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Tips for visiting Rome – Part 7

I have to go to Rome 2 or 3 times every year, send by The Italian Customs Agency for which I work, to attend to refresher courses, normally for 3-4 days.

After 17:00, I’m free to walk about Rome to visit the many interesting places over there.

Time available for me is not many and those hours are not the best because there’s the top of traffic, just since 17:00 to about 20:30, the Imperial Forum and other public parks and museums are going to close, except for some exceptions with particular expositions.

So, the best (relatively) is moving in the middle of the afternoon, since 14:00 to 17:30, if you don’t suffer the hot in summer, otherwise, in the middle of the morning (10:00 – 13:00) and then, in the evening, after 20:30 – 21:00 to have dinner (in Rome, rather late hours for dinner are usual) and visit Rome in the evening, very nice and pleasant.

If you walk in the evening, stay always in the centre, where, normally, there’s many people and the “movida”, because to circulate in the other areas can be more dangerous for crime and robbings.

Rome is beautiful, but, surely, is NOT a paradise.

To move in Rome, try to use as much as possible the two lines (A and B) of the Underground, although very little thing, if compared to that of Paris, London, or New York and it’s often crowded; by the way, this is the fastest way to move across the town.

Be careful that, if I remember well, at 23:00 it closes the service.

Avoid absolutely taxis, because they’re too expensive and not fast for the traffic, if you don’t have too much money.

Then, where the underground can’t get, take a bus or walk, being careful to cross roads, because Romans are rather fast, nevrotic and few patient with pedestrians.

My advice is that of buying a daily ticket for 4.00 Eur to circulate freely the whole day by bus and underground.

There’re also other tickets for 3 or 7 days, really convenient and comfortable.

Buy cumulative tickets to visit more museums with the same ticket; you will spend less and save time.

If you have time and will to walk, start from the underground stop of Terme di Caracalla, pass through the Viale delle Terme di Caracalla and then,

continue along Via di Porta S. Sebastiano, the beginning of Via Appia Antica (the first of the great roads built by the ancient Romans, pass Porta S. Sebastiano (a door of the Aurelian Walls) and then walk also for 5, 7, or 10 km along the Via Appia Antica.

The landscape of the “Campagna Romana” is very nice and green, with many ancient imponent ruins and the S. Callisto Catacombe, (the ancient Christian underground cemetery).

The area is today a great natural park, saved from the assaults of modern cements after many years of environmental battles.

I made this long walk in a beautiful free sunny Saturday of October; wonderful!

History of Bathing from Rome to Japan

Roman people are known for their baths. They brought this practice to countries of Gaul and Britain. Roman mansions have their own small private versions of bath houses. Rome provided public baths which could be used for a cheaper cost. Because of the attractiveness of their baths, they add in hot and cold areas, average temperature sprawling areas with assortment of additional services like drinking, dining, and exercise. There was a period in the Roman history that baths were separated by gender, but eventually bathing was mixed.

The Jewish culture practiced a ritual of bathing that has been passed down to modern Jewish people. Ritual cleansing baths are called mikvot, which has its roots in the classical era and have been seen in some archaeological excavations at numerous areas, including Masada. In these rituals, the entire body of the individual must be completely submerged in water. The water to be used must come from a river, spring or rainwater.

During the 4th to 5th century, the priests of Christian churches denounced public baths. Bathhouses includes mixed facilities, and Christians believed women should not bathe in the presence of men. Virgins were especially discouraged from bathing in the nude.

Romans spread the bathing practice to the Islamic countries through the Medieval times and the Renaissance period. Roman bathing was promoted by Islamic writers. The “Turkish Bath” was the main characteristic of Islamic custom, they have retained the Roman culture of initially cleaning the body, after that is soaking and socializing. The Islamic religion requires frequent bathing; when water supply was low, other substances like dust and dirt were utilized for ritual ablution.

Japanese baths have great similarity with Roman baths. The western writers asserted that Japanese soaking baths began during the widespread employment of Japanese hot springs. Because of the location of Japan being positioned amid two volcanic restraints, the country tenders innumerable natural thermal baths. Public bathing custom rooted way back in 552 A.D. and until the daybreak of Buddhism. Bathing doesn’t only cleanse the body but also the skin, and also brings fortune.

