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Rome was jammed over NY, but still fun!

Some people have DM'ed me about restaurants, a few typos corrected below. -To any of you who contributed by posting about Rome, thank you! My earlier questions helped us plan a great vacation. https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/italy/rome-recs-for-2nd-tier-gems-over-ny. My H & I had been to Rome over NY 2019, so thought we were prepared for the crowds, but they were larger. We focused our trip on smaller museums & planned more of an Italian passeggiata (stroll) type holiday, with one museum in the morning and getting outdoors to see an area of Rome each afternoon. We didn’t go into any of the main monuments, which we’ve seen before. A lot more young people speak fluent English than even a few years ago, but I still had a chance to speak Italian daily, usually with the older crowd. I'm in my late 60's and have foot problems, H is mid 60's and seemed to do just fine no matter how far we walked.

Rome was unseasonably warm, but cooler in the mornings & evenings. I wore a packable down jacket with summer weight pants, a long sleeved T and wool scarf & we both wore smart wool socks and Merrill Moab hiking boots. My H wore his heavy jacket and got warm during the day, but liked having it along as somehow those cobblestone streets & old buildings were chilly. Most people we saw wore trainers but I can’t imagine how their feet felt by end of long days on cobblestones! The best item I packed was a reusable ice pack, which the hotel kindly kept in the freezer so I could ice my aching feet.

I tend to research trips long in advance & watch lots of Youtube videos to focus in on the museums to see. Anything by Ancient Rome Live was very helpful - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6g75E6Lzls&t=447s. As were the short videos by Smart History. I also like to make a Google map with lots of restaurant suggestions, so when we’re tired and out somewhere, there are some food options nearby. I found that just having the google map helped a lot, I could look up the opening hours of museums, etc inside Google so didn’t carry the guidebook out of the hotel. And by using Notes to make a master list, noting opening hours and what’s open on the holidays, it worked well. I would also strongly suggest watching something about each monument the day before going to see it, who can remember all this stuff?? I missed out on the significance of one of the Caravaggio’s we saw, would have been nice to understand the calling of Matthew before getting back to Sweden, ah well.

Our preference is to get out as early as possible to roam around, visit one museum and have lunch before returning to hotel to put our feet up and rest before venturing out later in the afternoon. We tend to take taxis one way & walk back if it’s more than a 30-min walk, and even with that, we walked 12,000-15,000 steps, (up to 9 miles) every day. We had planned to get out of Rome a few days to Ostia Antica & Tivoli, but my feet started to ache too much so we stuck with long walks in Rome.

BEST museums & cites - Palazzo Massimo was absolutely FABULOUS. Vicus Caprarius, the underground aqueduct museum close to Trevi fountain is also great, an unusual gem where you see the water flowing below you. Teatro Marcello was a delight to walk through. Museum of the Wall on the outskirts of Rome was a really nice break from the crowds. All things I hadn’t seen on my previous 25-ish visits to Rome.

FAV churches visited this trip - St Louise of the French near Piazza Borghese, what a Baroque gem! Even without the 3 stunning Caravaggio in one chapel, its a lovely church.We wandered into a few other churches, including Sant'Agnese in Agone in Piazza Navona, but St Louise of the French was the standout.

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BEST meals & treats

Bocano, housed in a former bank, not cheap but elegant and nicely situated close to Trevi Fountain.(Open all day and no need to book ahead.) It's on the expensive side, but service and food are great. If you're there by 12:30, no need for a reservation. I would book if you're there later or after 6PM. https://www.baccanoroma.com/home_page_en/

Ditirambo- near Campo di Fiori, you can make reservations on line and it opens early for dinner, which was a plus for us. REALLY fun waitress, blue hair, fluent English. Great Roman classic menu. www.ditiramboristorante.it/

“Pizza In Trevi’ - Best pizza we had was pizza by the slice right around the corner from the Trevi fountain. We’ve always gone in the takeaway side but there’s also a sit down place next door. Go early!

Piccolo Vicolo next to our hotel turned out to be a gem. The best pasta of the trip, AND they had amazing salads as a main course.

We had a few gelato at well recommended places near our hotel, but nothing compare to the white chocolate cannoli at “Il Gelato de Mastrofiocco” - one block from Lago di Argentina, well worth the detour! (Funny I thought I loved Italian gelato, but once I tasted the cannoli, that’s where my spare sugar calories went.)

