Help, I want to learn how to enjoy ROME?

Old Aug 2nd, 2007, 05:53 PM
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Help, I want to learn how to enjoy ROME?

After reading another thread about Rome being a big disappointment, I realize that there are plenty of Fodorites who are addicted to Rome as others are to Paris/London/Berlin. I've been to Rome 3 times and never could enjoy it. What gives? I took 2 semesters of Italian so I wasn't that unconnected with Rome. Anyone care to share their special moments/highlights that brought about your Rome addiction? I am hoping to get inspired to revisit Rome. I'd like to learn what/where the comforts of the city are.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2007, 06:08 PM
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I love Rome. Since Sept 2005, I have been fortunate enough to spend 30 days there. Every trip except the first one, I intended to take a daytrip or two. I have yet to do so. Once I get there, I don't want to leave. If you couldn't enjoy it, I'm surprised you've been there three times! It would help if you told us WHY you didn't like it, but here are a few suggestions:

Don't try to do too much. Pick two things each day (or only one if it's huge, like seeing the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's). Choose two things in the same general area. Walk between them. Since you have plenty of time, feel free to take a detour if something else looks interesting. There are hundreds of churches in Rome, and it continually amazes me how wonderful the small, unknown churches can be.

Stay in an area convenient to everything. I always stay near the Piazza Navona, as that's my favorite spot. After dinner every night, just go there and enjoy a drink and/or dessert at one of the cafes while enjoying everything going on there. From that location, you can walk to most places, plus there are lots of good bus connections. I've never taken the Metro in Rome.

I've always been there alone, and I think people talk to you more then. Even if you're not alone, try to get into conversations with the natives. Always enjoyable. And at dinner, if the next table is extremely close, as it usually is, sometimes they can become your dinner companions when you didn't even expect it.

Go to the lesser known areas of Rome. There are places in Rome where you feel like you're out in the country. Beautiful!

For more, here are my trip reports:

In addition, click on my name to see my most recent report, which I'm in the middle of writing.

Hope this helps. Feel free to ask more questions if you have them.
Enjoy Rome!
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Old Aug 2nd, 2007, 06:19 PM
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Not everyone enjoys Rome. Maybe you are a Venice person. I know four people who adore Venice but hate Rome. A lot of people, including me, adore Rome and either hate or are very lukewarm about Venice. Anyway, I'm glad you are trying to like Rome. I've been a few dozen times. There is always something new to discover. Maybe that's one reason I love it. SusanP gave some good advise. Take it slowly and stay near the Piazza Navona/Pantheon/Campo di Fiore area. You can reach everything easily from there. I've been to Rome in every month except Feb. My favorites are May and October. What has brought you to Rome three times? Churches? Architecture? Art? Roman History? I love them all but churches are my favorite. I "collect" churches. With hundreds in the city, there is always a new one to add. I never pass an open church without going in. Find out what interests you and draws you to the city.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2007, 06:45 PM
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Reminds me of the aunt of Hart Crane who remarked that she'd read Great Expectations three times and still didn't like it.

My advice is, pass. Why force it? If it's not your cup of tea, move one.

I have to admit that every person who skips Rome means one less person clogging the streets for me.

Old Aug 2nd, 2007, 07:08 PM
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My husband is mad for Rome. Me, I like it but sometimes it is a bit too much for me. But here are some of my Rome favorites:

Galleria Borghese.

Ponte San Angelo

St Theresa in Ecstasy: not Rome's most beautiful neighborhood, but a pretty thrilling piece of sculpture.

Yep, I'm mad for Bernini.

Long leisurely walks through the parks. I have spent hours watching bocci in the Borghese Gardens.

Also love the Pincio and surroundings.

Seeking out "what's onquot; That way, we have been in buildings that we would otherwise never have entered, or were unlikely to enter. The Villa Medici stands out among these. We also look for temporary markets, art shows, art markets, etc. This is kind of like any other big city that we visit: I wouldn't go to New York, Washington, or Paris, without checking to see what is special in the galleries, museums, etc., for our time frame.

Food: food shops and markets are great in Rome. We go in lots of them, and seek out others.

As mentioned above, the churches. A particularly memorable walk was one we took to Saint Peter in Chains. Up wide city steps, through a park, past a college. So interesting and lovely. And a sort of Caravaggio pilgrimage from church to church.

How about the Palantine, just sitting and soaking it all up?

The Terme de Caracalla. Love it.

I'm guessing that if you have been to Rome three times, you have seen many of these sights. So maybe you don't like the particular brand of art or antiquities that are abundant in Rome.

