Traveling through the Movies – The Talented Mr. Ripley (Italy)

index Let’s go back to Italy with Jude Law, Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow in the movie The Talented Mr. Ripley. It’s the story of Tom Ripley, the classic hanger-on, who is hired by the father of a rich young man to go to Italy and talk him into returning to the United States and the family business. Father and Son are estranged and the son, Dickie Greenleaf, played by Jude Law, does not speak to his father. Tom sees this opportunity to belong, to be part of the in crowd and latches on to Dickie and his girlfriend, Marge (Gwynneth Paltrow) after pretending he was an old college friend of Dickie’s though Dickie doesn’t remember him. He accepts him anyway because it suits him at the time but Marge is uncomfortable with this clingy intruder. Tom soon tries to take over Dickie’s life, manipulating and covering his tracks. Matt Damon plays the creepy Tom with hair raising accuracy.


Bagno Antonio, Ischia, Italy
The Talented Mr. Ripley

The action starts in a little village in Sicily called Mongibello. The real life island of Ischia and a nearby smaller island are the locations used for this part of the movie. The villa, the beaches the water are all drenched in Mediterranean sunshine. Later the action moves to Rome and there are great location shots of the squares, narrow streets and sometimes more famous sights like the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona or a glimpse of the dome of St. Peter’s.  Tom soon finds things closing in on him and he runs off to Venice. There we get views of the Grand Canal, Piazza San Marco and the faded but elegant palazzos.


Philip Seymour Hoffman in Piazza Navona, Rome.
The Talented Mr. Ripley

This is another of my favourite films, one I haven’t seen in awhile so I was delighted to catch the last half of it recently on television  (even thought I do own the DVD). I like the cast and the story and the locations are very alluring. I’ve not been to Sicily or to any similar small rural coastal villages in Italy but they make it look so inviting in this film! The views of Rome are, of course, familiar due to my most recent trip and I have been to Venice in the past.

There are more photos and descriptions of all the locations here.

Traveling through the movies – Roman Holiday


Inside the Colosseum

Here’s a classic movie filmed in Rome. The great thing about Rome is that not much changes in the historic city centre. You can see the same things today as you could in the 1950s when this movie was made!

The story is about a princess played by Audrey Hepburn who comes to Rome for a reception. She is bored by all the hand shaking and ceremony and slips out one evening. Gregory Peck plays a journalist and he spots her but doesn’t recognize her at first. She gets drunk and he takes her home and puts her to bed in his flat. The next morning he’s discovered who she is and realizes he’s got a story on his hands.

He takes her around Rome for a “Grand Day Out” and we have loads of views of Rome, both the famous monuments and the streets and bridges as they zip around the city on a moped.


The Mouth of Truth, “La Bocca della Verità” in Santa Maria Cosmedin

The movie was filmed in 1953 in black and white by director William Wyler and was Audrey Hepburn’s breakout movie. Gregory Peck was so impressed by her that he allowed her to have top billing, a very generous gesture in the actor pecking order of things. She charmed the world and shot to stardom.

It’s one of my all time favourite movies, and is a wonderful “visit” to Rome. Rome is still as interesting a city to visit as it would have been then. Other good films set in Rome include Woody Allen’s latest, To Rome with Love, La Dolce Vita (another classic), The Talented Mr. Ripley, Angels and Demons,  and Only You (which I’ve mentioned before).


Audrey enjoying gelato and the sunshine on the Spanish Steps


Bernini’s Leaky Boat fountain (“Fontana della Barcaccia “) at the foot of the Spanish Steps.

A Word a Week Challenge – Dance

This week’s Word a Week challenge is “Dance”. Most of the photos I have of dance were taken here at home. One of the videos below was taken at a First Nations gathering on our Halifax Common, and they had dancing and drumming, some amazing traditional costumes and music. Even the smaller kids could dance and all generations participated.

My only nod to travel was a video I took while we spent some time in Piazza Navona in Rome just as the dusk was settling in. There are buskers and artists all over the square and after a delicious gelato, we were making our way out to the street when we heard music and spotted the couple dancing. So atmospheric!


Dancin’ the blues away

Traveling via the movies – Only You

Movies – Another type of blog post I thought I might write from time to time.  I really enjoy watching movies filmed in places where I’ve been though sometimes it’s a bit disconcerting. Sometimes one city is used to represent another. Toronto and Vancouver are two of these and it’s weird when you’re supposed to be watching action taking place in New York City and you see the very distintive Vancouver Central Library in the background.

