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Rome, ah, the eternal city! I heard many a people profess that Rome is their favorite city ever! I can see why. If you even remotely like history, art, or architecture, you could spend a lifetime exploring all that they city has to offer.
There are a few things to know though:
1. It is the 4th most populous city in Europe...and that doesn't count the millions of tourists who visit every year. This obviously means that it is busy. Super busy. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. But it will be a shock to your system if you're traveling from a sleepy and relaxed town like Cinque Terre...or anywhere really that isn't considered a mega metropolis.
2. Transportation is tricky. The bus system was interesting to say the least. I'll have more to tell you about this later. But if you're planning a trip to Rome, plan to do some research on transportation before hand.
3. Plan ahead. Because of the first two items, if you don't plan ahead, you very well may not get into a museum that you really wanted to see, or get terribly lost. Getting lost isn't the worst thing that can happen. In fact sometimes it helps you discover things you wouldn't otherwise. But, if you're crunched for time, getting lost can really eat into your trip.
Now, as the title of this post suggest, there were some great things, and there were some not so great things. Because I like to end on a happy note, I'm going to start with the not so great things...not all of which were Rome's fault.
1. We were crunched for time. We had to cut a day off our trip so I could make it back to Oregon. This meant we really couldn't afford to get lost...which we did. On our way to the Vatican, using the directions provided by the Vatican, AND a bus system map, we got terribly lost. We walked around for at least an hour with a vague sense that the Vatican was close, but no clue other than that. I walked up to a couple of sweet older nuns, who between their knowledge of Spanish and Italian, and my broken knowledge of both languages, got us pointed in the right direction. Without them, we'd still be wandering hopelessly. They were lovely! I've heard that the subway may be a better way to get there than the buses...something worth looking into after our experience.
2. The Vatican. Let me count the ways to which this was possibly my worst travel experience ever. First of all, we had time dictated tickets, which lead me, foolishly, to believe that they only let in a certain number of people in at a time. It didn't appear to matter at all what time our tickets were for, because it was crazy packed. Although the ticket did let us skip the monstrously long line, it only lead us quicker to a more unimaginable hell scape...the path to the Sistine Chapel. Imagine for a moment, that you are in a hallway, packed side to side, front to back with people, literally like sardines, with no room, no air conditioning, and no emergency exits for nearly two hours. That's what we were in store for. We couldn't stop and look at the art, for fear of being trampled by the angry hoards behind us (including a group of pushy 4th graders). I've heard that not everyone's experience is this bad, but that it is always crowded...visitor be warned. I actually thought at one point, "maybe if I scream really loud, people will think I'm crazy and let me through." As soon as I saw a way out I made a run for it, leaving Pat behind for a moment, and then looking back to make sure he was still alive. Moral had seriously deteriorated and it was every man for themselves.
3. The bus system. It's confusing, I have nothing to suggest other than it seems like a system that takes a bit of time to get used to. Like most things in Italy, it doesn't really run on a time schedule. I asked how of often the bus comes at the station, and they just said, "it depends". Once, while on the bus, after riding for a long while and realizing that everyone had exited, the bus driver just parked in a parking lot, opened all the doors, and left. We were unsure if he was just tired of being a bus driver and was quitting right then and there, or if we was ever coming back. So, we just sat there, alone, seeings how we had no idea where we were. After a smoke break, he did come back and we got back on our way.
4. The street vendors. They are everywhere. They are in lots of other cities as well, but there just seemed to be more here. They are pushy, loud, and generally selling the same crap. They also, don't appear to get bathroom breaks, and end up going in the bushes, which leaves it not smelling great all the time.
Now! On to the good stuff, because there's plenty
1. The history. Seriously, it is everywhere. There are museums, ruins, cathedrals, statues, you name it! The entire city looks like an ongoing archeological dig. If this is your thing, you will want to dedicate plenty of time to Rome, and make sure, if you can, that you buy your tickets ahead of time. We skipped the line at the Colosseum as well because we did this and it saved us tons of time.
2. Not everywhere is a crowded nightmare. The Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, and the Farnese Garden were surprisingly quite. The garden was one of our favorite spots because it was quite enough that we could take it all in and really appreciate the beauty. I'm not sure why it was so quite, it's right across the way from the Colosseum. We went twice, both towards the end of the day, and it was lovely. The Colosseum was busy, but not overly. It was definitely manageable.
3. The public transportation. Now, I know I said it was confusing, but it is also cheap. There are plenty of options to get you around town all day for only a few bucks. So, although it is confusing at first, if you can get the hang of it, you can see a lot of Rome for not much.
I'll be doing another post on Rome soon because I've only brushed the surface of this amazing city. I'll have some tips for where to stay, where to eat (or where not to), and which sites are must sees.
I hope you have a great week!
Hi there! I'm Skeeter. I grew up moving a lot and that makes me a bit restless for travel and exploration. I started this blog with my husband Pat when we decided to backpack New Zealand for a year. We are always looking for the next adventure and are loving life. We're just your average couple with two sassy dogs and a love for travel. We're sharing our travels and the tips we pick up along the way.
Hello! I'm Liz. Blogging is very new to me, but I'm so excited to finally write as much as I talk!
"Don't forget to travel happy"-Skeeter & Liz