48 HOURS IN ROME ; Feast Your Eyes on Art and Antiquities, and Your Tastebuds on Pasta and Ices, before the Heat and the Queues Take over the Eternal City, Says Ben Ross
Ross, Ben, The Independent (London, England)
WHY GO NOW?
Now is always the time to visit the Eternal City. Holy Week (1-9 April) sees a deluge of pilgrims anxious to receive the Pope's Easter Sunday blessing in St Peter's Square (1), but otherwise, springtime itself confers particular benefits on Rome's visitors: the queues aren't yet eternal, for a start, and the temperature hasn't reached the sticky heights of summer.
Ryanair (from Liverpool, Luton, Nottingham, Prestwick and Stansted) and easyJet (from Belfast, Bristol, Gatwick, Nottingham and Newcastle) fly to Ciampino airport, to the south-east of the city, from which Terravision buses (00 39 06 7949 4572; www.terravision.it) run to Via Marsala, next to Termini station (2). The 40-minute trip costs [euro]8 ([pound]5.70) single and [euro]14 ([pound]10) return. In addition, British Airways flies from Gatwick and Heathrow, Alitalia from Heathrow, and bmibaby from Birmingham. These flights land at Leonardo da Vinci airport (aka Fiumicino), which lies to the south-west. Return fares from London at [pound]110 are available from www.opodocouk for travel in April. From Fiumicino, the express train service to Termini takes 35 minutes and leaves every half an hour ([euro]11/[pound]7.90 each way).
GET YOUR BEARINGS
To the west, a loop of the Tiber separates Rome's celebrated seven hills from the Vatican, a city-state in its own right. The Roman Forum lies at the southern limit of the historic centre, and to the north is the green sweep of the Borghese Gardens. The two- line metro system crosses at Termini, and an all-day ticket for buses, trams and the metro costs [euro]4 ([pound]2.90). The main tourist office (3) (00 39 06 8205 9127; www.roma turismo.it) is located at 5 Via Parigi, open 9am-7pm daily except Sundays. Consider buying a Roma Pass ([euro]20/[pound]14.30), valid for three days: the first two attractions you visit are free, with reduced prices for the rest and free transport thrown in.
A stone's throw from the Vatican, the Hotel Bramante (4), at 24 Vicolo delle Palline (00 39 06 6880 6426; www.hotelbramante.com), is tucked down a side-street off the bustling Borgo Pio. Its 16 rooms are all dark wood, wrought iron and exposed beams. Doubles from [euro]170 ([pound]121), including breakfast. Alternatively, try the Hotel Pantheon (5) at 131 Via dei Pastini (00 39 06 6787 746; www.hotelpantheon.it). The 13 rooms are simply furnished, the staff are friendly, and the location is surprisingly peaceful, given its position just round the corner from the Pantheon (6) itself. Doubles from [euro]200 ([pound]143), including breakfast. To the east of the Borghese Gardens, the Hotel Fiume (7), at 5 Via Brescia (00 39 06 854 3000; www.hotelfiume-roma.com), is good value, with doubles from [euro]133 ([pound]95), including breakfast.
Set your alarm: to minimise queuing, the Vatican museums (8), at 100 Viale Vaticano (00 39 06 698 83 333; www.vatican.va), are best visited as early as possible. Once inside, frescoed galleries deliver an unrivalled art-history lesson, which builds up nicely to the Sistine Chapel, with Michelangelo's masterpiece of a ceiling. (Museums open from 10am-4.45pm Monday to Saturday, last entry 3.30pm; admission [euro]13 ([pound]9.30). Closed Sundays, except the last Sunday of every month, when admission is free.) After the chapel, head round the corner to gawp at the enormity of St Peter's Basilica (7am-7pm, admission free) and St Peter's Square, tended by the Pope's peacock-like Swiss Guards.
LUNCH ON THE RUN
For once, you don't have to feel guilty for snacking on pizza. Try a takeaway pizza bianca, a pizza sandwich for which you select the filling. Lo Zozzone (9), tucked down the Via del Teatro (00 39 06 6880 8575), offers these DIY delights for [euro]3 ([pound]2.20).
TAKE A HIKE...
...into Rome's ancient past. …