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When in Rome — avoid August!

September 20, 2013

Rome is the gateway city for many travelers on Mediterranean cruises, and while some cruise lines make all the hotel and connection arrangements, some do not. Smart travelers prefer to linger, such as someone from Honolulu, who is unlikely to be in Rome very often.

Last time I was in Rome I paid a king’s ransom for a trendy hotel in a very good area, but it was a small room and the concierge was not helpful.

This time I chose the well-located and moderately-priced Hotel Mediterraneo on Via Cavour, whose grand, marble entry and Art Deco design gave me a lift. So did the spacious room, and the balcony with the kind of view you would expect from the hotel being located on the Esquiline Hill, the highest of Rome’s seven hills.

The Mediterraneo has nice touches such as free slippers and a bed mat which is part of the turn-down. There is a bath and a good shower, and the mini-bar,

with modest prices and space for your own stuff, is a pleasant surprise compared to my last experience in Las Vegas.

Wifi was not great, but a new system should be in operation by now. TV reception was poor but the free breakfast excellent.

Maybe the best part was the concierge, a cheerful chappie for whom nothing was too much trouble. The hotel also had excellent maps, which are a great boon.

Getting anywhere from the Mediterraneo is easy. For starters it is close to Termini station — but not too close! As is the case anywhere in all big cities, you have to watch your wallet and bags at all times, as my experience at Nice station will show. More of that later.

All the major attractions are a few minutes away, such as the Forum, and we started with the concierge’s recommendation of a stylish, small bar overlooking the ruins. Small is not always easy in Rome, particularly when it comes to tours. It is common to sign up with companies that promise max of 30 in a group but you end up with twice that many.

My advice is to do it yourself with a guidebook, or hook up with a young Irish fellow we met, Sean Egan, who knows the city like the back of his hand. He’s at www.citylightsrome.it, +39 3274567010.

As for timing, avoid the second half of August, when like Paris, the city is on vacation and many restaurants are closed. But Caffe Greco on Condotti was open and this classic is not to be missed. Look for the poster with Buffalo Bill in Rome.

If you are flying in from another European city, try to get an airline, such as Ryanair, which flies into Ciampino airport. From here into the city is just 30 Euros in a taxi or 4 Euros on the bus. From Leonardo da Vinci airport a taxi is 48 Euros.

The port for Rome is Civitavecchia, about an hour by road. You can also go by train. Thanks to Mussolini, rail service is good but beware — when you get to Civitavecchia you will struggle to get a taxi to the port, and even if you do it may not have a permit to enter the cruise ship area.

Best way is a taxi or shared shuttle from Rome. Limos are about 120 Euros, and a taxi somewhat else. Just check the driver has a permit for port entry.

Otherwise, things to keep in mind on your Med cruise:

— when going home from Nice in France, take care at the station. For a start the forecourt is under construction, making it difficult to move bags.

The French love their ticket retrieval machines, and they do work in several languages. While I was operating one I took my hand off my suitcase for a moment. When I put it back I found — another hand!  A guy was standing beside me holding the handle of my bag, obviously about to make off with it.

A blast of my best Angle-Saxon sent him packing, but sadly there were no police around. There never are, I am told.

— regarding the high price (and slow reception) of wifi on cruise ships, just avoid it. Take your iPad or whatever ashore. I  found tourist offices at ports of call in France very helpful, directing me to cafes with wifi. Italian tourist offices are more elusive but wifi can usually be found.

www.romehotelmediterraneo.it

Image

Hotel Mediterraneo concierge

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