Bella Chaos in Roma

See our gallery of photos tagged with “rome”.

We missed the train from the Rome airport into the city by literally one minute. This was after making two full 15-minute laps through the airport in search of Roma Transit Passes, which we ended up finding at the same spot where Lap One had ended. Need I mention that we were wearing our packs for the duration of this adventure? Or that this was at the end of a full day of traveling to Rome from Dubrovnik, which included one of the hottest bus rides that I’ve enjoyed in my life to date? Anyway… I finally secured the Roma Passes while Dan secured a calling card and went off to call our B&B in Rome to let them know that we would be arriving late. “We’re going to make the best of it,” Dan says upon returning from the phone. I’m thinking he means the fact that we just missed our train. “But we are not staying at that B&B,” he finishes. I don’t have anything to say in return. It turns out that they are experiencing “plumbing problems” so the B&B owner is going to meet us there and walk us over to his friend’s place, which he assures us is right down the road and actually 20 euro cheaper than his place. And so begins our unique experience of Rome’s bella chaos.

Although we contemplated cutting the tie and finding a place on our own, we decided to roll with the punches and see what we found at this replacement B&B. The owner of B&B #1 did indeed meet us outside his place and was actually quite nice in person. A bit suspicious about the whole situation, we innocently and casually asked what the plumbing problems were. He told us that a particularly rotund guest had sat on the bidet and somehow loosened it from its foundation and pipes. Hmm… perhaps. So he walked us over to B&B #2, which was a private apartment building on the main street of a great neighborhood. At this point, we are pretty sure that we are being directed to this guy’s friend’s apartment — not a proper B&B. Our fears were not allayed when we picked up on the fact that the owner of B&B #2 said something along the lines of “nice to meet you” to the owner of B&B #1. But the owner of B&B #2 showed us the room, which was very nice, with air-conditioning and fresh towels and a list of rules for guests posted to the back of the door. Those touches, along with the eating space for guests in the kitchen and his business cards, did a lot to convince us this place was worth a try. Those things plus the cost of 70 euros per night, which is basically unheard of in Rome — especially for a room with air-conditioning. So we decide to go for it and finally take off our packs after a full day of travel that included walking, bus, flight, train, tram, and more walking.

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We ended up getting a very positive and friendly vibe from the owner of B&B #2 and were starting to feel quite at ease — and even lucky to have found the better deal in price. We took showers and headed out for a great pasta dinner in the neighborhood where we were staying (Trastevere). It was a Friday night, so people were out in force and were still sitting down for dinner when we finished ours at 11:15. Fully exhausted, we got back to the apartment building to find a woman sitting outside of the main door. Long story short, she said the name of our B&B, expressed thanks to see us, and introduced herself as the owner’s girlfriend who had lost her keys and couldn’t reach him on the phone. So could we please let her upstairs to find him? Again, this felt weird, but she seemed very honest and not sketchy, so we did it and figured that we would make sure that he knew her, etc. He did seem to know her and was not upset, but the weird part was that she seemed very unsure about which bedroom door to enter in order to find him. So again, it just felt very non-standard and added to our feeling of this not being quite a legit set-up.

The next morning we had a great breakfast with the owner and a few other guests, so were again feeling fine about the whole situation. We headed out that day for a *major* day of sight-seeing that included the Colosseum, Forum, and Pantheon. It was a long, hot, exhausting day, but introduced me (my first visit to Rome, Dan’s second) to the grandiosity of Rome. The words that I kept returning to were “impressive” and “huge” for just about everything that we saw. After covering all of those sights, we again returned home exhausted and hot. This time, we returned to our room having an unlocked door and a missing A/C controller. The owner explained that he had just emptied the trash and then recovered the controller from another room down the hall. But during this whole explanation he was distracted by phone calls and someone else who was in the apartment. We never did quite understand the explanation for why the controller was gone, but were again feeling quite sketched out by this situation. We decided to look his place up online and see if there were any reviews. We found an internet cafe and were very relieved to find a site with reviews dating back over a year that were both good and bad (thereby proving that they were not all written by friends). Basically, it’s a budget B&B with a very personable, friendly owner, but not the cleanest bathroom and not the utmost in privacy. We couldn’t argue with any of those points. This discovery did legitimize the place for us, so we decided not to worry about it any more and headed out for another great dinner near the Colosseum (thanks, Jen & Susan!!!), some fabulous gelato, and then walked back home. When we got home that night, the owner was next door and he called us into that apartment. It turns out that he is in the midst of a major renovation project to expand his B&B into the adjoining flat. There were missing doors, windowframes and unfinished bathrooms. Yet he had a group of girls from California arriving on Wednesday for a stay of two months. This explained so much! He is stressed out about this major expansion to his business and had been working on related improvements during our entire stay. He has a lot on his mind, might be a bit flaky, but was completely honest and driven with regard to his business.

We felt the need to share this whole story because it really was a major part of our stay in Rome. The owner of our B&B (and his girlfriend) were incredibly friendly (though stressed out) individuals who showed us an inside view of life in Rome. The great part about staying at places that are run out of someone’s home (like this B&B, the Budapest apartment, and all of the soba in Croatia) is that you really get a feel for what life is like in a given place. You are not sheltered in a hotel room, but rather see the intricacies, hear the noises and meet the people that make it all real. Despite all of our worries about the Rome B&B, it ended up being a very comfortable place that we would recommend highly to anyone who is looking for budget accommodation in a very expensive city — and who doesn’t mind a less than pristine bathroom and a lack of anonymity. If anyone is planning a trip to Rome, let us know! Our learning on the job is your gain in peace of mind.

Aside from that whole experience, we had a wonderful but exhausting three nights in Rome. We covered a tremendous number of miles on foot, saw as many of the major sights that we could see in two days, ate some wonderful food, and just enjoyed all of the people-watching. But I have to admit that I was ready to leave Rome and return to a quieter town. We are now in Siena and are very happy to be away from all of the hubbub. More on Siena to come soon…

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What is it?? Round II – Official Results

Thank you to all who participated in Round II of What is it?? While there were many creative guesses, only one of our participants got the answer correct. Once again, we recognize Allison Beller as the What is it?? winner. Congratulations, Allison!

To recap, the correct answer is Julius Caesar’s grave. This mound of dirt is located in the Temple of Julius Caesar — a freestanding building within the Roman Forum. Before our team of graphic artists (originally employed by the TV show “Cops” in the ’90s) did their magic on this photo, the pixelated words read: “AVE CESARE!”.

What is it?? Round II

Here’s another installment of everybody’s favorite game – “What is it??” Just like before, here’s how it works – we post a picture, and you have to guess what it is. This week’s picture comes all the way from Rome, Italy. Please post your guesses in the blog comments. Good luck!

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