Europe, Italy, Rome

Ancient Rome & A Comedy of Errors

September 29, 2010
Roman Forum

My third and last full day in Rome was to be a full but exciting one. I had scheduled morning and afternoon tours to view many of Rome’s most notorious sites.

The morning tour was to include Republic Square/Fountain of the Nymphs, Via Venito/Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Navona Square, and finally St Peter’s Basilica/Square.The second tour was to include the Piazza Venezia, Historical Centre, Capital Square, Roman Forums, Colosseum, and Basilica of San Pietro.

The tours were to include hotel pick-up/drop-off.

The company advised me that they would drop me off at their office after the first tour and request that I stay in the area and come back on my own for the second. I didn’t mind as it would give me enough time for eating lunch, shopping, and exploring.

I was ready for the scheduled pick-up of 7:30 AM but by 7:45 AM, they had still not showed. I called to inquire and they asked me to take a cab to their office, promising they would refund me for the amount of the fare.  A little annoyed, I did as they requested.

Little did I know, the poor service offered by the tour company would continue for the remainder of the day.

The bus full of people who did secure a hotel pick-up arrived late and therefore the tour started late, limiting our time to see the sites. Of the promised 6 sites, we managed to visit only four.  We saw Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, Navona Square, and St Peter’s Basilica/Square.

Although unhappy with the tour company, I still thoroughly enjoyed my visits to the sites. So iconic, beautiful, and rich in history.  My insatiable desire to take pictures was ignited once more!

I skipped the visit to St Peter’s Basilica as I had visited the previous day and the line-up was too long. I fear the people who waited in line, may have not actually made it into the site.

I had made friends with a really lovely gentleman from New York City who also wanted to skip the basilica, so we explored the neighborhood together and came back to the tour bus at the requested meeting time with everyone else.

It turned out that my new friend was also taking the afternoon tour, so we had lunch and mandatory post-lunch gelato together. He’s such a nice man – also traveling alone but at the end of his tour. We talked about how great it is to travel alone, how we didn’t want to wait until retirement to do it, and how his trip in Italy had been going.

Unfortunately, the afternoon tour also turned into a bit of a disaster saved only by an excellent tour guide and the sites themselves.

The group only managed to visit the Roman Forums and Colosseum.The company failed to deliver yet again.

While we may have walked through the historical centre and capital square, it was ruined by a torrential downpour. We raced to where the tour bus was supposed to be waiting.

When it starting raining, all these men magically appeared out of no where selling umbrellas. One guy tried to sell me one for 20 euros, as I had forgot mine at the hotel. I offered him 5 and after a frustrating shouting match, I got what I wanted.  Yet, 5 mins later he came back and asked for more money. I refused. Others had gotten theirs from anywhere between 2-5 euros.

Of course, the tour bus that was to be waiting for us was not there. We waited in the rain and got drenched.

Finally, the bus arrived and we all piled on. There was already people on it, so some people were forced to stand in the aisle while we waited for another bus.

Other vehicles arrived to take others back to their hotels. I was to stay on the bus.

My fantastic luck continued.  Rome was one big traffic jam! The city was celebrating an anniversary – over 120+ years since they became the capital of Italy and all sorts of cool events were taking place. It took minutes for our bus to move a few feet.

Sitting tired, soaked, and in traffic for a few hours certainly was not my idea of fun and not how I wanted to spend my last night in Rome.

I asked the bus driver how long it would take to get to the hotel. Even though they had read the name of my hotel out and told me to stay on the bus, they had no idea where my hotel was located.

I was fed up by this time and asked to be let off the bus at the next stop. I planned to take a cab back to my hotel. I still needed to get ready and go out for one last lovely dinner.

Worse yet, the bus started picking up people for a Rome by night tour instead of taking us back to our hotels.

Obviously other passengers were getting frustrated too and starting expressing their concerns. In anger, the bus driver made all the people who were not part of the night tour get off the bus.

Yes, just like that, he dumped us off in the middle of Rome without any idea as to where we were. Some people made to vacate the bus were elderly.

I found a cab and quickly made my way back to the hotel and got ready for dinner. Despite the extraordinary absurdities of the day, I planned on having a good night out on the town.

The next challenge was finding a place that was actually open due to the holiday and late hour. After determining that 3 of the places I wanted were closed, the hotel concierge suggested a restaurant in the Bohemian Traveste area of the city called Enoteca Ferrara.

Such a perfect suggestion. Beautiful, not pretentious, huge wine cellar, and really good food. Happiness quickly settled about me.

I ate alone and thought about my time spent in Rome. Although the day had been tough, I vowed I would contact the tour company once home and demand some sort of compensation/apology. I was glad to see the ancient sites and hang out with the man from NYC.  Not seeing all of the sites only served to give me an excuse to come back again and visit (which is already being planned for sometime next year).

I tried to see the positive in the day, acknowledge that things don’t always go according to plan and sometimes you just have to “go with the flow”. I was happy that I didn’t let myself get lost in the unfortunate series of events that had unfolded.

After dinner, smiling like a silly school girl, I walked around the piazza and on to a bridge that overlooks the Tiber. Stayed there until I got harassed by some kids. (I’ll have to dedicate an entire blog post about the behavior of Italian men towards women. It really is quite remarkable! )

Headed back to the hotel, my excitement grew.  The next day I would be off to Soriano Nel Cimino for a food, cooking, and wine adventure. The real fun hadn’t even started! 🙂

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