My Travel Stories & Photos

My Rome Story – Dirty, Crowded, & Feeling Unsafe

my rome story roseanna sunley travel blog

At the end of My Barcelona Story, I left you on a ferry in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.

To get from Barcelona to Rome it would have made more sense to fly, but I thought that it would be more of an adventure if I went by sea.

Which sounds ok in theory.

To help keep my costs low, I booked only ‘deck space’. Which is exactly what it says on the tin. You get a space on the deck. No more.

Which again, sounds okay…

…but then when you take into account that the ferry crossing was going to take 20 hours, this is when most people would consider upgrading to a cabin.

Not me.

I was ready to rough it.

Night night

After watching Barcelona fade away in the distance from the top deck of the ferry, I went wandering around to try and find somewhere to sleep.

I stumbled upon what they called a ‘Sleepers Lounge’, which is basically a room filled with coach-like chairs.

I claimed three chairs to myself, and by lifting the armrests and laying across them, it was kinda like a bed.

roseanna sunley travel blog rome story

…a crappy bed, but still a bed.

As I was drifting off to sleep, the movement of the boat through the water made me feel as though I was getting rocked to sleep, which I found very soothing. It gave a whole new meaning to the term ‘water bed’.

Getting to sleep was no problem, but I frequently woke up throughout the night due to being too cold.

The aircon in the room was on all night, which created a pleasant temperature when awake and moving about, but a freezing temperature when trying to sleep.

I had to get creative! I dug around in my backpack and came up with the ingenious idea to use my two towels as a make-shift duvet. They did the trick.

Illegal alien

The next morning, I was in the lady’s bathroom trying my best to get washed and freshened up.

Whilst those that had bought a cabin just entered the bathroom to pee, I was there brushing my teeth and washing my arms, legs, and face.

I started to feel like I was an illegal stowaway on the boat.

roseanna sunley travel blog ferry

By the afternoon, this whole ‘adventure travel by boat’ feeling had well and truly worn off.

The previous Thursday I was up and dressed at 6.30am, it was now 4.30pm on Friday. I had been in the same clothes for the full 34 hours, slept across some chairs using towels as a blanket, and had a shower from a sink.

At this point, I wanted nothing more than to take my bra off and to have a long shower.

Whilst I was on the boat, I noticed that very few people spoke English. The main languages were Spanish and Italian (obviously, since the boat was going from Spain to Italy) and for the first time on my travels, I felt like a foreigner.

I couldn’t hold down a conversation with anyone, not even the crew. So, I spent a lot of the time just wandering about on my own moving from the Sleepers Lounge to the deck and back again (all whilst dragging along my backpack and luggage).

But, there was one guy who continued to make me smile.

He was Italian and could not speak a word of English (and I can’t speak a word of Italian) but everywhere I went, he kept popping up.

Even though we couldn’t speak each other’s languages we were still able to converse using hand gestures. It was very basic, to say the least, but he helped to break up the long journey and it kept me entertained.

Welcome to Italia!

I was sat up on the top deck when the first sights of Italian soil became visible on the horizon.

I was so excited to get off the boat.

I have no idea how sailors spend months at sea looking at the same view in every direction for days on end.

ferry in italy roseanna sunley travel blog

As soon as I stepped off the Ferry, I got lost.

Shocker!

And with no one able to speak English, every time I asked for directions to the train station I got nowhere.

Luckily, I met another traveler from Costa Rica who spoke both English and Spanish. She was able to speak Spanish to some Italians (who understood Spanish) and then translate the information back to me. It sounds a little crazy, but it worked.

Turns out we needed to hop on a bus to the train station, then we could get a train into the center of Rome.

We both made friends and traveled together for the next few hours into the city. She had a couch surfing arrangement set up, and once we got into Rome we parted ways and wished each other well for the rest of our travels.

By the time I checked into my hostel, it was around 11pm. I had now been in the same clothes for about 40 hours and had been sweating whilst lugging around my backpack for countless miles in 30°C+ heat.

Not surprisingly, I headed straight for the showers.

I was so looking forward to being clean. I hung my towel up, stripped off, climbed into the shower, lifted the tap to turn the water on …

…and nothing.

No water came out.

My heart sank.

I needed a shower very badly.

After getting dressed again and visiting reception, the hostel staff explained that the water on the 5th floor (my floor) had unexpectedly gone off. But I could use the showers on the 4th floor.

That’ll do me.

I don’t care what floor the shower is on, as long as I can have one.

That night, as I climbed into bed, I was so grateful to whoever invented the mattress – pure genius! …so much comfier than three chairs!

First impressions of Rome

The next morning, I excitedly woke up feeling all refreshed and ready to explore. I was up, dressed, and the first to be out of the door.

But…

I did not enjoy my time in Rome.

I said that I would always be honest when I started this blog. I never want to put rose-colored glasses on my stories and make every place look and sound like a glamorous vacation.

The truth is, nobody is going to enjoy every place that they visit…and I did not enjoy Rome.

So much so, that on my first day of exploring, I went back to my hostel early at about 1pm. I didn’t want to explore anymore.

I would have been very happy to catch a flight and go straight back home.

I found the city to be very dirty and almost every street I walked down had a strong smell of urine that was evaporating in the heat.

The roads scared the crap out of me. There were just zebra crossings that you walk across freely and cars had to stop and give way to you.

Now, I’m all for zebra crossings in small areas with little traffic, but we’re talking about the center of Rome here!

I felt okay when I was crossing with a group of other people, but when I am on my lonesome and I had to take on 5 lanes of traffic that included 4 fiats, 3 scooters, and a tour bus, with road markings that are barely visible anymore, I’d have felt much better with a traffic-lighted green man.

