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When in Rome: 5 Things Every First-Time Traveler Should Know

5 Things Every First-Time Traveler Should Know

5 Things Every First-Time Traveler Should Know

by Rodger Crane ,

So you’re finally going for it — planning that overseas trip you’ve been dreaming about. You’ve always wanted to visit new and exciting areas of the world, see ancient wonders, learn about new cultures, experience new foods and meet new people. However, international travel differs from domestic in a number of ways, and you should be prepared. Here some key guidelines to live by while traveling in a foreign country:

Educate Ahead Of Time

Take some time to educate yourself and your fellow travelers about the countries and specific regions you will be traveling to. Don’t expect to find the attitudes, atmosphere and culture to be like what you left at home; embrace the diversity and be respectful of the cultural norms as well as the “dos and don’ts” of the area. And blessed is he or she who can say “hello,” “please” and “thank you” in the local language.

Become One With Your Passport

Engrain the habit of keeping your passport with you — safely hidden away somewhere on your person — at all times. A person without a passport may as well be a refugee without a country.

Get Off The Beaten Path

While tour guides and fancy Westernized vacations can serve a purpose for the uninitiated traveler, strive to stray off the beaten path at least a couple of times on your trip. After you’ve seen the known tourist hot spots, do a bit of exploring on your own. Eat and shop at places the locals favor.

Embrace Technology

The explosion of technology in recent years has made certain aspects of travel easier than ever. There are a number of free or very affordable “apps” you can download to your smartphone to enhance just about every aspect of travel. The LocalEats app can help you find the best local cuisine wherever you travel. Travel App Box has been called the “Swiss army knife” of travel apps. It features a currency converter, tip calculator for each country, country codes, clothing size converter, a phrase dictionary for 5 languages, emergency numbers for each country and even pictograms to show to the locals when you don’t know the language.

Keep Your Wits About You

While you’ll want to relax and have an amazing time on your trip, never lose sight of the fact that you’re in a foreign country. Traveling in Europe may require less vigilance than some parts of the Middle East, but be sure to use common sense wherever you go, especially when in crowded areas like markets and bus terminals. Watch your alcohol intake and avoid neighborhoods with high crime rates. Consider enrolling in an identity theft protection service before you leave on your trip. According to the LifeLock, their service can help with recovery if your personal information is ever stolen and used fraudulently.


When traveling internationally, remember at all times that you are a representative of your country. Use common sense, trust your gut and always be friendly. A smile and a pleasant demeanor can go a long way in offsetting a language barrier or a cultural faux pas. Also, don’t let one or two bad experiences sour you on an entire country. Just like America, there are good and not-so-good people everywhere. Use your intuition, think on your feet and you’ll find yourself connecting with the good ones.

A Holistic Guide For Your Vacation In Rome With Your Close Ones

If you are planning to take a break from your hectic and busy schedule then why not choose Rome as your next break location. You would not be disappointed by an inch and will take pleasure in making such a decision. Rome the capital city of Italy has been world famous because of many reasons.

Prominent among them are the various civilizations that were established in the historical times. The culture and customs related to those civilizations make this city one of the most preferred tourist attractions. Holiday tours come in packages. These packages include everything from reaching the airport to arriving back to your dwelling after spending a vacation.

Some of the things that these packages include:-

  • Airplane tickets including food and other necessities.
  • If you somehow live in a remote area, they provide you conveyance for reaching the nearest airport and the same during your return.
  • Hotels, vacation houses and resorts are pre booked and included in these packages.
  • A professional guide who makes your stay easy and comfortable at Rome and guides you regarding various places those are worth visiting.

A detailed picture of Rome and some of its highlights have been mentioned below. Rome is accessible from every part of the world. Various day and night flights are available to take you to your destination holiday.

