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Report 1176: September Song: High Notes of a Few Precious Days in Italy

By Roz from Massachusetts, Fall 2006

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One of the peaceful views of Rome: Tiber Island, with the Ponte Rotto

We've been to Italy seven times now (plus four trips to France), and never experienced the crowds and heat that overwhelmed us this time in Rome. But our other trips have mostly been way off season (November through March). Last year we also went to Italy in September and October, but most of our time was in Emilia Romagna and various towns in the Veneto, which don't draw anywhere near the huge numbers that flock to Rome, Venice, and Florence. The lesson I have learned from this trip is that high tourist season seems to be expanding, and we have to think carefully about how to plan around places that attract herds of tourists (especially day-trippers from cruise ships).

But we also found that if you are in one of those high-powered locations, you can still have a very good time if you seek out the places where the tour guides hoisting their umbrellas aren't likely to be shepherding their groups in and out of buses. (For some good suggestions, check out the Passeggiate Romane in the Rome Tourist Brochures in the Resources below.) Even so, getting from here to there can be a drag when the city is hot and mobbed.

I usually don't mind public transportation, but one trip on the Rome Metro was more than enough for me -- I couldn't take the heat, the dirt, and the claustrophobic crowding. Riding the bus was better, but only sometimes. We once waited almost an hour for a bus along the Tiber, and finally gave up and took a cab. In fact, I think I'd really recommend budgeting for cabs in Rome if you want to go someplace too far to walk easily. Cabs aren't that expensive, and they sure save wear and tear on your disposition. I read an article in a local paper about how transit in Rome is approaching gridlock much of the time, and nobody knows how to deal with the problem.

So much of Rome is staggering under the weight of traffic and tourists. Another newspaper article described how the longtime residents of Trastevere are circulating petitions about the noise and disarray of the "punkabestia" invasion. We concurred, even at midday finding the general atmosphere in Trastevere too frenetic to want to stop there for lunch after visiting the beautiful Villa Farnesina.

I don't want to sound like the complaining ugly-American tourist, because there's much I love about Rome, and our previous trip there in November was great. But I've learned that summer isn't the only bad time to go to Rome, and I'll try to stick to the low off-season in the future.

On the plus side, Bergamo was an unexpected delight, and the Cinque Terre so beautiful that we didn't mind sharing its vistas with other travelers. It helped a lot, too, in Liguria to have a personal guide and advice from locals who steered us to nearby places that were just as beautiful and fascinating but offered peaceful respite from over-touristed crowds.

And finally -- thanks again to Slow Travel, for giving us the opportunity to experience such a dream vacation, and to all the Slow Travelers who helped us to make the most of it!


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Rome Tourist Brochures and Walking Guides

Slow Food Osterie (in Italian)

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Villa Luna B&B in Bergamo

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