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Being a Tourist in Rome

Posted by on Thursday, June 1, 2017 in Blog posts.


I had decided to stay in Cefalù for the free weekend because it was our last weekend in this lovely little town, but then my villa roommates began to plan a trip to Rome and I changed my mind. I think it is extraordinary to see historical monuments and natural wonders by yourself, but there is something special you feel — a certain type of closeness — if you share these moments with others. And so, like I said in my previous blog post, I was so happy to see the Vatican, Coliseum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon with my travel partners, and more generally, to get lost in the winding, convoluted, tourist-filled, romantic streets of Rome with my roommates.

And so, we went to Rome and had many joyful encounters with locals, tourists, monuments, streets, and each other on our trip. However, being a tourist in Rome was very, very different than being a tourist in Cefalù. Before arriving in Rome, I did not understand Rome to be such an international city. Cefalù does not have the most diverse population, but in our travels throughout Sicily, I have seen many diverse peoples. These populations were nothing to compare to the diversity we saw in Rome from the tourists to the locals to the vendors. The whole time we were there, it seemed that every time I turned my ear, I could hear a new language. French, Spanish, English, Dutch, German, you name it and it was being spoken somewhere in Rome. In a way, being a tourist in Rome is easier than being one in Cefalù because of this diversity of people. Almost everyone we came across, except some older persons, spoke a bit of English, at least enough to point us in the direction we needed to be heading or to share with us recommendations. In Cefalù, the hardest challenge for me living there was the language barrier because often I want to speak to the people I meet, really speak and have discussions and because speaking English is not as important to the tourism industry there (which is much smaller than Rome’s, closes down in October unlike Rome, and serves many other Sicilians and Italians), it has been hard to have conversations with people.

The greater tourism industry in Rome made me miss Cefalù greatly during our short trip away. I couldn’t wait to see Rome for myself, truly. However, the entire time I felt like I was being trapped in this tourist scheme. Let me give you an example. When we visited the Vatican, we earlier purchased student tickets on their website to see the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, but then when we got there, we were literally accosted by dozens of men pointing us this way and that, trying to sell us something, and we were told that our tickets would be better off if we upgraded to something else. It took us forever to finally get in line and the whole time, I had a sour taste in my mouth. I thought that such a place was sacred and to me, the tourism there was soiling its importance. Upon leaving the Vatican, we were so hungry, we stopped in the first restaurant we saw because a flyer was shoved at us and food seemed so incredibly important to have at that very moment. I had prepared before coming to Rome by reading travelogue upon travelogue and we fell into a tourist trap just like that. The travelogues all said to never eat at a restaurant close to a major attraction and to never, ever eat at a restaurant that had pictures on the menu because often the food would look different in person and contain frozen ingredients. The travelogues weren’t wrong; I ate some expensive frozen tortellini that day. I haven’t had such a thing ever happen in Cefalù and I think that is because Cefalù is more of a beach stay rather than historical destination, still I was very unhappy with the experience.

Though we hit some bumps in the road in Rome (quite literally too, the cobbled roads were especially bumpy), I had a happy time in Rome that I will remember forever and ever. We had a lovely AirBNB host that made us Italian pasta that was honestly better than the pasta I have eaten in any restaurant so far and took us into the city in the early hours of the morning (2:00 am-3:30 am). I now think that the city is at its most beautiful at night. We saw the Trevi Fountain uncrowded and in its glorious beauty. We saw the massiveness of the Coliseum and followed the winding streets in the dark to find other youth venturing out in the city. We drove the length of the city centre and I felt like I was getting to know this foreign place intimately. Michele, our host, left us with one great piece of wisdom then, “use Trip Advisor.” And while Rome is no Cefalù (Cefalù has my heart completely), it was beautiful to see the historic city for myself.

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