Steve's Questions ---Rome

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Joined: Mon Nov 22, 2004 2:06 pm

Post by Roby »

Questions asked by Steve(Netminder30) before his trip to Italy in December 2007:

Note : Many of you may have similar questions, Read this and if you have further questions , feel free to write me back channel in a PM.
Ciao, Roby. Mi chiamo Steve. Apprezzo tutte le tue risposte a le mie domande.

Do you know much about getting to Rome from the airport? I need to travel to the Grand Hotel Flemming located on Piazza Monteleone di Spoleto, 20 in Rome. I am trying to determine whether it would be best to take a taxi from the airport directly to the hotel or take one of the airport trains to downtown Rome and then take a bus (the hotel advises to take bus 32).

I am trying to balance expense with convenience. It is my understanding that a taxi will cost at least €60-€70 (not sure if that is for one person or an extra charge would be involved for two). The trains would cost anywhere from €5-€10.50/person and €1/person for the ATAC city bus (total €12-€23).

Assuming I have the costs correct, taking the train and bus would save me a significant amount of money. Taking the train/bus route, however, would involve switching transports and walking. This may not be easy after a trans-Atlantic flight and with luggage to carry (although we will only have one bag each).

Any thoughts or suggestions? Grazie per il tuo aiuto.

Hi Steve,

I will be happy to help you the best I can.

What airport are you flying into?

Take the train to the Termini Station. Then take a taxi because you are unfamilar with the area. You are a party of 2 and there isn't a charge per person.
Write down the address of the hotel for the driver and the telephone number. Keep this with you.

Once outside the station, there is a taxi area, you will see a lot of people standing waiting for the taxis. Stand in the line there, do not go with just anyone who comes up to you, even if he has a taxi. Often these guys are jacking up prices. Wait your turn in line.


I just read your post. Grazie! Yes, I will have a cell phone.

I like your suggestion about bus 110. We will only be in the city for two days, however, so I am thinking we will want to start seeing sites as quickly as possible. The tour includes trips to St. Peter's Square, the Roman Forum and the Colosseum, so we will want to focus on other attractions.

We will definitely try to check in early and otherwise ask the desk if they will hold our bags. (I may try to contact the hotel first to explain the situation to them in advance.) I understand there is not much to see or do in the immediate vicinity of the hotel, so we will want to take a bus (32 I believe) to get into the city almost right away. Unfortunately, it will not be practical to go to and from the hotel during the day because of it's distance from downtown. I think we will need to do all our sightseeing before returning to the hotel.

Thanks again for your help.

You can catch the BUS 110 by any of the main attractions and they go to downtown... You will not need to take a bus downtown to catch the BUS 110, you can pay for the trip on the bus. There is a stop just outside the church down the from Piazza di Popolo.
Ask at the desk of your hotel, the best way to get to St. Peter's. It seems that St. Peter's is the closest attraction to your hotel 3 km.

Then from there you can catch the BUS 110 and relax and see the sights you can get on and off all day with you ticket for the bus.

Roby, I was able to find out how one would take the ATAC city bus from Stazione Termini (where the Airport-Termini Leonardo Express goes) on this link: ... d-475b9d7e

I don't know if it's considered difficult to travel on the buses, but the trip to the hotel doesn't seem that bad. I would be very interested in what you think. Thanks.
Hi Steve,

It is possible to do it. Remember you will be exhausted from the flight. On the buses, you have to be very very alert. Take the taxi from the train station.
Pay the extra $$ for your own safety and sanity.

Pick up Rick Steves Rome book. It has a lot of helpful information for the traveler. It is worth the $$.


Thanks for all you responses and advice. I will plan to take a cab from Termini Station to the hotel as you suggest.

Since my tour includes visits to St. Peter's Square, the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, I will be concentrating on seeing other sites on the first day. Places I absolutely plan to see include the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, and the Pantheon. The Fodors Travel guide highly recommends going to the Galleria Borghese, but that seems to be a bit out of the way. The Musei Capitolini remain another possibility.

TimLA sent me a walking tour that looks like it would take me past many sites including the ones I mentioned above. I believe he posted it on the Impariamo site under my Travel Tips post if you're interested in seeing it.

