Slow Travel In Rome

Travel is enriching but, like chocolate mousse, sometimes it’s too rich to digest. It’s better in small delectable, melt in your mouth bites. Too much of a good thing diminishes the power to amaze. Rome is that way. It’s the chocolate mousse of European travel. So, pace yourself and think about taking small bites.

Castel SA

Italy is a feast for a lover of history. There are archeological digs, landmark buildings, walls, roads, and artifacts from different historical periods, painting, sculpture and architecture spanning millennia, a landscape that seduces, and a cuisine that delights. Rome, in particular, offers a rich diet of Etruscan, Roman, and Renaissance treasures that cry out to be tasted.

There is never enough time to see everything here, so pick some things you’re really interested in, read about them, and then go see them. Think in terms of cost/benefit. If you only have a few days, do you want to stand in line for 3 hours to be herded through the Vatican Museum for a furtive glimpse of the Sistine Chapel ceiling or might you rather be wandering through the Forum or sitting in the Coliseum imagining what it was like to be there 2000 years ago.

Roman Forum

There are many good guidebooks to help the short stay visitor find his or her way through the maze of antiquities and explain the layers of civilization under their feet. So much to see, and you know you can’t see it all. What you will do? How will you approach it? If you take it slow and easy, you’ll see things with a fresh mind and rested eyes. You’ll enjoy it more and retain the memories longer. As an advocate, I believe the secret to meaningful international travel is a slow steady pace and small bites. Slow down, pay attention, and enjoy its quieter joys.

If foreign travel is new to you, think about what you want out of it. Do you want a broad-brush overview or do you have a particular interest, say Roman architecture or renaissance painting, you want to follow up on? Does people watching from a sidewalk caffe’ table sound more to your liking than museum hopping? Read up on your destination before you leave home, and it will help you make those decisions.

Almost every major city in the world now has something called the Hop-On Hop-Off bus. These double decker open top busses travel around the city, passing important sites and traversing the various neighborhoods. A ticket is good all day and allows you to get off at any stop and get back on when you’re ready to continue. Get off for lunch; go to a museum, shop, do whatever strikes your fancy. It’s a great way to get the overview. When I first saw the Hop-On Hop-Off I thought it was a hokey way to see a city. I’ve done a lot of traveling and always resisted doing the tourist thing, but Marilynn was new to it and persuaded me to go along. She was right. I highly recommend it on the first morning of Day One in any city you don’t already know well. From the top of the double decker you get a view of all the attractions, an audio tour in your native language, and a sense of the city’s layout. Don’t scoff. Do it! You’ll see what I mean.

That’s the overview. After Day One on the Hop-On Hop-Off you can narrow the focus and follow your specific interests – art, architecture, shopping, food, or just people watching. With time as your ally, you can mitigate a lot of the turmoil. Start early in the day and seek out one site to visit. Starting early has two advantages: most groups are slow to start so you’re beating the crowds, and, second, Rome can be hot so you beat the heat by getting an early start. It’s a twofer. Get up early, savor your cappuccino, and move out.

I have a low tolerance for guided tours and crowded venues, but if you’re time limited I understand that you might have to give in. If an attraction is important to you, the Sistine Chapel for instance, and your time is short a tour might be the easiest solution. I acknowledge that. My problem, and I own it, is that I have an aversion to being led around by a guide with an antenna-like aerial topped with a brightly colored flag.

Instead of Slow Travel In Rome I might have called this post Independent Travel, because slow travel presupposes independence and self-direction. It doesn’t necessarily demand it but it yearns for an extended stay time frame – more than 3 or 4 days – in a city. It’s a luxury but if it can be done it allows the visitor time to savor and absorb what he or she is seeing. If time is an issue, ask yourself again, what is it you want from the experience? I would rather see four sites in four days than 8-10 sites in the same four days. If you go for fewer attractions you’ll go home with a greater appreciation for Rome and its treasures than someone who tries to cram all the sites into the same time frame.

Slow Travel or Independent Travel is just that; if you have time for an extended stay look into renting an apartment, even if it’s just for a few days. VRBO and offer apartments almost everywhere in the world and there are agents like,, and Perfectly Paris that do it on a smaller local scale.

Remember, you’re not leaving the planet when you leave home. Take at least one of your devices – laptop, iPad or smartphone – along on your adventure. They work anywhere and they’re amazingly useful. Wi-Fi is available in most locales, and it’s usually better abroad than in the US. My last blog post (It Pays To Stay Connected) lays out all the advantages and the how-to’s of staying connected abroad. It a huge advantage in terms of study, navigation, and communication.

Rome Bus Pass

Speaking of navigation, public transportation is good and inexpensive throughout Europe, especially in Rome. This is my bus pass. It cost 35 Euros for a calendar month and allows me unlimited rides on all the busses, trams, and the Metro. Rome has new modern busses and an extensive public transportation network. The Metro is not as extensive as its counterparts in Paris, London or New York, but the two lines that cross the city diagonally are fast, efficient, and connect with the bus network. Taxis are relatively inexpensive and Uber is operative. I haven’t tried it, but I did get an estimate at rush hour and it looked reasonable. I used it in Paris last year and was very happy with the result. Remember, though, Uber prices depend on traffic density and demand, so unlike taxis they are higher during peak periods.

The joys of Slow or Independent Travel are many, but the main advantages are having time to smell the flowers, watch the people, taste the incredible food, and still feel relatively rested.

Rome Flower Shop



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