Whilst exploring I had numerous men shout stuff at me and blow kisses, and even follow me for a few hundred meters or so.

I wasn’t dressed provocatively, I had a summer dress on with a pair of sandals, no make-up, and my hair in a simple ponytail.

This behavior from strange men made me feel uncomfortable.

I felt that the place had way too many tourists. I know that’s hypocritical of me because I was there as a tourist, but the place was heavily crowded with seas of people at every attraction. It was impossible to avoid the crowds.

crowded rome roseanna sunley travel blog

The street sellers were constantly pestering me and not allowing me to pass them.

I have no problem with sellers offering me their items, but if I decline I don’t expect to be blocked from passing or followed down the street.

One seller kept placing hats on my head, and each time I took one off, he placed another on my head.

All of these things ruined my whole experience of Rome.

Food fixes everything

Back at the hostel, I took a nap until the rest of my roommates arrived back from their daily adventures. I was sharing a room with 5 males – 3 of them were from America, 1 from Australia, and 1 from Canada.

After talking to them about my day I felt a bit better and decided to venture back outside for another try. It was still light so I went out in search of food.

I ended up buying a panini and a cannoli and I ate them whilst sat on a wall people-watching as the day was coming to an end.

cannoli in rome roseanna sunley travel blog

Even though I am a solo traveler and I have completed all of my adventures on my own, for the first time, I actually felt alone.

I had a strange moment where I felt small, insignificant, and lonely.

I needed a hug.

…but instead, I had to settle with stuffing my face with a very sweet cannoli – which was the next best thing.

Take two

The next morning, I was determined to have a better day. I was focused on seeing the sights of Rome and nobody was going to stop me.

I headed into the streets with a ‘fuck-off’ attitude to anyone who was going to try and pressure me into buying something or push me into their restaurant.

…and I did have a much better day.

Without a doubt, the attractions in Rome are incredible. The Colosseum, the Roman Forum, etc. (For more information on these check out my Top Tourist Sights That You Would Be Mad To Miss When Visiting Rome.)

A simple highlight of my day was stumbling upon a spray paint street artist. I found him fascinating to watch. It was almost like performance art watching him work.

I recorded him creating one of his pieces. Check it out and let me know what you think.

You can find loads of hidden gems, sculptures, and amazing architecture just wandering around. This was something that I loved about Rome – a new surprise around every corner.

Going out at night

Rome was the first city I have visited where I didn’t feel safe going out at night on my own as a solo female tourist.

But, on my last night, a roommate talked me into going to see The Colosseum when it got dark. He said that I couldn’t leave Rome without seeing it all lit up and that I would later regret it. He kindly offered to take me there so I wouldn’t feel unsafe.

And he was right…

colosseum at night roseanna sunley travel blog

The Colosseum at night was a beautiful sight and I am really glad that I got to see it. But when we were walking back, I am glad that I wasn’t on my own, because even with a male chaperone there were times when I felt uncomfortable.

Time to move on

The next day I was checking out and catching a bus to Florence.

Whilst waiting at the bus station, I have to admit, I was glad to be leaving Rome.

I am happy that I have been to the city and seen the main sights, but it is not a place that I would want to go back to and visit again anytime soon.

Everyone has different experiences and opinions of places. I know some people who absolutely love Rome, but sadly I didn’t. And since this was my first taste of Italy, I was hoping that my next stop, Florence, wasn’t going to be the same.

Stay tuned to find out.

Roseanna x 

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Roseanna
Currently winging my way through life and putting most of it on the internet. This is my personal website where I share my business book reviews, my adventure tips and stories, and my general musings on life as a solo entrepreneur.

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1 Comment

  1. Hi roseanna! I just saw what you wrote about rome… And I’m sorry but you’re right! I’m sorry because I’m Roman and I think exactly the same of you. I saw with my eyes my city changing.. In a bad way. I can tell 15/20 years ago Roma was much better but now is going worst and worst every year. Is a very dirty city and we have too many extracomunitary people that comes to Rome every year for “work” on the streets.. Selling things… Bother tourist and some of them steal money from them ecc.. I’m very sorry but I have to say that if I was a tourist come to Rome would be my last option.. Ahh. Monuments are very beautiful and food is very good and also the weather is good. But we only have this 3 good things… Others are terrible!!! Is not a safe city for tourist even in the morning. Hope something will be change… I already moved to some other places to live in Europe cause live in Rome I don’t like any more. But try to go to Milan, is very cool city and much better. Ciaooooo 🙂

    1. Hello Daniele, Thank you for reading my post and commenting 🙂 The monuments and architecture of Rome are amazing – this was one of my favorite parts. I haven’t been traveling for the past year or so (hence why I’ve not been blogging) but hope to get back to it soon and will add Milan to my list. Thanks so much again 🙂

  2. Ciao Roseanna!
    My name is Francesca and I am a licensed tour guide of Rome.
    Please, whenever you will be back in Rome, drop me a line.
    Rome, my hometown, is a big city with all the problems of any other cities of the world.
    The “artist” you have filmed is one of the modern slaves who works for horrible gangs, and that is not one of the authentic artists of Rome.
    I will offer you a free tour to ketr you change your mind on this city: you will then feel the real vibe of the city.

    A presto!
    Francesca

    1. Hey Francesca, Thank you so much 🙂 I’m not traveling at the moment (and haven’t for some time) but thank you very much for your kind offer. If I ever go back to Rome I will definitely be in contact. As you say, every city has it’s good and bad parts and maybe I was just unlucky this time with my experience. Thank you again for reading my post and commenting.x

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