I’ve been caught up planning my trip to Rome. It is almost out of control because there are so many things to do and eat in so little time. For those of you who have followed my travels, you know that the food I eat on a trip usually is not too special. I often bring a meal or two and snacks with me, just to save money. But that’s because there often isn’t local cuisine that is particularly enticing to me. Like in London, I was there for five days and had only two meal ideas: fish and chips and a meat pie. In Amsterdam, all I wanted were Stroopwafeln, which I purchased at the grocery store. In Greece, though, things changed. I had already eaten all of the food I had with me and we failed at finding a grocery store in Athens. So we ate out, and that was a wonderful. I tried so many new foods and everything I had was delicious.
I know Rome will be just as tasty as Greece. Actually, I think it will be even tastier because I am a fan of Italian food. I am so confident in Rome’s food that I doubt I will take more than a couple of granola bars and trail mix with me. Like sights, eateries are quite abundant in Rome. With two full days, a night and a morning in Rome, I do not know how much time I will have to see Rome because there is so much food I want to eat. I am looking forward to the many varieties of pasta, particularly gnocci, which is a lunchtime special on Thursdays, and lucky for me, I will be there on a Thursday. I also want to have pizza and definitely lots of gelato, particularly tartufo (death by chocolate) from Tre Scalini.
I stumbled upon the NYTimes’ Frugal Traveler’s post about Rome, and he seemed to have the problem that I am encountering. His goal was to see three things each day, and he would be happy. I don’t think I can aim so low, because I know I wouldn’t be happy with only six sights, but I will try to relax and enjoy myself and savor my food.
In addition to reading about food and restaurants in Rome, I have spent much time learning about the sights. I have my list narrowed down to a respectable number of locations. I often try to see as much as I can in a big city, but I hope to plan a lighter schedule, allowing mostly for more food but also some wandering.
My preparing has led me to many outlets for information. First, I began with my well-worn and well-read Rick Steves’ Europe with a section on Rome (I have a special tip with a guidebook of many places, most that you aren’t stopping at. Just rip out the section you need. Why take the whole book when you need only Amsterdam or only Dubrovnik and Split? It really lightens the load!). Then I checked out all the books from the library about Rome and have currently completely read three and perused a fourth. I also purchased a book that comes with a map. I have also been in search of suggestions of what to do with two days in Rome, self-guided walks, maps, bus schedules, translators, phrasebooks and audio tours. Back when I went to Paris in 2007 I followed Rick Steves’s Paris guidebook solely. For 10 days, Rick, as I usually refer to him and his guidebook, treated me well. It taught me a lot, but since then, I have learned to broaden my horizons. Frommer’s, Fodor’s, Lonely Planet, Let’s Go and DK Eyewitness Travel all have good suggestions, as well. And each guidebook I have used for this trip has a different suggestion for the best two days in Rome. With all of their help, I really think I will have the best possible (for me) two days in Rome.
What, you might ask, will I do with all this information? As I read, I compile lists and copy pages of information I find worthy that isn’t in my Rome Day by Day and Rick’s Rome, both of which I will take with me. Like everyone having a different two best days in Rome, everyone has a favorite pizzeria and a favorite lookout and a favorite gelato. In the end I might not follow any of my guides, but at least I am prepared because Rome in two days is a daunting task.
One of the things I learned from Rick is that he has free audio tours on his website. I am not a big fan of tour groups or tour guides because they often are incessantly dull and you don’t know that until after you have paid for the tour. But with his audio tours, I can test them out first to decide if it will be useful and then I can put it on my iPod touch and take this free and useful tour with me. I will be doing this in Rome. Rick can be cheesy in his descriptions of things, for instance, when he’s describing a figure in St. Peter’s Basilica, he says this man has his mouth open like he’s ready to sing, “The hills are alive with the sound of music.” Terrible, but I did laugh. And I know I will at the end of the tour I will know more.
Another useful stop when I was searching for information was the iTunes Store. Here I downloaded (all for free, though there are many apps that charge a fee) games to play on the plane, a flashlight, a pedometer, the CIA World Factbook and many apps specifically about Rome. Some are just a basic version of a bigger and better app that isn’t free, but all in all, I found a lot more electronic things than I expected and most of them have been useful.
Really, I don’t expect most travelers to plan like this. I do because it is what I enjoy. Preparing is almost as fun seeing the sights.
And for those who are curious, here is my arsenal of Roman travel guides:
- Rick Steves’ “Best of Europe”
- Frommer’s “Rome Day by Day”
- DK’s “Top 10 Rome”
- William Murray’s “City of the Soul”
- DK’s “Rome”
- Fodor’s “Rome’s 25 Best”
- James H.S. McGregor’s “Rome from the Ground Up”
- Rick Steves’ “Mona Winks: Self-guided tours of Europe’s top museums”
- National Geographic’s “The 10 Best of Everything”
- Harold Bloom’s “Literary Guide to Rome”
- “Rome and the Vatican: Holy Year 2000”