If that's the case, of course don't force it.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2007, 07:13 PM
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I hated Rome the first few times I went there - just seemed too noisy, hectic, dirty, chaotic, and everything I really really wanted to see was closed or under constuction. I was there twice in 2006 and absolutely loved it. Not sure why, but maybe I'd lowered my expectations or just gotten mellower with age, or maybe it was because my kids were grown now and I wasn't fearful they'd be vespa'd to death, or maybe the city has changed. But I like Rome a LOT now. Not as much as Paris, but still, a LOT. Maybe you just have to be a bit more tolerant a traveler to deal with Rome than with other cities. It sure doesn't lack for fascinating history and culture!
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Old Aug 2nd, 2007, 07:32 PM
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I'm with Grinisa - love Rome and can take or leave Venice. If you don't feel the pull of Rome then maybe you aren't a 'Rome person.' It's hard to explain its appeal if you just don't feel it. We took friends with us to Rome in June for their first visit and although they were too polite to say it, it was clear that Rome was not their cup of tea. I'm going back in 2 months!!! Yay!!!!
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Old Aug 2nd, 2007, 11:15 PM
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I've been there three times and barely remember the first two times but enjoyed the last time. It may have made a difference that I liked the hotel. Also, I loved just walking all day and letting myself get lost in Rome and coming upon beautiful piazzas unexpectedly. Discovering a perfect cup of cappuccino and appreciating the art and architecture through older wiser eyes. Also loved the restaurant Abruzzi which I just stumbled on one mid-afternoon.
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Old Aug 3rd, 2007, 01:03 AM
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Hmmm, not sure what to advise. Like others, maybe it just isn't the place for you. Did you go when it was hot and busy?

Anyway, I have some thoughts I might share with you. Have you seen the series "Rome" (joint HBO/BBC production)? Just wondering because I find that putting a city in its historical context really helps me enjoy it more when I visit. My brother is a Roman historian and says that the production is very accurate albeit with some mistakes in order to "liven it up" a bit. I know that a trip to the Forum in Rome will never be the same for me.

My husband and I have just returned from a trip to the Amalfi coast and I feel that I was really able to enjoy Pompeii so much more because I had watched "Rome". The site was not ruins for me (we visited without a guide) - I was able to bring it alive in my mind with people and as I wandered in and out of rooms, I really felt their presence. Someone had painted (or had someone do the painting) directly onto those walls with the intention of bringing beauty to their homes, no different to me hanging a picture...I read Mark Twain's assessment of Pompeii almost 150 years ago and guess what? I would have virtually written the same as him. It is timeless in its ghostly quality. If you just visit and look at the buildings and not *feel* the place, then maybe you will come away with the sensation that it wasn't worth it the visit. My brother thinks that Pompeii should be closed to visitors and only open for archaeologists & classical historians; that most people traipsing around do not appreciate what they are looking at.

European cities are not things that I expect to entertain me or that I need to *get*. They are the repositories of thousands of years (in some cases) of civilisation. I see myself very much in the context as the latest visitor to come and explore, like millions have done before me, to appreciate some of man's greatest achievements. Paris, London, Berlin... they all have their own stories to tell.

My husband, father and I visited Rome in June (their first and my 2nd visit). We rented an apartment near the Vatican. Neither of them are great art fans but I insisted that they at least join me on a tour of the Vatican museum and have a look at St Peters. I have a wonderful photo of the both of them resting in St Peters - they are tiny compared to the immense column behind them. My father said that St Peters/Vatican was his favourite part of our Rome visit - a compliment from someone who had a strict Welsh chapel upbringing.

I agree with Grinisa - the churches are my favourite part too and I find it difficult to walk past an open one. So much beauty in the art and in the architecture. My husband is a lapsed Catholic and I think he finds my fascination for them charming, if a little bizarre!

My husband and I are planning to visit Rome again. 3 days are just not enough to absorb everything this fascinating city has to offer. I have lived in London for almost 14 years and I STILL haven't covered it all. Although the city drives me a little crazy sometimes, I still feel it is an enormous privilege to live here. I am reminded of its history at every turn. So my suggestion would be for you to relax a little and not put yourself under so much pressure to get Rome. Just try to *feel* all the people who have come before you and left their mark. And recognise that you are one of them!
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Old Aug 3rd, 2007, 02:53 AM
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I found Rome to be awe-inspiring. The evidence of life from the past surrounds you. Modern buildings are built on top of ancient ones, with the ancient underpinnings frequently exposed.

I first went to Rome with one of my daughters, and the next year I went with my husband. Late in the afternoon of our first day (after my nap), I took him on a walk from our apartment near the Trevi Fountain through the traffic and madness of the Piazza Venezia toward the Campidoglio, climbing the ramp/steps designed by Michelangelo and walking around to the back of the Senate building, where we saw the Roman Forum laid out at our feet.