That’s not really what this post is about. The kind of movies I mean are the ones that are filmed in great locations that make you want to go visit there. It’s an added bonus if you’ve been there already, of course.  I tend to prefer movies that take place in one city or region rather than the world-wide locations found in a movie like, for instance, many of the James Bond adventure. You don’t really get a good feel for a place in those which only have a few scenes before scooting off to the next city or country.

One of my favourites of this type is Only You, released in 1994 and starring Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr. It’s a Romantic Comedy and fairly predictable as are they all but I really like it. I always liked RDJ and Marissa Tomei as well.

The premise of the movie involves a woman, Faith, who, when she was a little girl, always believed in soul mates and was told by a Ouija Board and later by a fortune teller, the name of her future husband, Damon Bradley. She believes in Destiny on the whole but never meets him and gets engaged to a less than soul-mate-ish man but just before her wedding, she takes a phone call from someone who says he’s a former classmate of her fiance and his name is Damon Bradley. It’s Fate! It’s Destiny! Faith takes it on, er, faith, that this is meant to be and goes on a wild goose chase all over Italy to find Mr. Bradley, dragging her sister-in-law with her.  Does she find Damon Bradley? Does she marry the boring podiatrist  or does she find that through her quest to find the man she thinks is her soul mate, she will meet her true soul mate? (oh, come on, you should already know the answer to all of these questions!)

Positano, on the Amalfi coast of Italy, One of the locations in Only You

Positano, on the Amalfi coast of Italy, One of the locations in Only You

The locations you see are Venice, Rome, Positano, Sienna and a few more. It’s a wonderful tour around Italy. At the time the movie was released, I had only been to Rome briefly. Two years later I went on a bus tour around Italy and saw many of the places in the film. Now that I’ve recently been to Rome again, I’m going to have to find the movie and watch it again! And if that movie doesn’t make you want to visit Italy, here’s a few more that might:

Summertime, with Katherine Hepburn. This takes place in Venice.

Wings of a Dove with Helena Bonham Carter, which also takes place partly in Venice

Letters to Juliet with Amanda Sefried which takes place in  Verona and Tuscany

Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn filmed in Rome

Those are ones that I’ve enjoyed but there are many, many more.

WordPress Daily Prompt: Time Capsule

Gelato in Rome

Gelato in Rome

The idea of WordPress’s daily prompt is to get people to blog more. I don’t really need that incentive, but sometimes it’s fun to follow the meme anyway. Today’s is asking what you would put in your 2012 time capsule. Because this blog is travel-oriented, I’ll have to make it relate to my travels this year!

That would include:

Trip to Quebec City in May:

French dictionary
Toy train: We took the overnight train
Heating pad: Because I had back trouble through most of the trip!

Memories of Rome:
Italian dictionary
A skull: To remember our visit to the Capuchin monk ossuary in Rome
Poster of the Sistine Chapel ceiling

Memories of England:
Eccles cakes (made for and served to us on our visit to friends in Sunderland)
A broken camera (Aggh!)
A copy of Clockwork Orange (an exhibit in the John Rylands Library commemorating it’s 50th anniversary of publication)

Of course, there’s many more memories and probably one or two other things that I would put in the capsule but we’ll leave it at that :)

Rome Day 5

Part of the ceiling of the Sistine ChapelWe slept in this morning and didn’t get moving until mid-morning. We basically hung around here until about 11 or 11;30 and then walked to a Metro to take it to the stop by the Vatican where we are later to meet the tour group for the Vatican Museums. We had lunch in a little cafe. I enjoyed my lasagna but the paninis  G had weren’t that appealing to him because he found the bread dry and crumbly. We also notice that they don’t put butter or dressing on the sandwiches by default.

We were early for the tour meeting spot in Piazza di Risorgimento and decided to have gelato and sit in the sunny square. The gelato was beautifully creamy and the sun was warm. The square is just outside the walls of the Vatican City which is a state/country of it’s own. If we had been visiting anywhere in it beside the museums and basilica, we would have to go through passport control. I believe the official name of the country is the  State of the Vatican City.

We were to meet our group and guide in front of a store on the square and made sure we were there 15 minutes early. It was a group of about two dozen maybe and we ended up being split into two, our group was guided by Sussana and the tour was given in Spanish and English. We had another of those radio thingys with a single earbud which worked better than the phone style receivers we used at the Colosseum.

