Loved Paris and Florence... Rome, not so much

Just got back from a 15-day trip to Paris and several parts of Italy. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed our time in Paris when I thought it would be the worst. I should note that I've been to all these cities but it's been a long time (about 10 years now). I didn't enjoy Paris the first time but possibly because I was with my parents and we barely got out to explore (especially by foot). Despite the snow and cold, we had a great time. Cinque Terre and Florence were also wonderful, despite the rain in Florence (which put a damper on our last day). I enjoyed the convenience of getting around by foot in Florence, and 5T is always beautiful (it was great seeing the towns bounce back after the massive flooding). Rome was frustrating. The city is massively huge and overwhelming, and walking around on foot is 10x more tiring than in Florence. I seemed to have forgotten this well. So much so that oftentimes we found ourselves tired and hungry by mid-afternoon, which is conveniently when most good restaurants (according to Tripadvisor) are closed. One thing to note: we had a love-hate relationship with Tripadvisor while in Rome. Every highly-marked restaurant was closed when we were most hungry. The mistake is that we chose a hotel close Termini. Next time (if there is one), I'd probably do Trastevere or Centro Storico. Don't get me started on the pick-pocket gang we encountered at the Colosseum. Brazen packs of wolves. I wish the Caribineri were a little more pro-active or would come up with a better gameplan to combat these fools. Needless to say, I think I'll be OK with not visiting Rome again. At least for a very long time. It seems the city has changed a lot since the 10 years I've been there, and not in the best of ways. Either way, it's good to be home :)

Posted by Jeremy
Irvine, CA, United States
107 posts

Don't get me wrong. I think Rome is a necessary place to visit if most people were to ask where I would go if it were my first time to Italy and Europe, but I'm good with visiting enough times to where I've seen most of what there is to see. Otherwise, there are plenty of other places in Italy I would recommend (I'm biased because I studied in Italy for a few months and traveled around a good amount while there).

Posted by Sarah
Chicago (formerly St. Louis), IL, USA
1311 posts

Thanks for posting this. Florence is one of my favorite cities in Europe. I disliked Rome the first time I visited but appreciated it more the second time. I haven't been back since 2001 and can't imagine how much it has changed in that time.

Posted by Michael
Griffith, IN, USA
440 posts

I couldn't agree with you more. People think I nuts when I say you could keep the all mess. As a matter of fact you can keep Italy. Not a fan never was.

Posted by Jeremy
Irvine, CA, United States
107 posts

Sarah, I was in Italy back in 2002. Not much has changed in terms of the historic sites of course, but it seems like Rome was much busier with tourists... or maybe it was just because of Palm Sunday and Easter. I also noticed some parts seemed more run-down, but that could just be me being subjective.
I forgot how spread-out things are there too. I was much healthier and fit 10 years ago when I was there, so all the walking around didn't bother me as much. I can't say the same for this time around. It would be nice if the Metro in Rome were more like the Metro in Paris!

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
3582 posts

I love Rome, but it is A LOT more walking...and sweating :-( I've finally learned that my Italian, and my Roman in particular, visits have to go at a m-u-c-h slower pace. That equals many more gelato/wine/Campari/coffee stops and long lunches. Darn. I'm glad you enjoyed Paris! It's always a little scary to return to somewhere that you 'know' you don't like. Sometimes you still don't :-( Worst is returning to a place you really liked, then having a not-so-great time on your return...

Posted by donna
roswell, ga, usa
1012 posts

I love Rome - but HATE the Termini neighborhood! I always stay in the Prati neighborhood (Near Vatican) and very quiet at night, and lots of neighborhood local restaurants. When traveling, you need to stay on the schedule used by the locals, which can be difficult for us Americans. Even more difficult in Spain where everything closes from 1-4pm, and dinner isn't until at the earliest 8pm! I was there last year for Easter and had a wonderful time! The police were everywhere, and we had no bad experiences and we are two obviously "older" American women. I've been going to Rome every year for the past eight or so, and if anything, I think the police presence has improved! Sorry you didn't have a good time. If you do find yourself back in Rome, I'd strongly suggest staying in either Trastevere neighborhood or Prati. Go to booking.com when checking out hotels, because unlike Trip Advisor, they require proof of stay before allowing you to review on their website. Trip Advisor comments can be made by anyone even the competitor across the street giving a bad review or the owner himself, giving a glowing review.