If you stay near Hotel Smeraldo, ‘Pizza Time’ was the best pizza by the slice in the area (we tried several!)

Osteria de Sostegno, near the Pantheon, was our absolute fav but didn't get there this trip. MUST reserve, or show up when they open for lunch, haven't been for dinner. https://ilsostegno.it/

Arrived Rome Dec 26th - no jet lag coming from Sweden, so that was a treat. Our 3.5 hour flight was delayed while we waited in the Q for our plane to be de-iced, (intriguing watching orange gunk being spread over airplane.) We went from snow & 20F to 60F in a matter of hours, it was really nice to get into some sunny weather. Our driver took a back way through the hills via Russian Embassy that popped us out at Giannicolo view point, where he kindly stopped for us to take photos out over St Peters before driving us right by St Peters Square on way to hotel. (Booked pickup through hotel, E65 plus a E10 tip.) What a great way to arrive into Rome! I had never been this way before, the driver said he could only do it because it was a national holiday so the small roads were easier to navigate.

Hotel Smeraldo lived up to it’s reputation, it’s in a perfect location for visiting churches & museums in the center of town, great food choices nearby. If you can afford it, skip the ‘Superior Room’ which was VERY NOISY over NY, even with the windows closed, and go for a ‘Superior Comfort’ (about $30 more per day) facing an internal courtyard. We moved to the quieter room on NY day & were SO relieved not to hear constant street noise. The staff was all courteous & helpful and kind. Taxi stand at Lago Argentina was nearby & super useful and where we went to catch taxis. It’s a 5-minute walk from hotel and happens to have an excellent coffee & pastry place, Caffè Camerino, right on the route.

We ate a late lunch at Emmas, which was frankly disappointing. I had read good reviews. They were super busy, had decent olive oil, but the pizza is nothing to write home about.
Then we took a stroll to Piazza Navona, which unfortunately was VERY noisy with the Christmas stalls & carousel. I’m sure the kids would love it! And wandered around before having dinner upstairs at the hotel. We went to bed early after a dawn flight. (10.2 miles walking)

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Dec 27 -We got out fairly early& took a taxi to see Palazzo Massimo, (across from Termini train station). WHAT A GEM!!! It’s amazing it’s not higher up on the list of visited museums. 3-floors of ancient statues, mosaics & frescos. SO worthwhile! It’s 14E for 3 museums,(Palazzo Massimo, Palazzo Altemps & Baths of Diocletian). None of them were busy & had no lines, no need to book ahead. https://youtu.be/s6g75E6Lzls?si=euCEdnapsFuOpNuc We lasted 3 hours in this glorious museum before our feet gave out, it’s simply stunning. Hopped a taxi from Termini back to Trevi Fountain (JAMMED by noon) to eat at Boccando, because we’d visited it in 2019. Excellent food and service, and really great mozzarella di buffala. We took a random, meandering walk back from from Trevi area to our hotel, via Piazza de Colona, with the huge Marcus Aurelius Column. We also stopped at the Piazza de Piedra, AMAZING Roman temple columns. There’s a video guide inside that talks about ancient Rome but we didn’t stop for it. (6.5 miles walking)

Dec 28 - We walked early to the Capitoline Museum via the Turtle Fountain, such a little gem. We didn’t have tickets, bad idea during a holiday week, even early in the day the line looked like an hour wait. So we booked on-line & decided to walk around to see the forum from the veranda, VERY worthwhile! (Just continue straight past the museums and go right down the hill to the viewpoint.) We also walked up to the “Coffee Capitol” opened every day from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm. You can get there without entering the museum. Walk up the stairs to the Campidoglio, take an immediate right at the top, walk under the arch and to your left you will see the entrance. It’s a LOT of steps by the time you get to the cafe! If you’re going into museum, would be better to take the lift. We eventually got our tickets at the tourist center. We were both more in the mood for Ancient Rome than Renaissance or Baroque this trip, so only visited the museum to the left, filled to the brim with ancient sculptures & some mosaics which you have to enter from the right and an underground passage. We had an afternoon rest at hotel before heading out for an early dinner. My cousin happened to be visiting Rome at the same time, so we met for dinner at Ditirimbo near Campo di Fiori, excellent choice for a small, intimate dinner which you can book yourself easily. (9.6 miles walking)

