Friday, May 29, 2009

A funny thing happened on the way to the Vatican: Groped on bus 40

These days you cant get much for 1 euro but I always thought that in Rome the metro and bus price being fixed at 1 euro was 1 great value for residents and visitors alike, though an unpleasant experience on a packed bus this morning makes me think that one Italian male traveller was getting a lot more for his euro than the rest of us!
As a single female traveller you hear of the stories of men rubbing themselves up against you on an overcrowded bus, but naively I always thought that these were just urban myths or just that the girls in question had picked up the situation wrong, that the man had merely bumped into them as the bus took off.
Well I stood this morning whilst riding the holiest of buses, the number 40 which brings you straight to The Vatican from Termini train station. As The Vatican is so popular you can imagine how busy this bus gets, so there my friend and I were on our way to work on the packed bus and by stop 3 it had become totally full so we were all standing very close to each other. At this stage I had no where to move and I also realised that the man behind me was slowly rubbing himself off me!!
I obviously assumed it was my imagination getting the better of me and tried to ignore it but it only got a bit more persistent and as I could not move I tried to rearrange my bag to form a barrier.
Bag = worst barrier ever! As soon enough he had shoved that out of his way and was back to rubbing himself against me again! Being a polite Irish girl and not wanting to cause a scene I just went red as a cherry and started to mumble awkwardly to my friend, then faking a coughing fit I finally managed to get into a spot where he could not get me.
My friend was able to confirm that he was in fact being a perv and it was not my mind being overactive, but seeing as she was a polite Irish girl too and her Italian is not the greatest, to try help me she had given the man a few filthy looks. It turns out this only encouraged him as no sooner had I got out of his way he began to move his attentions on to my friend!
Needless to say as soon as we could get a seat we took it and thankfully did not have to put up with Mr Perv for too long.
This certainly wasn't the first time this has happened to anyone and I am sure it wont be the last.. I know since I have told people this story I have been hearing many more of the same theme back.
So men back off ....that euro bus ticket does not entitle you to a Lap Dance!!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Greener Rome? Taxi-Bikes to the Rescue!

There is an interesting new player on the Rome tourism scene this month. Three wheeled bici-taxi (taxi-bikes) are now scattered throughout the city, offering one way and hourly service throughout the eternal city.

The initiative is one aimed at sustainable mobility and eco-tourism, started as a collaborative effort between government authorities and an association that provides employment opportunities for former convicts (is it me or does there always have to be a connection between Roman taxis and convicts?).

The project was initially aimed as a free service, no official fees although tips were accepted. Now however it does seem that three-wheeled former felons are charging up to 30 Euro per hour for a private tour on these bikes. Still, for two people sightseeing in Rome, it's not outrageous. The bikes can pick up tourists and drop them off right at Rome's famous monuments, even those which are in pedestrian-only areas.

The bici-taxis will now begin a pilot test to last until the end of the year. At that time the city will decide whether the project should be allowed permanent funding.

Stay tuned for our follow up once we give these pedal-pushers a try!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Feeling Frisky in Rome

They say that Paris is the most romantic city in the world but after spending a few months in Rome I am going to have to set the record straight and tell you all that I think Rome is now taking over as the most romantic city...sure you can't spell romantic without ROMA!

Everywhere you look in Rome you see couples canoodling on corners of romantic piazzas. On Wednesdays the Pope even gets in on the romance and invites newly wed couples to come join him for a papal blessing and of course there is the famous bridge of Ponte Milivo where young lovers show their undying love by locking a padlock to the lamppost and throwing the key into the Tiber river below.

This city is made for Romance with street sellers selling roses to happy couples of all ages, you can easily walk through the city and stumble across star-crossed lovers kissing on benches or waiting for a bus. Romance does not die out with age either. Recently on my way back from the Vatican I saw a couple easily in their 80's hand in hand walking along the street and every now again they would stop and give each other a little kiss!

With PDAs(public displays of affection) as far as the eye can see I know where this single girl is going to throw her two cents....into the Fontana di Trevi that is, as the local folklore goes throw one coin into the fountain if you want to return to Rome and two into the fountain if you want to find love in Rome!!


