Sunday, December 14, 2014

Impressions of Rome daughter and I returned on  Friday after five days in Rome. Three full days, really (nearly four because a transportation strike delayed our return home by five hours), and two partial days. If you love Rome, this is probably not the post for you. I thought Rome was absolutely fine, I'm  glad we went, I enjoyed our mother-daughter trip, it was a good experience, and I'm glad - really glad - to be back home in Germany. I just didn't return with the "WOW!" feeling, which makes me feel somewhat of a blasphemer.

Future founders of Rome Romulus and Remus
being nursed by the she-wolf
We did most of the city center on foot after a horrifying bus ride on our first full day - we fled the bus after one stop - and my leg muscles gave up complaining by Friday morning. We both agree that exploring a city on foot is the way to go - there's just way too much you miss on public transportation. The food we ate was ok (with the exception of our last dinner, which was fabulous!), we saw all the major sites one should see in Rome, we stayed in a modest but nice hotel which met all our needs, we only encountered friendly people, we have lots of good photos, and we came away unrobbed despite the many warnings about pickpockets and unkilled by the crazy Italian drivers. I'm glad we went, but I'm not burning to return.

St. Peter's Cathedral
My original plan was to save money by eating sensibly - grabbing a sandwich for lunch, trying the Aperitivo (buy a drink and enjoy whatever appetizers the restaurant provides), having one nice dinner, eating at a pizzeria - but for lunch we were usually ready to sit in a restaurant rather than just eating out of the hand. We didn't spend a ton on meals, but we could have been more thrifty.
I found the city dirty, with garbage everywhere and overflowing dumpsters on most street corners not directly at tourist attractions. My daughter said that's just how it is in big cities, but I don't remember that standing out in my mind from my weekend with her in Berlin last year. Road rules are crazy. Mopeds don't have to heed traffic lights, stop signs, or anything else except that they shouldn't bash into pedestrians, lane lines seem to be suggestions as do the Ampelmännchen that tell pedestrians whether they may cross a street safely or not, and where there is no crossing light, pedestrians just step into the road (preferrably at a marked crossing, though in practice that doesn't really matter either) and vehicles are required to give way. Most likely they do so just to keep pedestrian goo off their cars. The honking is nearly constant, and whenever Italians are talking to each other whether in person or on cell phones, it sounds like they are about to come to blows.
Foro Romano (Roman Forum)

Crowds and lines are not at all bad in December, but we're still glad we paid a little extra and reserved "skip-the-line" tickets online. On the days in which we headed to main attractions, we got up early and arrived before opening time - also a good idea because we were able to get some pictures with few or no other tourists on them. We took the Metro to the Colosseum and to the Vatican and found it very easy to navigate - or rather my daughter did, and I just had to follow her - as well as inexpensive (€1,50 per person for a ride on any bus, tram, or the Metro within 90 minutes). I am glad we didn't buy the RomaPass since we did so much on foot and just didn't need public transportation often. Yes, we were achy by late afternoon, but since neither one of us is interested in the night life, we were in bed early anyway and had time to recuperate for the next day.

Spanish Steps by night (8:20 pm, actually)
Although this was my first time in a country where I didn't speak the local language at all (I've been to the Alsace in France, but that doesn't really count since the locals do reluctantly speak German), language was not an issue. We got by just fine in German or English and never had a bad experience due to not knowing Italian. In fact, my favorite dining experience was in a restaurant where our charming waiter spoke very little English!
Inside Mamartine Prison, where Sts. Peter and Paul
are said to have been imprisoned

We would have been fine having one less day in Rome. We were exhausted from walking anyway, so we probably should have just planned on doing the Vatican one morning followed by wandering on our own, and the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine the next morning followed by more exploring. The way we did it, we spent all of our first full day walking with no appointments at any attractions. We did enjoy that and saw a lot. As it turns out, leaving on Thursday would have meant not being delayed five hours due to a transportation strike. Buses, trains, the Metro, air traffic control... I got an email on Thursday evening saying our 14:40 flight for Friday was bumped to 19:15 (actually 20:25 after more delays), so although we had seen and done everything we wanted to already, we had a bunch of extra hours to visit a few more churches. No one got excited about the strike - apparently they're as common as pigeon shit in Italy. When we had absolutely nothing else to do, we picked up our suitcases at the hotel and dragged them to Termini station, got on the Terravision bus (€6 each - €4 if you buy the ticket online) which takes an hour to get from Termini to Fiumicino, and arrived at the airport four hours early.

Arch of Constantine
I'd have to say that I enjoyed the trip with my daughter and am glad we saw Rome (though it had never been on the bucket list I don't have), but it did not leave me with a burning desire to see other big cities of the world outside of Germany. Perhaps I love Germany just a little too much.

Inside the Protestant Cemetery - grave of John Keats (on left)


  1. I'm glad you had a nice weekend with your daughter in Rome, but it's too bad the city didn't have that "wow!" factor for you. I'm heading to Italy in March/April so I've really been taking note of other bloggers' tips! Thanks for sharing :)

    1. The funny thing is, the parts I liked the most were not the attractions most people get excited about. I liked the Protestant Cemetery - seeing Shelley's and Keats' graves - the "cat ghetto/sanctuary" ruins at Largo di Torre Argentina, the Keats-Shelley House at the Spanish Steps, our long walk up Giancolo Hill and through Trastevere, and the time we spent just walking around, popping into interesting-looking churches, etc.

      I'm sure you'll enjoy Italy!

  2. I first went to Rome for my 18th birthday and LOVED it. I went again a few years ago with my boyfriend and family and had a really great time again. It's very crowded/touristy but the architecture is amazing. Italian drivers are INSANE though!

    I hated New York, which everyone else seems to rave about.

    1. I'm sure part of my problem is that I don't like big cities (though I love München and Wien!), and that's not the city's fault. Rome was certainly interesting, and there is SO much to learn! I was in New York for a few days when I was 18 and didn't love it either, so you're not alone. :-)