I’ve been a lot worse with directions and getting places than I thought I would have been. I got to Rome in the late afternoon. I checked in at the hostel and planned what I wanted to do for the couple of days I’d be there. I decided that I would finish the evening with a few hours of exploring. I specifically was planning on going to the Pantheon since I knew it was one of the few sites that would still be open. I started walking in what I thought was the correct direction but turned out to not be. After I realized this, I decided I would take the metro to the Pantheon and then walk back, since it would be closing soon. But I walked in the wrong direction after getting off the metro. I ended up no where very close to the Pantheon and decided it would have to wait until the next day. However, I did end up at a shopping area that I was planning to go to anyway, so it wasn’t too horrible.
I really liked Rome, I believe it is my second favorite place I’ve been to. It was pretty cheap to eat there (you could get a good sized piece of pizza and a soda for about 5 euros almost anywhere. They do pizza by weight, not by the slice, and then it gets folded up so you can eat it like a sandwich), it was warm (this whole trip has been a lot warmer than I thought it would have been. I think I could have done without one of my coats), had interesting historic building to see, and a good selection of stores and street vendors to peruse. The second day in Rome, I decided to go to a flea market in the morning before going to see the Colosseum and Roman Forum, probably the quintessential Roman tourist activities.
Until I got to the flea market, I didn’t know I had so many friends in Rome. Several of my “friends” would tell me, “My friend, look at my things, I give you cheap price.” The flea market had basically what you’d expect: electronics, clothes, shoes, and purses, all with questionable authenticity and life spans. All of the vendors were pretty aggressive in trying to get me to shop at their stands, getting in my way and trying to show me anything at their table. One of the men asked if I was gay, which made me wonder what was different in his sales pitch to gay men rather than straight men. Despite me telling him I wasn’t gay, when I walked by the stand again at one point, there were calls of, “Mr. Gay, Mr. Gay!” to try and get my attention.
The aggressive vendors weren’t limited to the flea market. Almost anywhere, but most especially in the very touristy sites, people would be standing around selling scarves, umbrellas, and the most popular of them all, the selfie stick, the telescoping pole that holds your phone so you can be in every single one of your photos. I don’t believe I’m exaggerating (too much) when I say that I saw 100 people trying to sell them throughout my time in Rome. And I think they were pretty successful, people everywhere had them. Outside the Vatican, there were aggressive tour guides. They would stand all along the walkway to the entrance, stopping you to try and tell you about their services. The guy that stopped me first told me that he would be able to get me into the two main sites (St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum, which includes the Sistine Chapel) without waiting in line. This sounded appealing because I had heard that the lines, especially in the busy parts of the year, could get pretty long. However, even with the “exclusive” deal he would give me, it would still cost over 4 times as much as me going myself. I guess it came with a tour as well, but it didn’t seem worth it. I’m glad I didn’t do it, the lines didn’t turn out to be that bad. I probably only waited 30 minutes between the two, and that was mostly to get past security at St. Peter’s Basilica.
The last couple of places I’ve been have been a lot more busy with tourists than the first few places I went to. I can’t imagine what it would be like coming to these places in the summer, which is peak season. I feel like it would be so awful to have to jockey with even more people. I think I would have to do very non-touristy things if I came at a different time in order to avoid everyone. Paris, which was next, seemed especially bad.
I liked seeing the ancient part of the city. Since everything there was at least hundreds of years old, many over 2000 years, it made me wonder what it was like just a couple of hundred years ago before it was a tourist attraction. Could you just go and pick up ancient ruins? If that was the case, how is any of it still there? I know whether over thousands of years can do a lot of damage, but it was still surprising to me how little of many of the buildings there was. Viscerally, it feels like a little rain and wind shouldn’t be able to do too much to a solid granite building. And finally, there was still some areas getting excavated, which made me wonder entire buildings could get completely covered in dirt. And how they haven’t been found yet since Rome has had 2000 years to excavate the area. Here’s a photo from the area, showing some of the buildings and ruins. I wonder if those scattered pillars and things are original, which seems incredible to me that they wouldn’t have been taken, or if they were placed there after the area became a tourist attraction.
The next day I went to Vatican City. I thought was it was a really nice, but it would be really incredible to come as a Catholic. It’s a very impressive display of Catholic beauty, power, and wealth. Everything is just very ornate and decorative.
Inside St. Peter’s Basilica
Inside the Vatican Museum