Rome has been the backdrop of hundreds of films. From classics such as Roman Holiday to modern depictions of Ancient Rome such as the HBO series ROME, the Eternal city certainly has an impressive resume when it comes to film locations.
Obviously there is elevated media involvement now surrounding films such as Angels and Demons which bring high profile celebrities such as Tom Hanks to Rome for filming and often for premieres as well. The same kind of frenzy seems to be going on over filming of "New Moon" the second film in the "Twilight" book series by Stephenie Meyer. I read the first book, and will admit that while written for a teenage audience, it is addictive!
There is all kinds of buzz on the streets in this town now about how the cast and crew will be here any day now for filming. While the set is supposed to be in Montepulciano, just yesterday I was walking down a random Roman street and saw a movie set with a traffic scene being shot. I got all excited until I realized it was just another bad Italian TV show in the works. I'm still on the lookout though. If that handsome vampired named Edward pops out from behind the bushes, I won't put up a fight!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Tourist "DONT'S" Part One

No matter where you are in the world, keeping up with appearances is important. Let's face it, first impressions are lasting, and we live in a society where beauty is worshiped. This is especially true in Italy.

Now the last thing anyone wants to do is get caught on camera with their trousers down. Or even sagging. To protect this tourist's identity, our photo will not reveal the subject, but let this be a lesson to us all to check for plumber's crack before wandering around Italy's most popular monuments! You never know when you might find yourself on candid camera!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Rigorously Italian Pork...

The Swine Flu continues to claim victims around the world, with over 4,000 infections and more than 50 confirmed deaths. People everywhere are taking precautions much like those suggested for avoidance of any other airborne flu, ie washing hands, avoiding contact with people with flu-like symptoms, remaining in well-ventilated areas, etc.

According to the American Center for Disease Control, the swine flu cannot be transmitted through food. I think the Italians have yet to accept this assertation, judging from the pile of expiring pork I saw in the supermarket yesterday underneath a big sign that reads "Rigorously Italian Pork" (or rather, "strictly Italian". After snapping this photo, I took a chance, bought some seriously cheap pork chops and had a nice dinner. Most importantly, I'm still alive to report about it.

In all seriousness, here's hoping they contain the outbreak before it claims more lives.

Monday, May 11, 2009

How a Crazy Roman Vegetarian Marred an Otherwise Perfect Mother's Day

To finish what was a truly lovely mother's day spend outside Rome at the lake, on the way back to the city we decided to stop at the "Festa dei Vegeteriani" being held at Piazza Re di Roma along the Via Appia. With two kids and the world's cutest mutt in tow, we had a walk around the stalls, admired the cute puppies being given away, cringed at the awful pictures of animal abuse, tasted some disgusting kamut crackers with seitan spread, and wished (if only for an instant) that it weren't sooooo hard not to eat meat.

There is a playground at the park, and our little one was itching to run around a bit so we made our way into the park. As dogs aren't allowed inside the childrens play area, we tied him to the fence, just by the playground entry where we could keep an eye on him.

Everyone was having a grand old time when suddenly one of the animalisti left her stall and decided it was time to shake things up. She made her way over to us and asked if that was our dog. We kindly replied yes, it was. She "suggested" that we move him to where we were standing so that he would be able to see us. I politely explained to her that dogs are not allowed in the childrens park. She continued to insist that we bring him over, or leave the park. Nothing I said made this woman budge. That's when I said "he's my dog, I'll do as I see fit with him, ok?" She turned and headed out of the park, but instead of going back to her stall, she proceeded to begin UNTYING my dog to take him away! What nerve!

After diffusing the situation, taking back my dog, and sending the wild woman on her way, I got to thinking. Was I wrong? Would it have been better to leave my dog at home alone while the family goes out? Does he really mind being tied up while the kids are at the park, or if I have to make a stop to buy milk? I don't think so.

Come to think of it, if you're reading this wild woman, maybe someone should tie YOU up! Keep your hands off my mutt and worry about how you can sell something better than those rancid seitan sandwiches. Grrrr....

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The REAL Angels and Demons

The Gods of Fashion vs. Graffiti Vandals

I started out on a morning walk today. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and it was just an all around lovely morning. As I turned the corner to admire one of my favorite window displays (you know, the kind where even during the summer sales there isn't an item under 600 Euro to be found) I was mortified to see how the block had been defiled. Right there next to Burberry, Prada, and Gucci sat a giant wall of graffiti.

Now Rome is no stranger to graffiti. In fact, the origins of the practice point back to Ancient Rome and Pompeii, where inscriptions have been found on many of the ancient ruins. In Ancient times, it would have been easy to discern what kind of message the graffiti was there to impart. Today, it seems to me that it is just plain senseless.

Surely some will argue that it is a form of art, it goes deeper than writing on walls, and so on. No matter what it stands for, I see it as nothing more than vandalism. ESPECIALLY in such close proximity to Gucci. Shame on them!
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