Thanks again for all your help. I really appreciate it.

You can take the BUS 110 to all the sites you mentioned that you want to see that are not included in your tour, but the nearest place from your hotel to catch the bus110 is at St. Peter's. You can get off and on the bus all day long, see Trevi fountain , have an ice cream at a Gelateria near the fountain, then when you want to go , return to the bus stop of the 110 and hop on, hold on to your ticket so you can show them. Keep your ticket all day....There are bus schedules posted I believe at the stops , if not ask the driver for a schedule.

Gallery Borghese is beautiful but for this you need one whole day.

Since you will only be there one day for your tour , take the sightseeing bus and visit the main attractions ... Remember to make your wish to return to Rome one day by tossing a coin , a 2 euro coin will work in the Trevi Fountain....

I don't know if you'd know this, but do you have any idea how much I should expect to pay for a cab from the Termini Station to the Hotel Fleming? The hotel description states that the property is the following distance from prominent sights: "St. Peters.....3 km; Spanish Steps.....4 km; Piazza Venezia....4km; Coliseum......4 km; Trevi fountain....4km; Roman Forum....4km"

Also, do you know how one uses a cell phone to make calls within Italy and from Italy to the US? Would I be better off buying a phone card and using a public phone? I assume the hotel phones are way too expensive.

Thanks for your continued help!
Regarding your cell phone, what company are you with? Verizon, Cingular, T-Mobile? Is your phone a triband? These things are important to know.
I am with T-Mobile. I was able to unlock my phone in order to use it here with an Italian sim. You definitely need a triband phone to be able to use US phone here. All US cell phones are lock. You must have them unlocked in order to use an International sim card. However, if you go with your company's rates for international calls , it could be very expensive depending on the calls and their rates.
Renting a phone may be a good idea.

Here is a link for possibly renting a phone

Sim cards ... phones.htm

Before you do anything regarding rental .. Let me know which company you are with. Read the links above.

Calling home from Italy, using your cell phone dail like this:

Italian sim:

+1 area code and number. (be sure to put the + sign before the 1 when using your cell phone with an Italian sim.)

American sim
Dial just like you would normally. I am not really sure how you would dail with an American sim. I assume you would dail just as you would normally.

Calling to Italy from US.
Using a land line :
With an Italian number, they would dial
011 39 and the number cell or land line
With your American number , they would dail as they normally do.

If they use their cell phone to call you and you use an Italian number, they must use
+39 and the number (remember the + sign before the 39) + represents the international number 011

Using a public phone could work as well. You will need to go to a Tabacchi shop , they are everywhere or to a newspaper stand. Ask for an International phone card for the US ...Buy one with the value of at least 20 euro. These seem to work better than the lower valued ones. a 10 euro one may be good as well if they don't have 20 euro ones available.

For the cost of the cab ride from the train station, I will find out for you. I have a friend in Rome who I can ask. I will get back to you on this ... .
"Per raro che sia, il vero amore e' meno raro della vera amicizia."

"As rare as true love is, it is not as rare as true friendship."
- François de La Rochefoucauld
Posts: 3850
Joined: Mon Nov 22, 2004 2:06 pm

Post by Roby »

Steve's questions continue: My response to CAB FROM STATION TO HOTEL


I ask someone about the cost of a cab from the station to your hotel. They said about 12 Euro. Tipping the driver isn't common practice in Italy, however, you could give him an euro or 2. I would estimate that it could be a little more if there is traffic so have at least 15-20 euros ready.. to be on the safe side. If your fare is say 11, 80 give the driver 12 euro and a euro or 2. You don't need to get change back. So, if you give them 12 for the fare and 2 euros for the tip 14 euro. Always round it up to the next euro instead of receiving change back. Often they may even round your fare down if it is say , 11, 20. Always keep and eye on the meter. I believe that there is a minium fee. I am not sure about this though

Tipping in Italy is not common as it is in the states. You are not required to tip. Meals include tax and a cover charge. When you go to a restaurant, they must post the menu outside. Take a look at the cover charge--coperto. All the restaurants have different cover charges.
Water in restaurants is not free as it is in the states. Drink only bottled water; don't drink from the fountains in the city, or the tap water. For a bottle of water in a restaurant costs 2, 50 roughly.

