Not with a bang but a whimper (tyrven) wrote,
Not with a bang but a whimper


Piazza del Popolo, built in 1818 by Giuseppe Valadier.

Arco di Settimio Severo from the third century.

I crashed a wedding at the basilica of Santa Maria del Miracoli.

So many statues, so many churches - not sure which one this was in.


Considering that we did zero planning, Rome is treating us exceptionally well. While Katie's been at her conference, I've walked pretty much everywhere in central Rome at least twice (I've put an easy 125 miles on my shoes). At this point, I feel like I've gotten a very solid feel for the city.

I couldn't be more pleased with our hotel room, which is saying quite a bit for a city where $150/night rooms receive rave reviews such as: "Tiny, dirty, bad neighborhood - but not too far from the Metro makes this cheap and convenient for tourists on a budget. Rating: 4/5." We found a beautiful modern boutique right off Via Veneto (where Fellini shot La Dolce Vita and right up from the American Embassy - basically the fancy part of town) for mid-range prices. It's a touristy neighborhood, but it's clean, quiet and really central.

After a few days, a lot of the novelties of Rome where off. You walk down a tiny alleyway and come across a two-millennia-old Roman ruins or the baroque facade of a renaissance church or a charming little trattoria tucked away from the hustle-and-bustle and you barely take notice; these are common place. An academic could spend months here and barely scratch the surface, but even combining my interest and education in art (and, to a lesser degree) history and architecture I found myself quite satiated with the most obligatory tourist traps.

And this is an interesting point. When travelling I usually shy away from tourist spots. I have a stereotype that they represent the Disneyland of travel: gimmicks monetized for the simplicity of lazy tourists, who would rather pay a premium for the staged snapshot of a country than get their hands dirty digging for authenticity. This concept doesn't translate to Italian, though: the tourist spots are popular for a reason: there is only one Pantheon, one Coliseum, one St. Peter's Basilica in the world - and each are so important and so spectacular that they justify the pedestals they've claimed on the tourist route. Further, because there are so many tourists in Rome (far more than actual Romans) and because they come from so many corners of the world (albeit most from Europe) you become somewhat oblivious to their presence; Rome's culture is a mishmash of various travelers, all here for different interests and yet common destinations.

The exceptions to this, of course, remain culture and food - typically two motivators for me in travel. And, certainly, I've sought out both while I'm here. There are so many important and obligatory tourist destinations, though, that these have (surprisingly) become secondary priorities. On that note, I apologize in advance for what a cliché this photoset it; these are likely the same photos you've seen a dozen times before, quite likely from your own collection or that of your friends. Things that I usually focus on (people, signs, daily life) are easily overlooked in Rome and so I don't think I'm adding anything original here.

Another consideration during the trip, but not one I've made any effort to capture on film, is the night life. I wake up in the morning and play tourist then come home, change into my dress clothes and go out on the town - sometimes not returning until early morning. Consistent with its reputation, Rome comes alive at night as the piazzas fill up with travelers, tourists (many themselves Italian), students - and, occasionally, even Romans. Combine warm nights, no open container regulations and a huge number of tourists on summer vacation from around the world and things can get pretty fun. It's not what I came here for nor is it something I thought I would be that interested in, but it's an easy subculture to get sucked into. Especially with so many incredibly attractive Italians wandering around.

On that note, Rome does not make for a cheap holiday. You really need to watch your money. Even disregarding the abysmally weak dollar (let’s not even talk about my stocks!) there has been significant inflation across Europe - and while it hasn't (yet) taken a strong hit on the official metrics of the economy, people on the street are very aware of it due to the high cost of day-to-day living. Food, drinks, transportation - all add up very quickly, and there are very clear class-lines. Add in a 1.6x conversion rate for the dollar and you can easily spend $100/day not including lodging. Contrast this with our trip to Guatemala, which cost us $1,000 each for thirty days including airfare, hotel, food, rental car, gifts, etc - factoring in all costs, that same budget would last us maybe four days in Rome.

This set includes everything you'd expect: ancient Roman ruins, gothic cathedrals, Renaissance palaces, a variety of statues covering two-thousand years of history, Etruscan art, fountains, piazzas, ceiling frescos, etc, etc. The only notable item it doesn't include (yet) is Saint Peter's basilica and other sights from the Vatican City - that'll happen in the next couple days.

Tags: adventures, photography
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