Rome City

Rome City

Holiday Homes

Luxurious and lavish holiday homes are available for vacationers to make their experience even more memorable. These holiday homes are built keeping in mind the every section of society and comes in varied structures and styles. You can get easy affordable and competitive prices. These homes are cosy and eye pleasing in their interiors. Although several enticing offers are available in the city, make sure you get the best deal; after all, you do not have to outstretch your pocket. These homes are accessible at the various popular tourist destinations and ski resorts. Florence, Sardinia, Umbria and the list go on and on.

Plenty of agencies are there to help and guide you. These agencies offer packages, which include not only holiday homes but also professional guides and services. If you are from the adventurous lot these houses are also available in the countryside. There you can experience rocky terrain, mountains and pacific surroundings.

Destination Sites

Rome is a home to various sites having historical and tourist significance. Vatican City has so many Roman and Greek museums exhibiting the ancient civilizations and dynasties. Sistine Chapel that has been restored recently can also be visited for its splendour and brilliance. Michelangelo’s outstanding and commendable work can be seen in this chapel. Next comes the place named as Foro Romano, this is the place which was used for ancient public speaking and trading. Ancient temples and architectures are also worth watching here.



Drinks and Cuisines

This guide would be incomplete if various delectable drinks and cuisines are not mentioned. Various options are available in the hotels or holiday houses only but to get the true Roman flavour you have to step outside. In fact, Italians are world famous for their meals and drinks and they cherish them a lot. Extravagant as well as reasonable options are available in every street corner of each town. Some of the highly applauded drinks of Roman culture are Glorious Grappa, Fabulous Frascati and Fernet Branca.

Rome city serves for all pockets sizes whether you are going for a short and cheap vacation or want to treat yourself with a little bit of sumptuousness there is an impressive showdown for everyone and now with low cost airlines operating from most parts world airports it has become more and more accessible. Rome is a compulsory vacation destination for everyone.

Take a Cruise With a Difference Around the Eastern Mediterranean



When most people think of a cruise around the Med, it’s normally Spain, France and Italy that come to mind. A cruise around the ports along the western coast of the Mediterranean is a route that’s very well-travelled, but for those seeking something a bit different there’s the option of an Eastern Mediterranean cruise.

Take a cruise that introduces you to the ancient civilizations of Rome, Greece and Turkey and see some of Europe’s most stunning sights on a journey that takes you back thousands of years.


Many cruises of the Eastern Mediterranean start in the historic city of Rome, where there is plenty of opportunity to explore the former beating heart of the Roman Empire.

A fly-cruise deal may offer you the chance to get to the city with a night or two before your cruise ship departs, make sure you take it. There is so much to see and do, there’s no way you could do it justice in an afternoon but if your time is limited, taking a guided tour of the main sights will give you a flavor of the place. And don’t forget to throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain to make sure you come back.


After Britain’s success in the 2012 Olympics, nothing could be more perfect than a stop at the town where the modern Olympiad originated. With a full day to take a trip to the town, wander around the Olympic museum and the chance to unwind in a cafe on the waterfront, there’s plenty of time to soak up the culture and history of the place.


The port of Pireus is the gateway to Athens, where you get the chance to immerse yourself in a different ancient civilization only a day or two’s cruising after your Roman holiday.

On your day in the city, make the Acropolis the main focus of your visit. This ancient citadel built on a rocky outcrop above the city has many archaeologically and historically significant buildings that are open for you to explore. The most famous of these is the Parthenon, built in 447 BC and dedicated to the city’s patron goddess Athena, which is a breath-taking sight and gives a glimpse into the past glories of ancient Greece.

For history and archaeology buffs, the New Acropolis Museum makes for a fascinating visit, and is a great place to shelter from the heat of the midday sun.

    The Acropolis at Athens, Cr wikimedia

The Acropolis at Athens, Cr wikimedia


Another day, another ancient civilization but this time spanning two continents at once. Istanbul is the only city in the world that sits in both Europe and Asia, making it a truly transcontinental experience.

The city itself is a fusion of cultural influences from its European and Asian roots, blended with African flavors from its long history as a trading port and gateway between Europe, Africa and Asia.

