When we decided to travel to Rome we had absolutely no idea what we were doing. The confidence you think you have by watching a lot of travel to Rome videos on Youtube quickly vanishes when you actually get there. Fortunately, we had a few things set up in advance to make the adventure less of a shock to our old bones.
Travel to Rome is not that expensive
After checking the cost of flying to Rome, which was just a little shy of a grand, I came up with the idea of traveling by boat. In fact, we took a repositioning cruise on Royal Caribbean from Miami to Rome. Fifteen days at sea, with stops in the Azores, Spain, and France before finally arriving in Italy seemed like a no-brainer. Especially when you get the whole 15 days for about $2,500 for both of us including tips and port charges.
We weren’t sure what to expect from a “repositioning” cruise, but I can tell you now, it was great. Royal Caribbean did not cut corners on anything. The entertainment was as good as any cruise we have ever taken and the food was, well, as good as any Royal Caribbean ship delivers these days. The only downside was the dining room wait staff.
The problem seems to be that all the help was relatively new, with our waitress only having 5 months of cruise experience. This proved to be real drag, with us waiting almost 1-1/2 hours most nights to finish dinner. Overall the repositioning cruise was great.
This is only my opinion, but Rome is better viewed in the movies. I would have much rather seen Audrey Hepburn wandering by than the homeless men living on every corner with their local pile of belongings and excrement.
It seems that everyone in Italy smokes, constantly. I remember when everyone in the US smoked like that, but it has been a while. It’s like a 1950’s Fellini film with everyone, men, women, police, children, and animals, brushing by with a lit cigarette in hand.
Starving in Rome
We were looking forward to some delicious Italian food. I guess I really don’t know “real” Italian food. It appears to my admittedly untrained eye that all Italian food revolves around dozens of different ways to eat pasta. There’s pasta with clam sauce, and pasta with marina sauce, and pasta with shrimp, and pasta with lamb, and pasta with fish, and pasta with anything too slow to run away. Oh well, you get the idea. After a couple of days, I was starving for some protein, meat actually, and lots of it. I’m not a big “carbs” guy and it was killing me.
I finally had to grab my phone and scream, “Directions to the nearest McDonalds.” It was a little less than 2 miles away and we were there in about 30 minutes. The menu kiosk could switch to “English” so, after several failed attempts, we finally got our big Macs and fries. What a treat. I mean, since this was Rome, we could technically call it “Italian food.”
They do not do breakfasts in Rome. They grab a small cup of expresso and a pastry called a Cornetto. Cornetto is Italian for, “Wouldn’t a Krispy Kreme be great?” To actually call them “pastry” is a stretch at best. They are an odd-shaped piece of bread, which tastes, suspiciously, like yet another kind of pasta. I actually lost 5 pounds in a week. So did my wife. Don’t worry, I found it when we got home.
Did I mention that Italians view ice as they do radioactive debris? They seem to think that ice might somehow kill them. They will, reluctantly, give you a few pieces if you ask, then they watch from afar to see if you drop dead or start developing stomach cancer.
The people are all so thin it is disgusting. Everywhere you look you see guys with 31″ waists and a cigarette in their mouth. So, I’m thinking the nicotine must counteract the prodigious piles of pasta they consume each day.
The best way to see Rome quickly is the “Hop on, Hop off” bus. We went around Rome twice and saw quite a bit in a couple of hours. It was only about $24.00 for each of us and well worth the money.
If you want to really see Italy in action, just go to any big intersection and watch the people drive. In the US we would be locked up in an hour if we drove like Italians. (if we lived that long) The streets are packed with speeding cars and motorcycles and, just to add a new touch of craziness, little rented electric scooters flying through it all at 30 miles an hour.
Where to stay when you travel to Rome
We rented an Air BNB. Experience has taught us that some are great and some suck. We’ll just call ours “Hoover.” It sucked bigly. They must have paid more for the professionally staged photographs in the ad than they did for the actual apartment. It had a loft of sorts where the bed and bathroom were. The main problem was that the ceilings were vaulted and it was only about 6′ in the middle. Even at 5’8″ I was developing brain damage with every movement.
I hit my head when I sat up in bed, I hit my head when I stood up from the toilet. I even managed to hit my head every single time I stepped out of the shower. I assume it was brain damage because I continued to do it again and again. I never learned. The steps to the loft were so steep and precarious that I always went up by crawling with my hands on the steps. At least that way I figured I wouldn’t hit my head and end up in a heap at the bottom of the stairs. I felt like Bilbo Baggins in the Shire. I had to do something while I still had some brain cells undamaged so, we found another place to stay for the last 2 days.
We finally moved to a real hotel for the last two days of our stay. We needed to rest up from the constant noise of Rome. We took a taxi from Rome to a hotel in Isola Sacra which is near the airport. The driver hit a top speed of 155km. on the trip. I’m sure that wasn’t too fast for the little clown car we were in.
That night we dined on, what else, a big plate of pasta.
We went out the next day and took the local bus to Ostia and promptly found a Burger King!
I will say that the people in Italy are the friendliest. Everywhere we went they eagerly took the time to help us. Most folks seemed to know enough English to send us in the right direction. My Italian was somehow more pitiful than if I didn’t know anything. I think in the end they were probably glad to see me go. I know I was.
After we had made our way through all the customs and security at the Rome airport and sat down at gate E for our flight, we noticed a phone missing. Somehow we had lost it at the international security check in the world’s 4th busiest airport. No problem! My wife stayed with the bags and I took off. Like a salmon fighting upstream, I quickly managed to get stopped by police for going backward through the security checkpoints. After finally explaining myself to the security folks, they escorted me all the way back to my phone. They were very nice and helpful. This was a stark contrast from the gaggle of rude, obnoxious TSA workers who screamed and browbeat us when we arrived at JFK in New York. I felt like I was going into prison. Maybe I was?
Honestly, home never looked so good.