Book a trip to Rome and you will be overcome with expectations of the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain and not to mention the mouth-watering gelato. These notions are far from wrong and honestly it is one of the best cities, if not the best city, that I have ever been to. I could easily recall the typical idyllic image of the ancient city, however, this would make for bland reading, so I won’t- instead I’ll do something rare and portray Rome exactly how it is- the good and the bad.
I arrive and feel that a plan should have been made, a route, a daily schedule, something like that, but no, being the students that we are we have no plan, no idea of where to start and are relying solely on a guidebook. Although this isn’t particularly tactful, it is doable. Although this is made even harder when you are a pair of indecisive beings that struggle to decide who deserves the window seat, never mind which sight is the most important to see in Rome.
Taking all aspects into consideration and using all our worldly skills we made a decision. No, who am I kidding, we got sucked in by the persuasive staff and cringe-worthy as it seemed at the time did as all tourists do well, toured on an open top bus. Surprisingly this turned out to be one of the best decisions we made during our trip. Firstly, the bus took you to all the main attractions, saving valuable time and allowing you to get those must-have photos (obviously it is essential that each photo involves leaning on one ancient ruin or another). And secondly, who can knock it when you get the added bonus of the robotic English translation audio guide thrown in for free- well that would be free if you hadn’t already paid to take the bus tour in the first place.
In a matter of hours you have seen every site in Rome and now have the privilege of deciding which ones are actually worth revisiting for a proper look- after all, we all know that some sights are only there for a quick photo, while others are actually worth the admission fee.
The Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps and the Colosseum are all well worth a return visit, but there are some unexpected additions to these romanticised locations that should be noted.
Outside each of the attractions there will be horse-drawn carts; avoid these at all costs. That is unless you have 100euros an hour spare for the round trip, as they repeated to me several times, they are not a taxi service and will not reduce the cost for a reduced distance.
In addition to the horse and cart, expect to see dozens of men outside each sight trying to sell scarves, novelty presents and ‘designer’ sunglasses. Their fast escape when police arrive indicates that there is definitely something not quite legal about their occupations. These men will be accompanied by men with roses, whether you want one or not they will try and force you to hold a rose- at this point the phrase ‘just say no’ could not seem more appropriate. No matter how lovely they think you are, they are not trying to give you a rose for free, so unless you want to buy yourself a rose I would avoid these men.
I would also recommend viewing the sights in the early morning or around 12pm when everyone is eating their lunch. This is for the primary reason that it is impossible to get a photo alone unless you visit during these times. It’s your choice, a nice photo of you, your friends and the ruin, or a photo of you, your friends, the ruin and what seems to be half of the city’s population in the background.
Another tip that will seem ridiculous to the boys, but will be invaluable to their girlfriends, is do not take heels. Rome has cobbles that will challenge the streets of Bath, York and Covent Garden put together. I frequently risk sprained ankles for nights out in killer heels, but this was enough to turn anyone to flats. Save the luggage weight and save your ankles by leaving the heels safely at home.
I feel guilty that I seem to have destroyed the romanticised view of Rome, when in fact the city was actually unbeatable. Take note of everything I have said, but take it with a pinch of salt- the positives by far out way any of the negatives. The sights were astonishing. The locals could not have been more helpful and friendly. The food could not have tasted any better- as you would expect. And no matter how many people tell you about costs, Rome is not as expensive as people think.
It is also worth mentioning that this was my second time in Rome and this was far more successful than my first visit where all I seemed to do was run from one sight to the next. By using the open top bus, you have seen the main sights in a few hours and can spend the next two and a half days meandering through Rome at your own pace. This is the best part of Rome. Try and spend as much time as possible leisurely strolling around the winding streets and you’ll be surprised at the amount of culture you come across.
If you manage to drag yourselves away from Jimmy Choo and the unimaginable array of designer shops that surround the Spanish Steps, you will even come across a huge variety of reasonably priced boutiques to grab those one-off pieces that your friends can only envy at home.
If you avoid eating in the immediate vicinity of the sights and avoid the men selling you what can quite frankly only be described as rubbish, then you are sure to have an unforgettable time in the ancient city. And it is true what they say: the gelato is amazing!