Many Eastern Mediterranean cruises will give you two days in Istanbul, and with good reason. It’s a sprawling, fascinating city full of history, culture and life. Istanbul is a great place to get all your gifts for friends and family, and wandering through the bazaars you’ll find an array
of sights, sounds and smells to keep you entertained for hours.


The final stop on a cruise around the Eastern Med before you get back to Rome, Naples is a city of fashion and refinement. Cruising into the bay, you’re met by the 13th century castle and within minutes of stepping off the ship you’re surrounded by Naples’ beautiful old town. It’s a perfect place to conclude a cruise around this lesser-explored part of the Mediterranean.


When booking a cruise holiday, take a trip along the route less travelled and enjoy a voyage around the Eastern Mediterranean.

 Copyright © STI

Rome – A Walk on the Latin side

Rome, Cr-Wikipedia

Rome, Cr-Wikipedia

Rome, founded in 750B.C by the legendary twins Romulus and Remus, is an ancient empirical capital and home to the Pope. it is a fascinating city to visit and getting around is veryeasy. The following walks encompass the main sights as well as a few not so well-known. The Underground system has only two lines, prices are reasonable and, no matter where your starting point is, there is always lots to see.

The Forum and Circus Maximus

San Pietro in Vincolo houses Michelangelo’s Moses. The church was built originally in 432-440 A.D to keep the chains that held St Peter when he was imprisoned in Jerusalem. From there it is a short walk to the Colosseum, built by the Emperor Vespasian in 70 A.D and completed by Titus, it held 50,000 spectators and was used for gladiatorial games, mock sea battles, animal hunts and classical dramas as well as the execution of Christians. Since the Empire the site has been used for housing, workshops, a fortress and a shrine. The name derives from an enormous statue of Nero that stood in the Domus Aurea nearby.

The Basilica San Clemente on Via Labicana is a three-tiered church. The foundations are a Republican era building destroyed in the Great Fire of 64 A.D and on top of these was the home of a Roman nobleman, Titus Flavius Clemens, who allowed secret Christian worship on the premises. Subsequently also used as a Mithraeum in the 2nd century A.D. The second tier is a fourth century basilica and the third is the present basilica, built around 1100 A.D and holds a large collection of early medieval wall paintings.

The Fuorum – between Palatine Hill and Capitoline Hill – included the most important buildings of the ancient city. Excavations are still ongoing – a recent find is believed to be Nero’s fabled rotating dining room. The site is huge but there are vantage points that enable an overview.

The Circus Maximus is now just a large field but it was once the main chariot racing stadium and mass entertainment venue of Ancient Rome. It could hold 250,000 people, was over 2,000 feet long and lamost 400 fett wide.

The Vatican and Saint Peter’s

Take the Underground to San Giovanni – Line A, Direction Anagnina. Doors open at 9.00 a.m. The Sistine Chapel is a must and it gets extremely crowded. To enter St Peter’s Basilica proper clothing must be worn – no shorts, T Shirts or flip flops. The stunning Pieta is on the right behind glass panels as a vandal attacked the statue in 1972 with a hammer. Fully restored by Giacome Manzu, the only piece signed by Michelangelo leaves an incredible lasting impression. Another must is the Laocoon, discovered in 1506 in the Domus Aurea and leading to the founding of the Vatican Museum that exists today. Laocoon was a Trojan priest of Poseidon who warned against accepting the Horse and was the source of the saying “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.”

Out of St Peter’s Square and down towards the Castel Sant Angelo. This is now a museum but began as the tomb of the Emperor Hadrian built in 135 A.D. The building has also been a fortress and Papal palace. From here cross the bridge and lunch will suddenly become much cheaper and easier to obtain.

Yet another walk will take the wanderer from the Trevi Fountain to the Capuchin Crypt, and its six ossuary chapels, on the Via Veneto, up to the Borghese Gardens, back via the Spanish Steps and the Keats/Shelley Museum. From its creation to modern day Rome epitomises life throughout the ages. The car mixes with horse and carriage, gladiators and centuriand wander about for photos, the ancient Forum stands behind the enormous monument to Vittoria Emanuelle II. There are many more sights to see, the above is just a selection.