December 29 - We were kindly invited to join my cousin on a walking food tour of the Jewish Ghetto & area near our hotel. We met at Piazza Farnese, coffee there was GREAT! Walked to Campo di Fiori for pizza at Forno, not fantastic but OK, and strolled through the market before stopping just outside our hotel at Antico Forno Roscioli for supli, (fried rice balls with mozzarella inside) which was EXCELLENT. (Go early, as soon as they open or they’re jammed all day.) We then walked to the Jewish Ghetto & had wonderful appetizers at Su Ghetto Kosher Restaurant. They’re usually open except during Shabbat, a nice alternative when other places in downtown may be closed. Walking downstairs to the toilet is an archeological treat with old roman walls along the way. A friend sent me an article about Dopamine overdrive, I think I had hit my max with poor sleep from a noisy room, a very early flight to Rome, and so much great food and stimuli, this was definitely a rest afternoon! I’m sure we took an evening passeggiata & ate pizza, because well that’s just what we did most evenings when we didn’t make dinner plans. (6.5 miles walking)

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December 30th - We caught a taxi from Lago Argentina out to Porta San Sebastiano 20 minutes, where the Museum of the Wall is located. (Museo delle Mura) I think this could get very busy, only 20 people are allowed in at a time. It’s a free museum. In retrospect, we could have taken a bike tour out to this monument & gotten some more exercise / seen a bit more. but it was still great. It was a really nice break from downtown Rome! Lots of countryside outside the walls, beautiful walk along the walls inside the museum, it’s a hidden gem I had not heard of before & well worth it. The woman at the museum kindly called us a taxi, so we went to Testaccio for lunch where we’d been on a food tour in 2019. Masto in Tesstacio, is a wine bar with wonderful food, owner speaks great English. Hopped another quick taxi to Teatro Massimo near the Jewish Ghetto, which I’d wanted to see on a previous visit. It’s such a gem! Well signposted, you descend into an area by a small theatre, a mini coliseum, walk through to the Porto Di Otavia and come out in the Jewish Ghetto.(8.7 miles walking).

Dec 31st - Left hotel early to walk to Trevi Fountain, hoping to see it in a semi quiet state. There were barricades set up around all the major fountains by then but still nice to get out to see it early. Walked to Palazzo Altemps, another Roman museum that’s an absolute treasure. My H commented that he might have been “Busted out”, ie just couldn’t soak in anymore statues, but there was a gorgeous sarcophagus & huge head of a roman woman here that made the museum completely worthwhile. (And if I still recall them that’s a good sign!) We booked Ditirambo again, this time for lunch as we knew diner on Dec 31 usually involves a large dinner and higher price tag. We walked further to Aaa Pacis, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIwK5XclvsA&t=109s, seriously an amazing monument if you’re nearby. The fact that they discovered little bits hidden under a villa and managed to recreate it like a jigsaw puzzle over 3 years was astonishing. (9.6 miles walking)

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January 1st
We got out pretty early and took a taxi up to the Orange Garden, “Giardino degli Aranci“ on the Aventine hill with fabulous views overlooking Rome & St Peters. I think this is the best view of the 5 or so hills we’ve visited in Rome. We took a slow walk back down via an old cobblestone pathway (just stay left after leaving the garden, you won’t miss it) and came out close to the oldest temple in Rome - Temple of Hercules Victor. It wasn’t open, but I had never stopped to admire this jewel. To put into perspective, it’s 125 years older than the pantheon.

We knew the Stadium of Domitian, the underground museum at Piazza Navona was open at 3PM on NY day (I added notes about that kind of thing in my Notes planner) so took an early break and had lunch near hotel before walking up to see it. If we hadn’t then seen Vicus Caprarius the next day, I would have said this was our favorite thing we did in Rome. Stadium of Domitian holds the remains of a huge Roman theatre that sat 3000 people, along with lots of history about Domitian, one of the earliest Roman emperors. My fav bit of trivia was a sign that explains the average lifespan of an emperor - for 49 years between 235 and 284AD there were 29 emperors, 3 died of natural causes and 24 suffered a violent death. Their average life span as emperor was 2 years! My H paid E3 for a virtual reality headset, which he thought was really worthwhile. (9.3 miles walking)

January 2 - Took a taxi early to ‘Pincho’, the highest point overlooking Piazza di Popolo in the Borghese gardens. Meandered back along the Vatican-side of the river, lots and lots of people out near the Sant Angelo monument, which we’d visited in 2019 so skipped that.