Posted by Jeremy
Irvine, CA, United States
107 posts

LOL, one thing I find funny about TripAdvisor is how there's at least one review for every restaurant or hotel that includes the buzz-term "hidden gem!" Almost to the point of ridiculous. I agree though, Trastevere or Prati (or Centro Storico perhaps) if we go again. Both my wife and I agreed that we're okay not having to go back though. The Termini area is dreadful - it seems like it's just gotten busier, greasier, and slimier over the past 10 years. The morning of our departure, while waiting for the TAMbus to FCO at Termini, we saw a pair or trio of thieves surveying the sidewalks for easy-to-grab luggage. We found it odd that they kept walking back and forth at least 5-6 times in the 15 minutes we were out there waiting. My wife and I would just stare them down every time they walked by. It would be nice if the police ramped up their presence in that area - it sure could use it. Maybe, because of the Easter holiday, the presence shifted to more of the holy sites... maybe Termini isn't always that way :)

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1972 posts

I was once pick pocketed in the Paris subway system at the foot of an escalator. I am no longer a nice, courteous American tourist. If someone stumbles in front of me in a crowd of people, they'll not be treated well. At 6'4" and 235 lbs., I'm not an easy mark. Sometimes you've got to be pro-active in your security, and Rome is one of those kind of places to be defensive at all times.
Were were in Rome last Easter, and had not the first problem with anyone.

Posted by Jeremy
Irvine, CA, United States
107 posts

I told my wife if someone tried to pull that on us again and she's behind me, to push the person back as hard as she can and yell/scream at them. Then I'd know for sure :)

Posted by Michael
Griffith, IN, USA
440 posts

I am truly a traveler that hates to see ugly Americans but I follow the 2 foot rule. Don't get in my face. That is why I question many of the stories that appear here when it comes to pickpockets. I know it happens but there are so many ways to avoid it, it seems like you asked for it when it happens to you. Why would you let someone close to you or bump into you without a firm reaction. I wouldn't let it happen here why let it happen on vacation.

Posted by Jeremy
Irvine, CA, United States
107 posts

Not all pickpockets are as brazen as getting in your face to steal something. They also try to get you with your back turned, which is exactly what happened to me. Yes, there are plenty of ways to prevent this (could have, should have, etc) But sometimes, in the heat of the moment, your reaction is the only preventative (and we all know it still gets the best of us). I consider myself very lucky. But their two-tiered distraction worked. They took the eyes off my back (my wife) so that they could single me out, and thought they were going to have a field day with me. All I can hope is that the police had a field day with them (likely not). One other thing to note: the guy was a bigger dude at least at 6ft (where I'm 5'5) and he had his rat-pack with at least three other guys. It was probably a good idea not to be confrontational. The girl who distracted my wife though, I think my wife could have cold-cocked her if she wanted to.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7827 posts

I see both sides, but I do understand and agree mostly with what Michael say.. I personally have "don't get in my bubble " rule.. meaning same thing as don't get within reach of me. I figure no one can steal what they can't reach. Twice in last 30 yrs I have had an attempted pickpocket event. Both times I stopped it from happening( purse was open hands on it,, me looking down and shrieking swear words, and in fact ,I actually swung at one guy, and I am a middle aged woman, lol and they were younger men both times, it was just instinct though I do not recommend! ) , both times it was my "spidey " sense that kicked in when I realized someone was just too darn close to me and shouldn't be. This is really important, trust your instincts.. yes its hard on a crowded metro car , people do innocently bump into you , and I admit to giving a few glares to those innocent people ( remember everyone who bumps into you is not a pickpocket for goodness sake) but its better to be safe then sorry .

