The Eternal City of Rome - Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel

The Eternal City of Rome Is Filthy – But Oh! The Food

The Eternal City of Rome is a pigsty! Litter is everywhere. Dirt coats every surface and lies an inch think in the corners of the steps of every stairway. At the National Museum, right in the center of the city, trash had collected so deep in the wells surrounding the trees that the ground could no longer be seen and a faded blue sofa that someone had long ago discarded sat on the sidewalk around the corner from the entrance. There is hardly a surface that hasn’t been covered in graffiti. In fact, the taxi driver who carried me from the airport to the hotel told me the graffiti problem is so bad that they have just passed a law allowing the courts to levy fines as high as 10,000 Euros or even confer jail sentences for anyone caught in the act of defacing a property with graffiti.

Rome has a serious graffiti problem

Rome has a serious graffiti problem

Rome Italy has a serious graffiti problem

More graffiti

Fortunately, the city makes up for its shortcomings with the food it serves up. Within two blocks of the hotel are a dozen cafes with tables out on the sidewalk, where I can sit street side and observe the daily life of Romans as I dine and enjoy some of the best food that Rome has to offer.

Last night I had an exquisite appetizer of Polenta cubes in a cream sauce, garnished with braised radicchio, followed by rice risotto in a mushroom sauce, topped with thin strips of some exotic nutty-flavored cheese. The previous night it was three appetizers:: Bruschetta with fresh tomatoes, greens, and olive oil; Ricotta cheese and spinach balls, rolled in corn meal and deep fried; and deep-fried Polenta rolls with cheese and spices.

Another night I wandered into a steak house by mistake, but even there I had an incredible meal; they brought me a long wooden plank covered in roasted vegetables (red peppers yellow peppers, onions, zucchini and eggplant), along with a plate of sauteed spinach – delicious. And then there is the bread. Rome must have the best bread I have ever tasted in my life – foccacia, wheat, sourdough and rustic white varieties with crispy crusts – served warm by the baskets-full. Considering the exquisite cuisine, I guess I can forgive a little dirt and trash.

The Imperial Forum is one of the most historic sites in the Eternal City of Rome

The Imperial Forum is one of the most historic sites in the Eternal City of Rome

Another view of the myriad ruins in the Imperial Forum in Rome Italy

Another view of the myriad ruins in the Imperial Forum

Rome is not a very large city, in fact it is possible to walk across the city center in about two hours. The hotel where I am staying is just to the south of the city center, in one of Rome’s many neighborhoods. From the hotel it is about a 20 minute walk to the Colosseum, so I have been walking for hours each day to all the sites. Frankly, it’s a good thing that I’m staying a bit far from the city center, because with all this food I’m eating I’d have gained 20 pounds if not for all the walking.

View over the Roman Forum from the road leading up to Capitoline Hill in Rome Italy

View over the Roman Forum from the road leading up to Capitoline Hill

Top of Capitoline Hill, with its two museums

Top of Capitoline Hill in Rome Italy

The fountain in Republica Piazza, in front of Santa Maria Angeli And Martiri Basilica in Rome Italy

The fountain in Republica Piazza, in front of Santa Maria Angeli And Martiri Basilica

Vittorio Emanuele Monument, with its Tomb of the Unknown Soldier n Rome Italy

Vittorio Emanuele Monument, with its Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Rome is a treasure trove of historic sites, ruins and churches. You can’t walk a block without coming upon a ruin of one sort or another. Everywhere, thousands of years old sites rub shoulders with new, modern construction. I’ve been to the Roman Forum; Ceasar’s Forum; The Palatino; about 20 churches; the Baths of Caracalla; Circus Maximus; and Tiberina Island, but so far my favorite sites are:

The Colosseum

Every bloody story you have ever heard about the Colosseum is true. The games began in the morning, following a parade of all the participants, including the beasts that would be used in combat – lions, leopards, panthers, bears, rhinos, giraffes and gazelles imported by the Romans from their conquered territories. The ensuing “hunts” were preceded by a staged search for cover, skirmishes, and combat, in which more than a few of the “hunters” were killed; these were allowed to defend themselves with only a lance and a shield.

