM and Oct-March from 8 AM to 4:45 PM.

18. Vatican Museum

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There are so many great things to see at the museum, which is why I would suggest devoting a whole day just to go. Some things that you need to check out are:

1. Egypt exhibit

2. Sculptures from Greece and Rome

3. The long march- sculptures, tapestries, maps, and views

4. Renaissance art- includes the Raphael rooms

5. The Sistine Chapel

It costs 15 Euros plus optional 4 Euro reservation fee. It is open Mon-Sat from 9 AM to 6 PM, last entry at 4 PM. It is closed on Sun. The Sistine Chapel closes 1.5 hours before the museum does and guards start ushering guests out of the museum 30 minutes before official closing.

NOTE: there is a dress code, you cannot wear short shorts or bare shoulders and this does apply for both men and women.

Tip 1: on the last Sun of each month this museum is free but there are always a lot of people there. It is open from 9 AM to 2 PM, last entry at 12:30 PM.

Tip 2: the biggest piece of advise I can provide you is to buy your tickets ahead of time online, no matter what time you are going to the museum. It will save you at least two hours of waiting in line, which means you will have more time to look at everything in the museum. Go to http://mv.vatican.va to purchase tickets.

19. The Holy Stairs

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These 28 steps are said to have been climbed by Jesus on the day he was sentenced to death and once stood in Pontius Pilate's residence in Jerusalem. You can participate by climbing on your knees reciting prayers. At the top is the Holy of Holies chapel, which in medieval times was considered the most holiest place on earth.

Entry is free. It is open daily from April-Sept from 6:15 AM- 12 PM and 3:30 PM- 6:30 PM and from Oct-March from 6:15 AM- 12 PM and 3 PM- 6 PM.

20. Santa Maria in Trastevere

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This is Rome's oldest churches. It is also the first church dedicated to Mary the Mother of God.

Entry is free. It is open daily from 7:30 AM- 9 PM.

21. Basilica Di San Pietro In Vincoli

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This church is named after St. Peter and the chains that held him when he entered Rome. This church is also famous for the monument by Michelangelo featuring his statue Moses.

There is free entry to the church. Open from April-Sept form 8 AM to 12:30 PM and form 3:30 PM to 7 PM and from Oct-March from 8 AM to 12:30 PM and from 3 PM to 6 PM.

22. Basilica of San Clemente

This is the best church to visit to see the history of Rome. When you enter the church you see the 12th- century church featuring Christ on the Cross representing all life springing from Jesus. You then enter into the fourth-century church which has a faded fresco of St. Clement providing mass to persecuted Christians. Going one more floor below you can see the second-century pagan cult of Mithras.

Entry is free to visit the upper 12- century church and 5 Euros to see the lower levels. The church is open from Mon-Sat from 9 AM- 12:30 PM and 3 PM- 6 PM and Sun from 12 PM- 6 PM.

23. Archbasilica of St. John Lateran

This church was the first place where once- persecuted Christians could freely worship. This church was the home of the popes until St. Peter's was opened. The bishop of Rome resides here now reminding visitors that this is the city's cathedra.

Entry is free. The church is open daily from 7 AM- 6:30 PM.

24. Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

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This church is named after the pagan Temple of Minerva, which was built underneath Rome's only Gothic style church. The most beautiful parts of the church are the stained-glass windows and the blue starry sky on the ceiling of the church. At the foot of the alter lies St. Catherine of Siena, who was a nun that had visions of her mystical marriage with Jesus. Left of the alter is Michelangelo's statue of Christ Bearing the Cross. Near this statue, is the tomb of Fra Angelico (Beato Angelico) the famous early Renaissance painter and Dominican monk.

Entry is free. This church is open from Mon-Fri from 7 AM to 7 PM and Sat-Sun form 8 AM- 1 PM and 3:30 PM- 7 PM.

25. Seeing The Pope

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On a normal week there are two ways to see the Pope. First, on Sundays at noon the pope will give a blessing at noon (expect for July and August) in the square. If you do not speak Italian then you will not understand what he is saying but it is defiantly worth going.

On Wednesdays starting at 10:30 you can also see the Pope. However, you need to get tickets before hand and the tickets are free. To get tickets go to www.santasusanna.org to get your ticket and pick them up at Santa Susanna Church. The best places to sit are on the sides and especially near a baby.

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