We have used Rick Steves’ audio apps instead of guided tours and have been very pleased. Here is the link for the audio tours of Italy:
Great Inclusive Travel Guide: http://mikestravelguide.com/destinations/things-to-do-in-rome/
We stayed in at the Hotel Sonya in 2012, a favorite amongst Cruise Critics. http://www.hotelsonya.it/ricksteves2.html
Other highly rated hotels:
Golden Hotel https://www.hotelgoldenrome.com/
Hotel Smeraldo http://www.smeraldoroma.com/en/
Hotel Aberdeen http://www.hotelaberdeen.it/
A comprehensive guide for passengers arriving from the Port of Civitavecchia:
Tours and Places to visit:
Vatican: Be sure to purchase your tickets before you get there to avoid the always long lines. We were allowed to change our time of entry when we arrived early. Also, check out the recommendations by Rick Steves on the best strategies when in the Vatican. We used his app in the Sistine Chapel which was a very quiet, comprehensive, and free way to enjoy this masterpiece.
My favorite day in Rome was in the countryside to see the Catacombs, Appian Way, Aquaducts, etc.
Villa Borghese (closed Mondays- buy tickets before you leave for Rome!) http://gebart.it/it/musei/galleria-borghese
If you have time pre-or post cruise, you might want to consider this highly rated port city.
Transportation from the Port of Civitavecchia:
You can take a regional train from Civitavecchia directly to Roma Ostiense (about an hour) where you would switch to the local train to Ostia Antica (maybe 15 minutes). Note that the regional train is part of the Trenitalia system while the local train is part of the Rome municipal transit system, so it’s 2 different tickets. My recollection is that you can take an underpass from the Ostiense train station to the Ostiense metro station, and the local train station is adjacent to the metro station.
Review of Rome from 2012
Hotel: We stayed at the Hotel Sonya which seemed to be filled with many knowledgeable Cruise Critics, and it was great fun talking at breakfast and enjoying Tony’s wine parties in the late afternoon. Hotel Sonya was a very good choice and close enough to many sites. The hotel had free wifi, very nice rooms with modern facilities, a funky, yet reliable old cage elevator and a fabulous breakfast buffet. My favorites were the crostata, pineapple upside down cake, croissants and a fine choice of fruits and yogurts (so much more than I listed). The service was very efficient and kind. Highly recommended.
Rome: Late Oct. in Rome can be a bit chilly and rainy, so prepare for all possibilities. Traveling in Rome is covered in many other places and I highly recommend Rick Steve’s books for spot-on advice.
I had two main impressions about visiting Rome. One, Rome is somewhat confusing to navigate as many streets aren’t labeled. We decided that the lack of signage in Rome was to purposely make it difficult for the independent traveler so that you would feel the need to use a tour guide. I like doing my own research and going at my own pace. We downloaded Rick Steves’ free, very helpful apps to my Kindle fire and used a splitter so that we could both hear the narration. He has photos on the apps and we could start and stop as we wished. This was especially helpful in the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. BTW- try to schedule the Scavi tour a few months before your trip. I tried 6 weeks before and it was full.
My second impression is that I am amazed that so many visitors don’t do any research. For example, if you are spending the day at the Vatican, go to their website and get your tickets online. You can just walk ahead of hundreds of others who must wait in line to get their tickets. The guard scans your voucher; you walk ahead and get your real tickets. Easy enough. Also, don’t worry about the exact time that you schedule your tour of the Vatican Museum. Ours said “12:00” and they gave us a ticket for 10:30.
Another piece of advice is to take the shortcut to St. Peter’s Basilica from the Sistine Chapel. This tip will save you an hour. If you go out the regular exit, you will have a 30-minute walk to St. Peter’s and then get in another line to go through security again. Here’s how to do it: Find the wall opposite the last Judgment. The door THEY want you to exit is on the left. There is a “secret door” that is supposedly for tour groups on the right. Be cool and try to blend in with a group and just go out that door. Once again, Rome is made for the tour groups! You just keep following the signs and there is St. Pete’s. He would be proud of you.
Be vigilant about the pickpockets. We knew some people personally on this cruise who were victims. I took the metro to the Vatican and would never do that again just because of the sardine experience and the possibility of problems. The pickpockets work in teams and have it down to an art form. I had a Scottevest so felt that my property was pretty safe. Personally, I would only take a taxi if I returned. IMHO.
One of our best experiences was taking a countryside tour to see the Appian Way, the catacombs and the Aqueduct Park. The Appian Way and the Park are pretty much out there in the country and you don’t exactly have taxis waiting to take you back to Rome. Still, a very worthwhile experience.
The National Museum of Rome which is located next to Termini was really wonderful. Once again, some reviews had reported that all you see are a bunch of busts of old Emperors, but it is so much more than that. I highly recommend it after seeing your A-list places.
One word of caution about National Holidays. We were there on All Saints Day (Nov. 1) and while some places aren’t affected, others cause significant concerns. The Vatican Museums will be closed and even the day before had limited hours. The Pantheon closed at 1:30 and all we saw were the locked doors.