Monthly Archives: October 2013

Finishing up Rome

Since our last exciting episode I spent another full day in Rome checking out the Colosseum (awesome), had dinner at an Irish pub with a Kiwi hostel bud, hopped a train to Florence, and walked for miles and miles. It can be hard to find the time (and energy) to write a blog post but it’s good for me to journal thoughts and impressions that will surely fade.

Every major Italian attraction has an admission fee and usually a very long line. This even includes the cathedrals, cappellas (small churches), and lavish houses and their gardens. I’m typically opposed to lines and fees so, unless I really want to see something from the inside I’ll just check it out from afar. In hindsight I probably should have bit the bullet and paid to get the full experience more often but I really can’t complain about all that I’ve seen in just one week.

There are a couple ways to save a bit of cash and time by either a) booking online for a reserved entrance, b) taking advantage of a guided tour for usually five euro more which gets you to the front of the line, or c) buying a card that gets you into multiple attractions. The latter costs 72 euro in Florence and gets you into 60 sites, but is only good for three days. That’d be some serious speed-museuming.

On my last day in Rome I took an easy, cheap (1.50 euro) train ride to the Colosseum because it’s just one of those must-sees. Unfortunately I was there on a Saturday so the place was packed. It’s really a pretty stunning sight and would have been cool to walk around in. The only smear on the experience, and much of Rome, are the roving guys pedaling crap on the plaza. No, I don’t want a crappy lucite replica of the Colosseum or a scarf printed with the Last Supper. Oh, you just walked 10 feet, maybe you changed your mind on the crappy lucite replica? Yes? No!!!

Other Random Thoughts On Italy

It’s probably just a tourist-city thing, but the locals won’t acknowledge you when passing them on the street. This is a bit unsettling to me. I typically nod or smile or say hello to strangers but here they look and you with no expression at all. It’s hard to get a read on the people of a city when you’re an outsider and you mostly interact with the service industry (who, regrettably, are dealing with us dumb tourists).

Speaking of the service industry- expect to wait a while for menus, ordering food, and you will most definitely not get a water refill without asking. None of this is a big deal, just different than what Americans are used to. Some Londoners I met said they actually didn’t mind the tipping culture in the States because the wait staff is friendly and right there anytime you need something. It’s all a matter of perspective I guess.

It’s really nice to be in a city where public transportation is readily available and relatively cheap. I can hop on an intercity bus for $2 or go an hour outside of town for about $20 on a bus that runs about every 30 minutes. I understand that the Italian train union is well-known for occasionally going on strike but luckily I haven’t run into any problems. Also, it seems that validating your bus ticket is based on the honor system, as I haven’t seen a drive check anyone. I would be the one to get caught, I’m sure.

Lastly, Rome has lots of water fountains around the city for the public to use. They’re a bit different from what I’m used to though; more like a constantly-running spigot that you stick your bottle, mouth, or finger in (to make it shoot out the top like a fountain). I think it’s a bit gross and didn’t use one but they seemed pretty popular. What do you think?



It’s been so long that I’ve almost forgotten how to blog. After my trip to Australia/New Zealand I came home, learned how to program Android apps, visited Colorado and Oregon, played around in Louisville and now I’m in Italy. I figured why not make my sabbatical a true year-long deal? The plan is Rome to Dublin over two months. And……. go!

I’ve never been to Europe. I’ve never been to a country whose primary language was something other than English (Aussies and Kiwis don’t count). This will be a challenge. That’s the point.

I landed in Rome at 8:30 AM, which is EST 2:30 AM, with no sleep. There’s a six hour time difference between Louisville and Rome but I wasn’t about to lose daylight in a hostel room. When my head finally hit the pillow I’d been up for 37 hours with a one hour nap. Blame the fun-loving folks I met at the hostel (two Brits, an Aussie, a Kiwi, and a Korean).

First Impressions of Rome

I’m only in Rome for three days and then it’s off to Florence so I’ll be the typical tourist doing typically touristy things. Riding into the city on an airport shuttle you see what appear to be remains of huge city walls and I thought to myself… These are probably the oldest man-made structures I’ve ever seen. Not a lot of 1,000 year old buildings in the US.

The next thing you’ll notice is the traffic. It’s a perfectly orchestrated symphony of madness. Tiny little cars merging, honking, scooters zipping around pedestrians, busses, each other, and not a single accident that I have seen. It’s like they’re all plugged into The Matrix. If you should find yourself in Rome, be acutely aware that crosswalks are mostly for show. This isn’t Portland, kid, and no one will stop just because you’re standing there looking pitiful. Locals saunter across, gazing into the drivers’ eyes or putting up their non-cigarette hand in defiance, but that takes guts.

The best advice I can give for surviving Rome is to be aggressive. It runs counter to American sensibilities but it’s kill or be killed here. There are no lines or queues: when the bus/train pulls up you just shove your way on, little old ladies be damned. I assume that if you’re comfortable with the flow of NYC or similar then you’ll do just fine.

Days One & Two

The hostel is within easy walking distance of lots of interesting things as well as the main transit terminal so getting around is a breeze. Day one was spent checking out the Trevi Fountain, the stunning Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs, and just generally checking out this buzzing metropolis.

Day two started with a bit of a panic thinking that a hostelmate had checked out with my phone in his possession but it was later found behind the dresser. A real-world reminder about the importance of security is necessary every now and then.

After this life lesson I hopped on the subway and spent the day at the Vatican. I knew the Vatican was an independent city-state but I didn’t expect it to look like a fortress with 30-foot surrounding walls. It was both impressive and imposing. The museum was definitely worth it even though I don’t go nuts over the visual arts. I wish I had taken better pics!

I leave you with the first two photos of my new collection: Asian Couples Who Dress Alike. Aren’t they cute?

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