Embracing tourist traps in Rome

My last post was all about visiting ancient Rome but Rome is more than a history lesson; it is a very busy, buzzing city with so much to offer any traveller.  Rome’s major sights and attractions are world famous.  Yes, many of these attractions will be tourist traps but that doesn’t mean that they should be avoided altogether – tourist hot spots tend to be hot spots for a reason – there is something awesome to see!

Here are some of the highlights from touristy Rome, which will probably form part of the itinerary of most visitor’s to Rome.

1. The Spanish Steps

We were told by the staff at our hotel how to walk to the Spanish Steps, but we much have taken a wrong turn somewhere as we ended up at the top of the steps and did not quite realise straight away that we were there.

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Unfortunately, you can no longer pretend to be Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday and eat an ice cream on the steps as eating and drinking is banned.  Instead, we just sauntered down the 135 steps (feeling quite glad that we had gone wrong and were going down rather than up), people watching and taking pictures of the view.

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One tourist trap to watch out for as a woman – I was approached at least half a dozen times on the descent by men coming up to me and trying to put silk roses into my hand, claiming there was no charge.  My advice is just to politely say no and move on.

2. The Trevi Fountain

This is where traditionally travellers to Rome will throw in a coin to make sure they return.

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I was travelling with Jim who is notoriously tight fisted and clamped my purse shut in my hand when I attempted to participate in this tourist trap.

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The Trevi Fountain is huge, ridiculously over the top and absolutely jam packed with tourists trying to get a good picture.  It is quite claustrophobic, but visually it is very beautiful and I wouldn’t have missed it.

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I would recommend a return visit in the evening – it is lovely lit up by night and although it was still busy, the crowds did die down significantly in the evening.

3. Piazza Navona

Rome is full of charming streets and lively piazzas, but the Piazza Navona is the famous one and it is the prime spot in Rome for people watching.

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For art fans, the Piazza Navona is also home to Bernini’s famous Obelisk.

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Jim & I are budget travellers and so we did not splash out to sit at a pavement cafe with a drink.  Instead, we sat on one of the quite uncomfortable benches by the fountains to rest our weary legs and watch the world go by.  Visiting Rome can be exhausting as there is so much to see and you will spend an awful lot of time on your feet.  Whether sitting beside a fountain or taking a break in a cafe, the Piazza Navona is a lovely place to spend some time recharging your batteries for the rest of the day.

4. The Capitoline Museums

These are a group of art and archaeological museums on top of Capitoline Hill.  We didn’t actually visit the museums themselves, although they do have a vast collection for any art lovers visiting Rome and entry is €13.  The main attraction for us was the views of Rome from on top of the hill.

There is a large square outside the Capitoline Museums which seems to be used as a gathering place.  We don’t actually have any photos from our visit as there was a protest taking place at the time and police vans came tearing up the hill to cut off the roads.  We wandered around but made quite a swift exit.

View of the Roman Forum from the road to the Capitoline Museums

View of the Roman Forum from the road to the Capitoline Museums

The road up to the Museums is a great place from which to view the Roman Forum.

5. Churches

If there is one thing that Rome has in spades, it is churches.  They are all remarkably grand affairs and definitely worth a look in even for people who are not religious.

This one is the Santa Maria Maggiore, which is situated about half way between the Colosseum and Termini station.

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Many of the churches also contain famous works of art, for example The Ecstasy of St. Teresa is located within the Santa Maria della Vittoria, although sadly the limited time we had in Rome didn’t allow us to visit.

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By Napoleon Vier (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 Tips for visiting

Rome is an incredibly easy city to visit.  Everything is very walkable, and like any new place, one of the best things to do is just to walk around and soak up the atmosphere.  My advice would be to wear shoes that you are comfortable walking in for a long time – I only brought one pair of little tennis shoes which I thought would be fine, however I had wrecked the inside of them on the first afternoon and would return to the hotel every day with aching, swollen feet.

Every hotel in Rome should be able to provide you with a free map and the tourist map we had is without a doubt the best map we had of any city we have ever been too, with all of the major sites and public transport routes clearly marked.  That is not to say that we never got lost – we did find ourselves walking unexpectedly through a horrible car tunnel at one point – but we did manage to find our bearings quite quickly.

Jim & I spent 4 nights in Rome and this was probably not quite enough.  We did pack absolutely everything in that we wanted to, but we had to keep up quite a pace to do this and so we would get back to the hotel in the early evening and just collapse, unable to move for a couple of hours.  Rome, and Italy in general, is a place that invites a slower pace of life, to enjoy eating the food and drinking wine and watching life go by.  If we went again, I would spend at least a full week in Rome to properly embrace the Italian way of life.

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One response to “Embracing tourist traps in Rome

  1. Pingback: Garibaldi is more than a biscuit and other surprising moments in Rome | 500adventures·

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