We walked back to visit Vicus Caprarius, the underground aqueduct museum close to Trevi fountain - what an amazing gem! We really enjoyed both the underground museums we visited, but this was our fav. (You DO need to book via Whatapp the day before, we lucked out arriving around noon, it opens at 11AM, & were given a time slot 1.5 hours later), so we had time for pizza lunch, our fav pizza this visit at “Pizza In Trevi”. I’ve been surprised by just how many good places there are to eat in that area. I recall the walk back to the hotel was jammed it seemed almost anywhere we walked, but getting away from the Trevi area immediately reduced the congestion. (8.5 miles walking)

January 3 -
Flew SAS RT from ARN, both flights left early morning and were the only non-stop flights available. $375 each booked a few months in advance. (If you have United Gold, use your UA number to book SAS ‘light’, not basic, and you get business class checkin, lounge access, Fast Track & free checked bags.) A seat assignment in exit row was an additional $20.) It was kind of astonishing to arrive back in Uppsala to a sudden chilly front, 12” of fresh snow & temps down to 0F within a few days!

Things we could have done differently - Taken a bike tour out to the Museum of the Wall soon after arriving when we both still had enough energy. Eaten more AMAZING salads that were full meals at Piccolo Vicolo next to our hotel. Moral of that story is no matter how much research I did ahead of time, the front desk staff may know better! The only major item on our list we didn’t have time to visit in Rome was Domus Romana at Palazzo Valentini near Trajan's Column, ah well. Ostia Antica will just have to wait until another trip.

Most of our sit-down meals were around E50 to E60, including an appetizer each, one or two glasses of wine, and some sort of pasta as the main & we left a 10% tip. Our pizza by the slice places were around E10-E12 including 2 bottles of water. Hotel Smeraldo was around $1800, & more expensive over NY. Our taxi booked ahead of time back to the airport was E60 plus E10 tip.

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Main takeaway - I don’t think we will go to Rome over a major holiday again, it was JAMMED! Even speaking Italian, knowing the downtown, & being able to maneuver around major crowded areas and getting out early, it was loud & chaotic. We had a wonderful time, but were ready to come home. The vespas zinging around blind corners, lots and lots of trash left out despite the sanitation department spending all night every night cleaning up after whoever throws their garbage on the ground, and just the general crowds, were pretty overwhelming but it was still a lot of fun!!

And lastly, thanks again to all of you who have posted about Rome, about Italy, & have commented on my previous thread asking for suggestions!

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What a terrific trip report, Sandancisco! I'm making notes of some of your favorite new corners for our next trip; thank you!

Question? Museo delle Mura: I think you may have meant Porta San Sebastiano instead of San Silvestro? We walked by it coming back into Rome at the end of a long trek on the Appia Antica, and were on our way to Terme di Caracalla, San Giovanni in Laterano and a couple other churches so we didn't stop. I'm sorry now that we didn't. Next time...

Teatro Marcello/Porto Di Otavia: Delighted that you found that fascinating passage, and amazing to us the occupied flats in-and-around the ruins! An intern at an ad agency where I was employed worked on the signage for that area for her senior project during her semester in Rome. :O)

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Oops Kathy, well spotted. Yes the Museum of the Walls was indeed Porta San Sebastiano. Wouldn't it be lovely to work on signage for such an amazing place as the Teatro Marcello while in Rome?? Thanks.

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Thanks for your wonderful report. We also have spent New Year’s Eve and Day in Rome. We had a good time but wouldn’t do it again. New Year’s Day was difficult to find anywhere to eat.
On the same trip, we spent Christmas in London which took a lot of advance planning as far as getting restaurant reservations way ahead of arrival. All good but once at Christmas and New Years was enough!
San Luigi dei Francesi is one of our favorite churches too.

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What a great trip report, thank you for sharing! I have no plans to visit Rome any time soon but now I have a nice list of things to see some day, but not over New Years! :)

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Thanks for a great trip report. I don't know when we're going to make it back to Rome, but I'm bookmarking!

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Thanks for all the info about museums I did not know about.

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Thank you for this trip report, an especially the restaurant recommendations. Really enjoyable to read. I'm taking notes for my return to Rome next year (3rd, so quite a few to catch up to you!)

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My thanks as well! What a wonderful TR and I love the level of detail (but you knew that, right?, lol)! I'm bookmarking as well although no plans for Rome at this time. You found some excellent places!

