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What to do in Rome prior to Heart of Italy tour in late September

We are going on a Heart of Italy tour in late September and will be in Italy a full day-plus before starting the tour. Does anyone have suggestions for place to visit that aren't on the tour? The tour includes Ancient Rome walking tour, Colosseum, Roman Forum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica. We're trying to get our arrangements all set and I feel like I'm information overload!

Posted by
6107 posts

Borghese Gallery! But make reservations as soon as possible; they sell out. The sculpture will knock your socks off.

Posted by
2553 posts

Domus Aurea - Nero’s old palace near the Colosseum. The fantastic walking tour of the archaeological site is supplemented by about 5 minute of a virtual reality tour - where you’re sitting in palace and “walking” around as if you’re really there with Nero.

Extremely limited tickets - if you’re interested, try to buy them right away.

General information on the site:

Posted by
4100 posts

If your tour does not include the San Clemente Church, you should definitely go there.

Posted by
422 posts

Like Jane, I would also recommend the Borghese Gallery. It's not just another art gallery. It features a lot of sculpture and doesn't overwhelm visitors.

And like Cala, it's worth visiting some of the stunning pilgrim churches in central Rome. In addition to San Clemente, I would add the Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore, the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano and the Basilica of Saint Praxedes. Of the four, I found Saint Praxedes the most fascinating followed closely by San Clemente. It's relatively easy to go to each of the four over a late morning and afternoon (or over a morning and early afternoon.

I would also suggest a visit to the Jewish Quarter. Tour the main synagogue with its excellent museum and see the antiquities in the area. I especially liked the Teatro di Marcello, the predecessor of the Colosseum. It served as the template for the Colosseum. An Ancient Roman gate and the Turtle Fountain are also worth seeing.

Posted by
78 posts

We did the HOI tour 2019 at the end of September. Arrived one day early as you are. We took advantage of an offer from the RS hotel to arrange for a car to pick us up at airport. Best euro's we spent on the whole trip (except for add on trip to Venice at the end).

Private car got us to hotel around 11 or 12 as I recall. Our room was ready, we freshened up and hotel called a cab for us to go to Borgesse Museum. Timed entry for afternoon. I'm a little fuzzy on the time line and if we ate before going to museum. The grounds are amazing and we walked and soaked up the sunshine to help with the jet lag. Our timed tickets were for an english speaking tour. So glad we did the english tour. RS has an audio tour of this museum, but being able to interact with the guide was so much better. So far, it is my favorite museum in all of Italy. (By the way, David in Florence was my favorite WOW moment of this tour).

After the museum, we strolled the grounds while walking to to taxi stand and returned to the hotel. Grab business cards from your hotel to show to taxi drivers if there is a language barrier. The driver that returned us to hotel spoke perfect English, the one that took us to the museum, not so much. I always carry a small pad of paper and pen to write out where we want to go if language barrier. (Saved us at train station in France).

Rome was extremely hot at the end of September. I took cooling towels that you wet for around your neck. Life savers. It was a relief to get out of Rome and head north to the cooler temps. Also the first couple of days are at a really fast pace. You will love Volterra.

Staying awake and moving the day we arrived really helped to overcome the jetlag. If you are at the same RS hotel that we stayed at, there is an area on the top floor that serves as their breakfast room. Great balconyoverlooking the street where we had a glass of wine and a snack (chips, nuts, etc) that comes with the wine. I have a lovey memory of that moment looking out and seeing laundry fluttering from the buildings across the street. There was a resturant right across from our hotel where we ate dinner and then went to bed. Woke up next day refreshed and explored the area before the tour.

Posted by
833 posts

I always enjoy a stroll through the Ghetto with its Roman ruins, synagogue, and reminders of the round up of Jews in 1943. Look for the remains of the Theatre of Marcellus, a building reminiscent of the Colosseum in design, look upward to the upper floors and you will see newer construction, around 1500 c.e., which are now seriously expensive apartments.

The Ghetto is one of the quieter areas of Rome as it is just outside the centre. But a quick walk up the hill from the Theatre will bring you to the Capitoline Museum and the Victor Emmanuel Monument.

Posted by
145 posts

I also recommend Galleria Borghese; those Bernini sculptures are amazing! And don't miss paintings by Caravaggio (Boy with a Basket of Fruit & John the Baptist). If you go to Borghese website to buy ticket, you will eventually be directed to this (official) website:

Another option is to take a stroll in the Trastevere neighbourhood.

Posted by
10345 posts

San Clemente for its ancient underground to explore and also worth a look, San Lorenzo. San Luigi dei Francesco for its Caravaggio paintings.

Posted by
7849 posts

I took this tour last September and by the very end of it I had museum burnout. It didn't matter that I was looking at amazing pieces of art, I just couldn't look at one more piece of art. I hadn't expected that. Keep in mind that this is a museum heavy tour as you are planning your Rome activities. I didn't and it impacted my trip.

I did go see the Borghese gallery on the day before my tour as it was closed on Mondays and that would have been the free afternoon during the tour that I would have had time to go there. Pay attention to your tour start date and how that will impact your opportunities to tour. It is closed on Mondays. I took the bus from the hotel to the Gallery. You must buy your tickets in advance to do this. I walked back. Otherwise, there is a taxi stand just a few blocks from the hotel.

