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Notes from Rome

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I'm about midway through a nice long visit to Rome. It's been rainy but dodging the showers hasn't been too terrible, unlike what's been going on in Venice.

 

A few notes:

 

Rome is decidedly more crowded at this time of year than it used to be. Big sigh. However, some of the less trafficked places are still fairly empty at this time of year. It was very quiet in the Capitoline Museum, for example. And if you really want to be alone with some beautiful Greek and Roman sculpture in an equally charming palazzo, stop in to Palazzo Altemps, just north of Piazza Navona.

 

At the airport on arrival, the immigration process is now largely automated. Even for non-EU passport holders. You get in various short lines, wait your turn and then scan your passport before passing through doors that open automatically when your scan is accepted.  After, there is just a short wait to get your passport stamped. Seems like they also had new, larger signage at the airport, very easy to follow. 

 

The official taxis are now right at curbside immediately following your exit from the arrivals lobby. Definitely the fastest way to get going.

 

Eurocruiser -- pasta dishes do seem bigger. I think they are (maybe?) catering to tourists who tend to order the pasta as their main course and then expect it to be larger...  That said, I had some of the best gnocchi two nights ago at dinner in a new (to me) restaurant -- pumpkin, with a parmesan cream sauce and generously sliced black truffles on top. Very, very light, like good gnocchi should be and fatto in casa (made in house).

 

The fried artichokes are in season already. The cynical might say that they are being shipped in from elsewhere, but I have heard global warming means they are ready earlier than they used to be. After a heartwarming conversation with my hotel clerk about how his mamma makes them (alla romana), I went out to find my favorite kind (alla giudia). They were fantastic. Best place to find them is in the old Jewish Ghetto area, where there are a number of famous restaurants that serve them.

 

Everything is being monetized. You can no longer look at the remains of the stadium of Domitian (at one end of Piazza Navona) for free. There is now a charge and an audiotour, where once you could just poke around and have a look. Of course, I still remember fondly the days of walking through the Roman Forum for free.... 

 

At least the Pantheon is still visitable at no cost. They must have re-thought that plan, as would I -- there is just nowhere in the piazza outside to put a long line of folks waiting to pay for entry.  

 

Lots of police are around all of the major monuments, for protection. This isn't new, but they seem more prominent than ever.  Some of the kids (and yes, they look like kids) wave those big guns around a bit more casually than I'd like to see.

 

And finally, Christmas decorations and lights are going up daily, earlier than they used to be. A few shops are already selling the Christmas goodies.

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks for the info. Looking forward to our 4 nights there in May. In fact, we sail out of Rome 6 months from today.

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Good to hear you are having a good time.  The crowds - I fear that no place is immune from that anymore if it is a popular tourist spot. Sigh.  As long as the money is going to maintenance and not lining the pockets of some bureaucrat (being Italy, I doubt it), I don't mind paying an entrance fee for something that was once free.  

Nice to also hear that the arrivals process at FCO has improved.  It almost sounded like a riff on Global Entry, with only a quick stamp if you were OK'd at the station.  

 

 

OK.  Spill the beans on where that gnocchi was!!!  Did you get it on a Thursday?  (Thursday is always gnocchi day!!).  Did you go back to your favorite spot for those artichokes?   And, most important, did you get that pizza yet???? 😉

 

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On 11/24/2019 at 10:05 PM, slidergirl said:

 

OK.  Spill the beans on where that gnocchi was!!!  Did you get it on a Thursday?  (Thursday is always gnocchi day!!).  Did you go back to your favorite spot for those artichokes?   And, most important, did you get that pizza yet???? 😉

 

 

Gosh, I will have to think about your first ask. It's already a place where reservations are definitely a requirement...  

 

Oh, okay. Katie's already on it anyway:  https://katieparla.com/colline-emiliane-regional-cuisine-rome-trevi/

 

Yes, I had my artichokes. Then had them again in another place, just to see if there really is a difference. (There is, the first night's offering was better, definitely.)

 

I didn't get to your fave pizza place, but I did have pizza at Dar Poeta in Trastevere. Excellent!

 

By the way, I was going to eat at the Mercato Centrale this evening when I arrived back at Termini from Ravenna, but I was on my way there and heard there was some kind of taxi protest that was going to start at 8:00 at Termini and taxis were going to be scarce after that so....  I passed it up. 

 

I think you were asking exactly WHERE the location is -- the entrance is about halfway down the Termini building along the Via Giolitti side.