After we spent an appropriate amount of time just gazing at it, I told my husband that we'd visit the Forum in the morning. His response, looking with wonder and amazement, was, "They let you go in there?"

In Rome, you can walk among the most emblematic icons of a vanished civilization, surrounded by the layers upon layers of history which have come since (and in some cases, which came even earlier, such as the descent from the stunning mosaics of the most recent incarnation of the San Clemente church to the lowest level, containing a temple to Mithras).

On my first visit, I took a tour of the Vatican with my daughter and was so distracted in St. Peter's by observing and photographing the effect of the light streaming in through the ceiling that I missed most of what the guide was saying. I figured the rays of light illuminating the altar had to be an intentional effect under a dome designed by Michelangelo, but it was hard to imagine that it always captured that same magical aura.

Upon returning the next year with my husband, I saw that the effect was displayed again, as much a part of the Roman catalogue of marvels as the stone monuments to the past that permeate the city.

Both my visits were in the winter (late February/early March). I imagine the heat and crowds of the summer, especially as described in a few recent descriptions of the Vatican Museum, would make the experience much less enjoyable.
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Old Aug 3rd, 2007, 03:42 AM
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I think that this is a chocolate vs. vanilla type of issue. There is no right answer and it all comes down to personal taste.

I 'endure' Rome in order to see its wonders. I certainly don't 'love' Rome. But I will still jump at any opportunity to visit the city! I adore Florence. Some people can't wait to get out of there....

Do you enjoy art? History? Food? These are the things that make Rome worthwhile for me. Otherwise I would not waste my precious vacation days visiting the city.

I find it dirty, noisy and chaotic, but then... a 1,000 yr old ruin pops up where you least expect it. A 500 yr old sculpture takes my breath away. A painting brings tears to my eyes. A flavor so intense that your whole body can feel it! Yes - I will ENDURE the chaos so that I can savor the beauty.

bottom line,IMHO its OK not to love it....chocolote vs. vanilla. Only appreciation is required
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Old Aug 3rd, 2007, 03:52 AM
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hi, dax,

here's an idea, picking up on other suggestions. Go without any plans at all. go out every morning and see what happens. see a nice cafe - stop and have a drink. a church - go inside. pick a neighbourhood and walk every street and alley, go in every shop and ruin, explore every corner.

if that doesn't work, try venice.

regards, ann
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Old Aug 3rd, 2007, 04:12 AM
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DAX, you've been to Rome three times and you don't enjoy it. Why would you want strangers to try to convince you otherwise? Italy is a big country, with plenty of places to see, and there are plenty of fantastic places in Europe and throughout the world. We are not sheep, and need not gather in a herd in the same pasture.

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Old Aug 3rd, 2007, 08:26 AM
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THANKS for all your great input, we travel to Europe a lot so I'm always looking for the next great destination where we can enjoy just being there. I appreciate learning more details about Pincio, P.Navona area or other fun areas. I do remember liking the night market around P. Navona area. Can you suggests great restaurants/cafes where one can linger and meet the locals?

We are very much into comfort food and comfortable friendly surroundings. I'm not big on art museums or roman history,so that's my handicap. We do try to do one museum a day and spend the rest of the day just exploring/looking for comfortable places to hang out to soak the local flavor.

I can relate to the church suggestion as we're catholics and my daughter did light candles in over 30 churches in Venice. The difference is the churches had local neighborhood & intimate feeling, not overcrowded so it was more meaningful.

I believe we've been going in April all 3 times trying to 'get" Rome but probably went to all the wrong places. We actually cut those 3 visits short because we just couldn't handle Rome anymore. Now that I think about it, the piazzas were too overcrowded as all the main attractions were, we just couldn't find any enjoyable comfort anywhere we went. So I know we need to go during the off-off season.

Anyone has a great intimate hotel suggestion? I'd appreciate any wonderful activity around the area. Anyone rented a Vespa and found a good niche/route to ride it around from place to place? We've been stuck in horrible standstill traffic too many times in Rome so our favorite was taking the metro and walking everywhere. We thought maybe a Vespa will allow us to travel above ground for longer distances.
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Old Aug 3rd, 2007, 08:43 AM
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I had been to Rome twice before taking a trip this past February/early March with my husband and son. One trip was in June, the other in April during Holy Week. both times I felt I liked Rome and wanted to return, but I wasn't totally charmed.

