Imagine a world where the Mona Lisa is placed next to Stalin and Oscar Wilde jostles for space alongside Pope John XXIII. Nearby, poor old Christopher Columbus is lumped beneath Adolf Hitler. This weird state of affairs is the norm inside Rome’s Museo delle Cere, or Wax Museum.
My sister, who’s been to both Madame Tussaud’s and the lesser known (but much more laughable) Louis Tussaud’s, knew exactly what we were getting ourselves into when she suggested we step inside and hand over €9 each. However, I wasn’t quite so prepared for the comedy value ahead.
“It’s Luigi! The actual Luigi!” I hissed at my family as we waited for our coffees to be prepared at Rome’s famous Bar del Cappuccino (50 Via Arenula). Luigi Santoro, an award-winning über-barista, is the much-discussed man behind the place’s success, drawing a steady stream of both nonchalant locals and excited visitors six days a week. Clippings stating his claim to fame lined the right-hand wall as we walked in to queue for our drinks. There he was in print form, captured in the pages of newspapers from Japan and Italy, with his thick moustache and a face gripped in concentration.
One of the greatest bugbears of modern travelling, for me at least, is the sight of an ignorant tourist whipping out their iPad to document a world-famous landmark. The combination of stupidity and arrogance is enough to make my blood boil, as they ditch the prospect of using a camera or, God forbid, their eyes, to record memories.
Such is my loathing, I figured it was time to take a closer look at why this is so offensive and what you should be doing instead, to look a bit less obvious if nothing else. I’ve taken two prominent locations as examples – in each one I’ve spotted people freely using this gadget to a worrying degree…
A London City Airport survey has found that the average Brit has only visited seven countries, and only 31% have made it to 10 or more of them, despite there being an incredible 193 countries in the entire world that could be explored. This data, which I was reading about in Wanderlust Magazine, really got me thinking about my own travelling past, as it’s only in the last few years that I’ve really started accumulating a respectable country count.
Rather than tally up where I’ve been, I’m going to admit why I haven’t been to as many places as you. It’s time to come to terms with my travel inadequacy and look back on those few countries with fond memories.
Roman Holiday; La Dolce Vita; To Rome with Love. Notice a pattern? Rome has been the backdrop to plenty of international films since the 1950s, but it often becomes the accidental star of the show and continues to lure tourists who can’t wait to recreate the scenes for themselves.
You only have to head to the Trevi Fountain or the Bocca Della Verita and wait for the crowds of devotees to form (and don’t deny that you want to join in with them), looking to channel Anita Ekberg and Audrey Hepburn. 19th July saw the re-release of Roman Holiday at cinemas across the UK, making this the perfect time to indulge in a tour of the streets that made their way onto the screen.
Whilst I loved Rome’s amazing architecture above ground, arguably one of the most spectacular places that I visited was underneath the pavements. You could walk past the Capuchin Crypt, on the Via Veneto, without really taking a second glance, as it’s not that remarkable from the outside. In fact, the whole street is a bit shabby, having had its heyday in the sixties and now looking like a shadow of its former self. It is living in the past, so what better place than the Via Veneto to find rooms full of bones? Rather than holding the remains of sinful sixties celebs, in the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini you’ll find traces of devout monks.
Give me a great bit of street art and I’m a happy bunny. I know that Rome doesn’t have the same kind of gritty urban reputation as New York or London, but it’s actually a great place to find some unexpected gems on a wall or in a shop window, in between checking out ancient ruins (which I’m glad haven’t been covered in spray paint, but have more subtle additions).
Here are some of the best examples that I could find during my visit, from bizarre animals to a religious art interpretation.
Forget taking those embarrassing Segway tours, or sweating your way through the queues to the Vatican Museums: if there’s one way to really see Rome, it’s by Vespa. Not only does it make you think of the classic scenes in Roman Holiday, where Audrey Hepburn is shown around the city by a very dashing Gregory Peck, but it also lets you see the streets as today’s Romans do, often choosing this as their mode of transport over the packed buses and the Metro.
I booked a Vespa tour with Scooteroma as the company seemed personal, friendly and a bit quirky, with good reviews from customers. Run by Annie Ojile Nerone and her husband Giovanni, they offer a range of options (including longer trips and Tuscany excursions), but I went for the three hour Motorino tour.
In just three days’ time I’ll be in Rome, checking out the Eternal City and tracking down the best coffee, pasta and gelato – well, it’d be rude not to. I’ve been loosely planning my trip for a few months, but now it’s time to actually work out the must-see sights on my list and make sure I don’t leave without ticking them off.
WEIRD AND WONDERFUL
1. The Museum of Purgatory – Regular readers might have noticed that I’m a sucker for unusual sights, so this tiny museum (dedicated to souls stuck between heaven and hell) is an essential stop. It’s at the back of a church and consists of just 20 exhibits in one tiny room, amassed by a single collector up until his death in 1912, so it’ll be a bit like stepping back in time by 101 years.
Calavera (Span. feminine noun) = skull. A travel blog with a love of culture, dark tourism and the unconventional.