The 2013 edition of Rome’s Carnival (or “Carnevale”, if you’re trying to be all Italian about it) kicks off tomorrow, Feb. 2. While it’s easy to mistake for an equestrian event, what with all the horse shows and horse parades and horse, well, everything else, you don’t have to be a horse lover to want to take part in the fun.
In fact, until Feb. 12th, Rome’s going to be hopping with all kinds of family-friendly (and free!) entertainments. Parades? Check. Fireworks? Check. Street performers, concerts, and shows by the Commedia d’Arte? Check, check and check.
Find out more—and exactly what not to miss over the next 11 days—piece for the BBC as their Rome travel blogger, “Rome’s Carnival of Horses,”on what not to miss in Rome’s 2013 Carnival.
Want to win the perfect break to Rome—including a 5-star hotel stay, fantastic experiences, skip-the-line tickets to the Vatican, and a ton of travel advice, including an hour-long travel chat with yours truly?
Now’s your chance!
I’m participating in this year’s Passports with Purpose fundraiser. And that means that I’ve put together a fabulous prize package… that one lucky person will win!
And I can’t tell you how good it makes me feel to help people have rewarding, fun trips to Rome. That’s why, for my upcoming birthday (September 14!), I’ve decided to give a small “gift” to anyone thinking of booking a session with me: a $15 discount.
(This isn’t quite as strange as it sounds. You know how, in the U.S., the birthday girl or boy gets treated to dinner and drinks? Here in Italy, it’s the opposite. I’m supposed to treat everyone else!).
So, from now until September 14, you can book a 1-hour, one-on-one consulting session with me for $60 instead of $75. (Note: That does not mean we have to actually hold the session in the next two weeks. We can have it whenever you want it. Next spring, even).
By the way, since I’ve been doing this for a few months now, some clients already have gone to Italy, used my suggestions, and returned. Here’s some of the most recent feedback that’s made me blush:
“Thanks again for the consultation. It made all the difference for us. Whenever we were thinking outside of the box, we’d remind ourselves, “what did Mandy say about this?””
“Dear Amanda, THANK YOU for everything. We really enjoyed speaking with you and found your services exceptional… Thanks so much for that suggestion [for a restaurant in Testaccio]—we never would have found it without you… I can’t thank you enough for all your wonderful suggestions. You are a smart girl to have relocated to Rome! We’re already discussing our next trip.”
How can that kind of feedback not make me feel great?
Looking for another unique way to visit the Colosseum—and its underground? How about at night?
Not for the first time, but now nightly until October 5, Rome is opening up the Colosseum to nighttime visitors. Talk about a more tranquil, and spookier, way to visit Rome's bloodiest and most depressing most famous archaeological site.
The catch: because the visit includes the underground, it has to be on a tour led by a Colosseum official, which has its pluses and minuses.* Available times are at 8:20pm, 8:30pm, 8:40pm, 8:50pm, 9:20pm, 9:30pm, 9:45pm, 10pm, 10:15pm, 1o:30pm, and 10:45pm. Booking is required; reserve your spot by calling +39 0639967700. The cost is €20, including your Colosseum ticket.
*Pluses: You'll almost certainly get more information on a tour with an official guide than, say, from a guidebook. Minuses: The official guides do this tour over and over and over, meaning the million-and-first time they give the tour—in other words, when you happen to be on it—they often have very little enthusiasm for the subject left. Also, their English can be middling to poor.
If you haven’t done so already, get thee to one of Italy’s many state-run museums, archaeological sites, and palaces, most of which are free right now for the Settimana della Cultura! Here in Rome, that means you can get into prize-worthy sites like the Palazzo Massimo (with its ancient Roman frescoes and other goodies, above) for free. The event ends April 22. For more, check out my piece on the Week of Culture over at the New York Times.
A fan of restorations that reveal art as it was meant to be seen? Me too. So I’m liking the “big reveal” that took place this fall at the Palazzo Quirinale, unveiling decorations by Cortona and his students for the first time in 200 years. For more, check out my latest In Transit post here. (Photo: Palazzo Quirinale press office).
This year, Rome is celebrating Christmas with some of the glitteriest, prettiest lights I’ve seen. Ever. And since that includes the decorations that glitter-bomb American shopping malls and cul-de-sac neighborhoods every year, that’s saying quite a bit.
Here, just a few twinkly tastes of the most Christmas-sy corners of Rome. Photos—and even a couple of short videos—to follow.
Prepare to be dazzled.
Via dei Coronari
Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina
Colosseum Christmas tree
Near Piazza Navona
Presepio at the Church of Sant’Eustachio
Via dei Baullari, toward Campo dei Fiori
Via Urbana in Monti
Piazza Venezia, looking toward the Vittorio Emanuele monument
Looking up Via del Corso from Piazza Venezia
Via dei Condotti
Near the Spanish Steps
The Fendi store on Via del Corso
Via dei Coronari
Via dei Condotti, looking toward the Spanish Steps
Via dei Condotti
Via del Corso
Piazza Sant’Eustachio, with the Church of Sant’Eustachio in the background
Liked this post? You’ll love The Revealed Rome Handbook, which includes many more tips and tricks like these in more than 200 information-packed — but never overwhelming! — pages. It’s available for purchase on Amazon or through my site here! I’m also free for one-on-one consulting sessions to help plan your Italy trip.
