Rome Travel Guide

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Things NOT to do in Rome

Okay - the river looks good, especially this shot of
Hadrian's Castle (Castel Sant'Angelo, for you Dan Brown
We suppose it's a cheap shot - or shots.  But there are some things in Rome that even WE have found not to be worthwhile.

(But for 4 new itineraries we HAVE found worthwhile, see our new book, Modern Rome: 4 Great Walks for the Curious Traveler; more information below.)

but you are separated from the city by
these 160-foot walls
And even the boat can look reasonable
Tops on our list is the boat on the Tiber.  It's amazing (to us) that people still think this is the thing to do.  But it's not.  The original plan may have been okay, but now the boat barely has any stops.  And the Tiber, the Tevere to Romans, is so far beneath its massive retaining walls, that there is virtually nothing to see from the river.  The Romans have let the river go to waste.  And even though we, at RST, have an itinerary along the river (which itself has been compromised by floods, disrepair, changes), we do not recommend floating on this poor excuse for a major urban, and historic waterway.  In fact, in our Itinerary 3, "The Strange Career of the Tevere," we ask "Who killed the Tevere?"

The Tram Museum is in a great location; the Pyramid is
a backdrop
There's just not much to look at, nor signage

Second, it's a small one, but still a disappointment - the tram museum attached to the Roma-Ostia-Lido station on via Ostiense, just past the Pyramid.  The station is on an RST itinerary, No. 4 - Hitler and the Germans Come to Rome.  We love the station - built in 1924 with art nouveau mosaics and d'Annunzio poetry.  But the "museum" just doesn't cut it.  You get in by asking at the ticket booth in the station and then the guard lets you in, because it's free.  There are old trams outside in the yard, but barely explained (even for those who can read Italian), and you can't go in any of them.  We explored it, because we thought it would be fun for kids.  But, we decided, no.  Just not enough "there" there.

It's the right side of the Vittoriano, here, that has sometimes
 flaky shows, proving free is not always worth it
Third, and this is somewhat difficult to explain, the shows that are often held on the right side (as you face it) of the Vittoriano - the large monument to Vittorio Emanuele II that houses an exhibit of Italy's fight for independence and unification as well as important (and often glitzy) art exhibits to attract tourists.  In theory, we love this.  The shows on the right side are free, and they usually have interesting themes.  We can even recall one or two we liked (one on earthquakes, one on Sophia Loren - or was that on the left side?).  But, generally, the shows are pap put on by the government on the cheap.

An inside gallery with school art.  Okay we have nothing
against kids' art, but...   

One was on Italian families - sounded good - large photos (reproductions of course, blown up) of Italian families in the past (Dianne could have put her own here), but fairly right-wing propaganda about the value of families, and certainly no alternative families.

Another show was on World War II and its impact on home and family.  There were some collections of memorabilia from a few families (see the postcard below).  But there was almost no coherence to the show.  Just a bunch of stuff thrown into cases.  And, while the "stuff" may be interesting here and there, there's not enough curating going on to make it a good show.  (BTW, we took a beating for criticizing this show on Facebook.)  And, of course, everything is only in Italian.  So, generally, we would say, stay away from the right side of the Vittoriano.
From  an exhibit last  year:
Again, some fascinating memorabilia from Italy's imperial days
 in Africa, but again, without context.  The postcard (that's what this is)
reads "Abyssinian [read - Ethiopian] visions... The women, The men"
 Look at it carefully.  It's a fairly devastating view of the  conquered and the mind-set
of the conquerors.

That's actually a pretty short list of things not to do in Rome.  We sat around trying to think of more.  But it's a credit to this amazing city, with all the hype and hucksters, that this is all we could come up with!


 Modern Rome: 4 Great Walks for the Curious Traveler features the "garden city" suburb of Garbatella: the 20th-century suburb of EUR; the 21st-century music and art center of Flaminio, along with Mussolini's Foro Italico, also the site of the 1960 summer Olympics; and a stairways walk in classic Trastevere. 

This 4-walk book is available in all print and eBook formats The eBook is $1.99 through and all other eBook sellers.  See the various formats at

Modern Rome: 4 Great Walks for the Curious Traveler
 now is also available in print, at, Barnes and Noble, independent bookstores,  and other retailers; retail price $5.99.


Rick said...

Two great points: the list of things NOT to see is indeed short. But I like what you said about the lack of information at many sites in Rome (and in Italy in general). It would make the experience so much more interesting if we were given context. I've found this to be the case at (too) many sites that are otherwise amazing.

Angelina said...

Well only 2 things that suck in Rome that's not too bad. Think I could create a whole eBook about things that suck in Amsterdam ;)

(although there are plenty of nice things there as well).