Left bella Firenze for an abysmal downfall in Roma

Posted: 10 March 2011 in Europe, Italy

Not every trip goes as planned. Nor will it be seamless and without frustration or annoyance. I seemed to encounter all of these whilst in Rome. I know what you may be thinking “But it’s Rome?! The Colosseum?! Couldn’t you just die?!” Well in fact, I was ready to kill someone. Let me explain all the things that went wrong when I arrived in Roma and all the things you could do to avoid these pitfalls.

The mishaps:

Our train was late. Italian trains rarely run on time, and we didn’t arrive in the city until late at night. Thus the subways were closed. At least the one we were supposed to get on, so we got on the wrong subway. The bus we could have taken never arrived at the train station. After an hour of navigating Linea A vs. B vs. Bus, we settled for a cab.

The cab ride was a highlight. Partly because we passed the Spanish steps at night when they were picturesque and relatively people free. But we were tired and decided to head to the hostel. The Colors hostel was awful.  Small, overcrowded, and with only one fully functioning shower for thirty people! To top it off, all the restaurants were starting to close. Luckily we found a snack shop with amazing gelato! Congratulations Roma, you got gelato right 🙂

New morning. New day. Better day? Not so much. The Sistine Chapel was closed. So we went to St. Peter’s Basilica, not a total loss, just meant the St. P’s would be more crowded. Afterwards we stopped for an ok tasting lunch. Big mistake! Huge! Never, ever, ever eat by the Vatican. They charged us Vatican Tax! 40% on our meal! In case you are wondering there is no such thing as Vatican tax. And I knew it! Then I became one of those Americans… you know, the kind that throws a fit because they were trying to rip us off. And after they wouldn’t budge, they asked for a tip.

Luckily the Colosseum can hardly be disappointing. It was in fact the highlight for the day. The Spanish steps were a disappointment. There were so many people on them you could hardly see them, let alone walk up in a straight line. And I still couldn’t find a decent meal. Yes. In Rome I could find nothing I liked it, except for gelato. My pizza was burnt. Not crispy. Burnt. The wine was cheap and strong at the same time. They put meat on my tortellini. And I never had a redeeming slice of pizza.

How to save a trip from disaster:

A. Anticipate delays in travel, and have a fund specifically if you need to take cabs. Also estimate how much that cab might be. In Roma the cabs are 10-15 Euro if you are heading somewhere within the city. In Stockholm or London it can easily double or triple.

B. Read reviews for accommodations. Read all the bad ones and the good ones and look for intelligent reasons for why someone voted for or against.  Key components are cleanliness, space, facility upkeep, vicinity and friendliness of staff. No one wants a dirty, small, broken, off-the-beaten-path hostel with a bitchy staff.

C. If you are going to Italy during peak travel expect massive crowds. If you hate crowds go in the off-season.

D. Look up places to eat. Stopping in to eat anywhere can be hit or miss. If you have all week it is worth a gamble, but if you are only in town for a short time, look up where to go to ensure that you maximize your experience.

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