Have you all done the Domus Aurea? If not, put it on your "to-do" list!

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Thanks everyone! I must admit I'm a planner, so glad this TR is helpful for others!

@ Pam, we decided against Domus Aurea because it would have required a lot more walking, and even with taxis, we walked 6-9 miles every day.

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Thank you for all the useful details; I spent 20 days in Rome in Feb/Mar 2023 but intend to return in a somewhat warmer month to see more of the city.

At the time of my visit, Rome wasn't horribly busy. I noticed significant crowding primarily at the Vatican Museums, in the long line for St. Peter's and around the Trevi Fountain. Sidewalks were busy, but it's a big city, and a lot of those folks seemed to be locals.

I was struck by your mention of the long line at the Capitoline Museums, because I was practically the only one there for my multi-hour visit. I've never been to Europe over the Christmas/New Year's period. While I believed earlier comments about crowds in various places at that time of year, it was difficult to interpret that information in terms of how similar it might be to peak season at the secondary sights where I spend most of my time. I would never have expected the Capitoline Museums to change from basically empty on March 7 to having an hour-long entry line over Christmas.

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@acraven, Ah, I envy you a Mid Feb to early March visit to Rome! Its seems to be the last 'quiet season' left so it's wonderful you got to enjoy it! (I've heard early December can also be nice.) I woke up wondering where the heck we could go for NY holidays in 2024, all I know is it will be a smaller destination rather than a large, European city which I think will all be similarly crowded.

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I agree that any large European city will be crowded, but after being in crazy-crowded Paris in June, July, October, and November, Rome was less difficult for us. But, we were on a planned itinerary, all tickets bought in advance, and our tour director got us out the door very early in the morning. On my own, it wouldn't have worked the same.

We were on a trip with a French organization from December 23-30. All the places I expected to be crowded were crowded (Trevi fountain, Spanish Steps, Borghese, Vatican Museums), but fortunately our tour took us to Tivoli, Ostia Antica, and the Eutruscan burial site, Cerverteri, and Villa Julia National Etruscan Museum, all of which had few tourists. We went to many churches that were easy to visit: San Clement and its two archaeological levels beneath, San Jean de Lantern, San Paul hors des murs, Santa Maria Maggiore, Sainte Praxede, and two more whose names have escaped. Interestingly, we were at two of the Capitoline Museums the same day, Thursday 28th, but 3 pm. There was no line when we arrived. We walked in at our reserved time. It wasn't overcrowded.

On the other hand, I expected the Borghese, the Vatican Museums, and the Pantheon interior to be crowded. And they were. Despite entering the Vatican Museum at opening, during the 8 hours we were there, the crowds accumulated. It became uncomfortable at times, stifling, downright frightening to me in the Raphael Rooms. The Borghese had a lot of people, but not uncomfortably so. We skipped the interior of the Pantheon to go to two other churches of our choosing.

After being in Paris in June, July, October, and November, to me Rome over the holidays was similar or less crowded than Paris. Truth be told, you are going to have to skip a lot more periods than just over the holidays to avoid what you experienced. I'm sad to say but what we experienced is the new normal.
By the way, I enjoyed your trip report and have marked the places you visited in our Rome Blue Guidebook.

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Thanks Bets, your comments were very interesting, I can see why a guided tour in Rome would make sense & you went to a lot of places we'd earmarked but just didn't get to see! Tivoli, Ostia Antica, the Eutruscan burial site, Cerverteri, and Villa Julia National Etruscan Museum. I had been in the past, but I know my H would really enjoy the archeological sites, well maybe next time....

Yes indeed, times have changed & your comment about crowds beyond the holidays is a good reminder. Careful planning and getting out early have helped, but as you say the crowds increase throughout the day.

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Thank you for the wonderful trip report!

The Giardino degli Aranci on Aventine hill sounds amazing, It looks like this may be a good fit logistically if we do the Food tour of Testaccio the same day on our next trip.

And if not for your report I probably would have forgotten to put Stadium of Domitian on our list, hopefully we will be able to fit this in too.

On our trip last august we also had the pleasure of stumbling upon the porticus octaviae after visiting the Jewish Ghetto coming the opposite direction as your route. It was magical as the sun was starting to set.

I would definitely recommend a bike tour on a future trip. We loved every one we have done and somehow managed to come away unscathed..

