If you are in Rome, live in the Roman way.
A holiday journal
We arrived Saturday evening and enjoyed the view.
Day 1, Domenica
Romans are easily spotted in the crowd. Although you can say that on a sunny Sunday there are more tourists than pigeons in Rome, some Romans do go out on Sundays too.
First you can see them in the metro when you’re heading to the city center, or the Saint Peter and the Colosseum, sun burnt women with their hair dyed blond.
They are the ones that clutch the straps of their shopping bags and look scared like they can be robbed anytime. They always make sure the straps are wrapped around their hands at least three times until their fingers become white and bloodless.
The men are holding their smart phone in one hand, gesturing with their other hand whilst talking rapidly in Italian like they are constantly agitated or angry. All the other ones are either tourists or the muggers the Italians and tourists are so afraid off.
We observed them while we were heading for the city center this afternoon. Pickpocketers can be just as easily spotted as Italians themselves. They always come in pairs and stand left and right near the exit. They have their gaze on the zips of your bags, pockets, possible location of your wallet but never ever they look you in the face.
Unless they realize you give them “the stare”, then they turn around to hide their muggers face under their hoodies and they get out at the next station. Yep, another mugger prevented from stealing our money.
We got out at the station near The Colosseum and were immediately greeted by dozens of taxi hagglers and shady “North African people” selling their dodgy knick knacks. When you’re visiting The Colosseum it is absolutely necessary to have a selfie stick after all.
We went through the crowd finding a place to take a picture of The Colosseum without any tourists on it but we didn’t succeed, there were still lots of them. Fortunately there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was hot like Summer even though it was still April.
As we were informed by friends who visited Rome before we ought to leave The Colosseum with our hands on our wallets and walk at least four miles until there were only dark shady holes called Cafetaria. We should then sit at a sticky plastic table with plastic menu cards and have grilled Panini with Crudo and Formaggio which is basically a Tosti. And so we did. As the Romans did.
Day 2, Lunedì
Yesterday we were advised by a very friendly lady in the metro we should leave our wallets at home and put our money in a folded envelope and keep it in a place even the muggers wouldn’t dare to reach for it. At least, thats what I gathered from her broken English mixed with again rapid Italian. She was ever so friendly and told us to follow her to Termini but we were all afraid we get robbed at gunpoint in a dark alley. Still, good judgement of character won from utter fear and we went along with it.
In the morning the children decided that we could not have a lay in and we should get dressed for breakfast asap. Italian bread is like chewing on the bark of those Pine Trees, I think I had a shredded gum sandwich this morning as I have none left. How do they cope with it is beyond me and my gums.
This afternoon we went to Rome again to visit the Saint Peter Basilisk because we wanted to take pictures of its beautiful interor. But when we arrived there was a row of people about three miles long as if they knew miracles would be free on Monday.
So we decided to visit the Saint Peter Basilisk on Tuesday and head for the Pantheon instead. But first we did what all Romans do: eat pasta or Antipasta. With Birra or Vino. We went through a narrow alleyway to the second circle of streets where all Italians go out for lunch or dinner.
When you go to Rome and don’t know this you have less food and pay at least twice what we paid for ours. I ordered Ravioli because I overheard an Italian senior citizen at the next table saying to the waiter that the Ravioli was just like his mother used to make when he was a child. Well, at least I think he said that. The waiter asked if I wanted a large Birra and I did. However, the expected pint turned out to be a liter size jug I could’ve used to keep fish in. But the Ravioli was indeed delicious and the beer was cold. I was a bit flushed however when we left.
There was a row at the Pantheon as well but it went a lot faster. A lot of native Italians asked the guards if they could skip the line but they were sent back to the end to wait in line with the tourists. If any of you readers know colloquial Italian for “Serves you right!” You should tell me so I can use that information for next time. It was again a hot day and we noticed the Italians were all wearing a coat or sweater even in the hot sun. Why? I have no idea.
After visiting the Pantheon we walked for another three miles and then we went into a COOP supermarket to buy groceries. Because that’s what all Romans do apparently. And so did we.
Day 3, Martedì
Today it actually happened, we did two attractions in one day!
First we went inside The Colosseum. This is exactly like at the airport except you don’t have to take your shoes off. The body scan went flawless and they let me keep my pocket knife, “in case you eat apple signor.” They said when they handed it back to me. The Colosseum is basically a structure of old, older and oldest of Roman architecture with a modern lift. At several levels people are walking in circles occasionally stopping to let other people take a happy selfie with in the background the structures in the center where the Christians were once fed to the lions. Because that’s what the Romans did. Just kidding, that comes at the end.
After several rounds walking at two levels we then left to eat a pizza. Again. This time we discovered a tiny pizzeria with very cheerful staff who taught us the difference between singular and plural in Italian. Pizza, Pizze. Uomo, Uome. Signora, Eh Signoras, Buon appetito.
We walked back to the city centre and asked a Carabinieri to tell us where the entrance to the Forum Romanum was as we needed to squeeze in a second attraction for the day. As bad as the roads in Italy are, is the pavement of the Forum Romanum. And I needed to pee but there is no toilet in the Forum Romanum. It was again a very hot day so I prayed the contents of my bladder would leave my body through my skin as sweat but it didn’t. We decided to go look for a toilet outside the Forum Romanum but without success.