In Italy there is no drinking age per say... Don't be shocked when you see kids your daughter's age drinking beer at dinner.

When walking around the town, any town, be sure to use the restrooms in the restaurants or hotel before you leave. If you have to go to the restroom during the day, go into a restaurant, pizzeria, etc , order a drink, and use the bathroom.
It is not customary to just go into a restaurant to use the bathroom without ordering something. Whatever you do, DO NOT USE THE PUBLIC TOLIETS: In the metro, train station (here some are clean, but not always), parks, etc. You must pay to use the public toliets. Also in some places like Ciao( a fast food, buffet style, cafeteria, the bathrooms are clean , you put 50 centissimi in the dish where you see the table, it is for the workers to keep the bathrooms clean. (before leaving the states pick up some travel size TP, you can find them at Walmart, CVS, etc. in the tolietries travel section, or ask someone where to find them.

If I hear anymore about the price of the ride your hotel , I will let you know.


FYI -- I called the hotel and they recommend just taking a cab from the airport. They said I would be spending the better part of the day traveling if I choose the train/bus/cab route. This is what you first recommended, so I'll just look for a yellow or white cab when I arrive and negotiate a fixed price to get to the hotel.

Here is a link to help you.... ... tran1.html

Take the taxi from the airport. It will be faster. It is about 40 or 50 Euro. However, it will be the best way and less stressful.

Go outside where the taxis are and stand in line and wait your turn. DO NOT GO WITH JUST ANYONE... WAIT IN LINE UNTIL IT IS YOUR TURN.


Thanks again for everything. You have been immensely helpful. One final question -- what are your thoughts on money? Should I stock up on traveller's checks or use the ATMs? I have heard that some places aren't taking traveller's checks anymore, but living at the mercy of ATMs and their exorbitant fees seems risky too.


Regarding Travelers checks, they are not used much anymore. You could get a prepaid Amer. Express card that you could use and if you lose it can be replaced. Ask at your bank or at American Express. Or even a prepaid Master card, Visa. Talk to Master card or Visa about their rates and what they do if it is lost or stolen.

Carry a credit card for emergencies

Many people use the Atms here. Check with your bank for the use of your Atm card abroad.

I would have some cash on hand, but not too much , for safety reasons.

Make sure you make copies of all your documents and your daughter's too. Passport, Credit cards, etc. Read my post on this in the Miscellaneous section of the Free lessons. Travel in Italy post. Put a copy of your Itinerary in your luggage Since you will be moving around from city to city write the names and numbers of the hotels where you will be staying and your cell phone number on a sheet of paper and put inside your bag.. in case it gets lost , they will be able to locate you. Put the dates of when you will be at each hotel as well.

From my post Travel in Italia

I changed my last traveler's check years ago. And I haven't stepped into a European bank in ages. Now, I get my cash from ATM machines.

Fifteen European countries — and about 300 million people — use the same currency. Using euros, tourists and locals can easily compare prices of goods between countries. And we no longer lose money or time changing money at borders.

Not all European countries have switched to euros. As of now, major holdouts include Britain, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland. Each of these countries has its reasons for choosing not to use euros. Other countries, which have only recently joined the European Union — such as the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary — will adopt the euro in the next few years.

But even in some non-Euroland countries, the euro is commonly used. For example, some Swiss ATMs give euros, most prices are listed in both Swiss francs and euros, and travelers can get by in that country with euro cash.

The Sleaze of Fees
Recently, travelers returning from Europe have opened their mail to discover they paid more for their trip than they thought they had. Over the last couple years, banks have dramatically increased the fees they charge for overseas transactions using credit and debit cards. While these fees are legal, they're basically a slimy way for credit-card companies to wring a few more dollars out of their customers.

There are different types of fees. For years, Visa and MasterCard have levied a 1 percent fee on international transactions. Recently, banks that issue those cards are tacking on an additional 1-2 percent. These are often called "currency-conversion fees" or "foreign transaction fees." For details on fees associated with using your card for ATM withdrawals, see "Cash Machines (ATMs)" below.