 

And that's as much as you're going to get out of me about restaurants in Rome!!

 

 

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1 minute ago, cruisemom42 said:

 

Gosh, I will have to think about your first ask. It's already a place where reservations are definitely a requirement...  

 

Oh, okay. Katie's already on it anyway:  https://katieparla.com/colline-emiliane-regional-cuisine-rome-trevi/

 

Yes, I had my artichokes. Then had them again in another place, just to see if there really is a difference. (There is, the first night's offering was better, definitely.)

 

I didn't get to your fave pizza place, but I did have pizza at Dar Poeta in Trastevere. Excellent!

 

By the way, I was going to eat at the Mercato Centrale this evening when I arrived back at Termini from Ravenna, but I was on my way there and heard there was some kind of taxi protest that was going to start at 8:00 at Termini and taxis were going to be scarce after that so....  I passed it up. 

 

I think you were asking exactly WHERE the location is -- the entrance is about halfway down the Termini building along the Via Giolitti side.

 

And that's as much as you're going to get out of me about restaurants in Rome!!

 

 

OK.  I had to try 😉

For the Mercato, it sounds like it is easy access at Termini.  I was worried it would be a long walk, like to the trains for Civi.

So, now I also know if I want artichokes, go to your usual place (at least I know that one)

 

If nothing else, you have yet another reason to get back to Rome!!!   

 

I'm starting a new job on Monday.  I'm just doing it as 5 months full-time seasonal because I might just actually retire in April.  But, because it's seasonal, no paid vacation accrual.  But, if I retire, it's no paid vacation anytime, anyway!

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One other change I've noted in Rome that's not for the better: it used to be that when you ate at a restaurant for dinner, there was never any feeling of being rushed. The table was basically yours for as long as you wanted to linger, be it a quick plate of pasta or a three course meal with coffee after. I've been noticing that this is changing -- subtly in some places, less subtly in others. The venerable Armando al Pantheon now tells you upon reservation for a specific time that you basically have two hours at that table (e.g., if your reservation is for 7pm, the table must be freed up by 9pm). Granted, this isn't a huge problem in itself, but it translates into service seeming more rushed to ensure you finish your meal on time. Other places I've dined at this time also seem to have a timetable in mind, although it's not laid out to you quite so baldly.

 

I know I'm probably the minority, but the evening meal in Italy is generally my night's entertainment and I miss the leisurely perusal of the menu, the consultation with the waiter about what's good, the consideration of what wine marries with what you're planning to eat, etc.

 

Ah well, what do I expect in a world where even Italians now spend most of their meals looking at their phones?

 

 

 

 

 

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@cruisemom42 I'm happy to see this thread, as we will be returning to Rome next fall (five days before a TA) and I always find such great information in this forum from you and others.   Speaking of which, I've been reading your praises for the Albergo del Senato for so long that we've booked it for our stay, and we're pretty excited about that! 

 

We'd intended to eat at Armando al Pantheon (which we missed last time around)  -- is it still a place you'd recommend?

 

Thanks and keep enjoying your trip!

Edited by Turtles06

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6 minutes ago, Turtles06 said:

@cruisemom42 I'm happy to see this thread, as we will be returning to Rome next fall (five days before a TA) and I always find such great information in this forum from you and others.   Speaking of which, I've been reading your praises for the Albergo del Senato for so long that we've booked it for our stay, and we're pretty excited about that! 

 

We'd intended to eat at Armando al Pantheon (which we missed last time around)  -- is it still a place you'd recommend?

 

Thanks and keep enjoying your trip!

 

Just arrived home yesterday.

 

I stayed at the Del Senato this time (great late November rate) and I have to say that it is as good as I've always experienced it and truly feels like my home away from home. All of the staff at the front desk are super. It didn't hurt that I had a "room with a view" either!

 

image.thumb.png.1da4778b96c6f237aee2aa708e2e66ad.png

 

Yes, I'd still recommend Armando al Pantheon -- the food is very good. Mostly the classics but what I've always found best are their daily specials. I have my favorite starters but I have never gone wrong ordering one of their two "mains' that are the specials. If it makes sense for your itinerary, I also recommend Colline Emiliane (near Barbarini), which I just tried for the first time. They are more "modern classic" and their pastas are fantastic and all house made.

 

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3 hours ago, cruisemom42 said:

I stayed at the Del Senato this time (great late November rate) and I have to say that it is as good as I've always experienced it and truly feels like my home away from home. All of the staff at the front desk are super. It didn't hurt that I had a "room with a view" either!

