Rome - This is not a tourist guide

27 September, 2003

The adventure ends

Apologies to anyone who has no interest in Rome whatsoever, because that’s probably all the next four or so posts are going to be about. I promise I’ll try and make technology points where I can, when I remember.

And so on with the show. On a couple of nights I jotted down some notes about things my girlfriend and I had seen and heard that day. Hereafter are those notes for mine and anyone else’s reference, with a little added detail. This is not a tourist guide.

Qurinale (occasional residence of Italian President and Pope)

– heard: “This must have cost a pretty penny” – my girlfriend.
– other things: Berlusconi has the same carpet as us.

Roman Forum

– heard: “Nothing but a heap of rocks” – unknown American male.

Spanish Steps

– look unimpressive from the bottom.

Our Hotel (4* Hotel Torino)

– Nice roof terrace which almost makes up for the lack of hot water in the mornings.

Someone should have told us to bring earplugs for the traffic in the morning (as most people know, the Roman traffic is insane, second only in Italy to that of Naples. A Roman motorist in London would be arrested within about five minutes for dangerous driving. They use their horns all the time. For fun, to get people’s attention, to warn people they might be about to run over that they’re going around corners, and perhaps for sexual fulfilment. This begins at about 6.30am and lasts until about 9.30 before starting again at about 4.30 and lasting until about 7.30. Because of the busy roads, the bin men (U.S.: garbage collectors?) make their rounds at about 1am and make no effort to be particularly quiet. Don’t count on getting any sleep, and remember that cold shower that awaits you when you finally get up.)

Capitoline Museums

– jam-packed with statues and busts but very few pointers as to what or who they were of.

Guided tours are the abomination of modern holidays (during the Quirinal where the roped-off corridors are very narrow and there are tour groups of 40 or so people in front and behind of you).

Jesuit Church (Gesu)

– very austere front. splendid ceiling. very impressive.
– heard: “shiny and woo” – my girlfriend

Spring water from taps in and around the Roman Forum is very cold and very good.

Dorling Kindersley Travel Guides:Italy (ISBN: 0-7513-0105-1) is excellent for on-the-street navigation but very heavy. If there’s one for Rome only, get it.

Lonely Planet guide to Italy is good for practical travel tips and hiking in the mountains or backpacking in India. If you’re the kind of person who feels the need to see “the real Rome” and won’t be staying in a hotel then this is for you. Rubbish for “normal” holiday-makers.

The Palatine is exquisitely peaceful.

Good ceiling in the church of Sant’Ignazio di Loyola but my favourite was still Santa Maria supra Minerva. Detailed and amazing, one of Rome’s only Gothic cathedrals and I thought more impressive than any of the others (warning: low “shiny and woo” factor).

I’ve been to the Vatican before but not the Vatican Museums, of which I knew very little. They’re surprisingly immense containing Egyptian (mummies et al.), Roman, Greek and Etruscan statues, monuments and tablets, which all seems a bit strange when you remember that you’re in the seat of Catholicism. Both my girlfriend and I ranked it as “very impressive”.
The “Modern Christian Art” section was rubbish apart from a couple of good pieces, but they were overwhelmed in about ten rooms.
The Sistine Chapel was good. There were too many people in there at once, and there were too many talking.

– heard: “It’s small isn’t it?”- unknown American male II
– heard: “It’s pretty small. I suppose it’s not a cathedral after all.” – unknown Australian woman
Indeed, that would be St. Peter’s.

Raphael’s stuff is really good. Michaelangelo’s nice but didn’t seem to be alive in the same way, maybe the distance of the chapel ceiling induced this.
Dull maps and tapestries.
We now have a nice new book for our coffee table. We just need a coffee table.

The Roman Metro is rubbish. If I’ve ever cursed the London Underground, I take it back. The Metro is far worse. Unbelievably it’s more packed and more grafitti-ed. Single tickets are the completely insane price of 77cents. Who has exactly 77 cents? And how are ticket machines supposed to carry enough change for all the people who put in a €1 or €2 piece? It’s a stupid stupid idea which guarantees none of the machines ever work. Which means that you have to buy your ticket from a real person. Except not all stations have ticket offices. So you have to buy your tickets from a newsagent close by. Except that the ones that do sell tickets aren’t signed, so you just have to wander between newsagents until you cross one that does. Utterly fucking useless. Spagna I’m looking at you in particular.

It was amazing to see rainbow-coloured “peace” flags hanging up all over the place, shops, restaurants, newsagents, hotels, apartment blocks. I’ve really never seen anything like it. It makes you wonder what major cities in other countries who officially opposed the war are like in this regard.

Learn Latin. Really. How else can you ever understand statues, monuments, plaques etc.? I studied it for seven years and it makes picking up other European languages a doddle. Latin rules.

Fiumenco airport sucks. I think I’m right in saying it’s Rome’s main airport, well, I arrived back in Birmingham International, and it’s just so much cleaner, better signed, better designed and better everything else that it’s amazing. Sadly of course, it still doesn’t have Gucci.

See other posts tagged with general and all posts made in September 2003.


18 September, 2006 at 03:03

Just got back from a 10 day trip to Rome and Venice last night. I enjoyed seeing all of Rome’s ancient sites, but found the people utterly contemptous toward Americans. The Italians in Rome never smiled, unless they were addressing each other. They seemed to try not to make eye contact with us at all. Our group consisted of about 65 people and we all felt the same. This is not an American-friendly people.

20 September, 2006 at 11:51

Possibly. They are very friendly to brits. They are very strongly anti-war and have one of the oldest cultures in the world.