Well, my trip to Rome has come to an end. I had planned to blog my way through the days, but they were too full of sightseeing and pasta-eating!
We stayed at a little B&B named Happy Holidays, located only a few blocks from the Colloseum and Palatine. If you ever go to Rome at this time of the year, my only suggestion is this – AIR CONDITIONING!! We were lucky that we had a unit in our room, not all of them had one. It was very warm and humid and was nice to come back to a cool room to rest.
Our whirlwind tour included all the major attraction, of course: The Colloseum, Palatine, the Vatican, Piazza Repubblica, Piazza del Popolo, the Boca Della Verita (Audrey Hepburn- Roman Holiday, need I say more!! She is my icon!), Spanish Steps, Fontana de Trevi, such amazing places. We splashed in the fountain at Piazza Repubblica, put our hands in the mouth of the Boca della verita, climbed the spanish steps, tossed a coin over our shoulders at the Trevi Fountain (to ensure our return, of course!) and ate and ate and ate gelato. The best part for me, of course, was the SHOPPING! I loved haggling with the street vendors in Italian and coming away with my fabulous purses and shoes. Learn a little Italian to get by, especially your numbers, directions, and greetings. They appreciate the effort, trust me.
I gave up on bringing back tons of overpriced souvenirs long ago. My pictures are my souvenirs. They take up very little space, last a lifetime, and bring back wonderfully fond memories of my experiences. While I DID pick up a couple purses and leather belts while in Rome (how can you NOT?!) I didn’t break the bank picking up something from every street vendor / shop/ giftshop I came across.
Now for the uneasy parts of our trip. I only include this because I know that those of you going to Rome who are reading this will not be prepared for the realities of traveling here. Theft is a big problem. I researched it beforehand and was prepared to come home still carrying all my important documents and camera. Before leaving the states, I sewed secret pockets on the inside of all my skirts / pants that I could. In this pocket I would carry my passport, one credit card, and any extra big bills. On my camera bag, I used a pacsafe strap (slash proof) and connected my Canon 40d to it, to slide up and down the strap while in use, and to remain safe while in my camera bag. I am proud to say I came home with everything I left with, but others were not so lucky. On our commuter train to Pompeii (the tranfer in Naples) a fellow traveler seated nearby looked down to realize the pocket he kept his passport and extra cash in was unzipped. His passport and money were gone. During the mad rush to get on the train or possibly the wait beforehand, a thief unzipped the pocket and stole these items without anyone noticing. They are that good, trust me. Another problem here is gypsies. They will cause unruly distractions while their partner sneaks up and picks your pocket. We witnessed several of these occurences, but thankfully the street vendors and Italian natives were quick to help us exit the situation with everything still in our possession. That being said, don’t write off a trip to Rome. The main attractions are fairly safe and in most neighborhoods we had no problems whatsoever. Just be aware of your surroundings, be safe, be smart. Don’t flash your big bills to everyone around you. Don’t carry your expensive camera around your neck where someone could snatch it off you. Keep you passport hidden, your money belt tight, and enjoy your trip. If you don’t look like a target, you won’t be one.
So in the end, what did I learn? There is amazing life here. The Romans wake up every day, living amongst these ruins, and knowing their deep, tumultuous and beautiful history. While we in America don’t have the luxury of living in a city with these constant visual reminders of our history, we too have deep connections within our own land. Tell me you don’t feel it when you are walking through the forests listening to the sounds of nature. Our ancestors heard the same sounds, walked the same paths, just as we do. And what are some of the defining features of being “American”? One very important trait I have noticed. Happiness. Americans genuinely seem happier, more generous with smiles, affection, common courtesy and good will than I have ever noticed in any other country. My trips overseas have taught me to embrace that part of our American heritage.