It’s one of the world’s most dreamed about destinations, but Rome & I have never quite seen eye to eye.
Despite the promises of la dolce vita, I find it hard to relax in Rome.
I imagined myself strolling through sun-dappled piazzas with a gelato in hand as vespas whizz by. I daydreamed about stumbling along remnants of ancient history around every corner.
I’ve visited twice now. My experience has always been of a dirty, chaotic and sprawling city where I’m often lost, with no intuitive sense of where to go.
Rome has not been an easy city to wander, my favourite mode of transport. I find myself trekking along worn-down streets and past chain stores in search of something worth stopping for. Or at least a Metro stop, so I can zip to another part of town. I’ve found it difficult to stumble upon something memorable in Rome.
Surprise Colosseum sightings aside, I’ve always found Rome to be difficult.
No doubt, one problem has to be that I’m never staying in a convenient part of town. Both times in Rome, I’ve been on a tour, which usually means a hotel at least 20 minutes out of the centre.
I can’t even remember what no man’s land I stayed in the first time I visited. The well-heeled Parioli neighbourhood was an improvement on my second visit.
Unfortunately, it’s distance from the centre still leaves you at the mercy of the unreliable Roman metro.
Thanks to the inefficiencies of the Roman metro, I spent a lot of time sweating in stationery trains and being stuck in Parioli.
Difficult isn’t always a bad thing, but it hasn’t made it easy to fall in love with the Italian capital.
Unfortunately for my bank account, when it comes to travel, I’m not a quitter.
As I was explaining to my uncle Thomas last week that I just didn’t “get” Rome yet, he suggested that maybe I just didn’t like Rome.
“You don’t have to like Rome. You don’t have to go back and try again.”
He’s totally right, of course. You don’t have to love everywhere you visit, and you don’t have to try, try and try again. But for some reason, I feel like the third time might be a charm. I’ve seen just enough to suggest that there is something in Rome that I’ll really love.
Next time, I’ll get a better lay of the land beforehand. I’ll book a room in the heart of the action – not in the crowded historic centre, but in the Trastevere neighbourhood. I’ll avoid the madness that is the Colosseum and the area around the Roman Forum, except to admire the magnificent Altare della Patria.
I’ll definitely return to the fountains in the Piazza Navona, to hear the stories of these beautiful buildings, statues and fountains all over again. For this Contiki tour, we had a local guide, Maite, and she made all the difference on an evening walking tour. Passionate about her city’s history and a wonderful storyteller, she had me hanging off every word.
The history of Rome is fascinating, so more walking tours or food tours would be high on my agenda, before peeling off on my own for a few days to wander and discover different pockets of Rome for myself.
In the meantime, these photos remind me of how beautiful Rome is, and why I think it’s worth giving another more shot.
There are cities I’m not rushing back to, and Rome is one of them. I’ve got a lot more to see in the world before I give a city a third shot. However, there are also cities I’ve visited, that I’d easily skip, even if I had the chance or was in the area. Despite it’s challenges, Rome is not one of them.