We became Tourists in Rome. We should have realized when we planned the trip that Rome in late July was not a good idea. But travel time is limited by Mom and Dad’s school year; and we wanted to take a side trip halfway through their visit to Spain. So the three of us set out for Italy for a whirlwind three-day trip.
Living in Europe, I’ve gotten spoiled by the feeling of not being a tourist. Even when I go someplace new, there’s a sense of having a base, of belonging, of being somehow different from those who travel a long distance with pristine passports and voluminous, unscuffed bags. Rome, however, with its insanely twisting streets and unfamiliar language, rendered it nearly impossible to blend in, especially since tourists basically replace locals entirely in the summer and take over the city with maps and sunhats.
I, too, had a sunhat in Rome. We waited in line for the Vatican museum one morning in scorching sunlight, and when a vendor walked by peddling sunhats, I asked the price. I tried on the hat: tan straw with a scarf tied around the brim. I felt like Daisy Miller. More important, I felt shaded. I felt the possibility of not leaving Rome with a sun-wrinkled face. Mom and I bartered and, ultimately, each bought a hat. We also fanned ourselves with the wooden fans we’d brought with us from Spain. We had sunk to new depths of Tourism. It was not to be stopped.
In our Daisy Miller hats, we saw the lovely (though overcrowded) sights of Rome: the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, the Roman Forum, the Coliseum, St. Peter’s. We explored some churches in Trastevere and had some delicious meals. We ate gelato and bought shoes and bargained for knockoff Prada at Campo de Fiori.
Rome is a ridiculous, amazing city, with its ancient ruins around every corner and shockingly beautiful piazzas at the end of every street. But in July, it is also a hot, crowded, uncomfortable city, and it made Barcelona feel like a secluded island hideaway in comparison. I expected Mom and Dad to like Barcelona much less after seeing Rome—Barcelona is a city that takes some effort to love, while Rome is Rome—but we all breathed a sigh of relief when we got back. We’ll return to Rome, to Italy, but in the fall next time.