The Land That Will Pretty Much Drive Me Crazy
28.10.2008 - 28.10.2008 21 °C
Buon Giorno Friends,
First of all, we are having a great time in Rome, although our luck with the weather is beginning to fade. We are experiencing more rain here, some downpours even. Thankfully, the kids and I have really only been caught in one downpour so far.
We'll get back to the more serious blogging in a bit, but for now, I've just got to get out my list of grievances. Rome (and Italy in general) is packed full of all kinds of important things to see. Yet, the place is really starting to get to me. Our trusty guidebook warns us of the chaos and encourages us to "accept it all as a package deal." It's all part of the experience and we should just roll with it. Well, I'm starting to doubt that I have the mental fortitude for such an approach.
So, here's a little list of my frustrations:
1. In Rome, there is hardly a distinction between the sidewalk and the street. We have certainly seen scooters-- and even a car once-- riding on what seemed to us clearly to be the sidewalk. In all fairness, I must admit that we have, on occasion (and only when clear) have walked on the street (Romans don't walk especially fast and sometimes we are in a hurry).
2. Museum cloakrooms in Rome do not accept cloaks-- only bags. Go figure. Since the weather has been mixed, we have had to take rain jackets with us. The first time we marched up to a cloakroom to deposit our jackets, we were given a stern "no." So, now we bring one of those bags that stuffs into itself and we stuff our jackets into that. Take that, Rome!
3. Romans (and Italians in general) have a strange and unhealthy obsession with "correct change." In most museums we have visited, there is a clear sign posted (usually in Italian and in English): "correct change, please" (sometimes, there is no "please"). And, even in other, unexpected places we have found correct change (or close to it) to be expected. A couple of days ago, I went to our local little market to stock up on some groceries. The total came to 41.61 euros. I handed the guy a 50 euro bill. He clearly wanted something different. He just held onto the fifty (holding it up), and kept looking at me and muttering in Italian. After a day of sightseeing (including "correct change" signs everywhere), I didn't have anything else. But, he persisted. So, I persisted too, shrugging my shoulders and, in English, "I don't have anything else." Finally, he made change and grudgingly stuffed into my hand.
4. The post office isn't really in business to sell stamps. They seem to have more important things to do than to handle mail.
5. Beware large gatherings of birds-- and I mean really large gatherings of birds. In Rome, I have learned that where really large gatherings of birds congregate, there will be a very large quantity of bird poo which, a) is hazardous when wet (slippery underfoot when it's raining), and b) really, really, really stinky. The most horrendous, most foul stench of our whole trip has been here, in Rome, in this little park near our flat where the birds gather in very large numbers. Oh, and it's loud too.
6. Many sights have elaborate security procedures with metal detectors and x-ray machines to check bags. Yet, the security guards are usually chatting among themselves (and, sometimes arguing), so it seems clear that they are not really paying any attention to who or what is going through the machines.
7. Signs at tourist sites are almost non-existent. Now, to be fair, New England is not known for good tourist and road signage. But, Rome is on a whole different level. Here, even at the end of October, there are hordes of tourists. And, yet, at many places there is no way to know if you are in the right line (and there's almost always a line). When we went to the Colosseum (major tourist site, don't you think??), our trusty guidebook (and good thing we had that) told us that, if we had a ticket (which we did) to stay in the left line, with the tour groups, and just to "muscle our way" to the turnstile. Well, this felt like a weird place to be, but we got in that line and stayed there. After some time of moving pretty steadily in the line, we finally came upon a little sign (maybe a little bigger than a normal 8x11 piece of paper), close to the entrance, that divided the two lines-- one line for ticket holders and the other line for without. Thankfully, it turned out, we were in the correct line. Thank you, Rick Steves!
Well, that felt good to get that out. Thankfully, it's not all bad. There is gelato (oh, the delicious gelato makes up for a lot!) and fabulous coffee (even in the most ridiculous and touristy places, they have real espresso machines and not those fake ones you find in the U.S.). And, in some places, they serve cookies at breakfast! Another good thing. Plus, we have found that there is a "discretionary" approach to admission prices at some tourist sites and churches (especially the smaller ones). Although most places post that children over six (and not citizens of an EU country) must pay the adult rate, we have found many sites take one look at John and hand us a free ticket. Sometimes for Margaret too.
We'll post more later. We have a lot to tell!