The New Pompidou Centre in Metz, Eastern France

The new Pompidou-Cr-guardian.co.uk

The new Pompidou-Cr-guardian.co.uk

France’s new Pompidou Centre in Metz is a visual delight, inside and out, containing previously unseen major works of 20th century art.

Not many people know (said Michael Caine and I) that the Art Nouveau movement had its origins partly in eastern France. In fact, in France the style is known as the Ecole de Nancy. In that beautiful city you can see many fantastic buildings of the period including Majorelle’s house. (He was the most famous designer of art nouveau furniture and examples of his work can be seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.) Nancy is the largest and most prosperous city in the region, but not very far away is the city of Metz, once an industrial city and now sprucing itself up with a new image.

Metz has been chosen as the new site of the second Pompidou Centre, to house the overspill of the permanent collection in Paris. Here you can see wonderful paintings which never saw the light of day in the ugly inside-out Pompidou Centre in Paris. (Inside out because all the service pipes and ducts are on the outside of the building instead of being hidden inside.)

It’s appropriate that the architects, Shigeru Ban and Jean de Gastines have designed a beautiful light structure, using a lot of natural wood, in a style which makes clear reference to the art nouveau architecture of the region. It stands like a giant mushroom in the centre of a vast white space, uncluttered by cars which are parked beneath in a huge underground car park.

Inside the Museum

The interior is a delight. The curved wooden beams intersect like a web covering the roof, but the three floors are not continuous, so that huge high spaces contrast with intimate rooms for viewing smaller works. Robert Delaunay’s long canvasses hang through the space of two floors, for example, whilst several de Stael paintings are grouped together in a small white room.

On the ground floor there’s a cafe and an over-priced bookshop. With the Euro exchange rate so unfavourable, they’re not going to sell many post cards at one euro each, and there are very few other interesting souvenirs on sale: an opportunity missed.

The collection

The paintings and sculptures are of course world class. There is none of that cutting-edge nonsense where you have to contemplate a heap of discarded mementos or a few slogans in neon. Every major 20th century artist is represented from Picasso to Matisse, from Braque to Giacommeti. It’s good to see some unfamiliar works by the great artists. An enormous Bonnard, for instance, looking down on people in a rowing boat, is breathtaking.

Metz Pompidou Centre v Maxxi, Rome

Incidentally, it’s interesting to compare this new museum with the other brand new centre for modern art which recently opened to great acclaim in Rome, the Maxxi. Designed by Zaha Hadid, that too is stunning architecturally, but inside the spaces are interesting rather than practical. How do you exhibit sculpture for instance when the floor slopes? Rome of course has the usual post modern incomprehensible artefacts on display instead of Metz’s spiritually uplifting collection. It isn’t difficult to decide which is better, and which is more likely to attract a paying public in these hard times.

Further information: Admission 7 Euros

Open every day except Tuesday


Designer Shopping Outlets in Italy

Escape the crowds in Rome at Castel Romano Credit: Lalupa

Escape the crowds in Rome at Castel Romano Credit: Lalupa

Finding Italy’s Best Retail Villages

Where to find some of the biggest and best outlets offering designer labels for less in Europe’s fashion capital.

Barberino Designer Outlet, Barberino del Mugello, Florence

Just 30km from Florence, this McArthur Glen Designer Outlet has over 100 stores with well-known brands offering between 30% and 70% reductions on clothing, accessories, kitchenware, home furnishings, sportswear, electronics and Lindt chocolate! Brands include Dolce and Gabbana, Pinko, Ralph Lauren, Prada, Marlborough, Diesel and Guess.

There is parking in abundance and a good selection of cafes and restaurants.


From Florence, take the A1towards Bologna and exit at Barberino di Mugello.

From Bologna, take the A1 towards Florence and exit at Barberino di Mugello.

