I sat down to write my typical Top Ten list last week, but I found that my love for Rome could not simply be contained in such a short post. I was literally unable to summarize all the elements that have made me fall head over heels.
I have decided instead to share with you all the specific reasons, the details, the moments that have made me a captive of this amazing place. My hope is that you will soon understand why I have woken up in the middle of the night sure that I have smelt the aroma of the morning bread or why I will watch any movie (even pathetic romantic comedies with outrageously horrible acting and brutal stereotyping) in hopes that I can catch a glimpse of a little alley I am familiar with or to hear the distinctive sound of the sirens.
Before I begin, I would like to take a moment upon my soapbox to come to the defense of Rome and the bad rap often given this beautifully gritty city.
More than once I have had concerned clients ask me if Rome is safe. Some were even considering removing Rome as a stop on their itinerary.
My answer every time is that Rome is my favorite big city on the planet. Rome is noisy and dirty and pushy and extremely overwhelming. Without the right frame of mind, a traveler might hurry through their to-do-list and get the heck outta Dodge.
Dirty? Yep, especially when compared to Paris, although to be fair most of Europe is. There is graffiti everywhere, mostly soccer smack talk. Watch your step in the morning as the doggie poo bag remains a mystery of the universe here. Cigarette butts can found just about anywhere.
Noisy? Like nothing you could ever imagine. Romans learn to drive with one hand holding a cigarette and another on the horn. Traffic is a way of life and there are more mopeds than you can shake a stick at. Romans are loud. They are boisterous. They wave their hands in the air with a dizzying frenzy. You will feel overwhelmed at first. But if you take a deep breath and let go you will realize that these people just feel life and they hold nothing back. I will argue that there are no bigger hearts in all of Europe. I absolutely enjoy Paris but I have never really made a friend there and sometimes I get the feeling they could take me or leave me, they are just so subdued you don’t really know where you stand. In Rome, I make friends crossing the street. They love to talk, they want to get to know you.
Safe? I have never ever had a problem. BUT people who don’t travel they way I recommend always do. I can actually stand outside the Colosseum and guess which tourist is going to get scammed. There are gypsies, but they are easy to spot. There are pickpockets at the train station/major sites/buses but if you wear a moneybelt and remain aware of your surroundings (and never ever use a fanny pack) no one is going to mess with you. If you deal in small bills, no one is going to question your change. The men can still be perverted (I find the older men can be but the younger generation is much more respectful of women) but if you understand that they are harmless and just laugh it off instead of getting offended or think of it as an ego boast it isn’t that bad. When someone does make you feel uncomfortable or does cross the line, get in their face. They will back off.
I only ask to give Rome a chance. Please don’t be afraid. Don’t listen to other people’s bad experiences. Travel to Rome with your eyes open but even more importantly your heart.
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Copyright 2012 Andi Brown, Once in a Lifetime Travel
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