We walked down the block and into the entrance halls where Sussana had the tickets printed. There were marble stairs up a floor and from there we went out into a courtyard, the courtyard of the acorn and yes, there’s a large sculpture of an acorn on one side. (The bronze acorn used to be near the Pantheon, they think and think it was moved here to the courtyard in the early 1600s) In the middle is a large brass ball/sphere sculpted by Arnaldo Pomodoro in 1990. Along one side are a series of panels for the guides mainly. We stood there for about a half hour while she explained the highlights of the Sistine Chapel because you can’t talk inside there. She explained some of the more important panels along the sides including one or two by Boticelli, and some by (Perugino) one of which is very important as he was the first to use perspective in a painting.

She then talked about Michelangelo and the history and story behind his painting the chapel ceiling  and the Last Judgement many years later when he was old, cranky and disillusioned. It’s interesting to find out the way the frescos are created (wet plaster, outline from a “cartoon” etched into holes, then filled in with paint). Michelangelo did the first three panels of the ceiling with one format, various scenes from the story of Noah and the Ark but then realized that from the floor, the figures in the panels looked too small so he did the rest of them with fewer people in the scenes and larger so they would be seen better from below. The last few panels were done without the cartoon outline, just straight painting onto the plaster.  The ceiling panels are all Old Testament stories, no references to the Christian era at all.

Before we get to the chapel, though, we have to walk quite a long way, through several large galleries, the Candelabra, the maps, the tapestries. A couple of them also have little gift shops along the side, naturally, and there are also cases and statues and sculptures dotted along as well. The maps are a bit less interesting we felt.  We also ducked into one room that had high, high ceilings and was completely covered in painted scenes. It was very impressive. We weren’t able to go into the Rafael rooms though. I guess it’s just not part of the tours which are mainly to get you through to the Sistine and out again. There are 17 km of galleries and museums and I’m sure it would do you in trying to see it all in one day.

Finally we come to the main event. The Sistine Chapel was built in the end of the 15th century for Pope Sixtus (thus, “Sistine”). While it is famous now for being the location that the Enclave of cardinals goes to elect new Popes, it wasn’t always used for that. Sometimes, yes, but often it was in any location where the Pope happened to be when he died. In the last hundred or so years, though, it’s always done here.

By now it’s 4:30 and the light outside is fading into night. The windows in the chapel are blocked and only ambient diffused light shows inside. This saves the paint from deterioration. You see, for the first 500 years, this was used regularly as a church and all those centuries of smoke, candlelight, incense, oil lamps and people had coated the painting with soot and dirt. A Japanese company paid millions in the 1980s to have the artwork cleaned and it took something like 16 years. When I was here before in 1996 they had just opened to the public again.

The chapel is dim inside, partly because of the lateness in the day and partly because it’s not directly lit from outside anyway. We had 20 minutes to look around and up. You are not supposed to take photos even without a flash. That always annoys me because if there’s no light, there should be no damage caused. You can take pictures elsewhere in the museums without a flash and there are very valuable paintings there too. Anyway, even though I shouldn’t have, I still managed to sneak some stealth photos and they mostly came out pretty good with a little brightness and contrast adjustment.

Our feet, legs and back were really taking a punishing through all this and we still had to walk all the way back up to the entrance/exit. Apparently not one of the tours that get guided right into St. Peter’s Basilica through a back corridor like I thought I’d booked. We did get to walk down the double spiral ramp/staircase though, which was neat. After that we had to walk all the way around  to the Basilica, go through a security xray check and by this time I was a wreck. I told Graham to go on ahead since I’d seen it and he hadn’t and I’d catch up. By the time I dragged myself to the stairs to go in, he was already at the top. A guard noticed me and I must have looked pretty bedraggled because he offered me the chance to use a lift. The problem with that was that I didn’t know where I would be inside and Graham wouldn’t find me so I struggled up the stairs which were mercifully not steep.

The Basilica closes at 6 and we only had about 15 minutes by this time. We made sure to see the Pieta, my favourite ever. She’s right by the entrance. We walked a bit through it, didn’t go all the way to the Berninni bronze canopy but could see it. The ceilings are so very high and the decoration is all very lavish, between the painting, the frescos, the mosaics and statues. It’s the largest Christian church in the world and there are markings on the floor from the entrance showing you where the edges of some of the other large cathedrals and basilicas would reach, including St. Paul’s London and the Duomo in Florence. I forgot to look for the markings to show Graham. He’s not religious at all and though it’s quite a sight to see, thought it was an awful lot of expense and effort to go to to build something dedicated to something that doesn’t exist!