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7827 posts

juan , no one has mentioned the walking really , I know I can likely outwalk you , don't kid yourself, I do 10 km a day easy and on holiday likely can do about 15 or more.. so please don't think we are are all old farts that can't waddle down the block.. When sites are spread out you spend time getting to and from them on buses etc.. many people like compact areas where they can just walk around and enjoy the area as they walk from site to site, I know its one of my favorite things about Paris.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7827 posts

Actually I will let you know what I really think,, I do not think much of Italian food, I dislike pasta( cooked flour and egg, or flour and water or thrilling) , pizza is ok, do not like their breads at all, and their salads are boring ( sorry bland white slabs of mozzarella and tomato slices is not a salad to me, its just is B O R I N G ) Olive oil on too much stuff. Roasted red peppers are bland and slimey.. in fact the only meal that I have ever enjoyed in Italy was a lovely rosemary roasted chicken and little roasted pototos.. but I can make that at home too.. ) I have read they can do nice fish, but I found seafood a bit pricey , maybe next time though I have only been to Italy twice, so only a total of 2 weeks, but I have never had a meal that blew me away, Thank goodness for gelato, now that is yummy .

Posted by Jeremy
Irvine, CA, United States
107 posts

It is a ton of walking. It's not even so much the physical exhaustion than it is the fact that you've been out all day exploring and roaming (ha ha) all over the place. I do really like pasta and Italian food but surprisingly, it was pretty difficult finding really good places we both liked. Although, I will say that the Bucatini all'amatriciana we had the last night was really good - probably some of the best pasta we had during our trip there. The other that stood out, particularly in Florence: butter chicken from Sostanza - the beefsteak Florentine was OK. Nothing I'd crave more than any choice steak I could pick-up here at home and throw on the grill. Rome would have been extremely disappointing if it weren't for the bucatini :P

Posted by Susan
Toluca Lake, CA, USA
2 posts

Hi Jeremy -- I agree with you. I will most likely never return to Rome. Too big, too exhausting. I much prefer Paris, and will be returning in Sept.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3509 posts

If only they would move all those wonderful museums and churches to another place in Italy, then I'd never have to return to Rome.

Posted by donna
roswell, ga, usa
1012 posts

I love Rome, I love Pasta, I love Pizza, I love Italy. I love the museums, I love, love, love the Vatican Museum, St. Peters, Sistine Chapel. I love Italians! I've spent cumulatively months there in the last 5 years. There's no place like it! I like Paris, Love Florence, and I feel bad for anyone reading this post and is deciding whether or not to go based on these people who probably wouldn't be happy no matter where they went. Go to the Mall in your local city. Not so much walking, you can get McDonald's or Starbucks. And the Art in the Mall is not to be beaten!

Posted by Jeremy
Irvine, CA, United States
107 posts

Donna, I agree that anyone reading this thread should take it with a grain of salt. Rome is an amazing city. I think I was just disappointed because the last time I was there, which was 10+ years ago, I really enjoyed it. I'm sure my perspective has changed since then, and maybe things that didn't bother me about it then bother me now. To that point, I really disliked Paris and thought there was nothing special about it the first time I went (I was with my parents, which probably didn't help haha). In fact, I only wanted this trip to be in Italy based on that experience! Now that I think back, I'm glad I didn't go that route and that we spent the time in Paris. I think a lot of my not-so-up-to-par experience in Rome this time can be attributed to being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and just being travel-weary and laden (as it was the last place we were at before leaving). If anyone plans to do Rome, I'd definitely recommend making it at the beginning or middle of the trip if possible (and allocating a minimum of a week if you really want to delve into more of it). It can just be quite stressful figuring out what to do and where to go - the city is pretty huge and it just takes more time exploring. Not my cup of tea, but I'm sure there are plenty others who don't mind the things we did.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4764 posts

I loved Rome! Paris was nice, but just kind of so-so for me. It didn't live up to the hype, but Rome did. Perhaps because I was there in Feb. with out the exhausting heat and hordes of tourists? There were lots of people there, but it was all manageable and not overwhelming, no matter where we went. Anyway, the city blew me away and I was thrilled to stand in the forum, walk through the coliseum, climb up into St. Peters dome, walk through the city at night to view the lit fountains, and my top favorite - the Pantheon. Just amazing construction. Perhaps because it wasn't tourist season, the pick-pockets were on vacation? No activity like this experienced anywhere, though this was a few years ago and from all the reports, it is getting worse? We rode buses and the metro to get around, and of course walked a lot. Never checked anywhere for restaurant reviews, just found them on side streets away from the tourist attractions. I found the food here far better than Paris and a lot cheaper too, and with friendlier wait staff. the coffee was certainly superior. Next time I go, I plan to do a few themed walking tours to get more of the history.