Castel Romano Designer Outlet, Castel Romano, Rome
The Mall and Barbarino are close to Florence Credit: Keith Palmer

The Mall and Barbarino are close to Florence Credit: Keith Palmer

Another McArthur Glen outlet, this one situated just south of the Roman province of Eur. Prestigious labels can be found within the 110 stores here, selling sportswear, lingerie, fashion clothing, household goods and accessories with reductions of up to 70%. Discounted designer lines to be found within this attractive outlet include Calvin Klein, Diesel, Dolce and Gabbana, Ermenegildo Zegna, La Perla, Roberto Cavalli, Salvatore Ferragamo and Valentino.

There is a playground for children, numerous bars and coffee shops in addition to ample, free parking.


From the Rome orbital road, take Exit 26 and
the main road 148 Pontina. Exit at Castel Romano.

Franciacorta Outlet Village, Brescia, Lombardy
The Mall and Barbarino are close to Florence Credit: Keith Palmer

The Mall and Barbarino are close to Florence Credit: Keith Palmer

Open seven days a week, Franciacorta shopping outlet, near Brescia’s famous wine region, has over 160 stores selling well-known brands such as Levis’, Calvin Klein, Rip Curl, Sisley, Boggi and Bose with discounts of up to 70% on retail prices. Sportswear stores include Nike, Adidas and Puma. There is plenty of parking and a number of restaurants/ snack bars in addition to a children’s play area.


From Venice and Milan, take the A4 and exit at Ospitaletto.

Serravalle Designer Outlet, Serravalle Scrivia, Alessandria

With 180 stores, this McArthur Glen outfit is the largest factory outlet in Europe. Situated on the borders of Piedmont, Lombardy and Liguria, Serravalle enjoys the stunning surroundings of Gavi. This extensive and elegant shopping village is within one hour of Milan and Turin and just thirty minutes from the coast. It is also suitably close to the stylish towns of Cinque Terre and Portofino.

Visitors here can find luxury designer brands such as Bulgari, Roberto Cavalli, Salvatore Ferragamo and Dolce and Gabbana with men’s and women’s clothing at discounted prices. For sportswear, amongst other popular brands, there is Adidas, Nike, Puma and Reebok.

A shuttle service runs from Milan and Torino on the first weekend of every month. Return tickets are €20 for adults and €10 for children (5-15 years of age). Children under 5 can travel for free.


Take the A7, Milan-Genoa motorway and exit at Serravalle Scrivia.

The Mall, Leccio, Regello Firenze

Situated a short distance from Florence, The Mall is Florence’s largest shopping outlet and any fashionista’s dream with labels such as Gucci, Prada, Fendi, Valentino, Yves Saint Laurent, Bottego Veneto, Stella McCartney, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen and La Perla being just some of the designers available here.

Whilst some of the luxury designer clothing and accessories are reduced by up to 60%, The Mall can still be on the expensive side for the average shopper. However, visitors simply window shopping are in for a treat. The Mall enjoys a majestic setting in the Tuscan hills and there is a stylish cafe/ bar to rest weary feet.


From Florence and Milan: Take the A1 towards Roma and exit at Incisa. Follow the road towards Pontassieve and continue through Leccio. The Mall is on the left.

From Rome: Take the A1 towards Firenze and exit at Incisa. Follow the road towards Pontassieve and continue through Leccio. The Mall is on the left.

Vicolungo Outlet, Vicolungo, Novara

Just 30 minutes by car from Milan in the Piedmont region, Vicolungo boasts over 130 stores with 30%-70% discounts on menswear, womenswear, children’s clothing, sportswear, home accessories and beauty products. There is even a return shuttle service that runs from Milan Foro Bonaparte at 10.30am and leaves the Outlet at 4.30pm for €10. Children under 14 can travel for free. Stores include Hilfiger Denim, CK Underwear, Levi, Nike, Puma, Rip Curl and Samsonite.

Within one hour of Lake Maggiore and Lake Orta, the historic city of Novara is also within easy reach of the Vicolungo Outlet.


From Milan, take the A4 and exit at Biandrate/ Vicolungo.