Thanks again - you are helping me piece together some ideas as I begin the exhausting task of planning :-)

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Crystal, beyond Testaccio, on via Ostiense, is the Centrale Montemartini, a branch of the Capitoline Museums with ancient sculptures and my favorite: mosaics. I think it's covered by the Capitoline ticket, or maybe I bought a slightly more expensive combo ticket. The building is a former power plant or something like that.

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@acraven thanks!

There is so much to see and the hardest part is fitting it all in and not jam packing every minute. Now if I can convince my hubby to add more nights to Rome that will make it easier :-D he does love mosaics too so…fingers crossed!

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In that case I recommend short stops at some churches with fabulous mosaics if you're in the area. Two small churches:

Santa Prassede (spelling varies a bit), west of Santa Maria Maggiore
Santa Pudenziana, southeast of Santa Maria Maggiore

And two larger churches, both in Trastevere, though not close to each other:

Santa Cecilia in Trastevere (see the crypt, which may close earlier than the rest of the church)
Santa Maria in Trastevere

It's smart to have some 1-euro coins on hand to feed the light meters you may find in churches that are free to enter. The lights will illuminate key mosaics or frescoes. You'll need two coins for Santa Prassede

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Oh, my, more good ideas! We had the Centrale Montmartine on our list, but I wonder if we would have made it that day, we'd already saturated ourselves in some great museums... But Oh. More mosaics!!

@crystal, I loved the mosaics at Palazzo Massimo, be sure you get to the 3rd floor. PS, Our 2019 Testaccio food tour was fantastic, highly recommend it! But we walked back to the Jewish Ghetto & by the time we got there I couldn't bear the thought of walking through the Teatro Marcello. So save your feet & ask your tour guide to book you a taxi back, especially if you'd like to go up to the Orange Garden. Walking back from there to your hotel will give you plenty of exercise.

@acraven, thanks for the list of smaller churches, have added them to my Google map. I loved Santa Maria in Trastevere. About those 1Euro coins, we were caught short in one church without enough, what a shame.....

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The Giardino degli Aranci on Aventine hill sounds amazing

Crystal, it is as lovely as Sandancisco said it is, and offers a terrific view. It's a nice spot for a bag lunch, too, If you head up there on foot, as we did, pass between the municipal rose gardens (Roseto Comunale) especially if your trip is in the spring or fall when the roses are in bloom. Among other things, the area was once a Jewish Cemetery; remains were all moved to massive Verano Cemetery 1894. In memory, the upper gardens are planted in the shape of a menorah.

https://turismoroma.it/en/places/rose-garden

Turn around a few times on your way up to get a really nice view of the backside of the Palatine. Or, as Sandancisco did, take a cab up, visit Giardino degli Aranci, Santa Sabina and gate of Villa del Priorato di Malta (see below), and walk down between the rose gardens.

Right next to Giardino degli Aranci is the Basilica of Santa Sabina; a very old and important lady - she retains the original shape of an early Roman basilica - and WELL worth a visit.
https://basilicasantasabina.it
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Sabina

Up the hill a little farther is the big wooden gate for the Villa del Priorato di Malta. Peer through the keyhole for a view of the dome of St Peter's lined up dead center with the hole. :O)

https://turismoroma.it/en/places/villa-magistrale-sovereign-order-malta-aventine

Ya'll are making me homesick for Rome! :O(

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Acraven - thanks so much added the churches to the list and note to have 1-euro coins on hand. We may have been to some of them previously but missed the mosaics.

Kathy - That really does sound lovely. Our trip will be April/May, keeping in mind the holidays.

Up the hill a little farther is the big wooden gate for the Villa del Priorato di Malta. Peer through the keyhole for a view of the dome of St Peter's lined up dead center with the hole

This! Thank you - another that I’ve been meaning to do, added to the list :-D

We will be very limited in what we can fit in since the Rome leg of this trip will only be 2-3 nights. I didn’t mean to high jack this TR but appreciate the additional ideas! Will try to make a separate post once I get an outline for more feedback.
Thank you all!!

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Hey @Crystal, I'm very happy to see new ideas & details emerge from others about Rome. It's like the city itself, impossible to grasp or understand the entire place, it just evolves the more we learn about it....
@Kathy, thanks for the info on Santa Sabina, we did have a look, what a gorgeous old church but I hadn't read anything about it. AND thanks for mentioning the keyhole view through the villa of St Peters! I've seen it more than once with Italian relatives and had entirely forgotten where it was located.