Roaming Rome: Five observations about Italy’s capital

One of Rome's icons - the Colosseum.

One of Rome's icons - the Colosseum.

Coined the capital of the world, Rome is home to many of Earth’s most popular tourist attractions, with its blend of history and culture making it one of the most unique destinations to visit.

I was fortunate enough to go to the Eternal City last month, as my girlfriend took me for my birthday.

While Rome is an amazing place and certainly has plenty of good points, I also noticed some cons in addition to its pros.

Here are five of those observations about Italy’s capital.

1. The public transport is subpar

A busy time on the Rome Metro. Image credit:    Greg Ramirez   /   Flickr

A busy time on the Rome Metro. Image credit: Greg Ramirez/Flickr

Let’s face it, Rome is not only a big city, but it is also extremely busy, too. Not only does it have a permanent population of 2.627 million people (2012), but it also a year-round haven for toursits.

With that in mind, one would expect the city to have a better public transit system. For a foreigner, bus routes weren’t clear, and their underground train system suffered from constant overcrowding.

The metro was also fairly limited with regards to where it stopped, and some places were still a long way from the nearest station. Stadio Olimpico, for example, was a further 10 minutes away by bus following a train ride.

In addition, the one-ride, 100-minute tickets (the cheapest option for travel on the metro) were confusing as I originally thought that they were valid for multiple rides within an hour and 40 minutes, as opposed to one ride up to 100 minutes. Why they don’t just brand the ticket as single use only, I’m not sure. Adding the 100 minutes only adds confusion.

2. There is not a skyscraper in sight

Rome has maintained a low-lying landscape.

Rome has maintained a low-lying landscape.

I knew that Rome was a hotbed of history, but what I didn’t realise is the lengths that they go to in order to keep it that way.

It was surprising, yet refreshing, to see one of the world’s largest cities not be dominated by steel and glass structures.

If it wasn’t for iPhones, GoPros and selfie sticks in sight of everything, it would have felt more like a journey back in time.

Rome and its people have kept the place’s integrity and original feel intact, which is why it makes sense that Milan, which is home to a number of skyscrapers itself, is Italy’s financial capital.

3. The food is AMAZING (especially gelato!)

It is already a well-known fact (well, do you actually know anyone that isn’t a fan of Italian food) that Italian cuisine is great, so it was no surprise that the country’s capital city provided me with some of the finest food I have eaten on my travels.

Sharing platter goals.

Sharing platter goals.

I could tell that the lasagne from Ristorante Petrucci, located in the backstreets of the Trevi neighbourhood, was homemade and the taste was to-die-for. The pizza was always going to be good no matter where you went, and Ciampini‘s sharing platter, with meats, cheese, salads and bread was absolute perfection.

What I wasn’t anticipating, however, was the standard of the gelato – Italy’s answer to ice cream. From the variety of flavours down to how it tasted, the gelato was unbelievably good.

Though the crown has to go to Mars gelato, purchased from a gelateria on Via Ottavino, which is located near Vatican City.

4. Rome is extremely busy

Trying to get a picture in front of the Pantheon was an uphill task due to the sheer number of people and, er, horses knocking around.

Trying to get a picture in front of the Pantheon was an uphill task due to the sheer number of people and, er, horses knocking around.

This goes for most major cities around the world, such as New York City, London, Paris and Tokyo. But Rome seemed almost too busy for its size.

The Metro was constantly packed and there weren’t enough trains to ensure that people had a comfortable journey, and most tourist attractions were relentlessly busy.

Trevi Fountain is the perfect example of this, as the small square in which it is situated is packed in the day, and still heavily populated as late as 3am in the morning.

It is advisable to book tickets in advance to avoid gargantuan queues at both the Colosseum and for the Vatican Museums, and head to St Peter’s Basilica early to cut down on waiting times.

5. The area around the main train station feels more like Magaluf than Italy

The inside of Roma Termini. Image credit:    Renaat   /   Flickr

The inside of Roma Termini. Image credit: Renaat/Flickr

With 32 platforms, Roma Termini is one of the biggest train stations in Europe, and welcomes many visitors and workers from both near and far on a daily basis.

Welcoming those people into Rome on the left side of the exit is an area that resembles the streets of Magaluf, rather than live up to the city’s lofty standards.

Here you’ll find a plethora of kebab shops, people selling everything from shoes to selfie sticks on the sidewalk and a host of souvenir shops which also sell other questionable goods.

We stayed near the area, and it was perfectly fine, but it was definitely a shock to the system on arrival.