Bathing is a communal ceremony in most religions. Some writers say that bathing was more about socializing than hygiene.

Bathrooms in monasteries frequently had isolated screened-off area for individual bathers. Bathers bathed in cold water, so they would wear an undershirt and it would be done only once a week. This practice is used to prevent the physical pleasures of bathing which the priests are anxious about.

My Journey to Rome

I decided to share my impressions about the trip to Rome as my emotions still linger…

The decision to go to Italy was made shortly before the journey, so we didn’t have much time to prepare for that. But we managed to organize the trip as quickly as possible. And, as it turned out, we planned everything very well.

Rome covered us in the suffocating heat as it’s extremely hot in Rome in August. We wanted to hire a taxi but didn’t like the faces of the drivers approaching us, so we decided to take a suburban train called “Leonardo Express”. I should say it’s rather comfortable and inexpensive.

We came to the Roman train station quite late but luckily our hotel was really close by. The heat didn’t lessen…we had a feeling of being in a steam room…So we were particularly glad to take a shower and to fall asleep after a long busy day.

Got up very early, we rushed to the canteen. But we were extremely disappointed with the breakfast…coffee and a stale croissant…Finishing the scant breakfast we took our cameras and went to the lobby to wait for our guide with who we have preliminarily exchanged emails.

I should say that we decided to entrust the organization of all the excursions to our guide so that we could completely devote ourselves to enjoying Rome. The guide sent us several variants and we chose two complete days – one in Rome and the other in the Rome suburbs.

Rome…we looked round the major churches and basilicas of the Italian capital. It’s useless to try to describe all the magnificence of the Rome masterpieces, it’s a kind of thing that one should see with his or her own eyes…but a person needs not only spiritual nourishment. So at 2 o’clock we got very hungry. Our guide phoned somewhere and quickly drove us at a tiny restaurant where we were waited for! We paid very little and ate very much. The Italian food we were treated was so nice that I still remember its flavour! We didn’t want to leave the place but the Vatican was ahead, so we rushed into the car and pretty soon reached the destination. Again I’m not going to describe you what we have seen. Come and take a look by yourselves!

After the Vatican we bid farewell with our guide and strolled along the streets by ourselves. Then we returned to the hotel and had a bath. A restaurant followed. We were disappointed as the dinner costed us 120 EUR what was MUCH more than we left at noon in a restaurant we went to with our guide. Besides the dinner was not that tasty.

The next day we went out of town. The sky was cloudy so, tired of heat, we welcomed the coolness. The rout led us through the ancient settlements up into the mountains. It is a very unusual feeling to look at the city from such a height. Rome was at our feet…

And again from the lofty to the earthy. We were hungry. This time we had a very hearty dinner. We were treated to the dishes made of boar meat. Besides we were lucky that our chef was in good spirits, so with a smile on his lips he betrayed us many secrets of the Italian cuisine…now I know the recipes to surprise the guests!

On the way back we saw a Bridge of Suicides, the Pontifical Residence, drank water from the spring, looked at the functioning aqueduct which is more than 2000 years old…after a long and busy day we didn’t feel a bit tired.

At night we took a plane home…we’ll certainly come back!!!

Travel destinations: Rome, Italy – Part 5


(an excerpt from my book From London to Cairo)

A Tale of Two Brothers

The symbol for Rome is a milking wolf. I learned the reason for this when I visited The Time Elevator; a virtual reality ride that brings people back in time to reenact the history of Rome.

Roman myth tells the story of a priestess who was required to remain a virgin but gave birth to twin boys instead. The Emperor ordered them to be destroyed. A soldier took them out to the forest but could not bear to kill them himself so he left them for the wolves. A mother wolf adopted the boys and they grew strong. When they became men, they decided to start a village but could not agree on which hill to build it. Unable to find a compromise, one brother killed the otherthen founded Rome.

Nice storyeh? I guess this set the stage for Rome to become a nation of conquerors.

Fresh off the Train

I arrived in Rome in the early afternoon and set off to look for a cheap hotel with a guy I met on the train. John is from Boston and had flown to Venice to take part in a marathon. He had some time to kill and decided to visit Rome to see the coliseum. He was in his late twenties, very handsome and one of the most scatterbrained people I have ever met. I loved him right away. He turned out to be a very amusing person to hang out with.

