Rome, Italy – Oct 3rd to 8th 2013
Initial Thoughts: After two weeks of quiet Croatian towns and coasts, being in the busy, diverse, glorious city of Rome was exactly what I needed. On my first day I wanted nothing more than to drink in the sights by walking the streets. Over the course of the day, I walked over 13 km and saw, at least from the outside, the most famous landmarks including the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, Il Vittoriano, the Roman Forum, Campo De’Fiori market, Piazza Navona, the Tiber River, the Pantheon, Piazza del Campidoglio and of course the Colosseum. Along the way, I stopped for wine in the busy piazzas and I followed my nose down side streets searching for restaurants exuding tantalizing aromas. Unfortunately, after a couple days of heavenly wandering, I felt compelled to visit the most well-known sites namely the Roman Forum, the Colosseum and the Vatican. And while I wouldn’t have wanted to leave Rome without trying to see those important historical sites, I found the crowds and the attitude of many of the other visitors to be more than I could handle. After 5 days in Rome, I had forgotten my love of the back alleys and the alternative neighbourhood and simply wanted to get the hell away from a city filled with tourists.
Best Moment: Over and over again I’d heard that I should arrive early to avoid the crowds at Rome’s major landmarks. I’ve never been a morning person, but after seeing the hordes at the Spanish Steps (which frankly aren’t even interesting), I knew I needed to get to the Roman Forum early. Thanks to the early start, a lovely, rain-free day and a ridiculously informative audio guide, I had a fantastic time exploring the ruins of the Forum and Palatine Hill. I was awe-struck by the layer upon layer of ancient history, by the fact that there are even ruins left and by the fact that we know anything at all about men who lived over 2000 years ago. It was humbling, inspiring and incredibly cool! I have even been motivated to sign up for an online course on Ancient History (once I have a computer again) as I was sorry I didn’t know more about the politics, the architecture and the society of such an interesting time.
Take Away: As much as I loved Rome, my experience wasn’t entirely enjoyable. As I’ve discovered over the years, tourist sites stress me out. It isn’t the landmarks themselves that I want to avoid, it’s the brainless crowds, the non-stop selfies, the masses of men hawking cheaply made souvenirs, the overpriced everything. It is the mindless passing-through that most tourists seem . I don’t want to sound cruel or elitist, I just know that I personally don’t want to travel in that way. I’ve learned that certain places I may need to avoid altogether, at other places I might choose to take a small, guided tour and pay for a more in-depth experience, and at others I might just have to accept that this the reality of tourism and breath deeply.