In many cases, the shopping outlets in Italy offer much more than well-known and designer goods at discounted prices. Largely situated in beautiful surroundings, within a stylish setting and offering an impressive selection of restaurants and pasticcerias, the average tourist will invariably leave one of the many shopping villages with far more than they bargained for.

Two Days in Rome – Perfect For The Traveling Family

Rome, cr- Wikipedia

Rome, cr- Wikipedia

by Mary Ann Hinrichs,

How one family experienced Rome in two days without losing their minds or their life savings. Most Italian vacations include a grand itinerary. Cities such as Rome, Venice, and Florence are premiere destinations, each with its own list of popular, “must see” sites. Rome, a world famous metropolis, offers such an extensive list of legendary venues that a traveler would need weeks to experience all this lively city has to offer.

What is the everyday tourist to do? One solution is to create an itinerary that ensures you’ll have an enjoyable trip. Whether its exploring the Colosseum, dining on Italian cuisine, or climbing St. Peter’s 491 steps to the top of the dome, while in Rome focus on quality, not quantity. With only two days for our Roman Holiday, my family’s mindset was simple – “Que sera, sera.”
Piazza di Spagna

Arriving mid morning in Rome allowed us to use our travel time to its fullest. With luggage in tow, we stepped out of the subway tunnel and onto the cobbled streets of the Piazza di Spagna. Just around the corner were the famous Spanish Steps where British poets, John Keats and Lord Byron, resided for a time and wrote some of their most romantic lines. Keats actually died in a Roman villa just a few yards from this lovely spot. Today that same building is now a museum – The Keats-Shelley Memorial House – and includes an extensive collection of notable literature.

Standing in front of this glorious staircase, we took a seat (a step) and enjoyed a robust performance by a trio of young street musicians. At the base of this bustling site was the curious Sinking Boat Fountain. Powered by one of several aqueducts which flow beneath the streets of Rome, it was not as glorious as the Trevi Fountain, but still remarkable. As we reclined on the stones steps, moaning over pizza rustica – pizza by the slice – our teenage daughter was drooling over window-after-window of Gucci and Prada. In Italy one can simply enjoy “la dolce far niente” (the sweetness of doing nothing) or shop. In the Piazza di Spagna, either was a good choice.

After checking-in and dropping our bags at the Hotel Piazza di Spagna, a three story Italian classic with terrazzo floors, we set off by foot for Capitol Hill and the Roman Forum. There was a free, walking tour that started at the Colosseum; however, we traversed this trail backwards and began at the Forum where, legend has it, Rome was born. Here the ruins crumbled into their own version of a masterpiece. When it dawned on our kids that they were traveling across the same stones as Julius Caesar, their fascination for Rome’s history sparked, flaring brightly into a whirlwind of questions. “Where was Caesar assassinated?” “Why did Brutus stab his father?” “What are the Ides of March?” Here, surrounded by ancient columns and dilapidated temples, the past was alive and well. Fortunately, there was a nearby vendor selling historical pamphlets that provided the answers.

Our steps through Roman history ended at the Colosseum, a 50,000 seat, circular theater where gladiators fought on both land and water. The enormity and scale of this piece of ancient architecture is only equaled by the Great Pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge in England. The entrance fee to this grand stadium was 10 euro a person, granting our family an upclose and personal view of what it might have been like to be both prisoner and warrior.

Vatican City 

Day two, we took the subway to Cipro-Musei VaticaniThe Vatican Museum. This expedition to the world’s second smallest, independent country – which is protected by it own army of Swiss guards – included a two hour wait. Many tickets for Rome’s famous attractions can be reserved at www.selectitaly.com, eliminating long lines; however, the Vatican does not subscribe to this service. After an hour of moving only a hundred yards, we considered stepping out of line. Fortunately, there were street vendors who entertained us with their wares. From sunglasses to radio controlled cars, these modest traders moved up and down the procession of tourists selling their merchandise with admirable diligence. It was a peddler offering water and ice cream that renewed our enthusiasm for the Vatican.