After walking around for an hour and finding no vacancies at any of the hotels, we finally stopped in at a tourist information office to elicit help. The friendly girl at the office managed to find me a great hotel room for a reasonable price in the area while John chose to stay in a hostel not far from my hotel.

Roman Coliseum

The first night we decided to walk to the Coliseum. The hotel gave me a great map of Rome with big pictures of all the monuments. The walk took a long time because we stopped at every food establishment along the way so John could feed his insatiable appetite for Italian foodI wondered if he would ever get full.

Finally we caught our first glimpse of the coliseum sitting at the end of a busy street, the home of gladiators and emperors, and a piece of living history. Wow! This was incredible!

Construction on the Coliseum started in 70 AD and ten years later Titus opened it. The opening ceremonies and games lasted for 100 days during which an astounding 5000 wild animals were put to death. The Coliseum had a capacity of 70,000 spectators who came to see everything from gladiator combats to wild

Great books about traveling to Rome

This is a selection of books from different genres that make for a good read in the eternal city.

Italo Svevo – ‘A Life’, 1999. Novel, translated.

Anthony Barrett – ‘Agrippina’, 1996. Historical.

David Yallop – ‘In God’s Name’, 1997. Finely researched nvel about papal intrigue.

Irving Stone – ‘Agony and Ectasy. 1989, Fictional novel based on facts about Michelangelo.

John Cornwell – ‘Hitler’s Pope’. 1999. Historical.

Steven Saylor – ‘The House of the Vestals. 1999. Accurately documented fiction set in Ancient Rome.

Edward Gibbon – ‘The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’. 1982. Historical literature.

Elizabeth David – ‘Italian Food’. 1998. Cookery book from the English-language doyenne of European cuisine.

Richard, Francis and Robert Graves – ‘I Claudius, Carcanet Press. 1998. Accurately documented fiction in Ancient Rome.

Alberto Moravia – ‘Racconti Romani’, 1997; ‘The Confromist, 1999. Contemorary fiction, translated.

Colleen McCullough – ‘The First Man in Rome, 1992; ‘The Grass Crown, 1992; ‘Caeser’s Women, 1997. Finely researched fiction set in Ancient Rome.

Agustus Hare – ‘Agustus Hare in Italy’, 1997 (19th century text, re-published)

Italy By Bike: Bike Hotels Near Rome

Open stretches of land and sweet hills make up the scenario that Lazio, the ancient home of the Romans, offers bike enthusiasts who would like to enjoy their favourite sport while on holidays.

Cycling tourism, which has become increasingly popular over the last few years, offers the possibility of a healthy holiday based upon cycling trails, typical products and wellness treatments.

In response to the need to maintain a healthy mind in a healthy body also while on holiday, the bike hotels on the hills of Lazio provide an all-inclusive holiday for cyclists.

Expert guides take guests along the most famous routes between Rome and Naples and bike hotels provide unique bike services, from bike deposits to sportswear, cycling maps and energy food.

Fiuggi is one of the best places for all those who love cycling holidays and would like to combine the fun of a ride with body treatment by the therapeutic properties of the water of Fiuggi spa.

Many bike hotels are equipped with sports and wellness centres for their guests. Others offer cycling holidays, trekking routes and fully-equipped golf centres to live a real active holiday.

The hotel propose many itineraries for cyclists and just as many golf competitions for green enthusiasts also available in the Fiuggi Golf Club and golf calendar full of events.

In addition…. Fiuggi Spa offer curative water treatments and therapeutic paths in the wellness centres: beauty care and tailor made diet for all needs.

Fiuggi and its hotels are a perfect alternative for all those who wish to spend a holiday between sport and wellness to live a special holiday of nature and relax.

In the heart of Ciociaria, one can also taste the typical dishes of Lazio cuisine and visit the historical sites between Rome and Naples to live the ancient tradition.

City Breaks in Europe – This Summer’s Hot Ticket

Typically when you think of summer holidays you begin to conjure up images of sitting on the beach all day sipping an umbrella drink, but more and more holidaymakers are moving to the city for their holidays, European cities specifically.