The Colosseum in Rome Italy

The Colosseum

The Colosseum in Rome Italy

The Colosseum

Temple Of Amor and Roma in the Roman Forum, as seen from inside the Colosseum

Temple Of Amor and Roma in the Roman Forum, as seen from inside the Colosseum

During the lunch break it was common to throw criminals to the beasts. Naked and unarmed, they would inevitably end up in pieces. Other kinds of shows would also be put on during the intervals. These ranged from jugglers, acrobats, and magicians to actors performing parodies of ancient fables which would often finish with the tearing apart of the actors to general acclaim. I wondered why anyone would choose to go into the acting profession in ancient Rome.

Santa Maria In Cosmedin Church

The Bocca Della Verita (Mouth of Truth) at Santa Maria In Cosmedin Church is a giant marble disc that has been carved into a human face with two testicles carved into its beard. Traditional lore holds that if you tell a lie while your hand is in the sculpture’s mouth it will be bitten off. Legend has it that a priest used to hide behind the marble face and whack the wrists of known liars, making them yelp with pain.

Bocca Della Verita, the Mouth of Truth in Rome Italy

Bocca Della Verita (Mouth of Truth)

Trevi Fountain

I had always heard about the practice of throwing three coins into the fountain, so I got as close as I could and tossed my three coins over the heads of the people in front of me into the fountain. It wasn’t until later that I learned the significance of throwing three coins into this fountain. A current interpretation is that two coins ensure a marriage will occur soon, while three coins leads to a divorce. Oh well. Approximately 3,000 Euros are thrown into the fountain each day and are collected at night. The money has been used to subsidize a supermarket for Rome’s needy. However, there are regular attempts to steal coins from the fountain, including some using a magnetized pole.

Trevi Fountain in Rome Italy

Trevi Fountain

Summertime in Rome Italy means fighting immense crowds

Summertime means fighting immense crowds

If I have one bit of advice to offer about visiting the Eternal City of Rome (other than do it!) it would be “Don’t come in August.” I have really only scratched the surface and have just two more days here, so I am determined to cram the Pantheon, Piazza Navona (with Bernini’s famous Four Rivers Fountain), Piazza del Popolo, the Spanish Steps, and Vatican City in to my remaining time, despite the crowds and the lines. By the time I leave Italy I will need a vacation from my vacation.

8 Comments on “The Eternal City of Rome Is Filthy – But Oh! The Food

  1. I love your blog, its great that you take the time to share your travel experiences with the rest of us.  Your take on Rome is pretty spot on, it is certainly a little messy, but somewhere everyone should go at least once.  There is so much history!  Quick tip for anyone heading that way, pay the few extra euros for the guided tour of the Coliseum.  Not only will you learn something, but you get to bypass the insane line!!  Thanks again for sharing with us

    • Hi Sarah! Thanks for the compliment and for that great tip. I should have done the guide rather than just read the signs. Maybe that’s an excuse to go back? 🙂

  2. Rome is a wonderful destination, but there are 2 major issues that personally annoy me: the HUGE crowds and the overpricing. Despite these, the Eternal City is a must-visit place, with tons of archaeological sightseeing, breathtaking scenery (the view from the 7 Hills is simply awesome) and cozy corners all around the city! I particularly love the stone pavements, as well as the narrow streets that lead to dead ends or small squares, packed with little cafes & bistros!

    I highly recommend Rome, especially in the autumn, when it’s not that hot and the weather is ideal to discover the entire city!

  3. Italy itself is magnifique 🙂

    Weird Places’s last blog post..Villisca Axe Murder House

  4. How I agree about the graffiti. It’s everywhere. Despite being a regular visitor over the past decade (on average about three times a year) I never get used to seeing it. It’s far worse than here at home in London.

    I never go near the Trevi these days (your photo shows all too clearly why) but years ago when there were fewer tourists I did throw some coins in the fountain. Judging by what’s happened to me I think there must have been three of them!

  5. Your photos are magnificent! Really breathtaking!
    Looking forward to seeing you soon. Keep well.

    Love, Kay

  6. Hi Barb: I love your pics of Venice and my favorite city, la bella Roma — I know that it sounds strange but there is no other city like Rome. If you still have time, please go to the Jewish ghetto and sit at one of the many outdoor cafes ringing the Forum and order Judean artichokes — unbelievably delicious. Hope that you will have time to do that. It is said that if you sit there in the evening, you can hear the ghosts of the Forum. Enjoy~!

  7. Magnificent photos, expecially in Venice! Sit in the Piazza Navona for three hours lingering over lunch and you will be serene. It’s a lovely spot. Happy Trails. Ellie

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *