There and Back Again: A First-Timer’s Trip to Rome

Today, I will be “talking” with a friend of mine, Daniel. Daniel is 30 years old, a computer scientist and a resident of Potsdam, Germany. He is also probably one of the kindest and most patient people that I have ever met which is why I wanted to talk to him about his recent vacation to Rome (which, let’s be honest, can require some patience!).

He recently traveled there for the first time, and I was curious to learn more about his trip as well as his thoughts and opinions about his first trip to the Eternal City, how he planned his trip and whether he’ll go back there. I also wanted to get a different perspective from a non-American traveler, and I hope that Daniel’s perceptions and experiences might be helpful to you as you plan your next trip to Rome. After talking with Daniel, I was amazed at how similar our travel experiences were even though we both come from two different countries and cultures.
Below is my interview with him:
Q: Hi Daniel, welcome back from your first trip to Rome. I am sure that you had a great time during your week long visit to the Eternal City. Tell me: what were your first impressions of the city?

When I stepped off the plane at Fiumicino airport I immediately realized that I woudn’t be the only tourist for the next week. The city was so busy, people everywhere, thousands of tourists, almost hard to spot any Italians!

Q: Was it easy to get from the airport to your hotel? Did you take a cab? The Fiumicino Express?

When I arrived I took a suburban train (not the Fiumicino express) to get into the city. I arrived at Termini station and had to go just one stop by metro to Piazza della Repubblica where the hotel was. On the day of my departure, I decided to use the hotel’s shuttle service since it was just 5 euro more than the train.

Q: Daniel, I know that you’re a language buff like me, and you know a little Italian. Did you have trouble interacting with Italians? Tell us about your experiences with the language.

I didn’t have any real trouble. I had a little travel dictionary in my bag, but I rarely used it. Mostly, I could get by speaking English. Surprisingly, I could even read some inscriptions and street signs. I could derive a lot from my knowledge of Spanish and French.

Q: What kind of resources did you use to prepare for your trip, if any. If you didn’t use any, can you please tell me (and my readers) why?

I mainly used your blog but also two books. One of them is published by Marco Polo and contains a lot of valuable tourist information including maps of the city. It’s a common publisher of tourist guides here in Germany. The other one was published by DETTOUR. Both are in German for my convenience and are just called “Rom”. I also consulted Wikipedia.

Q: Berlin/Germany versus Rome/Italy. Did you experience any culture shock between your own and that of Italy or Rome, in particular?

I didn’t experience any real culture shock, I think. But I noticed differences as well. For example, when I had a rather rich breakfast in a bar, I was observed strangely by an italian woman who gnawed at little croissant.

Q: Did you have a favorite place or attraction that you enjoyed most? What did you like most about it?

The most impressive attraction for me was the ruins of Ostia Antica. While I wandered through the remnants of this ancient place, I imagined how it might have looked 1000 years ago and how people lived their daily life.

Another one was the museums of Vatican City. How overwhelming! All the gold, marble and invaluable pieces of art. It is good that I attended a guided tour through the Vatican City.
Q: If you can, name an attraction (or two) that you wished you had the time to see. Why didn’t you get the chance to see it and why would it be important for you to visit it?

I spent only 6 days in Rome which certainly was not enough to see everything. I didn’t go to that interesting museum that you recommended to me, Centrale Montemartini.

Q: Did you make a list of things that you wanted to see or did you “play it by ear”?

Before I started my trip, I made a mental plan on what I wanted to see. Because of the short amount of time I had, I planned 2 or 3 days ahead and made walking routes before I left the hotel so that I could make the most of my time.

Q: Would you go back to Rome? If so, why? If not, why not? Please be honest.

I certainly would go back, but only if I had more time. Maybe even in another season. But I don’t want to complain, the weather was great.

Q: Let’s talk about getting around Rome. I know that you’re not a fan of driving (and neither am I!) so how did you get about? Did you think that public transportation in Rome was adequate? Inadequate?

I used Rome’s public transportation system. I went by metro a lot and sometimes by bus. That worked quite well most of the time except when I wanted to go to places without direct access to the metro lines. I avoided the bus since I had no bus schedule and somehow couldn’t manage to get one. Probably, I was more used to the detailed plans and timetables at German bus stops, and the friendly female voice that tells you what station is going to be the next such that you know when to get off.

All in all, it seemed to be quite adequate for a city that drives its metro tunnels through 2000 years of history. In that regard, it was understandable that they are cautious and take their time extending their metro network.

Q: No one likes to talk about negative things, but I am curious. You’re such an easy-going guy, but I want to know if there was anything at all that you disliked or bothered you on your trip.

In fact there was nothing that really bothered me. (You know me well…laughs)

Just one point to note are the effective methods of Romans to get at your money. Like when I was out for dinner in a restaurant and had to pay 5 (!) euro for bread that I neither ordered nor touched! I also found myself often with an empty stomach and no open restaurant. Whenever I left an attraction shortly after noon and tried to get lunch (not just a snack), I was disppointed since all restaurants obviously decided to have an extended lunch break until the evening. Not very tourist friendly, in my opinion.

Q: What would you do differently in planning and executing your trip if you could go to Rome again tomorrow (so to speak)?

Nothing. No, wait, I’d probably get a bus schedule!

Q: One last question — did you toss a coin in the Trevi Fountain as I advised? :)

No, I spent it all on the bread! (laughs)

Thanks, Daniel, for being such a good sport and answering my questions. It was a pleasure and an honor to talk with you about your trip. Your impressions and thoughts will be a great asset to my readers. I am glad that you had such a great trip to Rome, and maybe in the future I will see you in the Eternal City, and we can have a cappuccino!

photo credits: The photos used in this post are Daniel’s. All rights reserved.