Obviously European cities are popular for a multitude of reasons: The history, the cuisine, the shopping.  There is something for everyone and it’s clearly a trend that many people looking to take holidays this year with many british tourists leaving the beaches of Spain and Greece in favour of city breaks all over the continent.

The main favourites for British tourists are Rome, Paris and Barcelona as they are well known.  Paris has many famous landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, L’Arc De Triomphe and the Louvre for the art lovers out there.  Rome also has a lot of historic remains from the days when Rome ruled most of Europe, amazing structure such as the Coliseum and the Circo Massimo have stood the test of time and can still be visited to this day.

There are plenty of other cities worthy of visiting though other than the big three of Western Europe, many of these can be reached by train from the previously mentioned big cities.  One such attraction is Venice which is famous for being the city built on waterways rather than roads.  Venice has been seen in many movies such as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the new Italian Job and the recent James Bond movie Casino Royale.  Not far from Venice is Milan which is famed for being one of the fashion capitals of the world. 

Some tour operators may offer deals where you can have multiple stops on your trip to add a bit of variety.  One such instance could be getting flights to Rome or Venice, staying a few nights and then catching a train to Rome or Milan.  Near to Venice is also Lake Garda which can provide a break from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Other popular cities include Amsterdam and Prague, tow recent favourites for stag and hen weekends but also have amazing sights to see.  Prague is a brilliant example of Eastern European culture with buildings and architecture than is amazing to see especially when the snow has fallen.

flights to these cities can normally be found fairly cheap due to many holidays being booked in parts, one place for your hotel, and one place for your car hire and another for the cheap flights that get you there.

A lot of companies allow you to compose your own holiday and so you get to take on the role of a travel agent and make the perfect holiday for yourself.  These multi-stop city breaks ensure you can see all the places you want to in a short space of time, depending on how much you want to see you could spend only a day or two in one location or you could spend a week, with this kind of holiday you’re the boss and you can march to the beat of your own drum.


Madrid was once dwarfed by cities such as Rome, Paris and London, but after the death in 1975 of Francisco Franco, Spain’s dictator, it began growing one of the most culturally vibrant, round-the-clock cities on earth. If you take a Madrid weekend break or plan to stay for a while you will find that Madrid now has a mix of world-renowned artwork, busy public plazas, great cuisine and nightlife. Madrid has three reference points: The Puerta del Sol, the city’s absolute centre; the Plaza Mayor, The Golden Age core; and The glorious Plaza de Cibeles, with the most extravagant architecture. The oldest part of the city is commonly known as ‘Los Austrias’ after the Hapsburg dynasty. The Plaza Mayor is one of few parts for which the Habsburgs can really claim credit. An elegant arcaded square with some lurid murals added in the 1990s, this was where the greatest festivals and ceremonies of imperial Madrid were held, as well as bullfights and carnivals. It now has coin and stamp collectors markets on Sundays and lively dance bands during fiestas. Sol is Madrid’s most photographed square, home to the bear and strawberry tree statue. You will also find that much of the Madrid accommodation is part of the stunning architecture. Huertas & Santa Ana remains an important theatre district and for those art lovers planning a Madrid holiday, a visit to its three museums on ‘The Avenue of Art’ offers the chance to view countless famous works by notable masters. Among more than 7000 paintings in the Museo del Prado are pieces by Velazquez, El Greco, Titian, Rubens and Bosch. At the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, there are modern masters such as Dali, Miro and Picasso, including his masterpiece, Guernica. And the Museo de la Coleccion Thyssen-Bornemisza holds works by Rembrandt, Caravaggio and Goya.

There is a wide range of cheap hotels available to book online as well as cheap Madrid holidays and Madrid weekend break deals! Search for a Madrid hotel within certain dates using our site search facility, or use the link below to view the full listing of hotels in Madrid.

There are a wide range of cheap hotels in Madrid to suit families, couples, groups and singles. Combine cheap Madrid hotels and cheap flights to Madrid to create outstanding value Madrid holidays.

For information on cheap flights to Madrid please use the link below.


