Rome – like most Old World cities – is notoriously difficult to navigate because of its many intertwined layers of urban design, stretching back from antiquity to today. This is part charm, part treachery, for while it is certainly a thrill to wander in a place so beautiful and rich in history, it is also common to find distraught travelers bickering in the heat over wrinkled maps.
In fact, the centro storico is not so sprawling or unpatterned as it first appears. I found this hop-on hop-off double decker bus tour to be an excellent orientation guide to the city, providing a pleasurable overview of key sites, with an insightful audio commentary and fresh breeze to boot.
It tackles oppressive stretches like Via Nazionale in minutes, delivering us from Stazione Termini to the more central Piazza Venezia, where it stops by the foot of the Capitoline. Highlights include a circling of the ancient "Horse Tamers" and their obelisk at the lofty Quirinal Hill; the Coliseum; the Circus Maximus and its view of the Palatine, difficult to reach comfortably by foot, and St. Peter's Basilica.
Many streets – designed as they were for pedestrians and horses – are too narrow for a double decker bus; it cannot pass directly by the Pantheon or the Spanish Steps or the Trevi Fountain, but it does stop near these essential sites (which are always an easy walking-distance away).
It is a very popular tour and the top deck is often filled to capacity; however, there is usually a quick turn-around as each stop presents us with still more impressive sites to charm us out of the bus.
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