After our son studied ancient Rome in 6th grade he kept telling us he wanted to go to Rome and this year we finally agreed. My husband and I thought it would be a good trip for the 3 of us but if you had asked us which Italian city we most wanted to visit again, i would have said Florence and my husband would have picked Venice. We were amazed by how much we enjoyed Rome.

From the moment we stopped to admire the tortoise fountain in the Piazza Mattei right down the street from the apartment we rented in the ghetto, we had fallen in love with Rome.

There were a few things I can identify that were better than on other trips
1. we had great weather for touring --nice spring-like days and cool nights for sleeping, almost no rain. It had been too hot for me both the other times
We were coming from (and going back to) a cold, snowy New England winter so the great weather was especially welcome
2. We stayed longer than on other trips (7 1/2 days instead of 4)
3. we rented an apartment in a neighborhood we really enjoyed

Some of the things we did that were especially memorable:
-going up the Janiculum to the piazzaale Garibaldi for the view and walking down past the fontana dell'Acqua Paola and St Pietro in Montorio/Tempietto then into Trastevere, across the Isola Tiberina and "home" to the ghetto.
-going out to the Via appia antica and the aqueducts on Viale Appio Claudio
-taking early morning walks (this was my husband and me, minus late-sleeping teenage son) when the city is much quieter
-on the flip side, taking long walks after dinner to enjoy the night life in the Piazza della Rotunda, Piazza Navona, Campo de Fiori and Trastevere.

before we went I read Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling, The Lost Painting and The Genius in the Design: Bernini, Borromini and the Rivalry that Transformed Rome (by Jake Morrissey) and re-read I Claudius. All good background reading to help appreciate the city.

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Old Aug 3rd, 2007, 09:15 AM
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I found that I enjoyed Rome much more when I rented an apartment for the week.

I was able to get up before the family, close their bedroom doors, make a pot of coffee, step out for fresh baked goods or a cappucino.

I had my laptop and free wireless (freeloading). I could return home for lunch, or not. I could eat dinner in one evening when I wasn't in the mood to find a restaurant, wait, order, wait, eat, wait, wait, pay.

One afternoon I didn't want to walk, visit any museum, or church, so I hung out and read a book.

On the evenings we ate at the apartment we usually took a nice after dinner stroll for gelato, well before 10pm.

In the past, when I've a) stayed in a hotel and b) tried to do more, I got very burned out from Rome.

This recent trip I chose to do a lot less, and therefore enjoyed Rome much more than the before.
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Old Aug 3rd, 2007, 09:19 AM
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That's the kind of surprising nice experience I'm hoping for. Do you have a website for me to look at the ghetto apartment near P.Mattei? I assume you use the word "ghetto" as a wordplay. A little ghettoish is fine since I'm planning to go with my 16 yr old son as my wife & daughter will be preoccupied with a local theatre. Unfortunately it'll be in April again. What do you think your son liked about Rome beyond the history? Any particular fun activity for him, aside from watching the girls in P Mattei? I am really looking for specific suggestions and infos. Thanks.
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Old Aug 3rd, 2007, 09:22 AM
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J62; I agree with you, I should get an apartment instead of a hotel room. Any great apartment tip? What areas are most comfirtablke to hang out. Where the immediate area is fun to be in.
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Old Aug 3rd, 2007, 09:26 AM
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Do you actively dislike Rome (wouldn;t think so if you've been 3 times)? Or are just not that enthused versus some other places? (I can;t bear Madrid. I know a lot of people like it - but I won;t go back unless I need to for business.)

What is it about rome that you don;t like? Are you disappointed in certain aspects? Of just don;t like ancient history/momuments? Do you like modern better? Or Germanic tidyness and flowers in windowboxes?

Everybody dosn;t like everyplace. there's no rule you have to go to Rome if you really prefer other places.

I'm mad for it - but then I studied history in school and get a chill down my spine everytime I actually touch something that I know was used by someone 2,000 years ago. Add to that all of the churches, fountains, piazzas, and cafe sitting/people watching - to enjoy la dolce vita - and to me it's one of my absolute favorites.

But - other people love hiking all over mountains and sleeping in little huts and eating semi-petrified food and love it. You couldn;t pay me enough to do that.

Why force yourself to love Rome?
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Old Aug 3rd, 2007, 09:40 AM
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I rented a really cute apartment near Campo di Fiori for a week. Its a/c was frigid and powerful and I napped every afternoon from about 3-6PM. Only way to stay refreshed in that hot, frenetic city.

My best advice is go inside every single church you pass when you are out walking. They are cool, uncrowded, good place to sit and rest. And each one is a miraculous marvel, always awe-inspiring even if they look gritty and non-descript on the outside. Don't let the massive doors scare you off, just walk in and be amazed!

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