Even if you are only planning a Madrid weekend, make sure you leave just a little bit of time for shopping. Fashion for men, women and children from Spanish and international designers can be found around the streets of Almirante and Conde de Xiquena, as well as in the district of Salamanca which concentrates the best shops for jewelry, shoes, leather goods, furniture and gifts. Concentrated in and around the Plaza Mayor are plenty of shops selling traditional articles such as espadrilles, fabrics, ropes, hats and religious articles. Large department stores are located in the vicinity of the Puerta del Sol, and on the streets of Princesa, Goya and Castellana. Open-air markets such as the Rastro which is the most famous of the flea markets, opens on Saturdays and Sundays between the Plaza de Cascorro, La Latina and the street of Embajadores. Everything can be found here from valuable antiques to used clothing, including collector cards, books, records and paintings.


Madrid is one of the world’s liveliest cities, never sleeps and during weekends or before public holidays, and on the days running up to Christmas, it is not unusual to see more people out and about at 4, 5 or 6am in the morning than in many other cities during the day. Nightlife can be divided into the following areas – between Puerta del Sol and Plaza de Santa Ana, especially in a street called Calle Huertas is a great area if on foot as the many pubs, taverns, theatre-cafes and fashionable bars here are pretty close one to each other. Alonso Martinez and Bilbao are the names of two subway-stations, both of them in the heart of very lively areas. From the first one, try the locals around Plaza de Santa Barbara. Close to the other you will find, among others, Madrid’s most famous discoteque, Pacha, Argelles and Moncloa – Ciudad Universitaria are two more subway-stations where you may enjoy the ambience of Madrid’s university quarter. There are numerous traditional cafes to enjoy on a Madrid holiday, many of them decorated in the style of La “Belle Epoque”. On hot summer nights have a drink in one of the many beautiful terraces, where you will find large amounts of people until late in the night, mainly in Paseo de la Castellana especially between Cuzco and Paseo del Prado.


Language: Spanish

Currency: Euro

Airport: Madrid

Top 5 Places to Visit Around Alicante by Hire Car

Alicante City is a treat for the senses it has so much going on that it would be impossible to see all of it. The city is a cosmopolitan, bustling place with every thing you would expect and more, giving you a great place to explore on holiday. However the surrounding area of Alicante is outstandingly beautiful with a few hidden gems thrown in as well, the best way to explore this area and have your own holiday adventure is to hire a car. To get you started here are a few ideas you may want to consider.

The Village of Guadalest in the province of Alicante is regarded as one of the best days out and most rewarding places you could visit. Surrounded on three sides by the Aitana, Serella and Xorta Mountains it’s a hidden oasis of outstanding natural beauty and heritage. The Village sits perched on the edge of a granite mountain with fantastic views down the river cut valley.

The drive to the village is part of the adventure, as the twisting road takes you around some tight hairpin bends over some narrow passes which give the best views of the surrounding mountains. Guadalest was built by the Moors and as soon as you reach the village it becomes obvious why they considered it such a valuable location. The castles and buildings look like they grasp the cliffs and the smallest breeze may cause them to fall. So steep are the cliffs and peaks on which they sit they are virtually unconquerable and they gave the Moors a fantastically hidden strategic strong hold.

Access to the old village is through a stone cut tunnel called the ‘Portal de San José the hole through the mountain was cut some 1,300 years ago and is still the only way in. once your eyes adjust you’ll feel as if you have been transported back through time to a long gone medieval era. Stone cut houses, churches and castle remains are all on offer to be explored and investigated.

If you can make sure you arrive early, you will avoid the crowds and catch the first castle tour at 10 am. It starts off with a walk through the dungeons, a great to keep the kids entertained, the tour explains the village’s history, takes in the look out points and winding paths and takes you to parts of the castle you might have otherwise missed.

A slightly more macabre museum is the Medieval Torture Exhibition, it’s not all gruesome methods of doing away with people it seems the Moors had ways of ridiculing their law breakers instead. For instance drunks who may have spoken badly about their king were made to stand in a barrel, where upon the locals filled it with all of their rubbish and bathroom waste!

For a refreshing stop on your way back escape the heat and take a dip at the bracing Les Fonts de l’Algar. (Algar Waterfalls), near to the village of Callosa d’en Sarria. The falls are a series of tumbling weirs and large water pools starting off quite shallow and slow running but they get deeper and faster as you work your way up the valley. Swimming is allowed all the way up but remember that the current in the narrower pools can be very strong, make sure you have a chuckle at the people struggling to swim against the flow before you jump in.