We left the building just before the six o’clock bells rang and saw a changing of the Swiss Guard in their colourful uniforms. When I say “changing of the guard” don’t expect an elaborate ceremony like you might see in London. It’s just 3 of them changing their posts with a bit of marching and such. We were there at the right time to see it though and got some pictures.

Right. I wasn’t even sure I could feel my feet except for the pain radiating from them. There was no way I was walking to see if we could find a bus stop now. Taxi time again. We saw a stand at the back of the huge St. Peter’s Square. One taxi drove up and we tried to get in but a group of people pushed past us insisting they were waiting first. Fine. Another one came and a woman grabbed that out from under us too. When I third one came, I was ready to fight for it. We didn’t have to and got in. The group of people that nabbed the first cab were still milling around looking confused and glaring in our direction. I don’t know if there were too many of them or they had too much luggage or what their problem was but I didn’t much care either. We were in the cab and we weren’t getting back out.

We decided to go back to the restaurant down the road where we had that delicious steak after a rest of about an hour. I hobbled down and we got seated. Right in front of a family with small children. Now, the children were fairly well behaved but kids have this high pitched voice when excited that goes right through you when you’re not used to it. Mercifully they left when we were about half way through our meal. Their parents, to their credit, did quiet them when they got too loud. I enjoyed my meal just as much though Graham still thought the steak the other night was not to be bested. He did enjoy his meal very much. I made sure I had room for dessert this time and it was a little torte of ricotta and pears with a powdery top, presented on a plate with chocolate drizzles and a bit of whipped cream on the side. Heaven!

We returned to the hotel and caught up on computery things before bed when we finally collapsed. I think my feet and ankles were still throbbing. I did manage to roll my aching feet on a glass bottle of juice from the mini bar (yes, I wiped it down after!) which helped a little.

Thus ends our week in Rome. We had spectacular weather and though we tired ourselves out every day with all the walking, we enjoyed seeing all the famous sights of the Eternal City.

Rome Day 3

Inside the Colosseum on a brilliant November day

I don’t know about footloose but we certainly are foot sore! We “did” the Colosseum today and as always, seemed to involve ourselves in more walking than necessary. I don’t know what it is but we either get off a bus at the wrong spot or have to walk extra to find our destination or a bus stop or something. And when i get tired and sore, I get cranky. It soon goes away once I rest up.

This morning after breakfast we headed to the next street to find the bus stop. It had a stop for every number except the one we wanted, naturally though we saw the bus we wanted go by a few times. We decided to walk up the road. Surely we’d come across the stop eventually. “Eventually” was the accurate word. Well, it probably wasn’t that far in the grand scheme of things but it was farther than we thought we’d have to go. Once on the very crowded bus, our noses practically pressed up against the front door, we spotted the stop at the area where we started. For some reason, neither of us saw it though we were right beside it. Lesson learned.

Next, we knew the bus was heading to Piazza Venezia which was a bit of a walk to the Coloseum so I thought we should get off at the stop before. Which turned into just as much walking. We went down a flight of stairs and around near the Trajan Markets and ruins. That was good to see that at least. The column of Trajan has a relief spiralling up to the top with illustrations carved into it of all Trajan’s victories. The markets were just that, shops but they were multi levels of shops, very modern!

It was still a bit of a walk to the Colosseum from there. Our original plan was to see the Gladiator school/barracks behind it before going in but we decided we shouldn’t take the time and with all the walking involved, it’s just as well. We buzzed through the reservation line and got our tickets printed and had a 15 or 20 minute wait for the guide. The tour we took included the hypogeum (basement level) and up to the third level and included the main and second level which anyone can go to. The basement and third level have only been open a short time. The guide was quite good and we all had little radio type devices to hear her speaking though often I didn’t use it, just stood closer to her to hear.

I managed to get up the steps from the basement and barely managed the steeper stairs up to the second level. I didn’t think i’d get up the next one so I stayed put and Graham went up and took pics from there. The tour ended after that. We were both tired and thirsty and exited the structure and tried to decide where to go next. We walked around away from the direction we’d come from and there were a string of restuarants and cafes there. We knew it would be pricey and we shouldn’t have gone into the first one but we did. We ordered burgers and fries but if that patty came from a cow, then the cow had feathers and clucked. The waiter said he’d ordered the one we wanted but I don’t think the cook got the message. It was ok but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t beef. I drank lots of water as well as a Coke Zero to rehydrate and we headed out again.

