#OhRome. It was a fitting expression (or hashtag) from the first moment we arrived, and remained just as fitting as our visit here progressed. We were warned that Rome would be “very touristy” (by super reliable sources with absolutely zero personal experience here** inside joke) and we knew it would be a tremendous change of pace from our days spent poolside at the quiet Tuscan estate in the country, but we got more than we bargained for, in more ways than one. Here’s what we learned during our three-day stay in the busy, bustling, historical centre of Italy.
Don’t fight your inner tourist.
There are so many important historical attractions in this city, and there are so many tourists trying to visit them all, so don’t even bother thinking you’re going to be able to do things your own way… like a local. Not here. The tours and lines and tickets are essential to surviving this city, and getting it all in. We did the Hop On Hop Off bus, and mapped out our itinerary beforehand as carefully as possible. Sure, everything took longer than we though it would. And sure, busses were delayed, and the Spanish Steps were closed, and the Trevi Fountain was blocked off as they built up a stage for a Fendi fashion show—it definitely didn’t go off exactly as planned, but without that plan, I can’t imagine we would’ve seen much of anything. At least not with our group, which included four kids (aged 8-12), four adults and one senior in a wheelchair. So I’m glad we all embraced our inner tourists. The only thing I would’ve done differently is equipped us all with neon visors to block that hot AF sun, and matching t-shirts with a group logo so it was easier to spot each the other in crowds.
Pushing a wheelchair through cobblestone is a wicked core workout.
Just ask James. But then ask him how elated he felt as he watched his mother’s face pucker up in astonishment as she looked on to the Colosseum and marvelled, blinking away tears, at how she never thought she’d get here in her life. It was so worth it. Plus, here’s a hot tip for you: seniors in wheelchairs get you through lines and get you the best seats on buses. Never travel without one!
Roma is short for romance.
Sigh… the city just inspires it, I suppose.
Travel can be an educational experience for kids.
There are varying opinions on whether it’s a good idea to let kids miss school to go traveling, and I’m definitely no expert on what the right call there is. I’m sure it’s dependant on many different factors, really. But I can tell you, that traveling is an educational experience for kids, especially if you make the effort to ensure they learn. We encouraged the kids to use at least basic Italian phrases when addressing locals as a sign of respect for their language and culture. We encouraged them to try local cuisine (which as you can imagine took a lot of convincing, with most menus featuring pizza and spaghetti). We also had them do a mini research project, assigning each of them one of the major attractions we planned to visit, and getting them to use guide books and the Internet to create a short presentation to our group on what the history, highlights and fun facts were. They got really into it! And I bet their teachers would’ve been proud. Plus, now we all know that the Trevi Fountain is filled with approximately 3000 euros per day! So if you’re ever a little short for your gelato….
Busses are REALLY cheap.
Cheaper than you think. First of all, you need to buy tickets from the metro station or a local snack bar (oddly enough) for about 1.50 euro—you can’t just pay cash on board. But then, you just board the bus. A local at the bus station gave us this hot tip when we were waiting for our first ride, tickets in hand. He said transit officials almost never check bus tickets in Rome, and if they do, simply present your tickets, which you have and which are valid. Sure, you were meant to “validate” them, but this process isn’t at all obvious, and you can easily play the “tourist card” and let him show you how to validate them for that ride. He will have no idea you’d already ridden the bus on five occasions prior to that with those tickets burning a hole in your purse. *cheeky smile*
The GPS isn’t wrong.
If you find yourself doubting the British woman’s voice coming through your rental car navigation as she instructs you to continue down the back alley, and turn right into what appears to be on-coming traffic headed for another site of ancient ruins—don’t. She knows this place better than you do, and she knows that this is, in fact, the route to the highway you need to take to get to the airport to get the hell out of here.