If I were to do this tour over, I would aim for "outside and moving" activities. No one could pay me to enter the Vatican Museum cattle chutes (er, hallways) for a second time, but if you have not gone before you will need to make up your own mind about the value to this activity.

This post sounds a bit grumpy, but I actually did enjoy the tour. It had a few strange circumstances attached to it (4 different guides over the course of the tour, 3 different bus drivers), but overall it was pleasant.

Posted by
401 posts

A food tour with Eating Europe was one of my highlights of Rome. We did the Testaccio tour but I’ve heard the Trastevere one is great too. I also enjoyed seeing the ruins at Ostia Antica.

Posted by
6940 posts

Eating Europe’s Testaccio neighborhood tour was entertaining and enlightening. There’s a sale on all the Eatibg rour op tours today until midnight - use promo code EATINGJULY4.

San Clemente is fascinating - a church on top of an older church on top of a street and buildings of ancient Rome, including a pagan Mithraeum. Last fall, I needed a prebooked Online ticket to get into the lower level “Archeological Excavations,” and I couldn’t get an internet signal inside, to buy a ticket while standing in front of the ticket taker, making several attempts. She finally sold me a ticket on the spot, but they want people who already have tickets.

Posted by
118 posts

I'm surprised that more people don't mention the Baths of Caracalla, which was a site that we visited with a walking tour guide last year. It's a great place to visit and is not crowded--highly recommended. The mosaics are really fantastic.

Posted by
6940 posts

The Borghese Gallery is truly a gem! Admission has a 2-hour limit, and they limit how many people can be inside at a time. That keeps things from getting overwhelmed.

The Borghese Gardens park, where the Gallery is situated, is enjoyable, too, but if you’re on a paved path, keep an eye out for people on bicycles or groups on “rickshaws,” 4-wheeled pedal c tractions. Many people rent them in the park and are out for a joyride, oblivious to pedestrians on the pathway.

The park has other interesting museums, too. I particularly enjoyed the Pietro Canonica Museum, his home and full of his sculptures. There’s also the Rome zoo in the park.

Posted by
7 posts

I agree with previous posts… Borghese Gallery and Museum is a special treat before art museum fatigue sets in. Our hotel was between the Spanish Steps and Via Vittorio Veneto and we walked through the park to Borghese Gallery.

I also recommend San Luigi de’ Francesi - but check the days & hours they are open. Often closed at lunch time 12:45 - 2:30. I became a big fan of Caravaggio after seeing the Matthew Paintings. It’s between the Piazza Navona and Pantheon.

Posted by
8264 posts

Villa Medici for the view.


Walk along the Tiber River path.

Once settled in your accommodation walk outside and around the neighborhood. Look for markets, cafes, restaurants, churches, pharmacies et al.

Makes sense to know where you can get snacks, bottled water, fresh fruit, a candy bar or medicine if needed.

Posted by
8 posts

Another vote for San Clemente.

Also consider Basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains) for Michelangelo’s absolutely magnificent Moses sculpture. It’s a short walk from San Clemente.

Posted by
4088 posts

As Carol now said, "No one could pay me to enter the Vatican Museum cattle chutes (er, hallways) for a second time, but if you have not gone before you will need to make up your own mind about the value to this activity." I did start mooing and making other cattle sounds the one time I did that.

I think the mistake we made was to take a guided tour too late in the morning. Every part of the Vatican was super crowded, but the absolute worst was the museum. There are amazing and wonderful works of art there, but they were impossible to see due to all the people. That was in 2009. I don’t remember it being like that the first time I was there in 1977.

The last time I was there was in 2017, about 2 weeks before my RS Village Italy tour. I stayed in the Prati district specifically so it would be a short early morning walk to my very early tour of the Sistine Chapel and the Grottoes. Neither was crowded when our group were in them. I hope y'all will be able to go early, too.

I agree with those who recommend the Borghese and San Clemente. Of the two, I think San Clemente is much more interesting. And after doing it myself, I'll always recommend the Vespa and Ape Calessino tours done by Scooteroma. You can arrange for adjustments to their itineraries. It's not a cheap thing to do, but so much fun. Just click on Tours to see what they have to offer.

Posted by
5 posts

We did this tour in late March-early April. Prior to meeting our group, we did a walking food tour in the Campo di Fiori area (which was wonderful), toured Ostia Antica and the Borghese Gallery (get tickets & get a guide). It was so amazing and one evening we attended a Vivaldi concert in a church close to our tour hotel. If you stay at the Smeraldo Hotel, be sure to get pizza from the shop across the street.

Posted by
752 posts

Ostia Antica is often overlooked, but is an amazing site. It is was a port town, and the ruins are about 70 acres in size and you can walk all over it and into the buildings. It won’t be busy so will be more relaxing than some of the crowded museums. Or, you could take a walk, or rent a bike, down the Appian way and visit some interesting ruins or catacombs along the way.

Posted by
25 posts

I just ended Heart of Italy tour last week. I have posted my trip report in the forum. From my experience, Fountain Trevi and Spanish steps worth an early morning visit before the tour starts, while there are far less people. Our tour visited those two locations in the afternoon, with only 15 mins for each location. It's quite short and the crowd is huge by that time.

Posted by
314 posts

Hi bbales10,
We are taking this tour September 29-October 7. Are we on the same tour?
Julie S