They say the best way to truly see a city for itself is to avoid the tourist attractions and live like a local. Stay in the quieter areas and experience what the city has to offer that isn’t listed in the Lonely Travel guidebooks. Unknowingly this is exactly what happened when we first touched down in Rome.
Our grand “European extravaganza” was due to take place over the course of three weeks, and the first destination on our list was Rome.
Having never visited Italy before (if you don’t include a day trip from Slovenia for husky sledging) I didn’t really know what to expect aside from excellent food! Prior to leaving we had been given lots of “top tips” from family and friends; some being more useful than others. My grandad cautiously told to us wear our backpacks on our chests, “because if it is on your back people might try to cut the straps of your bag and they could end up stabbing you…” Cheers grandad for that reassuring nugget of advice.
Questionable tips aside, our very early flight went to plan and having been left in charge of the directions for the first 3 cities we were visiting I was confident in my abilities to get us from the airport to our hotel. It’s safe to say that it did not go to plan at all.
After landing we hopped onto a quick train ride from the airport into the city centre. I was quite confident when I whipped out my print out map showing directions to the B&B. Though it didn’t take me long to realise that I hadn’t really taken into account the proportions of the map in comparison with how long it would actually take us to walk there. I can still remember before we left telling James “it’s all under control, it’ll only take 15 minutes to walk there.”
Fast forward 4 days and a 40-minute walk in the 33°c midday heat later; it was clear I had seriously misjudged my map. With no water and no wifi to check where we were, the atmosphere between us was becoming increasingly tense. The smug face I initially had when I thought my directions would be so much more comprehensive and successful than James’, was quickly wiped off my now sweaty and red face.
Trying to lighten the mood we both agreed that at least we got to see the “local” Rome away from all of the tourist traps. Whilst this was true, it was also incredibly clear to all of the locals that we were lost and definitely not locals, as the unmistakable noise of our hand luggage wheels dragged along the dusty pavement to anyone within earshot of a 200m radius…
One hour later we arrived on the street where our B&B should have been. Having both seen on trip advisor that it was a tricky place to find, we had reassured ourselves that it wouldn’t be that difficult.
Apparently, it was my responsibility to go into the local restaurants and bakeries to ask for directions as it was my errors in judgment that got us into this position. It quickly became clear that no one in the area spoke a word of English as they shook their head and quickly spouted out Italian to me, or they simply didn’t want the hassle of speaking to yet another a lost tourist looking for the same old B&B.
After lapping the town around 3 times a small gold plaque caught my eye through the railings of an apartment building – “APR Guesthouse B&B.” We had discovered the elusive B&B! I can’t even describe the feeling of relief as we were finally handed the key to our apartment.
After telling the owner that we had walked here from the city, with his eyes bulging wide and his mouth dropping open he announced to the rest of the B&B that we were “crazy people.” Apparently, we could have got the metro directly from the city to a stop that was only a one-minute walk away from the B&B. As he told us this helpful and equally sole destroying information I could feel James’ eyes burning a hole into my head, though all was forgotten though after a nap and the liberal application of aftersun to his lobster pink face.
We may have increased our overall journey time by an additional (and unnecessary) hour, but at least we got to roam around the outskirts and the quieter areas of Rome. Although it is safe to say that we didn’t decide to it again, and were quickly converted to being metro users for the rest of our visit.
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