At 10 euros ($12) per adult and 7 euros for each child, we entered the Musei Vaticani and used the complimentary map to wind our way through the long corridors and immense galleries of prominent treasures. From frescoed walls to marbled statues, we gazed upon one of the most elaborate art collections on the globe. In the Corridoio, a grand section of the museum, we stood among Roman gods. Their marbled bodies, gleaming with perfection, tempted one to take a bended knee. As we moved from one masterpiece to the next, our tour culminated at Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. From 1508 until 1512, Michelangelo labored on a scaffold, perfecting the nine ceiling panels that depict Adam and Eve’s ticket out of the Garden of Eden and continue on to the creation of man. On the chapel’s walls are more frescoes created by Renaissance masters such as Botticelli and Roselli. As we craned our necks towards the heavens, our sixteen-year-old son quietly said, “I think I might want to be a history teacher.”

St. Peter’s Basilica 

From the Vatican Museum, we found our way to Basilica di San Pietro or St. Peter’s Basilica, where
it was believed that St. Peter was crucified. In 324, Emperor Constantine ordered a basilica to be built over Peter’s tomb. One thousand years later, when the Renaissance was at its height, the current basilica was reconstructed. Today, St. Peter’s can host over 95,000 worshipers.

In order to enter the basilica, one must go through a security screening and adhere to a strict dress code that includes no shorts, skirts above the knee, or bare shoulders. We had to buy a souvenir scarf for our daughter whose lasagna-strap tank was deemed inappropriate. Inside, no one speaks above a whisper. I thought this would be a difficult task for our youngest, but the grandeur of St. Peter’s rendered her speechless. With so much gold and marble, it is an unbelievable sight.

Due to some vandalism in the ’70’s, Michelangelo’s Pieta’ can only be viewed from behind bullet-proof glass. This life-like creation of Mary enfolding her son after his crucifixion is real enough to bring tears to the eyes. After an hour exploring the basilica’s first floor, we descended the staircase leading to the site of St. Peter’s tomb. Once at the holy crypt, we settled into the modest pews and contemplated if St. Peter was actually buried behind the wall before us. Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code had filled our thoughts with rumored speculation.

We ended our tour of the basilica with 491 steps to the top of Michelangelo’s dome. Although all four kids climbed the spiraling staircase without complaint, it was a narrow, claustrophobic trek. A literal stairway to heaven, this site should not be missed. At the dome’s pinnacle, Rome spreads towards the horizon like a sea of terra cotta. With its sunbleached, tiled roof tops and golden hills, the city itself was a splendor of color and shapes. Most of the architecture was over a millennia old and still we “oooed” and “awed’ as if a magicain had just pulled a rabbit out of a hat.

The End of Two Stunning Days 

After spending the day walking through some of Rome’s most celebrated sites, our “normal” selves would have been exhausted. Maybe it was the gelato or the cappuccino, but even our youngest wasn’t ready to say goodnight to Rome. Since we had avoided renting a car, our family stumbled across several sights not on our itinerary. We toured Nero’s Golden House, sat by the Trevi Fountain at dusk, and watched the talented artists, fire-eaters, and mimes in the Piazza Navona. Winding down from a full day, our family gathered for the last time on the Spanish Steps. Listening to a young Italian strum his mandolin, I held my husband’s hand and felt my heart flutter. We may have missed a few sites, but our two-day, Roman holiday was simply…perfetto.

Planning Your Roman Holiday 

From plane tickets to hotels and train fare, everything can be done online. Below is a list of a few websites and phone numbers we found extremely helpful. Buon viaggio!

Websites –





Phone Numbers –

Hotel Piazza di Spagna – 06-6796412

Vatican Tourist Office – 06-69881662

Piazzale de Colosseo (Colosseum) – 06-7004261

Select Italy in the U.S. – 847/853-1661 (ticket reservation)

Best Gelato –

Giolitti – 40 Via del Vicario

San Crispino – 56 Via Acaia

Italian Vacations