So, how can a smart traveler avoid (or at least reduce) these fees? Here are a few suggestions:

Ask about fees. While fees can sometimes be built into the price on your statement, it's increasingly more common that they're broken out as line items to help the consumer know what they're paying. Even so, it's smart to make a call before your trip to get the whole story: Carefully quiz your bank or credit-card company about what fees come with using their card overseas. Even if your card charged no fees the last time you went to Europe, there's a good chance it does now. Call and ask.

If you're getting a bad deal, get a new credit card. Some companies offer far lower international fees than others — and a handful don't charge any fees at all. Capital One has a particularly good reputation for international transactions ( If you're going on a long trip, do some research and consider taking out a card just for international purchases.

Avoid "dynamic currency conversion." Some merchants — capitalizing on the fact that many Americans are intimidated by unusual currencies — cheerfully list their prices in dollars. This seems like a nice service, but you'll actually end up paying more. Usually the dollar price is based on a lousy exchange rate (which can be set wherever the merchant likes — generally about 3 percent worse than the prevailing inter-bank rate). To make matters worse, even though you're paying in "dollars," your credit-card company may still levy its 2-3 percent "foreign transaction fee." According to Visa, you have the right to decline this service at the store and have your transaction go through using local currency. Your transaction will then be converted by Visa or MasterCard at or near the more favorable inter-bank rate.

Online purchases can be subject to fees. If you're buying from an international Web site, you can still get hit with currency conversion fees — even if you make the transaction while in the US. You might be able to bypass fee if the vendor has a US office (in which case, call the US phone number rather than booking online).

The bottom line. Here's the best formula for saving money as you travel: Pay for as much as possible with cash (use a bank that charges low rates for international ATM transactions, and withdraw large amounts at each transaction — keeping the cash safe in your money belt). When using a credit card, try to use a card with the lowest possible international fees, and insist that your transactions be charged in the local currency — not dollars. Then smile and enjoy your trip, feeling very clever for avoiding so much unnecessary expense.

Cash Machines (ATMs)
Types of Cards
You can withdraw money from an ATM with different types of cards.

An ATM card is issued by your bank and draws money directly out of your bank account. It does not have a credit-card company logo (such as Visa or MasterCard), which makes it less widely accepted. Most ATM cards have a logo on the back for either Plus (affiliated with Visa) or Cirrus (affiliated with MasterCard). You'll have to look for an ATM with a corresponding logo to be sure it'll work.

A debit card (sometimes called a "check card") works the same way (it's issued by your bank, and draws cash from your bank account). However, it's more versatile because it has a credit-card logo (such as Visa or MasterCard), which means it can also be used for making purchases. This is the best option for getting cash in Europe. In a pinch, debit cards with a Visa or MasterCard logo can be used for over-the-counter cash advances (with a fee) at banks that accept those credit cards. Note that you can also buy prepaid debit cards.

A credit card does not draw money from an account; rather, you are billed at the end of each month for any purchases or withdrawals you've made with it. Most credit cards work in ATMs (provided you know the PIN code) — but you're technically getting a cash advance, which is expensive. The second you pull your cash out of the ATM, you're immediately into the high-interest category with your new credit-card debt. If you want to use your credit card for ATM transactions without incurring this interest expense, you can pre-pay the account.

Some European countries are beginning to introduce credit and debit cards with embedded "smart chips." You may see signs or keypads referring to this new technology. For example, British cardholders must enter a PIN in order to use new chip-embedded credit cards in retail stores. But non-chip cards, such as those used by most tourists, will still spit out a receipt for you to sign.
Throughout Europe, cash machines (ATMs) are the standard way for travelers to get local currency. European ATMs work like your hometown machine and always have English-language instructions. Using your debit card with an ATM takes dollars directly from your bank account at home and gives you that country's cash. You'll pay fees, but you'll still get a better rate than you would for traveler's checks.

Ideally, use your debit card to take money out of ATMs. You can use a credit card, but you'll pay more.