 

 

Welcome home, and thanks for all the info.  I'm very glad to hear the del Senato is still terrific.  And yes, I'd call that a "room with a view"!  😊

 

For restaurants like Armando al Pantheon, where reservations are pretty much necessary, are the staff at the del Senato helpful in making them, or should they be made even before we arrive in Rome?  Thanks!

 

And now I am thinking about food in Rome. 😋  One of the things we love so much is just wandering around and stumbling upon a great place to eat.  The last time we were in Rome, which was several years ago, it was too early to check in to our hotel when we arrived.  After leaving our luggage, we spent the beautiful morning and early afternoon walking around.  We stopped for lunch at a pizzeria on an inviting corner where we could just sit outside and be happy that we were again in Rome.  I had what turned out to be the best four cheese pizza I've ever eaten.  What I don't understand is why I didn't take photo of the place or write the name down! 

Edited by Turtles06

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11 minutes ago, Turtles06 said:

 

For restaurants like Armando al Pantheon, where reservations are pretty much necessary, are the staff at the del Senato helpful in making them, or should they be made even before we arrive in Rome?  Thanks!

 

 

They are absolutely helpful with reservations. I had them go ahead and make reservations for my first three nights in Rome, since I knew where I wanted to go (the perks of frequent visits to Rome is finding favorite spots).  They said to let them know not more than a month in advance, and they managed everything. 

 

They were also helpful one time when I was trying to arrange a special tour through one of the (too many) different local entities that manage archaeological sites. I had been back and forth with them via email with no success. The Del Senato staff had it sorted within a day.

 

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A couple of final random wrap-up notes, now that I am home.

 

Unfortunately, I did not hit the "good weather" lottery on this trip. I've had visits to Rome in November with glorious sunny warm weather and deep blue skies that make everything in the city look gorgeous. This time it was mostly rainy and gray except for a couple of sunnier days. It was warm though; no real need for a heavy jacket. If you go at this time of year, you definitely run the risk of not having the photo ops, and Rome will not be as pretty. On the other hand, the number of tourists is much lower, meaning fewer lines and a more pleasant experience if you are visiting some of the busier sites and museums. Yes, it's not as "uncrowded" as it used to be, but those days are gone everywhere, I think.

 

One final benefit to visiting off-season: almost no gypsies. I think they move to sunnier climates that still attract more tourists at this time of year.  There were still a few of the ubiquitous roving scarf and purse sellers, but I sat in Piazza Navona for quite a while one day and did not see the "pickpocket" gangs.

 

 

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The daily specials at Armando - yes.  I once ended up with a great pasta with small wild strawberries - sooo good.  Artichoke with some burrata - heaven to me. 

  • If you have room at the end (I always try), get a dessert that the daughter makes every day.  Myself - I love her hazelnut tort. I'm not into sweet desserts, so this one hit the spot.  Remember to ask the servers for wine recommendations - I get by the glass or quarto and they haven't steered me wrong.  

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57 minutes ago, slidergirl said:

The daily specials at Armando - yes.  I once ended up with a great pasta with small wild strawberries - sooo good.  Artichoke with some burrata - heaven to me. 

  • If you have room at the end (I always try), get a dessert that the daughter makes every day.  Myself - I love her hazelnut tort. I'm not into sweet desserts, so this one hit the spot.  Remember to ask the servers for wine recommendations - I get by the glass or quarto and they haven't steered me wrong.  

 

I have nearly a year to wait, but you are making me hungry!!  Thanks for the tips!   

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6 hours ago, cruisemom42 said:

Unfortunately, I did not hit the "good weather" lottery on this trip. I've had visits to Rome in November with glorious sunny warm weather and deep blue skies that make everything in the city look gorgeous. This time it was mostly rainy and gray except for a couple of sunnier days.

 

I am sorry about the weather!  Your description made me think immediately of the first Med cruise my wife and I took, nearly a decade ago.  It was in January!  We had a port call to Civitavecchia, and a handful of us from our Roll Call had arranged a private tour to Rome with Romeinlimo.  It was of course a whirlwind day (I'd been to Rome before and we've been back for longer since), and it was also cold and pouring rain.  Yet we had an absolutely wonderful time.   This photo from that day is one of my favorites; for me, it captures everything about the day and always makes me smile.   