Helpfully a winding path has been added along the route making the entire series of crystal blue pools accessible to everyone, at the top there are even showers and restaurants or places to have a barbeque.

The Cuevas del Canelobre are a series of caves located only 24 kilometers from Alicante, The inner most cave boasts the highest vault ceiling of any cave in Spain. More like a cathedral than a cave it’s a beautiful place to observe some of the best examples of stalactites and stalagmites in Europe. The sheer scale and vastness of these natural caves simply can’t be imagined so jump in your hire car and experience this wonder for yourself.

The enormous rock formations are stunning and the caves have unique acoustic properties which can’t be re-produced. On certain dates concerts and music festivals are held within the caves. Because they maintain a very low temperature it’s the perfect place to see a beautifully eerie performance in complete comfort.

After all of this history and culture one of the best ways to keep the children entertained is to take them to the relatively new Terra Mitica theme park. Built in 2000 the park promises to take you back in time as you adventure through any one of their 5 areas. Divided into Ancient Egypt, Rome, Iberia, Greece and the Islands each has its own theme and rides based around these ancient cultures of the area. Think Alton towers with a cultural twist but definitely with out the bad weather.

The Pantheon in Rome – Intelligent Architecture

There are few buildings in the world today that have survived the ravages of time so well as the Pantheon in Rome. This is mainly due to superior engineering. The Pantheon has often been copied, sometimes equaled but never surpassed, it had more architectural innovations than most modern buildings. This makes the Pantheon really extraordinary since it was built around 125 AD under the aegis of the emperor Hadrian.

Superior engineering

The plan is simple enough: a circular enclosure aside a rectangular entrance. The entrance sports a classic Greek portico of granite columns topped by a triangular pediment. There are three ranks of the 39 ft Corinthian supports, eight in front and two sets of four further in leading to the main rotunda. A rectangular section joins the portico to the rotunda.

Even though this design seems very simple there are a lot of signs of superior engineering. A few examples may be;

* The giant concrete dome topping the cylinder forming the major component was so well designed and built that no similar type would stand up under its own weight.

* The dome is 142 feet in diameter, while the oculus at the peak is over 25 feet of that total. It stands as a result of its unusual composition, outstanding engineering and brilliant construction.

* The oculus in the center – the opening through the top. It decreases the overall weight and serves as a ring that distributes stress around its circumference. Imagine, by analogy, how difficult it is to crush a bicycle wheel. It also serves to admit light to the interior. And rain, too it must be said, though the floor is an early example of slanting the floor toward drains.

* The dome’s tapering steps provide yet more evidence of the mastery of craft displayed by the dome’s designer. It’s 20 feet thick at the base, 7.5 at the oculus and composed of heavier material at the bottom, lighter as it rises. That doesn’t seem so remarkable until one considers that many architects a thousand years later ignored this simple idea.

This is just a few examples of great architecture and engineering, there are many more.

The Pantheon was built without modern machines or tools

It is remarkable that The Pantheon even today, nearly two thousand years after it was constructed, is as stable as when it was first built. It is almost beyond understanding that the Romans could build this structure without the benefit of modern machines or tools. Nor did the Pantheon engineers have the advantage of modern transportation methods. All the materials were floated down the Tiber and moved to the site by man and animal on carts of the period.

Almost no restoration

Though its enormous bronze doors have been restored many times, no major structural work has ever had to be undertaken. This is all the more remarkable given the marshy land on which the structure is built.

By contrast, observe there have been several decades-long projects to preserve the Leaning Tower of Pisa, owing in part to the soft ground in parts of the site. The Parthenon in Greece, though a great building, was a virtual ruin 2,000 years after its birth.

The Pantheon in Rome was first converted to a church during the 8th century and continues to serve that purpose today. In fact, the building has been in continuous use since first being built.

The Pantheon in Rome has been copied several times, two notable examples are;

* The British Museum Reading Room

* The Thomas Jefferson Rotunda at the University of Virginia in USA

When visiting Rome be sure to spend some time with this extraordinary building. Presumably you will not be in Rome to often and you can simply not loose this oppertunity to see some great architecture.