ATM transactions using bank-issued debit cards come with various fees. Your bank may levy a flat $1.50-5 transaction fee each time you use an ATM, and may also charge a percentage for the conversion (1-3 percent); the ATM you use might charge its own fee, too. If your bank charges a flat fee, make fewer visits to the ATM and withdraw larger amounts. (Some major US banks partner with "corresponding" European bank chains, meaning that you can use those ATMs with no fees at all — ask your bank.) Other fees may apply. These additional expenses can pile up. Quiz your bank to figure out exactly what you're paying for each withdrawal.

Note that if you use a credit card for ATM transactions, it's technically a "cash advance" rather than a "withdrawal" — and subject to an additional cash-advance fee. If you plan to use a credit card rather than a debit card for ATM transactions, ask your bank about all the associated charges.

Confirm with your bank that your card will work in Europe and alert them that you'll be making withdrawals while traveling — otherwise, the bank might freeze your card if it detects unusual spending patterns. (Some credit-card companies do the same; it can be smart to inform them of your plans as well.) You don't have to give them specific dates you'll be away. Just saying you'll be in France in July is sufficient.

Since European keypads have only numbers, you will need to know your personal identification number (PIN) by number rather than by letter; derive the numbers from your hometown bank's keypad. Plan on being able to withdraw money only from your checking account. You might be able to dip into your savings account or transfer funds between accounts, but don't count on it.

Bringing two different cards provides a backup if one is demagnetized or eaten by a machine. Make sure the validity period of your card won't expire before your trip ends.

Ask your bank how much you can withdraw per 24 hours. Note that foreign ATMs may not let you withdraw your daily limit. Many machines have a small maximum, forcing you to make several withdrawals and incur several fees to get the amount you want. When choosing how much to withdraw from a cash machine, request a big amount on the small chance you'll get it. If you're lucky and the machine complies, you'll save on fees. If you're denied, don't take it personally. Try again, requesting a smaller amount. Few ATM receipts list the exchange rate, and some machines don't dispense receipts at all.

In some less expensive countries (especially in Eastern Europe), an ATM may give you high-denomination bills, which can be difficult to break. My strategy: Request an odd amount of money from the ATM (such as 2,800 Kč instead of 3,000 Kč). If the machine gives you big bills anyway, go immediately to a bank to break them.

If you're looking for an ATM, ask for a distributeur automatique in France, a cashpoint in the U.K., and a Bankomat just about everywhere else. Many European banks have their ATMs in a small entry lobby, which protects users from snoopers and bad weather. When the bank is closed, the door to this lobby may be locked. In this case, look for a credit-card-size slot next to the door. Simply insert or swipe your debit or credit card in this slot, and the door should automatically open.

Prepaid Debit Cards
Prepaid debit cards are another option for getting funds during your trip. Before you go, load up your card with the money you'll need, then withdrawal it as you travel. These cards work in ATMs just like a bank-issued debit card, but provide more security because they aren't connected to your checking account. Let's say you plan instead to finance your trip with a Visa debit card linked to your checking account. If the card is stolen, the thief can use it like a credit card — potentially draining your entire account. But some prepaid cards work only in ATMs, so the thief must also know your PIN to get at the money (unlikely, unless you foolishly write your PIN on your card or keep it in your wallet).

Prepaid cards are convenient for parents, who can send one along with their kids and reload it for them as needed. But the cards also have disadvantages. As with any other card, fees and service charges can add up — for buying the card ($5-15), reloading the card ($5), international transactions ($2-3), overdrawing your account, "cashing out" and canceling the card at the end of your trip, and others. And if the card is lost, it's virtually impossible to get a new one on the road in Europe, so bringing some form of backup is wise.

Many credit-card companies sell prepaid cards (there are links to several at, but the best deals are offered by AAA (versatile, with a Visa logo; and American Express (can only be used at ATMs and merchants that accept AmEx,

If you like the peace of mind that prepaid debit cards offer, go for it. But to me, they seem needlessly complicated — I just take my bank-issued debit card and keep it safe in my money belt.

Cash-to-Cash Machines
There are 24-hour money munchers in big cities all over Europe. These machines look like ATMs, but you feed in cash instead of a card. At midnight in Florence, you can push in a $20 bill (or any major European currency) and, assuming the president (or royalty) is on the right side, the correct value of local currency will tumble out. They are handy, open all the time, and usually offer bad rates. These are a novelty, useful only if you want a new experience or if you're too tired to find a regular cash machine.

