When in Rome…Really do as the Romans Do.
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Editor’s note: This is a guest post from travel writer Daniel Artton.
All roads lead to Rome, or so the saying goes. It seemed that mine had been taking me in all directions as of late, yet finally, after a twelve year absence from my favourite city in Southern Europe, I had returned to The Eternal City.
I booked my lodgings a bit last minute after a friend I was due to stay with was called away from Rome on business. Despite performing the cardinal sin of a Google search for accommodation, I stumbled across a little oasis in the form of Wimdu, an online platform which allows locals to rent a room in their apartment to travellers.
Admittedly I was first drawn in by the cheap prices rather than general concept, but as I was coming into Rome’s Fiumicino airport I decided that I was very glad to be giving my travel money to a local Roman rather than one of the many hotel chains that litter central Rome.
I was greeted at the airport by my host for the next four days, Giorgio. After establishing contact at the time of my booking, he had eventually persuaded me to allow him to come and collect me, saving me on the cost of a transfer and allowing me to get to grips with Rome’s updated transport system.
A swift 15 minute commute on the metro took us to the Piazza San Giovanni, which has great transport links to the rest of the city, in the old town district of Rome. Handily, Giorgio’s apartment was situated on a parallel street, somehow sheltered from the hustle and bustle of the square we had just left.
After guiding me around his beautiful and distinctly Roman flat, Giorgio left me alone in my room to unpack my stuff and it was here that I was able to take in the excellent views the seventh floor apartment was blessed with.
Following a quick shower, I decided I wanted to get to know the immediate area I would call home for the next 4 days. Being of the tourist radar I had little knowledge of Giorgio’s area, but he quickly pointed me in the direction of some quirky things to do for the afternoon and we arranged to meet at the bar across the street later that night. Just 10 minutes from his house was also the Coliseum, which remains in my mind the most awe inspiring sight in Europe.
By Roman standards the bar’s prices was relatively affordable, but I was advised by Gio that by standing at the bar we would be paying almost half as what is charged for table services. The beer and wine choices were excellent and the food was the best I had tasted in Italy. Although Gio eventually allowed me to pay for the bill he advised me that normal Romans would not tip more than 5%.
My trip continued in this vain for the four days, if I was ever stuck for things to do or needed directions Gio was on hand to help me out. He saved me a great load of money but most importantly he opened my eyes to a city I had previously, and naively, felt I had understood.
My personal highlight was attending an Italian soccer, Lazio v Breccia, game along with Gio. Although I did offended my host by suggesting, as was my belief at the time, that Lazio was the team of supporters who lived outside the city boundaries, something I was hastily told was just a myth despite being widely believed by those who have not visited Rome.
I learnt more about the real Italy in this four day trip than I had in all of my six previous visits to the European country. By living with a local I got to see things and meet people that just wouldn’t have been possible had I stayed in my usual touristy districts. On top of this I saved money and had a more comfortable stay in a home with all the usual household amenities provided. I could cook my own food and wash my clothes. Traveling like a local is definitely the future of travelling and is beginning to shake up an industry that has taken ordinary travellers for granted for too long.
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