A First-Time Look at Rome

The Colosseum in Rome

I am ashamed to admit that this was my first time to Rome even though this has been my third time to Italy. Rome has always been one of those destinations that I knew I needed to make it to, but for some reason, it never quite happened. As a first time visitor, I was surprised to see how different the Roman attitude was from the Florentine or Venetian one—as well as navigation and population. Here are a few things I noticed that might help you when you are thinking about seeing the Eternal City.

Rome Is Big—But Not that Big

There’s the extremely famous saying of “Rome was not built in a day.” I had made some friends in Florence who had lived in Rome for a while, and their first comment was usually how massive it was. However, when I was there, I was surprised to find you could get to most of the important monuments and sights within thirty or forty minutes of walking. As a young member of Generation Y and someone used to taking a brisk walk to get to anywhere, I enjoyed walking the streets and getting some of the local flavors by ducking into different streets rather than taking a bus or the metro.

Do as the Romans Do?

Again, living in a populated Italian city set me up for certain expectations as far as the Roman attitude. My expectations did not meet up with reality. I found Romans were happy to freely give you pretty much almost anything, roses, hostel rooms, directions, or water bottles, but they were just as quickly to demand a high price as soon as you accepted. My roommates and I soon learned not to stand too close to any of the vendors at the main attractions—one vendor almost placed hats on our heads and then asked us to pay! Keeping our distance and knowing when to give them a firm NO was helpful when we didn’t want to end up paying for something we didn’t want.

More People, Longer Lines

Rome might not be as massive physically as I was expecting, but the lines for the main attractions were much longer than I had imagined they would be. We were really lucky to have gotten our tickets to the Vatican online, otherwise we would have had to wait at least an hour. With reserved tickets, we could enter immediately, but we had to choose a certain time in order to do so. When I return to Rome, I am going to keep that in mind for other things that I might want to see—it was also cheaper to pay for the student fee online rather than trying to get a ticket at the door.


  1. Kristin K.

    Oh, I love Rome! I agree–not nearly as big as you’d think and incredibly manageable to walk the entire city or ride the Metro to get around faster. I was really surprised how close a lot of the major sites were to each other too.

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