Buying on Plastic
Credit cards work fine throughout Europe (at hotels, shops, travel agencies, and so on), although more and more merchants are establishing a $30 minimum. Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted. American Express is less commonly accepted (because it costs merchants more) but is popular with some travelers for its extra services. The Discover card is completely unknown in Europe.

Plastic fans gloat that you get a better exchange rate by using your card. This may be true, if you have the right kind of card. But there are plenty of fees involved. Also, realize that you're buying from businesses that have enough slack in their prices to absorb the fees the credit-card company charges the merchant (2–5 percent). In other words, those who travel on their plastic may be getting a better rate, but on a worse price.

As more and more consumers believe they are getting "free use of the bank's money," we're all absorbing the percentage the credit-card companies are making in higher purchase prices. Fully aware of the percentage they lose, merchants and hoteliers — particularly in southern Europe — sometimes give you a better deal if you offer to pay with cash instead of a credit card (cash payments also allow them to avoid reporting — and being taxed on — all their income).

I use my credit card for booking hotel reservations by phone, making major purchases (such as car rentals and plane tickets), and paying for things near the end of my trip to avoid another visit to the ATM. But a dependence on plastic reshapes the Europe you experience. Pedro's Pension, the friendly guide at the cathedral, and most merchants in the market don't take credit cards. Going through the Back Door requires hard local cash.

One more unrelated question -- is it ok to where jeans or will that prohibit us from getting into certain places (churches, casual restaurants, etc.)? I'm thinking I could get 2 or 3 days wear out of a pair of jeans and this would cut down on the clothing I'd have to take.


Jeans in a church are really a no no. Do you have a nice pair of casual dress dockers? I would bring one pair of jeans and two pairs of casual dress dockers.
Since you will be only here for 8 days, bring 2-3 polo shirts and a sweater that you could wear over them. You can mix and match with your dockers.

As for your daughter, I would tell her to bring a nice pair of dress pants and a nice blouse with a nice sweater to go into the church. A dress would be nice too if she rather wear a dress. However, no bare shoulders, tank style tops etc.
You will be turned away and she will have to buy something to cover her shoulders.

She should bring 3-4 tops, 2-3 pairs of pants (1 nice dress pair) and a nice sweater. She too can mix and match.

Remember if you forget any personal items, they do have stores here too with basically the same things. If she needs a hair dryer, she will need to bring an adaptor and possibly a transformer. However, it is possible that the hotel may have one, but not all do. (The star system here in Italy (hotel rating) is not equivelant to ours so don't be surprised by the differences.

As for going into restaurants, jeans are ok. However, you can dress them up a bit with your sweater. Jeans are ok for going around all other places except the churches.

Dressing appropriately for the church is necessary by their standards. For me personally, I do it out of respect no matter what religion I may be.



Have the desk clerk call for a cab for when you are just about ready to leave.

When you call a cab, the meter is turned on as soon as they are dispatched and so you pay for them driving to you. And that taxis are non-smoking now.

Calling a cab, dial 06 3570 for taxi dispatch (there are several dispatch companies). What I like about this particular company is that when I dial from a fixed phone - not a cellular - it knows my address by my phone number. I press 1 if I want a taxi called to my address. I wait and then an automated response tells me the taxi number and number of minutes it will take for the taxi to arrive. If you don't know any Italian you may find it confusing.

How to ask which is the first taxi when they are not lined up (some Taxi Stands do not have an area for the taxis to line up). ("chi è il primo" pronounced kee eh eel PREE-moh)

For additional information: If ones Italian is not very good, a solution is to go to a bar, order a coffee, and have the bar call a cab.

Check out this link---Taxis in Rome ... /taxis.htm
"Per raro che sia, il vero amore e' meno raro della vera amicizia."

"As rare as true love is, it is not as rare as true friendship."
- François de La Rochefoucauld
Posts: 3850
Joined: Mon Nov 22, 2004 2:06 pm

Post by Roby »

Steve asked for travel tips before going to Italy
"Per raro che sia, il vero amore e' meno raro della vera amicizia."

"As rare as true love is, it is not as rare as true friendship."
- François de La Rochefoucauld
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