posted by Amy
We spent almost a week in Rome. Most tourists don’t spend that long, but due to waiting time while the Indian Embassy was processing our visas, we had the week. We stayed in a great little hotel called the Hotel Oceania, which by sheer coincidence was just a few doors away from the Indian Embassy.
Hotel Oceania was recommended for us by the Rick Steves’ tour book on Italy. For those of you not familiar with Rick Steves’, he is an American travel writer who has made a career out of travelling in Europe. He writes books, has a podcast, a website. I think he even has a tv show (public TV). His catch phrase is “Through the Backdoor,” and he promises to give you all the hints to avoid lines, save money and have an authentic European experience.
Apparently a recommendation from Rick Steves’ for a small hotel in Rome is enough to set them up for life. We were lucky to find a vacancy and the hotel was full the whole time we were there. We stayed in the family room, all five of us in one room. There was air conditioning and comfortable beds and not much else. Exactly what Mr. Steves told us to expect. Actually, he called it, “a slice of air conditioned heaven in the middle of Rome.”
The staff was incredibly hospitable answering all of our questions and pulling out map after map to get us where we were going. Our favorites were Anna who seemed to be a manager. Whenever she talked to me she would say, “Yes, Lady.” Or, “What do you need, Lady?” I finally figured out she was giving me a direct translation for the Italian custom of using the title Signora to address a woman. As in Si Signora, or Bonjuourno Singora. It took me a while to realize she wasn’t just being ironic with me. We also loved the man whose name we never caught. We called him Curly Hair Man. He of course told us his life story and ended up with the trip he was about to take the next week to visit his sister who lives outside of Tel Aviv for the first time in 18 years. He was the winner of all of our unused Israli shekels. As Rick Steves’ rightly pointed out, cleanliness and hospitality are really all we need. It didn’t hurt that they had a great internet connection too, free!
In the late afternoon, the weary travelers gather in the courtyard and have drinks and talk about their days. We are all going to the same sights so all the information is valuable to us. Which is the best entrance to get into the Coleseum? What time of day is best to go to the Vatican? Do I need to buy tickets ahead of time? How far to walk to the Trevi Fountains? The other tourists all pull out their copies of the Rick Steves Rome Bible and give out their best advice.
We had a great time seeing the sights of Rome in the searing heat. Highlights of Rome included a tour of the Roman Jewish Ghetto, a bike tour of Rome (somewhat terrifying as the city is really not set up for bikers here), the Forum and the Sistene Chapel. We somehow did not catch the really great food that everyone talks about and instead had enough mediocre pasta and pizza to fill us for a lifetime.
Not surprisingly, one of the best activities we did was to download the Rick Steves audiotour podcast of the Colesseum on to our ipods. We walked around the ancient building, two to an ipod using our splitters so that we could share, and heard Rick Steves give us a really great tour, not too long, not too short. Rick Steves’ tourists should never worry about looking ridiculous while touring world famous monuments.