 

enhance

 

(photo by turtles06) 

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On 11/29/2019 at 8:10 AM, cruisemom42 said:

I stayed at the Del Senato this time (great late November rate) and I have to say that it is as good as I've always experienced it and truly feels like my home away from home. All of the staff at the front desk are super. It didn't hurt that I had a "room with a view" either!

 

Cruisemom42,

 

We stayed at 9 Hotel Cesari the fall of 2018 at your recommendation and loved it! We're going back to Rome this coming fall (October 2020) and wanted to book it again, but the rates seem out-of-sight (over 360 US per night). We just checked the Del Senato and it is showing about the same price per night. As you said, Rome is becoming more crowded and, perhaps, there is no longer shoulder season prices.

 

In your opinion, are these the prices we should expect to pay for a hotel in this general location; which I admit is just about the perfect base from which to explore Rome?  Guess we're hoping maybe it's too early to book and prices will come down a bit:-)

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51 minutes ago, circee said:

 

 

Cruisemom42,

 

We stayed at 9 Hotel Cesari the fall of 2018 at your recommendation and loved it! We're going back to Rome this coming fall (October 2020) and wanted to book it again, but the rates seem out-of-sight (over 360 US per night). We just checked the Del Senato and it is showing about the same price per night. As you said, Rome is becoming more crowded and, perhaps, there is no longer shoulder season prices.

 

In your opinion, are these the prices we should expect to pay for a hotel in this general location; which I admit is just about the perfect base from which to explore Rome?  Guess we're hoping maybe it's too early to book and prices will come down a bit:-)

 

Regarding 9 Cesari, they have been doing refurbishing work there and I haven't stayed there since it is being completed -- don't know whether they have "upgraded" it or not, but based on previous stays it should not be the same price as the Albergo del Senato which is a much nicer hotel (albeit a 3-star property; but stars are awarded differently in Italy and are more about amenities offered onsite).

 

At any rate, I just went directly to the AdS website and looked under their "special offers" tab. They have, for example a very low rate listed for non-refundable booking that is good through the end of 2020. I mean, REALLY low, much lower than you quoted -- and of course it includes breakfast. 

 

Alternatively you can email them directly (either hotel) and ask for their best offer. If emailing 9 Cesari I'd mention you are a past guest. 

 

If none of this pans out, a cheaper option I can recommend, about the same distance from the Pantheon as the 9 Cesari but in the other direction (closer to Piazza Navona) I can recommend Hotel Navona. They are situated on several floors of an old palazzo but rooms are very modern -- however, on the smaller side. (IMO, the 9 Cesari and AdS rooms are larger than normal for Rome.)

 

Good luck! 

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51 minutes ago, cruisemom42 said:

Regarding 9 Cesari, they have been doing refurbishing work there and I haven't stayed there since it is being completed -- don't know whether they have "upgraded" it or not . . .

 

We stayed there five years ago when it was the Albergo del Cesari, and we enjoyed it -- and the location -- very much.  But it was certainly in need of a refurb.   I emailed them a few months ago about staying there in fall 2020, and also to ask when the refurb would be done.   All they could say then was that they'd finished renovating the terrace and that it was their plan to start the renovation of the rest of the building by the end of this year (2019).  

 

@circeeI would be very hesitant to stay there until I knew they were done with the work.  It's not fun to be in a hotel, especially a small one, with construction stuff going on around you.   (Frankly, it would be nice to have the benefit of some post-refurb reviews/feedback.)  If you do write to them to ask about a booking in Oct. 2020, I suggest you inquire about the work schedule and find out as much as you can before committing to anything.   Good luck!  

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Thank you both Cruisemom42 and Turtles06 for your advice. I clicked on Del Senato's special offers and the price they show would be fantastic, however, when you try to proceed with that offer, it shows a double room rate of $360 per night.  I will try emailing the hotels and if they don't offer anything satisfactory, I'll look at Hotel Navona. Thank you again!

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Glad you had a wonderful time despite the weather!  What a view!  I am drooling over the gnocchi, truffles  and artichokes!  And slidergirls burrata and pasta with wild strawberries. 

 

We too noticed the large police presence, bigger than we ever remember.   Agree about those machine guns!  We too found the immigration lines up a breeze on arrival, unfortunately on departure they were down, and we waited an extra 45 minutes.  

 

We have always felt you can’t get a bad meal in Italy but we did twice this trip.  Once the food was very good, but the credit card is broken routine put a damper on it.  We will remember to go to old favourites or we’ll research new places going forward.  

 

Thanks for a great review.  

Edited by bennybear

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