Now, did we have the energy to go tramping around the Forum? According to the Rick Steves podcast and map we could get in where the exit was but no. That’s wrong. And after trudging up and back down there, even though one sign pointed us to the right for an entrance, that also seemed to indicate we’d have to climb up the Palatine Hill before getting to the Forum ruins and I didn’t want to do that. I was pretty sure there was another entrance around the corner the other way and there was. But it was blocked off. I was getting cranky now and tired. We were both done in and since we couldn’t find any other entrances and I was damned if i was going to walk all that way back around,frig it. We thought we’d just go back to the hotel for a rest.

Finding a bus stop was another problem. We walked into Piazza Venezia in front of the big white “wedding cake” building and couldn’t see where the busses might stop and the one we wanted seemed to be coming from around a corner. Expecting we’d have to walk another long way, I gave up and we headed to the taxi stand which was the end of the queue not a separate taxi stand from the one that seemed to be right on the square. That meant another walk around what felt like a distance equal to the circumference of the Colosseum to get to the front of the taxis when we could have got to it straight out with half the walking had we gone in that direction. Typical.

Into the cab and a fairly short ride back unlike yesterday’s marathon in traffic. But before hitting the room, I really wanted a beer so we went into the hotel bar and had a Peroni, a well known Italian beer which was cold and tasty and hit every spot there was!

Now our feet are up and we’re kicking back for a few hours before going out again for something to eat later. Our meal last night at a restaurant just down the street was most excellent. We’d had steaks that were some of the best I’ve ever had. The “primo” course of soup was served in something the size of a mixing bowl and it was really good but far too much of it. I should have figured, because it wasn’t on the “antipasti” or appetizer menu,

Menus here have an appetizer section but then a first course, quite often pasta or you can have a big salad, then the main course, or Secundo, which is the meat or fish. That doesn’t seem to come with much in the way of extras, vegetables are usually add-on side dishes it seems. Dessert is the last course. Now I don’t know about your appetite, but I very much doubt I can get through an appetizer, a plate of pasta and then a steak with a side of roasted potatoes and dessert. Indeed, just having half of that huge bowl of soup and the steak and potatoes did me in. I didn’t finish the soup because I knew i[d need the room. The steak was really good and so were the roasties but I couldn’t finish that either. We rolled home to the hotel after but it was quite a nice. meal just the same. We’ll try one of the other neighbourhood restaurants tonight.

Rome – Day 2

Piazza navona

Piazza Navona, Rome

Day 2 in Rome and the sun is out. This is epic. We never get the sun, or hardly. It’s supposed to be out tomorrow, too. I know a lot of people think open top bus tours are a bit of a rip off, but we do like them in a new city if possible so that’s what we did today. We walked to Piazza Barberini where we got on the bus and took it round it’s route to the stop before the one where we got on. We never did end up getting back on again but no matter..

The tour had recorded commentary that could have been louder but I suppose the traffic and open air doesn’t help matters. We got stuck at a bridge across the Tiber where either the bus was involved in an accident or we were stuck behind one, i never did find out for sure. A police officer came round and had a whistle to blow so we knew things were getting sorted and shortly thereafter we were on our way again.

When we did get off the bus, we made our way to the Trevi Fountain. I’d dunked a coin in it in 1977, returned in 1996 for another go and here I am again in 2012. I guess it works but it wasn’t a speedy return to Rome for me! My parter decided against it as he reckoned there are just too many places we’ve not been to yet to return to places we’ve seen already. Plus there are a couple of cities we do want to revisit if we return anywhere (Copenhagen and Paris).

We had a coffee stop, a bit of a browse for souvenirs, then lunch in a nice wine bar. We found the Pantheon and went in there. I always loved it, even filled with people. The only thing I find jarring is the loud recorded announcements telling people to be quiet and respect the church. The announcements are more jarring than people talking!

Piazza Navona is another busy spot, lined with cafes on three sides and filled with artists sellng works in the middle of it, around the fountains. We looked around there and enjoyed our first gelatos. We decided we might come back to the hotel for a rest before heading back out for a meal later. We know not to go out too early this time! We plan to try one of the restaurants down the road from the hotel which had a good mention in a review for the hotel.

Rome – Day 1

Fontanna delle Barcaccia (Leaky Boat fountain)
Piazza dei Spagna at the foot of the Spanish Steps

I say “Day 1” but it was only a few hours really.

We’ve arrived in Rome, after a stupid o-clock 5 am alarm, an early-is flight with a transfer on to Rome from Gatwick. Much more civilized than Heathrow even if there’s just as much walking involved. We landed about 2:30 and made it to the hotel after 4 p.m.

