For our trip to Rome, we bought from Borders Bookstore the Frommer’s Rome day by day guide. Here’s our after party review on the guide, which also serves as our very own advise guide to the city.
First of all, if you can spend a few bucks more in a different guide, do it. This particular day by day guide is not that good.
The guide is arranged in several parts which confuse the reader. For example, they start telling you what to do if you only have 24, 48 or 72 hours to see the city, and then they revisit most places of interest in special interest tours and then they revisit them again in the best of the outdoors and maybe even some pages dedicated to one or two places of interest.
Therefore, if you want to know about the specific historical background for a place of interest you have to browse two or three separate pages of the guide, after checking in the index the pages where they write about that place. This is time-consuming and uncomfortable, especially if you’re in the middle of a roman Piazza packed with tourists and pickpockets.
From most point of views, services and facilities in Rome are way below the expected level of service from other major European cities such as Madrid, Barcelona, Paris and Berlin, not to mention swiss cities and even some cities in Italy.
For our purposes, that means public transportation pretty much sucks. The guide provides you with incomplete and outdated references to bus lines which stop near the places of interest.
Problem is, references are like: Catacombs of St. Callisto, take Bus 118 from Metro Circo Massimo to St. Callisto. So you go to Circo Massimo and hop into 118, and then… you don’t know where to hop off. Even if you count how many stops there are between where you are and the desired stop, the bus won’t stop in all of them, and fermatas aren’t that clearly marked.
Some (actually one of the 10+ we used) bus lines have Linux-based info systems indicating the next stop. Your best bet is to ask a local, since asking the driver is usually a matter of luck, since it’s prohibited to speak with the driver, and they’ll let you know even if they drive while smoking, using the cellphone or even reading a newspaper.
Maps are another issue with this guide. Not all of the narrow streets in Rome are depicted in the maps, not even if they’re part of the official routes of the city to a place of interest. Also, the maps are incorrect in some places, they fail to depict squares or rotondas which would otherwise be useful to know where you are, for example when you’re in the bus and you don’t know your stop.
Map scales are irregular and they play a huge role when you start walking from Colosseo to Ponte San Angelo believing it’s a matter of 2 or 3 blocks.
The guide recommends caffes, pizzerias, trattorias and gelaterias which you’d expect are of superb quality and reasonable price. Truth is you can find better places without much effort. For example, we had coffee in a small local coffee shop in Barberini for EUR 1.50 and it was delicious, especially when compared to EUR 5+ treats.
Special mention to the Frommer-recommended gelateria Giolitti, which was neither packed with tourists and definitely didn’t serve the best gelato in the city. Actually, we’ve had gelato in Quito, Ecuador of better quality than this, not to mention gelateria italiana 4D in Caracas. But we also had gelato in a gelateria near the famous Pizza Baffetto in the Via del Goveo Vecchio and it beats Giolitti anytime.
Finally, on the bright side, the guide actually reflects what you must see in 1, 2 or 3 days. We spent 5 days in Rome and we didn’t visit much places not cited by the guide. The historical reviews, in 5 to 10 lines for each place of interest, are also of great value.