Rome – between magic and overtourism
There is hardly a city in the world that triggers such ambivalent feelings in me as Rome.
One moment I fall deeply in love with the Italian metropolis and the next second disgust rises in me. Rome is one of the most popular city destinations in the world and overtourism is not just a word here, but a daily reality.
Love – with distance
When I look from the terrace of our hotel onto the Eternal City, I am enchanted. Whatever the time of day, Rome radiates a mystical and warm atmosphere – almost unreal and a bit like a kitschy photo.
Nevertheless, I can hardly get enough of this sight. Especially at sunset, when the colours get even warmer and the haze lies on the city like a kind of soft focus due to the low sunlight.
In addition a glass of Italian wine and a portion of the traditional Cacio e Pepe (pasta with pecorino and pepper). I observe a group of stylishly dressed Italians. The men and women could come directly from the catalogue of an Italian noble brand. Perfectly styled down to the smallest detail, for men of course without socks.
I like well dressed people.
Up here on the hotel terrace I experience the Dolce Vita and feel how it already makes me addicted on the first day. At this place you don’t notice anything that happens down in the streets and squares of Rome.
Romanticism between rose sellers and bridal couples
Our hotel is located above the Spanish Steps. As soon as we reach it, we have arrived in mass tourism.
Every five meters a rose is held under our nose. The rose sellers are pushy and you have to be quite rejecting so that you don’t get the roses pressed into your hand against your will.
Terrible! I hate to be so harassed. I can’t blame the rose sellers, because the scam works. Again and again I see glowing women’s eyes and annoyed men paying overpriced prices for the flowers. What should be romantic about it? I will never understand that.
Until we arrive at the bottom of Piazza di Spagna, we pass several bridal couples from all over the world. In full wedding outfit they pose for a wedding picture from Rome, for their collection, before they go straight on to Santorini. Very atmospheric – between all the tourists and rose sellers.
The same happens in the evening in Piazza del Popolo and the other squares. Next to the rose sellers, shining plastic birds are thrown into the air. Also this trick pulls and again and again children are made happy by their parents with this trash. There is no piazza where the mobile phone stick sellers are not already waiting. And in fact I feel almost naked in the Piazza Navona without this gadget.
Whistles and Military
Since 2019 you are not allowed to sit on the stairs anymore and that is strictly controlled. About five policemen, sometimes with yellow vests, spread out on the stairs and whistle with whistles at everyone who sits down.
And that happens quite often! For whatever reason, there isn’t a single sign that points out a ban on sitting. It’s better to leave personnel for the whole day to trill and make “come on – get up – fast!“ gesticulation by hand. A madness.
A lot has changed in the five years between my visits to Rome. The city has lost its easiness and there are heavily armed military police everywhere – day and night. Since the attacks in Paris in November 2015, the police and military presence has drastically increased. That must be the case today. But it doesn’t make the atmosphere any better.
Tip: Forbes Article
Elbows for the perfect photo
Whether Colosseum, Vatican Museum or Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth): it is overcrowded. Even at eight o’clock in the morning. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame anyone. I am also part of this mass and thus part of the problem.
But of course it annoys me when I can hardly catch a glimpse of all the crowds. Particularly unpleasant in such places I feel the “influencers” from all over the world, who degrade the 3,000 year old story to the background for Instagram-Selfie. With hats and little dresses, barriers are crossed and simply take the space one needs for the perfect picture of oneself in front of the famous Trevi fountain, even with the use of elbows. Then quickly put on the matching face and the Insta-Husband bows to its fate and snaps until the finger glows. Head on the right, hair casually thrown back, sometimes sexy, sometimes cute – but the oh so sweet smile has disappeared the second the camera or mobile phone is no longer in use.
I was here!
And yet some are even more disrespectful: Especially at the Pantheon, in the Colosseum and in the Forum Romanum I noticed the initials of tourists engraved with keys. Again and again one reads of derailments like nude baths in historical wells and vandalism. Of course there are controls and there are juicy penalties but with more than 15 million tourists per year this is not an easy task.
So it does not surprise me that in Rome and other cities affected by overtourism there is a discussion about limiting the number of tourists. In my opinion, the need for this is most clearly visible in Rome.
And yet: Rome enchants!
Nevertheless, even if I was annoyed by tourists without manners and interest, the noise and the intrusive merchants: Rome is wonderful. As if I were wearing pink glasses when I think of Rome, I remember the city full of love.
How does this city do that?