Bad thing: I was assigned the middle seat on both flights but … Good thing: The man on the aisle seat was moved somewhere else so he and his wife could sit together. At least that 2.5 hour flight was a bit more comfortable even if the chicken caesar wrap tasted so disgusting i only ate part of one half of it.

We got to Rome and managed to get train tickets into the city even though I’m still pretty sure we were ripped off. I know i saw signs for a regional train that stopped a few times before the Termini in Rome for 8 euro instead of 14 euro (16 with fees) for the express train but the guy in the ticket booth said that train stops everywhere except the Termini and the machines were not giving the option either so we were stuck with the more expensive ticket. Oh well, we got there in about 35 minutes and took a cab to the hotel which is quite nice.

I won’t get into details about that now but it’s comfy, has a prety good sized room and the wifi works well! What more can you ask for?

We got settled in and then went out for a walk and hoped to find food. As it was about 5 o’clock, we stopped into a couple of places that looked like they were open but were not serving food yet. We were told it was a bit early. I knew that a lot of places closed down from mid afternoon until a bit later but i thought the restaurants might have just opened up by then.Normally we wouldn’t be ready to eat that early anyway but we really had only grazed a bit through the day with airline food that was very uneven as far as taste and quality goes. In the end we found a place that could heat up sandwiches, burgers and pasta. It was ok. It filled the spot. We can do better.

We walked down by the Spanish Steps but didn’t go down to the bottom. As a result, Graham was distinctly unimpressed. I assured him it looked nicer from the bottom though really, to be fair, it isn’t one of the Wow sights in Rome, just another of the well known ones. We didn’t feel like going to the bottom and then making our way back up because we were fading. We took a taxi back up to the hotel. That’s two drivers that never heard of the hotel but at least knew where the street was so that’s ok.

We relaxed here in the room for a bit and then had a couple of glasses of vino rosso in the bar of the hotel. Not a great bar. A small bar and a few soft chairs and low tables. Nothing on the walls except a few light sconces and some long twigs out of a vase in the corner. But never mind. It was a nice hour to chill out and plan the rest of our week.

Countdown – Four sleeps

The Colosseum, Rome

It’s really three sleeps until I leave but four until I get there after an overnight flight. I do love to travel. I just hate getting there. Flying is not all that comfortable for me and I can’t usually sleep sitting up. I may doze a bit but I get into that zone where I could be asleep but I can still hear everything that’s going on. Or it seems like it. I avoid caffeine and alcohol on the flight over and try to drink water or juice. It doesn’t really help much. I won’t take a sleeping pill. I just suffer the sleep deprivation the next day.

I’ve got my laundry done and most things packed. It’ll be the dregs of the wardrobe the rest of this week for me. Phone’s charged, but I’ll give it another shot of juice because it’s old and doesn’t really hold a charge too long anymore. That’s on the list to purchase. I’ll pick up a cheap phone when I’m over there, I think. Just last minute stuff to put in the carry on.

Got tickets booked and printed from for the Colosseum and the Vatican. The Colosseum now offers tours that will take you into the lower levels and upper level of the walls. Down where they kept the animals, slaves and props and up for a great view over the city. You can only do that with a tour and I think it’s worth it! Vatican museums tour takes in all the usual plus the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s.
Here’s the list I made for Rome: The “Bucket” List

Roman Forum
Trajan’s Markets
Gladiator School (near the Colosseum)
Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s
Profondo Rosso store (Near Vatican City, Owned and run by horror film director Dario Argento, apparently there’s a little horror museum there as well)

Piazza Navona
Church of Sant’Ignazio Di Loyola (painted dome)
Trevi Fountain
Spanish Steps
Santa Maria della Concezione Ossuary

Napoleon musuem
Arc Pacis
Ostia Antica
Castel St. Angelo
Boca de Verita (near Tiber)
Tiber Island

We make our lists and make the effort to do the most important things on it. After that, we may pick more from the list or we could just as easily get side tracked and do something completely different. You never know where you’ll end up.  There’s a pretty good chance we’ll do everything above the “Maybe” list since we have the tickets for some things and the things in the second section are mostly fairly close together.  We don’t want to overdo churches, but maybe Santa Maria Maggiore if we are in the area.

Rome is one of those cities that you’ll never get to see everything that interests you in one visit that only lasts 4 or 5 days. We always wear ourselves out and we always say we’ll go at a slower pace. We never do.