Saturday, May 13, 2017
Fiumicino Airport has a lot of hi-res posters...and good ground transport to downtown Rome.
Overwhelmed by the heat and all the crowds at the Colosseum and the Forum? Don't want to pay the ridiculous entry fees to go inside? No time nor budget for Pompeii? No room for Cinque Terre? No problem! Nessun problema! In Rome, there are still free or inexpensive areas to satisfy your appetite for history and yes, even for seawater.
First Things First - Fiumicino Airport Connection
Most flights arrive here, if not at the other airport Ciampino (CIA) for Ryanair and Wizzair only. I've done the main methods at Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport (FCO) going to and coming from central Rome: the express train and the bus. Signs are easy to follow on foot upon arrival at any terminal. Obviously, the Leonardo Express train is faster although more expensive. It's pretty much nonstop between the airport and Termini Station in downtown, and uses rolling stock with lavatories. The FL1 is another train, but it's commuter line and has several local stops before reaching the somewhat centrally located Ostiense Station, so it's not as practical if you're in a hurry. Bus service in air-conditioned motorcoaches is provided by a few competing operators, such as Terravision, SIT Bus, TAM, etc. and so their fares are all the same, and they all go to Termini as well. Allow 30-60 minutes of travel. There is a round trip discount, but you can keep your options open by trying one mode inbound to the city and another back to the airport, you know? Either option offers full above-ground views of the city passing by.
Ciampino Airport Connection
Some of the same motorcoach operators at Fiumicino also provide Ciampino-Termini service, which for tourists is the most practical way to go downtown.
Start your Roman holiday in the heart of it all - Termini Station.
Roma Termini Station
All roads lead to Rome's main train station Termini, which is also a hub for airport-bound buses, city buses and the transfer point for the Metro subway lines A and B. And a shopping and dining mecca unto itself! I was fortunate enough during my first visit back in 2011 that my hotel was walking distance to here; indeed, all of Italy was just a short walk and a train ride away. I went on day trips to and from Venice, Florence and Pisa from these platforms with inexpensive tickets on Trenitalia. After getting off the train, I would just walk three blocks back to my hotel room! The streets around Termini are also a good place to look for clothing and souvenir bargains. There's also a tourist information desk to help familiarize you with using the transport network (ATAC) for your sightseeing. This is also the perfect place to buy your ATAC day ticket, good for all-day riding on any bus or Metro train.
A 2-for-1 selfie at the Colosseum grounds
Free Areas, Priceless Selfies
Obviously the pedestrian areas outside of the major monuments are free and open to the general public, and these are where your most useful photos should be taken anyway. You can still pose all day in front of the Colosseum; you only pay to get inside. If you don't really need to see it (and there's really nothing interesting in there, anyway), then don't spend for that ticket. It's also free to pose next to the Arch of Constantine. It's only low-fenced, like a typical protected monument. There are several good angles to photograph yourself - all for free - at Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum, particularly at overlook platforms along the sidewalks of Via dei Fori Imperiali, that road connecting the Colosseum with the Vittoriano. In Vatican City, you're free to enter and exit this semi-walled sovereign enclave, and free to walk the front grounds and wings of St. Peter's Basilica, if there aren't any major events going on. Castel Sant'Angelo, just outside the grounds, is also a good free photo op; the bridge with statues leading up this castle is an open pedestrian bridge. Most visitors to the Vatican use Metro Line A and get off at Ottaviano, which is sub-labeled San Pietro-Musei Vaticani to identify it as an access point for Vatican City. It's about a 5-minute walk between the station and wall entry point on the north side.
Take the Rome-Lido train to the ruins or the beach. It's included with your ATAC card!
And Now...The Alternative Forum, Pompeii and Cinque Terre
You can visit the remains of a true Roman port city, complete with an amphitheater reminiscent of the inside of the Colosseum, columns reminiscent of the Forum and frescoes and mosaics reminiscent of Pompeii just a half-hour west of central Rome, in Ostia Antica.
You can leave the crowds in Rome and take the train to Ostia Antica instead.
You can reach Ostia via the Rome-Lido train line (part of the ATAC ticket) from the adjoined Piramide-Porta San Paolo station, itself having great photo op outside with the Pyramid of Cestius and the castle-like St. Paul's Gate of the Aurelian Walls. Before entering the Ostia Antica excavation site (small fee and very well worth it!), you'll see the fortified Castle of Julius II.
Reach the edge of Italy with just your ATAC ticket.
A few more stations beyond Ostia Antica of course, is the coast. Any one of the last 3-4 stations of the line is a short walk to the beach. Plan on bringing along your beach gear. And guess what, you're in a true Italian beach on the Mediterranean!