Observations from Rome

Old Dec 25th, 2006, 12:06 PM
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Observations from Rome

I'll leave the trip report format to others and simply list ten observations from our recent six-day "Christmas" trip to Rome. We speak softly and try never to be "Ugly Americans", so the following are observations, not judgments. Others might see these same things in an entirely different light. Our six-person group included my wife and three adult daughters.
Here are my ten observations, not necessarily supported by all in the group.

10. Rome is a dirty city. fascinating, historic, beautiful, exciting,...dirty.

9. The foot traffic is interesting. People walk single file or close together and purposefully on the crowded streets,straight ahead without veering or making eye contact. A daughter and I observed that this may be genetic. Our Midwestern tendency would be to yield and/or excuse ourselves. This would only cause massive pedestrian traffic jams. so - straight ahead, no apologies for minor collisions. It works.

8. An "apartment" for tourist lodgings is not an apartment. It is, however, a good deal.We would have needed three hotel rooms (at three times the cost). We had bedrooms bigger than those of the typical European hotel we might stay at. The bedrooms of such apartments tend to be in "train" style. The kitchen and sitting areas limited. The overall impact is more "B & B" than anything.

7. Since we are not "foodies" you might want to skip #7. In six nights we ate dinner out three times. the other three we made use of the limited kitchen facilities, and these were days we indulged ourselves with a large lunch at sidewalk cafes..and gelato. We saw an amazing array of ristorantes.Our favorite dinner was at Pier Luigi near Campo Fiori, favorite for both food and service.

6. The Catacombs..of which there are many groupings. We arranged for a private tour for our family with "Through Eternity" so that we would have at least one quality experience. It was.
Our guide was an art history professor from Philadelphia who has lived in Rome the last eight years. This is a layered city. We saw cultures and religions one atop another. Maybe a million people were buried in "catacombs" over at least three centuries.Surely some of them were buried there secretly to avoid persecution, but the Roman authorities knew about most of the burials. It was Roman law that burials had to be outside the (then) city for hygenic reasons.Wonderful lecture/tour.

5.In terms of distances, Rome is a walking city. Traffic and cobblestones are the wild cards. we walked at least three hours a day. There was a balance: walking time was time we could not see/do things; walking time was a great time to see/do things.

We soon learned the unwritten rules of walking in Rome. On the (many) significant crossings without traffic lights, it was a game of flow and momentum. If you picked a reasonable gap, it was OK to raise your hand and walk (alertly) into traffic. Traffic started up by the same rule. Very rarely did either party seem miffed. It worked.

4. the Musee Borghese..everything the guide books say about it. Its large park-like setting affords quiet, something Rome is not. The requirement of an advance reservation/time slot is genius. It can be done by e mail. Quick response. No money (or cc numbers) exchange hands in advance. The result is that one is never crowded in the 20+ rooms.Uncrowded. Something Rome is not.
Some favorites:
Bernini's sculpture of Apollo & Daphne

Bernini: Pluto & Proserpina

Bassano's painting of the Last Supper..
not the usual picture that comes to
mind. What would Dan Brown do with

3.Two sites... the Pantheon..the oldest "intact" building in Rome. the outside front of the building more striking to me than the inside... and
the Trevi Fountain..a cliche maybe, but the fountain seems to grow out of a building.
I just enjoy being there.

2.Smoking. It is said that Italy has made strides in curbing smoking. It certainly has in terms of public places. All the restaurants we visited were pretty much smoke-free. Nonetheless, it seemed strange to see policemen smoking while directing traffic. Second hand smoke was bothersome on the crowded streets...and the majority of middle/high school aged students gathered anywhere were smoking. Do not divest your tobacco stocks with international exposure.

drum roll....
#1 For me the Vatican and St. Peter's. My church, made up of humans, plagued by all manner of fault, but to which I remain loyal..an emotional experience, perhaps the same that the Muslim feels at Mecca or the Jew at the Wailing Wall.

A final footnote..I foolishly thought I could read Colleen McCullough's (she of Thorn Birds) "The First Man in Rome" on the flights over and back. It's 1000+ pages and I haven't inished yet, but it is adding to my pleasure post-trip.
Thanks,Fodorites, for your many postings which were of great value in planning the trip.
billywayne is offline  
Old Dec 25th, 2006, 12:09 PM
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Hi B,

Did you enjoy your visit?

ira is offline  
Old Dec 25th, 2006, 12:19 PM
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Ira, immensely.
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Old Dec 25th, 2006, 04:42 PM
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10. Have not noticed Rome is dirty. Many buildings are certainly grimy - haveing been there in excess of 500 years. Also - taxation in Italy depends at least in part on total assets - not just income - so lots of buildings that are gorgeous inside are peeling and cracked outside to reduce the tax bill.

9. This is not unique to Rome - but a habit in any large city - otherwise sidewalks would be constantly blocked and no one would get anywhere.

5. In terms of crossing the street it would never occur to me to hold up my hand. You simply wait for a likely spot and step out - the drivers are watching for you even if they pretend they're not.

But all above are good info for those not used to large cities in general and Rome in particular.
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Old Dec 25th, 2006, 05:43 PM
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Thank you for your reflections on Rome. As with any large city, Rome has its flaws but I love it anyway!
LCBoniti is offline  
Old Dec 26th, 2006, 02:01 AM
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Interesting observations!
As to *10, however, I wonder what you're comparing it to? Rome started up in or around 750 BC (pretty old place), and has gone through a major cleaning of many public statues in recent years.

Old Dec 26th, 2006, 05:58 AM
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I did not realise that you MUST have reservations for the Borghese...is this true?
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Old Dec 26th, 2006, 06:05 AM
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Sandi - Yes, the reservations are timed and only a certain number of people (25?) allowed in for each time slot. Your time is limited to 2 hours.
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Old Dec 26th, 2006, 09:28 AM
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Sandi ..yes, reservations are required, as the recent poster confirms. The number per two hour time slot is quite a bit higher than 25 (I think)..but it works very well. Again, making those reservations is absolutely painless. Works well.
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Old Dec 26th, 2006, 12:34 PM
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Wonderful "trip report". Very informative. We're going in March and am glad you took the time to pass on your observations. Thanks
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Old Dec 26th, 2006, 12:56 PM
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Rome is a city you must visit more than once. The first 2 times I was there, although my wife loved it, I thought it was intense and brutal to the senses. The third time in Rome, I felt relaxed and very comfortable. Perhaps because I had seen all the prerequisite tourist sites during the first 2 visits, I had more opportunity to soak in the real Roma during our last trip!
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