Here are some Frequently Answered Questions that can help you « navigate » the Eternal City:
What’s the appropriate dress code at the Vatican?
Knees and shoulders covered for ladies and gentlemen alike. This is the rule applied in all Roman Catholic churches. Even in the hottest summer days keep this in mind and bring a scarf along: our churches are true jewel caskets as far as the works of art are concerned, you’re going to be marvelled at the riches inside! Besides, churches are the coolest places to stop and rest a bit in summer time!
What items won’t get through at the security check at the Vatican?
Basically, the same rules as for boarding a plane apply: no sharp metal points (scissors, pocket knives, metal nail files), no glass bottles, no large backpacks nor large shopping bags (I’d say no backpack full stop – the size is judged by the keepers and each of them may have his own idea about small/large; it also depends on how crowded the Vatican Museums get and that’s unpredictable), no long umbrellas (i.e. the umbrellas you cannot fold).
Can I take pictures in museums/churches?
Yes, without flash. Very rarely you’re requested not to take pictures at all: Sistine Chapel and Borghese Gallery are among those places where taking pictures or videofilming is forbidden.
Are monuments/museums/churches always open?
No. Major national monuments like the Colosseum are open 7/7 days, but are closed on major national holidays. Most museums are closed on Monday. Most churches take a rather long lunch break: it means they’re closed between 12:00 and 15:30 or 16:00. With the exception of the four major Basilicas – St.John’s at the Lateran, St. Peter’s at the Vatican, St.Mary Major and St.Paul’s outside the walls – which are open all day long.
When do the shops close?
Good news folks! No need to panic if it’s 16:50 and you had no time for shopping yet: our shops close at 19:30 or 20:00 (they open at 9:00 or 10:00 am). In the city centre the siesta has been long forgotten and they are open through lunch time, too. Anyway, many shops still close on Sunday and Monday am.
How do I get around in Rome?
• From/to Fiumicino airport the quickest is the train: Leonardo Express direct connection to Termini (our central railway station) 14 euros; or the train that stops in all the other railway stations – Trastevere, Ostiense, Tuscolana, Tiburtina – 8 euros (please note: prices may increase during the year) For different options: www.turismoroma.it/infoviaggio/con-laereo?lang=en
• Public transport in the city: we have only two subway lines, but a rich and complex network of buses. One ride is 1,50 euros, a day pass 6 euros. For more detailed info: http://www.atac.roma.it/index.asp?p=2
• Taxi rides: http://www.turismoroma.it/infoviaggio/taxi?lang=en
How can I save some money?
Travelling is becoming more and more affordable, but you may find these tips still interesting…
• Accommodation will absorb the better part of your budget: ever considered staying in a B&B? Here’s the list of licensed B&B in Rome: http://www.turismoroma.it/result_060608?lang=en&categ=bed-and-breakfast
• Combo ticket including public transport, two free entrances at monuments/museums – Colosseum and Borghese Gallery, for example – and reductions for other sites/museums: it’s called Roma Pass: http://www.romapass.it/?l=en
• Potable water: drinking water in Rome is for free! We have hundreds of small drinking fountains called « nasoni » – i.e. « big noses », by the shape of their spout. Buying bottled water can cost you dearly, especially by the Colosseum! Quotations start from 2,50 euros for a half-litre bottle…. You’ve been advised 😉
Should I leave a tip?
If you’re satisfied of the service, yes.
• For your taxi driver, you can round up the sum stated on the meter.
• For your restaurant waiter: tips are not usually included, you can add 5% to 10% of the bill as a tip – cash only. If you put it on your credit card the waiter won’t get it.
• For your barman, if you take your cappuccino standing at the bar, like the Romans do. Get the ticket at the cash desk first, then go to the bar, put the ticket down with a small coin on it (no copper pls): your order should get through with no delay 😉 Besides, the Roman barmen really deserve it in most cases! It’s incredible the way they can deal with a dozen customers at once, getting the orders right! We all like coffee « our own way »… When we meet I’ll give you the full listing…
• A completely different set of « rules » applies if you have your cappuccino sitting – it’s considered a luxury, so you may pay 2 euros for the cappuccino and 4 euros for the service. In this case the tip has already been taken care of in the bill. The good news are that you’ll be entitled to seat at your table all day long… if it’s in front of Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers the expense may well be worth it!
Can you book and buy entrance tickets for us? I’m afraid we can’t, since we’re not travel agents. Anyway, when you book a guided tour with us we can give you precise directions in order to book and buy your entrance tickets, for you to be able to skip the line at major attractions like the Colosseum and the Sistine Chapel – at no extra cost. No need to worry about our admission tickets: as Licensed Guides we have our passes letting us in.
Enjoy your Roman holiday!