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Thursday, May 29, 2008

It's good to be a tourist in... Rome!

Before I tell you about our travels in Calabria, I must share something about our recent visit to Rome (post-Istanbul) where we spent a week gathering content for several travel stories, experiencing walking tours, hotels, restaurants, and museums, doing interviews with fascinating locals, and for my husband and co-writer Terry, shooting photos. Despite the fact that we were working, for the first time in a long time, I felt like a tourist. And, much to my surprise, it felt fantastic. We'd been to Rome a few times before, yet this trip was different. The first time we visited, a decade ago, Terry and I were spending a summer backpacking through Italy, Spain and Portugal. The second trip I took my mother as part of a summer sojourn to places she'd always wanted to go but had never been - Istanbul, the Greek Islands, Paris, Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Spain - as a way toward healing and learning to live again following my dad's death from cancer. The third visit was at the end of another long Italian summer for Terry and I that involved writing a book in Milan, followed by (our reward!) travel to some Italian places we'd never been together, a driving trip through Sicily, time kicking back on the Aeolian Islands, a jaunt to the Amalfi Coast and Capri where our days were spent walking and swimming and nights spent eating and drinking, and finally some days in each of Napoli and Roma where we did the design hotels, hot new restaurants, and hip bars. This trip to Rome was altogether different. For the stories we were researching we did a series of guided tours and walks (something we never do), and we stayed in the Vatican City and Via Veneto, where it's impossible to escape the tour groups and hoards of tourists. We were just two of tens of thousands of travellers clutching our guidebooks as we did the sights. Sure I was making lengthy notes and observing the people as much as the places, and Terry was carting around one too many cameras to be a tourist, but still we somehow got caught up in the flow. Like little leaves we floated down Rome's cobblestone streets, centuries of complex history surrounding us, and we loved it. For the first time in a long time I felt so exhilarated by a city, it was as if I was experiencing it for the first time. And it felt great. It felt good to be a tourist in Rome. But I'm not sure how many other cities I could say that about...


Nomadic Matt said...

How many cameras does he carry around?

Anu ! said...

Came across your posts through the link you gave in Guardian article comment. Me and my husband escape to travel whenever we can and use the Lonely planet like a companion! Your posts are interesting about Turkey and Italy, have already got some places on my list.

Guess at some places you can not escape being tourist, we always try to avoid crowd but have to make exception sometimes. Another example of such city could be Luxor, Egypt.

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Matt & Anu, thanks for the comments and apologies for taking so long to respond - we've been on the road in Calabria with little access to the internet.

Matt - Terry carries two cameras, a whopping big thing that he calls 'the soul-stealer' and a more discrete version that enables him to move around crowds more easily (the soul-stealer attracts a *lot* of attention), both Nikons.

Anu - I totally agree with you, and often I find myself hating places where the locals think all foreigners are 'tourists' - and you're right, Luxor is one of those - but to be honest I kind of enjoyed the anonymity and being part of the mass of Rome-lovers this time.

Anonymous said...

Hi Guys. Thank you for the post. It was interesting to find out your point of view about tourism in Rome. Where it's possible to see Terry's photos about places where you was in this time?