Greetings from Rome! I’ve been go, go, going since I hit the ground so here are just a few tips I’d like to pass on before I forget them in swirl of moving around.
- Go in the off season. It’s November and there are still swarms of tourists here but they surge and disappear like flocks of crows. I have found myself alone in a room enjoying a Bernini or Caravaggio more than once.
- When the inevitable moment comes when you are jammed against a wall in a museum packed wall to wall with other tourists, just close your eyes and remember “they’re just like crows; they’ll go away,” instead of screaming, “I’ve gotta get out of here—I’m having a claustrophobia attack!”
- Buy Dr. Scholl’s gel insoles. The combination of being on your feet for 10 hours a day, with shuffling slowly on marble and streets paved with uneven paving stones, will cause even the fittest feet to ache. Get gellin’.
- No matter how much you study the map and read the guides beforehand, expect to get lost—over and over and over. Rome is a hilly city with winding streets and avenues, half of which have no street signs. Think of it as an adventure.
- Similar to #4, no matter how prepared you are to see the “Top 10 Sights” according to some guide, be prepared to not be able to figure out how to even get in to the Roman Forum, or arrive at the Coliseum at 3pm to be told “She-a close-a now,” or never find that one thing in the Vatican you wanted to see because you got turned around.
- Please, for the love of God—and this is a personal favor to me—please don’t buy a selfie stick from one of the hordes of Bangladeshi or Nigerian street vendors and ruin the view of your fellow tourists, not to mention not really seeing any of the sites you came 1,000 miles to see because you’re preening and posing.
- Learn a little Italian. I didn’t do this and I keep speaking Spanish to them, which many Italians understand but I don’t understand when they respond to me in Spanish with an Italian accent. Prego—it’s not just a spaghetti sauce.
- Lastly, Americans, resist the urge to refer to the old Saturday Night Live “Find the Popes in the Pizza” with Father Guido Sarducci. They won’t know what you’re talking about and if they do they’ll laugh charitably then probably roll their eyes once you walk away.
And speaking of priests, yes they are all over the place here. I started a little “Nuns vs. Priests” game of my own but lost count after about a dozen on each side. About 75% of the nuns appear to be from India, the Philippines, and other developing countries. The priests, on the other hand, are mostly young and white. I don’t know what that indicates, but here’s a calendar I bought on the street.
More about Rome later. I’m mostly having a great time, although I did have a bit of a good cry in a public garden today. More about that later.
I’m off to Sorrento tomorrow.