Despite our best intentions to relax and to slowly wander the city and ruins, spending Christmas in Italy (specifically Italy) is guaranteed to cause anxiety—there’s so much to see and so little time to see it all.
One of the busiest and most vibrant cities in the world, Rome defined civilization 2,000 years ago. Today, it’s a breathtaking mixture of ancient and new, a city of ruins and graffiti.
Rome’s narrow, cobblestone streets are filled with tourists hurrying from one attraction to another, and small, zippy automobiles that make crossing the street a challenge. The hectic pace begins as soon as you enter the city, most likely through Roma Termini, the central train station named for the ancient Baths of Diocletian, which lie across the street from the main entrance. From here, you can catch the A and B metro lines or a bus at Piazza Cinquecento, the square in front of the station.
Termini is a destination unto itself: It not only is the major transportation hub, but it’s also a shopping mall with fashionable and popular stores, restaurants, and even a grocery market. After a long, tiring day of touring the city, reaching Termini for a train to your hotel can be a relief, if it weren’t for the fact that there’s limited public seating. Perhaps it’s to discourage homeless people from taking up residence in the station, but that, coupled with the crowded pay-toilets that don’t even have toilet seats, is enough to make a sore-footed tourist whimper. But traveling is about becoming a temporary local, so while in Rome…
Roma Pass: Your Ticket To The City
Small inconveniences—or, more accurately, cultural differences—aside, Italy is the type of city that leaves you breathless, racing from one magnificent site to another. Using the Roma Pass is a terrific tool that guarantees you’ll be able to get from the Colosseum to the Vatican to Trevi Fountain. This three-day pass not only gives you unlimited access to public transportation, but it also allows you to skip the long lines at some of the most popular attractions.
The Roma Pass costs 30 Euro and entitles holders to free admission to the first two museums or archaeological sites visited, as well as discounts for many other museums and sites. And, although you’ll probably purchase several travel guides before traveling to Italy, the Roma Pass Kit includes a map of the city, illustrating the location, addresses, phone numbers and even timetables of popular tourist information points, metro stations, and museums and sites of interest.
It also contains Roma News, a program of events and tourist services eligible for discounts divided by area of interest: art, music, theater, dance, and entertainment. Where to go, what to do and what to see are easier decisions with the Roma Pass because you’ll want to take advantage of the discounts and perks. It pays for itself the first time you use it as you enter the Colosseum quickly and smugly, bypassing the long ticket line.
Rome’s Etherial Nightlife And Delicious Dining
If Rome is exciting and energetic during the day, it is ethereal at night, especially when the streets are lit with electric fairy lights and stars. Cars vacate the city’s Centro Storico, and people walk freely in the middle of the streets.
Waiters in white aprons post outside the osterias and bars, enticing tourists to stop a while, drink a glass of wine, and dine under the stars. Of course, the best restaurants don’t post waiters outside; they’re far too busy serving the well-informed visitor and the local clientele—and as with many destinations, most of the best places are small, almost hidden from view on side streets.
While a tour book like Frommer’s Rome, Day by Day will tell you how to get around the city quickly, a better book is Rick Steves’ Italy 2014. A practical guide, Steves’ book is filled with inside information and advice instead of colorful snapshots and pull-out maps. His back-door travel philosophy advocates “intensified living, maximum thrills per minute, and freedom.” With chapters like “Eating” and “Sleeping,” Steves makes it easy to find what you’re looking for.
And if you don’t, there’s something just as good, or better, around the corner.
Have you spent Christmas in Italy? What was your experience?
By Robin Van Auken