Why Rome gave me the shits

I’m sorry Rome, it wasn’t you, it was me.  Actually it wasn’t either of us, it was the hordes of self absorbed idiots descending upon your cobbled streets, your unimaginable wealth of history and tradition. Ready to gorge at the groaning buffet of art, food, ambiance, but ignoring it all and eating three serves of ice cream.

We’d been to Rome before, but never for long enough – long enough that we could sample the museums, galleries and markets at a less than break neck speed.     Long enough to let the amazing history wash over us and try to understand the incredible place this city holds in history.

10 days in the eternal city – sounds like bliss, right?   I couldn’t wait to get out of there by the end, for my own sanity. 

I simply could not get my head around the disrespect for the place, not only from the visitors, but whoever has governance of the city.     Maybe some examples will illustrate my point:

where are we again?

self important idiots climbing onto the Forum for deluded glamour shots
do I look fat against these 2000 year old columns?

So few visitors seemed actually interested in the architecture or the artworks.  Museums were sparsely attended because that would involve some level of engagement.  All that was of interest was documenting their presence (usually in half a dozen different outfits) at the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain etc.  Ticking off places on the list. We actually saw teams of instaface-wannabees with suitcases of clothing, not giving a toss (that is the polite word) for anyone who might not want their breathtaking visage in the way.     Climbing – unchallenged -over the buildings of the Forum.  I wonder if there is any vestige of their amazing achievements in say, 2000 years?

People selling (and buying) crap.   Splat balls, wilted roses and flying god knows what, all assail you as you try to take in the magic of the golden light bathing ancient temples and beautiful architecture.   Calendars, selfie-sticks, plastic barbeque aprons with Michelangelo’s David printed on them.   Surely, surely, the souvenir trade can be regulated?  We saw a great busker being hauled away because he did not have a permit, but splat balls?  Hell Yeah, the more the merrier.

Food – oh god the food.  We all love Italian food.  You won’t get it in Rome. Well, maybe but you’ll have to put in some hard yards and a wad of cash, or cook it yourself.  I am of the firm belief that “pizza” should be like “champagne”.. Its provenance should be called into question.  . 

Rome, you’re killing yourself.  I know it’s great to have the tourism money, but aren’t you insulted when your guests stomp all over you and leave without picking up anything of your history?  I know, it’s not every visitor.  But it’s a hell of a lot of them.

Please, protect your amazing city. 

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Is it too late to have a gap year in your late 50s? To take back some time from our day to day working life to travel - unplanned, unescorted, unfettered? To take that leap? It was a defining year - liberating, challenging, humbling, scary. It was many things, but it wasn't a holiday.

7 thoughts on “Why Rome gave me the shits

  1. Sadly, I agree. This is true of so many places. I’m always fascinated by the urge to ‘Selfie’ – it’s as iff a place doesn’t exist in the real world unless you’re included in the picture. I spend my time trying to get photos of the subject without people in view – that’s me or anybody else. I don’t understand how sticking my own stupid face in front of a shot of the Trevi Fountain makes for a better photo?


    1. Oh I am so with you there. Especially as many of the “poseurs” have no real interest (or knowledge, or even any desire to know about it) in what they are standing in front of. The absolute rock bottom was at Auschwitz….imaging posing for a photo at Auschwitz? But they did. Incredible. and sad.


      1. I have been to Auschwitz-Birkenau about 40 times and guided groups around. I had to stop after a while – my wife said it was beginning to affect me at home. It casts a shadow on your life. I knew it was time to pull back when I watched an Italian take a mobile phone call inside the one remaining gas chamber. he was standing next to the fingernail scratches on the wall at the time.


      2. oh no. that is obscene. We actually had “words” with a couple taking selfies on the railroad tracks. I can see you would dread it as a tour leader. Where is the empathy or if not that, the respect?


  2. I absolutely abhor this new culture of having to document a place with a camera, but not even seeing it with your eyes, intellect, and heart. I once went to the New York Natural History Museum and was boggled by the fact that these tourists were taking photographs of EVERY. SINGLE. diorama and display but not even looking at them or reading the plaques to learn a thing. They’d stare through the camera lens or display and then move on to the next one. I felt very sorry for the friends and relatives to which they wound up showing those pictures. Without context, a sense of scale, and caption, a museum’s collection of treasures can be dreadfully boring, especially when captured by a less-than talented photographer.

    I was also horrified by the 15-meter deep crowd of tourists packed around the Mona Lisa at the Louvre… a traffic jam caused by people taking SELFIES. Makes the skin crawl!


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