So we headed home in the metro because we knew there was a toilet at the Stazione Piramide and thank God I found it in time. Italian youth has no respect for the metro or modern buildings and they have covered every inch of both meticulously with graffiti paint. The metro is an LHD system so it wasn’t strange at all for me to know which direction to look for it. All the others looked into the opposite direction.
Italians who are less able bodied know how to get a seat in public transport, they look at the nearest youngster occupying a seat and say “Scuze“. And as I am the one with the walking stick I assumed I could do exactly that. And it works! As little respect these teenagers seem to have graffiti wise, they offer their seats up to anyone older than 80 or people with walking sticks. And most of the time you don’t even have to say Scuze! Isn’t that nice?!
Today was Liberation Day in Italy however and it didn’t work on the bus back to the camp site. As there was only one bus each hour there must have been at least a hundred people squeezed in the one we took, and it didn’t matter if you were Italian our tourist, everybody was treated equally. I was very fortunate Christa gave up her seat for me. And so this day has now come to an end and I am knackered. As are all the Romans. I think.
Day 4, Mercoledì
The Italians have a very interesting way to deal with the extreme congestion of their public transport. The platforms are absolutely stuffed with people and so are all metros. But even then they succeed in getting more people on them, it’s like they are scraping one layer of people off of the platform with the doors. That’s probably what this sign means, everybody crossing the yellow line must get squeezed into the next metro. Inside the metro people don’t seem to care they are packed like Sardines in a tin. The fact that each minute a new metro arrives, does not change that, they are still trying to get on and then they just stand there silently until they get out.
Today we went to see the Pope at the plain in front of the San Pietro Basilisk. As we got there early we thought we had a good chance to get on to the plain but we were too late, the Carabinieri ushered us to streets nearby and we only got to see the Pope in the distance in his car, waving at people that were lucky to be chosen to sit in front of the stairs of San Pietro.
So after waiting our chances for a while without success we decided to move on and have Coffee and a Doughnut. What we didn’t know is we had this in the most expensive Cafetaria of entire Rome. O man, was she not amused when she went to the cash register to pay!
Even though this was a shock to all of us we were able to laugh about it after a while and we went on our way. So with the San Pietro beyond our possibilities we decided to go into the nearest church. It was a beautiful church with lots of candles and gold but the organ music was played from a cassette tape recorder.
We took another metro to the Spanish Stairs and we just sat there for a while on the steps. Apparently you can not visit Rome without sitting on the steps of the Spanish Stairs for a while. And so we did.
Now we got the hang of looking for reasonably priced food we found a quiet street without any tourists in it and just one sign outside a glass door with Pizzeria on it. It turned out to be a local where students and business people came to eat. So we made the right choice again, we were going to have the same to eat as the actual Romans. But the girls chose chips and a burger instead and it was just the boys having a Pizza.
Around us were mostly extremely well dressed local business people so we were the only tourists in there. Oh and there was an old man, manicured, gold watch, expensive suit and shoes (I studied him closely while he wasn’t looking) who appeared to be more important than the rest. He had a slightly larger table to his own and they served him more politely than the rest. He looked like a friendly old doctor and while we were eating he observed us with a serene smile on his face.
After lunch we looked at a big fountain, essential sightseeing when in Rome. The Fontane di Trevi was beautiful and white but mostly crowded with numerous tourists sitting there and watching the water come down, all very exciting.
We then took a metro to another part of Rome were Circo Massimo was and the others decided to walk at the horse tracks whilst I stayed at the top of the stairs. Like the Forum Romanum and The Colosseum, Circo Massimo is like an incomplete ancient jigsaw puzzle which can be frustrating when you have a slightly obsessive compulsive tendency. But we all decided it was beautiful.
As a last feature of the day we visited the Rose Garden. This is where most of the Romans have a little break from work and sit on a bench to nod off. And so did I.
Day 5, Giovedì
Day 6, Venerdì
Today was our last day in Rome. We went by metro again but luckily it wasn’t so overcrowded as previously. We still had our hands on our pockets though as yet again there were a lot of dodgy people looking to steal our money. The street sellers changed their knick knacks into little umbrellas. But to our luck just when we arrived in the open air from the metro the sun also made an appearance.
As we walked towards our goal for the day we walked through a lovely park where we saw a Squirrel eating a nut. We then searched for over an hour for a Caffè or Gelaterio but we couldn’t find any. So instead Anouk went somewhere and came back with a lovely paper cup of Cappuccino and a piece of Chocolate Cake in a cardboard box for everyone.
This last day in Rome we were going to visit a museum, Villa Borghese. In this museum are a lot of pictures and statues. It is a beautiful stately mansion in a park in Rome, obviously the original inhabitants must have been very rich. In the park around it we heard a Woodpecker make a home and there was a musician with an Accordion playing the same Italian classic tune over and over again. So we didn’t give him any money.
I took a lot of pictures today. In this museum are many statues and paintings with naked willies and bare boobies, I just had to walk into another room and whoop, there it was. Italians love to look at painted or marble genitalia apparently, well as long as they were made at least 200 years ago otherwise it would be awkward. We looked at it together with other tourists. Like the Romans do.
Oh and by the way, we didn’t get mugged.
If you like holiday journals you can also read A boring holiday in France.