My Love Affair With Rome

I sat down to write my typical Top Ten list last week, but I found that my love for Rome could not simply be contained in such a short post.  I was literally unable to summarize all the elements that have made me fall head over heels.

I have decided instead to share with you all the specific reasons, the details, the moments that have made me a captive of this amazing place.  My hope is that you will soon understand why I have woken up in the middle of the night sure that I have smelt the aroma of the morning bread or why I will watch any movie (even pathetic romantic comedies with outrageously horrible acting and brutal stereotyping) in hopes that I can catch a glimpse of a little alley I am familiar with or to hear the distinctive sound of the sirens.

Before I begin, I would like to take a moment upon my soapbox to come to the defense of Rome and the bad rap often given this beautifully gritty city.

More than once I have had concerned clients ask me if Rome is safe.  Some were even considering removing Rome as a stop on their itinerary.

My answer every time is that Rome is my favorite big city on the planet.  Rome is noisy and dirty and pushy and extremely overwhelming.  Without the right frame of mind, a traveler might hurry through their to-do-list and get the heck outta Dodge.

Dirty?  Yep, especially when compared to Paris, although to be fair most of Europe is.  There is graffiti everywhere, mostly soccer smack talk.  Watch your step in the morning as the doggie poo bag remains a mystery of the universe here.  Cigarette butts can found just about anywhere.

Noisy?  Like nothing you could ever imagine.  Romans learn to drive with one hand holding a cigarette and another on the horn.  Traffic is a way of life and there are more mopeds than you can shake a stick at.   Romans are loud.  They are boisterous.  They wave their hands in the air with a dizzying frenzy.  You will feel overwhelmed at first.  But if you take a deep breath and let go you will realize that these people just feel life and they hold nothing back.  I will argue that there are no bigger hearts in all of Europe.  I absolutely enjoy Paris but I have never really made a friend there and sometimes I get the feeling they could take me or leave me, they are just so subdued you don’t really know where you stand.  In Rome, I make friends crossing the street.  They love to talk, they want to get to know you.

Safe?  I have never ever had a problem.  BUT people who don’t travel they way I recommend always do.  I can actually stand outside the Colosseum and guess which tourist is going to get scammed.  There are gypsies, but they are easy to spot.  There are pickpockets at the train station/major sites/buses but if you wear a moneybelt and remain aware of your surroundings (and never ever use a fanny pack) no one is going to mess with you.  If you deal in small bills, no one is going to question your change.  The men can still be perverted (I find the older men can be but the younger generation is much more respectful of women) but if you understand that they are harmless and just laugh it off instead of getting offended or think of it as an ego boast it isn’t that bad.  When someone does make you feel uncomfortable or does cross the line, get in their face.  They will back off.

I only ask to give Rome a chance.  Please don’t be afraid.  Don’t listen to other people’s bad experiences.  Travel to Rome with your eyes open but even more importantly your heart.

I’m obsessed with feedback, let me know what you think.

Love it??  Pass it on!

Copyright 2012   Andi Brown,  Once in a Lifetime Travel

26 Responses to “My Love Affair With Rome

  • Absolutely Rome is a must-see place on any Italy itinerary, and even moreso, a must- experience place!

    You have described the character of this wonderful city perfectly!

  • Veronica Viggiano (Ronnie)
    9 years ago

    I wore a leather fanny pack in Rome but tied it shut with a shoe string–and double knots! I love Rome—have been there three times and can’t wait to return. I still have a list of masterpieces by Caravaggio and Bernini that can only be seen in Rome.

  • I love the way you described Rome. On my website, my description of Rome is similar to yours: “For me, Rome is where my heart longs to be. It is unspeakably beautiful, crude, exquisite, rude, gracious, and endlessly fascinating.” She is my favorite city on the planet because I am most alive there. All emotions, good and bad, are magnified.

  • This describes Rome and pretty much every Italian city South of it to a tee – Love!

  • Thanks for sharing! I’ve been to Rome a few times, but it was never my favorite place. We’ll be going back in December, and I’ll look at it in a whole new way.

  • I have only been to Rome twice and the first time I was so overwhelmed by the chaotic traffic, history and art that it was only when I returned home that I realised how much I loved Rome. The second time didn’t disappoint and even though we had a list of things to see and do, we still found time to relax in the park or sit outside a bar watching the Romans go about their business. It is a fabulous city regardless of dirt, chaos and the crush of people and I can’t wait to return.

  • I am 3 days from departing San Francisco bound for Rome for the first time and your description was a good reminder the energy of a city such as this can be both a blessing and curse, depending on your frame of mind.

    I spent two weeks in India and Bangladesh and I must say that the way you describe Rome could almost word-for-word be applied to Mumbai.

    I can’t wait to be overwhelmed and then take respite in a little trattoria with a glass of vino. You have a beautiful blog. One of our favorites as we prepare for this trip.

  • I love love love Rome, and it helped to embrace it for all it is. This old lady told me off like nobody’s business when I tried to ask the bus driver a question – I will never forget it and has become one of my favorite memories. Relax into the chaos and you shall be rewarded with amazing beauty and a stirring of your soul!! Miss talking Italy with you Andi!

  • I always think of Rome as an “Old New York City”…LOL! For us, we start in Rome and end in Lucca. That way, we are still wound up and end in a relaxing town. It allows us to make the transition from “work mode” to “vacation mode”. Love the city at night, when you usually have it to yourself to see the Colosseum without the gladiators that are there in the day time. You have a love of Rome that we have for Lucca…too many words and pictures to describe it!

  • You summarized well all the things that made me fall in love with Rome, as well — chaotic, gritty, but with a charm that gets under your skin and leaves you yearning to return.

  • Rome dirty? I was there in 1984. Compared to then, it’s extremely clean today (back then traffic circled the Pantheon too — yuck!) Rome gets better the more time you spend there. There are so many treasures, and especially if it’s not summer it isn’t hard to get around. I love walking Rome! You’re right about safety. There are pick pockets and petty crime, but if you take precautions and are alert (e.g., if you’re by the Trevi fountain always be cognizant of your billfold or purse) it’s fine. Rome is also a city that is all the more enjoyable the more you know of its history, culture and offerings. Those who don’t like Rome because it’s hot and gritty simply haven’t come to know Rome!

  • My second trip to Rome was this past August. We rented an apartment this time, and it was a wonderful experience feeling like a ‘Roman’. I loved walking the streets, and finding a piece of history with every turn. It is nothing like I find in Canada. Yes the people are loud, and the traffic is aggressive, but I find that part of the charm as long as you are prepared to embrace it.

  • Wonderful, heartfelt, competent post. This Roman is truly grateful for this. Very well done! 🙂

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