I had been dreaming for years (approximately 5 years… since the ol’ high school years) about going to Italy. Ever since I took that Art History class in High School with the best art history teacher ever. One that I’ve forgotten his name… Unfortunately. Besides the point. I had always dreamt of traveling the world and seeing all the historical art destinations, and Rome, Italy (obviously) was on that list.
The Vatican. Michelangelo. Sistine Chapel. St. Peter’s. Trevi Fountain. The Pantheon. Colosseum. All the works. And we saw it all. The first evening we spent in Rome, we wandered wide-eyed and bushy-tailed over to St. Peter’s and I could not stop smiling.
It was dusk, and the place was empty save a few people sitting around, and a few walking here and there. We walked the calm streets with only a few cars and people passing by. It was so beautiful. As I lay my little head on my pillow that night I could hardly contain my excitement for the day ahead. Little did I know there would be a few things Rome was hiding up her sleeve.
You are always being sold something.
The next morning, we had bought a Vatican City day tour of the basilicas throughout Rome off of Viator (which was our go-to with all our tours, great program, easy to use, so many tour options). The tour started at the entry of the Vatican City, so, we left a little early in the morning to get there on time and also to check out St. Peter’s during the day.
We couldn’t take two steps without getting a selfie stick shoved in our faces. Sounds silly when I write it out. But it’s true! We were bombarded with men with a handful of selfie sticks saying “selfie” over and over again. I think it was the only word they knew in English. Then we tried to walk into St. Peter’s atrium and was approached multiple times by people trying to sell day tours on the spot. Then we walked about The Vatican walls and came across vendors galore all trying to sell us something.
I’ve got to say, it was pretty exhausting always having to turn people down, and it seemed like everyone was frustrated if we weren’t buying something from them. It was annoying, to say the least. We wanted the quiet serene feeling of the Basilica again, but that wasn’t going to be the case during tourist and sightseeing hours.
The takeaway here for anyone looking to go to Rome, take a walk during the slow times. I would highly recommend St. Peter’s in the evening, as well as the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon. They weren’t busy or overcrowded at these times, and we were able to sit and romanticize the moments we were in a foreign place and soak up the history.
They aren’t kind.
Romans are stuck up and rude. That may sound a little harsh, but for the most part, it was true for us. Take note, we were in the middle of tourist central. We could see our fellow Americans from a mile away. And even though we thought we were fitting in nicely, I’ll bet ya our constant random photo shoots and cargo shorts were a dead giveaway. But civility should still be a thing, right? Their tourism in Rome helps the economy, doesn’t it?
I could tell those around us were just sick of us tourists. There was one moment while we were in Italy that my husband and I felt sincere welcome and warmth, and I’ll get to that in a bit, but most of the time people were just cold and annoyed with us, especially in Rome. By the end of our trip, we got into the habit of lying low for the most part and keeping to ourselves… Should have learned Italian.
Ok, those are probably the two thumbs down about Italy, let’s switch gears and let me tell you the gems that we didn’t know about until we went on this trip.
We are unprofessional foodies, who like to think we are professional. And to be honest, we have made some amazing, professional grade dishes in our very own kitchen. And we hope to share our experiments and tasteful discoveries on this very blog, and what contributes to our new creations is tasting new foods in new places.
The food in Italy was delightful. I’ll describe through these photos… Because there is really no other way… Don’t mind my many cheesy smiles and faces.
A Gem Never Forgotten: Sperlonga.
We were getting ready for a second tour in Rome, our last day in the eternal city before we were going to drive down the coast. Our tour guide was asking if anyone in the group was going somewhere else in Italy on their trips. Everyone said no, that Rome was their one stop. Except us. Being the young adventurers we are, we told our guide that our next stop was Sperlonga. A place we had chosen because it was literally halfway between Rome and Naples and we didn’t want to drive so much in a day so we thought we would drop in on Sperlonga one night on our way to Naples for the end of our trip.
Our guide lit up. And said, “Oh Sperlonga is Italy’s gem! You will love it there! I have gone there numerous times for a weekend getaway. It’s just a gem.” She couldn’t stop praising Sperlonga, and we were soaking it up and could not wait. The next day, we got into our rental car and drove down the coast to this gem of a city.
Fun fact, to see for yourself, go to Google Earth and search Sperlonga, Italy and you will be able to walk the streets we walked and see the whitewashed homes lining the cobbled labyrinth of walkways. All on a beachfront with clear crystal blue waters and white sands. It was truly magical, we didn’t want to leave.
We stayed at an Airbnb home, our host didn’t speak a lick of English. We were told to meet at the gas station up the hill from the house and that a man on a scooter would come and we would follow him to the house. When we got to the home a little lady walked us through the room and kitchen just pointing to things and showing how to use the stove, shower and how to lock up. We couldn’t contain our smiles at the authentic feel of culture all around us. It was truly magical, we didn’t want to leave.
To be honest, I am breaking our one promise we made to ourselves when we left Sperlonga.
That we would never share Italy’s best-kept secret. You know why? Because tourism ruins places. I know, that’s contradictory cause I’m a tourist when I’m on vacation or in a place I’ve never been. But, I’m talking about the kind of tourists who want a McDonald’s smack dab in the middle of Rome because that’s familiar to them. It hurts the locality of business, it’s tacky, and it takes away from the actual reason why we should be vacationing. To get away.
So promise me something. If you do go to this hidden gem Sperlonga, and visit the grotto and deserted museum for the grotto (that’s 5 euro) and get gelato as you walk the cobbled walk to sit on the steps of a century old nunnery, that you will leave it as it was. Soak in the culture, contribute to the community, and then leave with the experience in your hearts. Just as we should do with all the untouched places of the world. Let’s make this a regular thing for all tourists out there. Thanks all!
Let’s connect, comment below with your Italian experiences!
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