Ashley's Travel Tips for Rome, Italy
Rome is a wonderful city to visit. It is a place overflowing with beautiful architecture, authentic cuisine, and rich in culture. You could easily spend a whole week in Rome exploring the many neighborhoods and historic sites. I have been to Rome multiple times and have not seen everything. I have a few tips and suggestions when visiting Rome for only a few days.
Navigating the City
Rome has a transportation system that can be difficult to navigate. It is a large city that makes traveling by foot very long and arduous. The bus system is extremely tough unless you speak the language and know where to go. In my experience, there are no maps on the bus to let you know what stop to get off. I recommend purchasing a ticket before you get on a bus if you do not want an ugly stare from the driver. Taxis and Ubers are great options to get you to and from dinner or around the city quickly. The taxi cabs are regulated with accurate meter pricing. For our last trip, I arranged a car service to pick us up from the airport and take us to an Airbnb. Prices for a car service were around 50 euro and well worth it. Coming off a long flight, I did not want to try finding my Airbnb nestled in the small streets of Trastevere.
Where to Stay
I find Trastevere a very charming, quintessential Italian neighborhood. It is filled with great restaurants and cobble stone streets perfect for la passeggiata (an evening stroll). The neighborhood is situated across the Tiber River, out of the bustle of tourist areas. Landon and I stayed here in an Airbnb. We had a great experience with our host and found it was not too challenging to get around. If you are strapped on time, I believe staying near the Spanish Steps would be a good option. The area is more touristy, but easily accessible to everything.
Sightseeing: Visiting the Vatican
I have been to the Vatican/Sistine Chapel four times. However, this past time was by far the most educational and memorable. We booked the Pristine Sistine tour through Walks of Italy. You get early entrance into the Sistine Chapel before the crowds. You are in there with about 50 people who have similar tours booked. This is nothing compared to the normalcy of hundreds of people in there at the same time. We also witnessed the morning prayer by a Cardinal of the Vatican. It was an extremely special experience. As you would expect with a small group tour, the guide gave an excellent explanation of the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Museum, and St. Paul’s Cathedral. In all, it was well worth the money and waking up early.
You can book tickets for the relatively new underground tour. These sold out fast for us, so only Landon went on the tour. I had previously done the guided tour through the Colosseum. The normal guided tour is certainly worth the fee.
If you chose not to accompany your travel partner to the Colosseum, I recommend going across the street and wandering the Monti neighborhood. This area has some great vintage boutique shopping.
Hello everyone, Ashley here providing a guest post this week. I am excited Landon asked me to guest write about Italy. Before I dive into the details, let me share a little about myself. I am originally from the Pinehurst area of North Carolina and have lived in Charlotte, North Carolina since 2003. I am a connoisseur of wine, a lover of socializing, and a travel enthusiast. When I’m not busy at the hospital, I am planning my next trip. To put it simply, I love to travel.
I have visited over 13 different countries and have been to Italy four times. I am by no means an expert, but I have learned a few tips to share with you.
Italy, oh Italy…. where do I even start. To say I love Italy is an understatement. The food, wine, people, scenery…it is just pure magic. It was wonderful to share this special place with Landon on our delayed honeymoon in 2019.
When to Visit Italy
Great times to visit Italy are during the spring (April - May) or fall (September - October). These months allow you to avoid the summer heat. I cannot say that there is a down time to avoid the crowds in Italy. These days, it seems that Italy is always crowded with tourists.
How to Plan Your Time
Travel to Italy with the mindset that you will be back. It is a large country and you cannot see it all unless there are no time constraints. I always recommend open-jaw tickets, flying into one city and out of another to maximize your time.
Here are a few examples of itineraries that have I done in the past. You can use these as a guide to plan a trip to different parts of Italy.
Fly to Rome (3 nights in Rome) -> Rent a car and drive through Tuscany. A few home base ideas would be Siena, Pienza, Montalcino, Montalpuciano (spend at least 4 nights in Tuscany as a home base to travel around) -> Florence (2 nights)
-> Train to Milan then to Lake Como (Stay in Bellagio, at least 3 nights to slow down and enjoy your time) -> train to Milan (2 nights in Milan) -> Fly home from Milan.
Fly to Naples -> take a bus or hire a car to the Amalfi Coast (Sorrento/Positano 4 nights) -> train to Rome (at least 3 nights in Rome) -> Siena (3 nights, rent a car and travel throughout Tuscany) -> Florence (2 nights) -> Cinque Terre (2 nights, can do 3 if you plan to hike the towns) -> Venice (at least 2 nights with a side trip to Morano) -> Fly home from Venice.
My lovely wife, Ashley, will be contributing new content on various travel related topics. We just got back from a 19 day trip to Italy, including a stopover in London, England. Ashley planned the majority of our long vacation. While this was my first visit to Europe, she has been multiple times in the past. I hope you are as excited as I am about her future posts.
Car Rental in Japan
The public transportation systems for many cities, along with the Shinkansen, eliminates the need for most tourists to rent a car. However, some tourists may want to explore smaller towns or specific areas of Japan that are not as easily accessible by plane, bus, or train. Renting a car requires a few steps along with understanding the basic driving laws.
Acquire a International Driving Permit (IDP)
Japanese law requires tourists to have a IDP prior to visiting the country and renting a car, It is a fairly easy process in the United States through AAA. The requirements are filling out an application, obtaining two passport photos, having a valid driver's license, and a $20 processing fee. Pay attention to how far out you can get one before visiting Japan.
Secure a Car Rental
There are multiple companies to choose when renting a car. Toyota Rent a Car and Nippon Rent-A-Car are two rental companies with many options and locations available for a pick up. Prices for cars vary by size, location, days of use, and drop off. You should expect to spend $50 to $60 a day for a sub-compact or compact vehicle rental.
Rules of the Road
In Japan, you drive on the left side of the road. This may be confusing for many tourists that are used to driving on the right side. You should follow normal driving practices such as stopping for pedestrians to cross and obeying traffic lights. If an action is against traffic law in the United States, it is probably against the law in Japan. Road signs in Japan are in Japanese and English. Some of the common road signs can be found here.
Expressways and Tolls
One of the most convenient options traveling by car from city to city is using the expressways. They are similar to the multi-lane, national highways in the United States such as I-95 and I-85. The Central Nippon Expressway and West Nippon Expressway websites are great resources for planning routes and learning more about using the expressways. While expressways are a great way to travel across Japan, their tolls can get expensive. Tolls are collected between cities and can cost almost $100 each way. According to the Central Nippon Expressway website, traveling from Tokyo to Kyoto requires a ¥9,900 ($90) toll. Expressway passes are available offering a discount for multi-day travel across Japan.
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