5. Delve into the tradition of Italian nativity scenes. As well as Christmas cribs popping up in churches all over town, Rome boasts both a museum of more than 3,000 of them and, over Christmas, an exhibition of 200 presepi from artists across the globe (now in its 41st year). Here’s my New York Times piece on where to find presepi in Rome. (The article’s old, but the information’s still good).
6. Check out the Christmas lights. Decorations are getting more ambitious every year, with gorgeous twinklings (and light projections, and jumbo screens) lighting up not only the heart of Rome’s centro storico, but even Termini, EUR, and the Fiumicino airport. Don’t believe me? Check out my photo post of the prettiest lights and decorations in Rome at Christmas!
9. Enjoy delicious Christmas sweets. Bakeries are brimming over with yummy holiday offerings like panettone, torrone and pandoro (above). If you’re in Rome at Christmas, make sure to taste the goods. It’s the one time of year that even Italians over-indulge in the sweet stuff!
If you liked this post, you’ll love The Revealed Rome Handbook: Tips and Tricks for Exploring the Eternal City, available for purchase on Amazon or through my site here! I’m also free for one-on-one consulting sessions to help plan your Italy trip.
Let’s make one thing clear: Since late October, the Colosseum underground has remained closed. There has not been any announcement about when, or if, it will reopen this winter. [Update, April 5 2012: Colosseum officials just announced that the underground will reopen this Saturday, April 7].
But if, having done some research online, you’re confused about if that’s actually the case, I don’t blame you. Here’s why: You can still “buy” the underground tour online.
Different tour companies offer tours of the Colosseum underground. The first, Walks of Italy—which I freelance for—immediately stopped selling its VIP Colosseum tour, which included the underground as well as the third tier, Forum and Palatine, as soon as the Colosseum’s underground closed. In other words, you can no longer book the Colosseum underground tour on their site.
Confusingly, however, Dark Rome is still selling the Colosseum underground tour—and in their tour description, there isn’t any mention of the fact that the underground is currently closed (and has been for weeks). (Like Walks of Italy, their tour also includes the Palatine, Forum and the rest of the Colosseum). Even when I clicked all the way through to the checkout to buy the tour, there was no mention that the underground is closed.
To be fair, the underground could reopen, even in the next few days… maybe. But continuing to sell the tour as if it’s exactly the same, for €89, without a single mention that the underground is currently closed and no plans have been announced for its opening? Hmm.
To make sure I understood correctly, I emailed Dark Rome to ask if it was possible to book the tour to see the Colosseum underground for this coming week. The reservations agent replied quickly, telling me that yes, the tour was still running, although due to flooding, the underground would be closed.
I asked if the price of the tour was the same.”If you book this tour, we will refund 12% of the price of the tour after you have taken the tour. This is because we are unsure when the Underground will open,” she responded. But in a following email, she added, “This refund is only due if you take the tour and the Underground is closed. If the Underground is open you will not be entitled to a refund.”
So. Book now, and if—big surprise!—the underground is closed, something you’d have no idea of from their description, you get just 12% of your €89 back. Or about €10. After you take the tour.
You also can “buy” the underground Colosseum tour with Viator (which—can we finally clarify this?—is NOT a tour company, but a tour consolidator, one that sells lots of other companies’ offerings. In fact, I am 99% sure that this tour is the same one as Dark Rome’s). This description, too, makes it sound as if the underground tour is just fine and dandy. Even worse, the most recent comments that show up don’t mention that the underground is closed (at least they do on Dark Rome’s site). It’s sold as an “upgrade,” costing you, once again, €89.
At least, however, they have this paragraph: “Please be aware that it’s possible the dungeons may not be able to be visited. Recent flash flooding in Rome meant that the underground areas of the Colosseum were closed and as yet there is no firm news on when they’ll reopen—we expected it to be days, not weeks, and the authorities will give us no hard information. It’s usually the case that when something changes we’ll be given just a few hours notice and with this in mind we are still taking bookings for these tours, given that the upper levels are open and the dungeons may be open. We do not offer refunds if the underground areas are closed (for security reasons or due to flooding after heavy rain). Your guide will, nonetheless, give a full explanation and history of the subterranean zones.”
So… be aware. Even if you can “buy” this tour online, that doesn’t mean that Dark Rome, Tickitaly or anyone else has a secret access pass to get you into the flooded areas.
Underground-seekers, take heed. It’s tough to trust marketing these days.
Addendum: I thought long and hard about writing this, especially with the choice to include the names of the agencies in question. However, for purposes of transparency and delivering the most useful information to my readers possible, I’ve made it a policy on my blog to always include names of the places I’m writing about, including both places I love… and those that I think treat tourists unfairly. I don’t think vagueness serves anyone, least of all travelers trying to get a handle on a foreign city.
Finally, I’ve been following the Colosseum underground from the moment it opened. I have, for better or worse, helped create the buzz around it that there is. So I feel a little responsible for the marketing hoo-ha that’s ensued—and also feel that it’s my responsibility to expose when that marketing isn’t 100% honest. If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to contact me.