Thursday, July 17, 2014

Rome - ruins among the pickpockets

colosseum rome
What comes to mind when people think of "Rome"
We had seen ancient Venice and the beautiful Florence, and now it was time to see the last stop of the Italian Trinity - Rome.  We arrived off the Eurostar and entered the metro. We started to look for the ticket machine, and a sly woman must have read the look of confusion on our faces as she came right up to us and said she would show us. We were well aware that this was basically begging in disguise, but it seemed like more effort to shoo her off than to just keep walking towards the machine that we now spotted. "I help you buy the tickets, she says" as if we needed help paying the 1 euro each for a metro ticket. Too tired to object, we allowed her to do it for us, then gave her 1 Euro to go away.

The metro was way more crowded than I had ever experienced in NYC before. It was mass chaos boarding the train car, and we were squeezed in way tighter than we wanted to be. Some people got off at the first stop, allowing us to spread out a bit in the train car. It was then we saw the man in front of us reaching into his back pocket in a panic. They were tourists from Poland, and after a panicked discussion in Polish, they turned to the nearest local and said " My wallet is gone, all my money and credit cards were in there! What should I do" The crazy part was we were pretty much right behind this couple the whole time and we didn't even see it happen. After that we made sure to be extra careful in the metro and in general with our things, as it was more than clear there were professionals at work here.

Gladiator colosseum rome
Had to pay this guy to take the pic, but the costume was well worth it!

We got off at our stop, and low and behold the Colosseum in all its glory was right in front of us! How is it this ancient structure is able to stand here untouched, in between a metro station and busy streets! As we made the walk to our hotel, we realized that much of Rome is exactly like this. A preserved ancient ruin, surrounded by modernization all around it. I had been picturing the city to be more like Venice, which felt like we stepped back in time a couple hundred years. Instead, this city was not preserved and old, it just decided to save a few historic landmarks and move on with life all around.

After checking into the hotel, we immediately may our way back to the Coluseeum as we wanted some pictures and to go inside. As we were taking pictures of each other, a man approached us, asking if we wanted him to take a picture of us both. We politely declined, and in that one second it took us to engage with him, he managed to tie some red and green string around Brian's finger, then demanded 10 Euros. We started to laugh at the absurd request, but as a few of his friends started to approach us, we threw him 3 Euros and quickly walked away.

Honestly, we were a little startled at the amount of “swindlers” all over Rome that day. While this happens in every big city, including New York, it was the first time we faced people that were that aggressive. 

Now aware of the situation in Rome, we enjoyed the rest of our stay, seeing the inside of the Colosseum, the Roman forum, spanish steps, Trevi fountain etc. They were all just as amazing as we expected. The metro system was extremely easy to use, and the food and wine were outstanding. We had 4 days total here, and besides a day trip to Pompeii and a morning in Vatican City, we needed every other second to see it all.

Colosseum in Rome
The inside of the Colosseum

Trevi fountain rome
Trevi fountain

Spanish steps - Rome
The very crowded Spanish steps

the vatican
The Vatican

I know I didn't exactly paint the prettiest picture here, but a visit to Rome is still one of the first things I suggest to travelers wanting to see Europe for the first time, despite its obvious problems.  

How do you deal with the hagglers and pickpockets when traveling?

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