John and I just got back from spending the holiday weekend in Rome, a place I truly enjoyed but one that also really surprised me. And before I forget what I found surprising, I wanted to jot them down here! (A full trip blog to follow later!)
o be honest, I’d kind of geared myself toward the worst case scenario situations. I’d heard all about the pick pockets in Rome that were worse than anywhere else, the never-ending graffiti, the crowds, the heat in July (that one was actually true)…and on and on and on. Of course, I’d heard good things as well, but just in case – I was prepped for the worst. And maybe that’s why Rome was so surprisingly great. The truly terrible situations I dreamed up never, thankfully, materialized and Rome was officially added to the list of places I really want to go back and explore more.
In no particular order, here is what I found most surprising (good and bad):
1. The Food: Ok, so I expected every meal in Rome to be AMAZING, so imagine my surprise when we actually had terrible Italian food. Our first night, tired from traveling we took the suggestion from the hotel owner and ate at a restaurant around the corner. And it was so, so bad. My ravioli was rubbery and John’s noodles were crunchy. It actually made me a bit nervous about picking other restaurants for the remainder of our meals because I knew somewhere in Rome there had to be wonderful food and I didn’t want us to miss out on it. Of course, the food tour (more on this in another blog) we took the next night plus a wonderful pasta meal in the Trastevere neighborhood more than made up for the first night disappointment but it was a bit surprising to start the trip off with terrible food.
2. The Transportation: John and I are big fans of taking Metros when possible, but I had been warned that the Metro in Rome is extremely limited. That is absolutely, positively true. We used the Metro only twice and that was to get back and forth to the Colosseum; the rest of the time we relied on busses and taxis because the Metro really wasn’t convenient. The buses worked well – but there was absolutely no way to tell when the bus was going to come. You just had to cross your fingers every time a bus turned the corner and you felt like you won the lottery if the one you needed actually arrived! Rome is not nearly as walkable as I expected (especially in the hot July sun), so we used the Public Transportation a lot and still managed to walk more than 8 miles each of the two full days we were there – so when the busses weren’t around and the Metro wasn’t handy, it was so refreshing that not only were there taxis around, the drivers were honest! They took the most direct routes, and got there fast. Not only that, one of the days we took a taxi – he tried to drop us off too soon, and when we got to the right place he rounded the price down so we didn’t pay what the meter said. A very nice surprise.
3. The Lack of Graffiti: I was told to expect graffiti EVERYWHERE, so I was bracing myself for layers and layers of graffiti…and then, minimal tagging. (Of course, when I mentioned this to John he started pointing out all graffiti – I still maintain it isn’t as bad as other European cities!) The nice part is that you could see where the buildings had been cleaned so they were at least trying to cut down on it and if there was graffiti it was usually on the gates when stores were closed, so you couldn’t see it during the day.
4. The Closures: I can barely even type this without feelings of major disappointment. The Trevi Fountain was closed. And I mean, closed! Not only scaffolding, but big barriers preventing you from even getting down the steps. Who closes one of the biggest attractions during high tourist season?!? WHY would you do that? The fountain in front of the Spanish Steps was also closed off. So sad. Although, I’m taking the fact that I couldn’t throw the penny into the Trevi Fountain as a sign I will return to Rome so that I can then throw the penny in! 🙂
5. The Crowds: This was actually a very pleasant surprise. I was bracing myself as we prepared to visit the Sistine Chapel and the Colosseum. I had flashbacks to last July in Paris and being so completely overwhelmed by the massive pushy crowds at the Louvre and throughout Versailles that I was quite nervous. My nervousness was exponentially heightened by the line to get in to the Vatican Museums (I still don’t understand why people don’t buy their tickets in advance for these places! We walked right in!!) but thankfully, it was truly not bad at all. We took the shortened route to see the Sistine Chapel, and although it was crowded in the chapel – there was no pushing or shoving (probably because everyone was looking up!) It was actually pleasant and I really felt like I got to enjoy it rather than rush through it to get away from everyone!
Rome itself was beautiful and I really, really am looking forward to a return visit and maybe even more surprises!