“Why is Rome…?” – Five common questions and our answers!
Anyone who leaves for a different country or city for their holidays will have, inevitably, some questions when they come in.
Right away, some aspects can look completely different than back home, or confusing.
Curiosity is part of the experience of being a traveler and, being in this business, we are happy to answer to your queries about Rome as they are part of your process of exploring another part of the world as they are a part of of our own journey, too!
Indeed, by hearing your questions we connect and identify with all of our guests in a much more meaningful way, and we are able to see Rome through their eyes (which helps trying to move this city forward!). And their eyes see, most of the time, a definitely overwhelming, complex, complicated city.
This is the reason, after such a lengthy introduction (sorry!), why we have come up with a list of questions our customers have asked us throughout the years: the answers can be your access to a much deeper understanding of the Eternal City as it appears today.
Why is Rome covered in graffiti?
We know that in other cities, and those in North America, particularly, graffiti are associated with gang crime and, more generally speaking, with unsafe areas. That is not the case here.
The city center of Rome is the home to an overwhelming number of government offices, museums, corporate headquarters, and because of their presence it remains an extremely safe place to live. Violent crime is almost unheard of in the old town and it’s a collective shock when something occasionally happens – it’s really very quiet, with many security cameras, and police and army guarding political headquarters as well as landmarks.
What the old town has, though, is listed buildings which are, for the most part, sitting almost empty. And because the cost of painting over graffiti’ed walls is the responsibility of the handful of residents remaining, sometimes they cannot afford these expenses.
Some areas rely on organizations like Retake, Rome’s most famous community service group, to repaint, clean or landscape, but because it’s volunteer work, there is no telling when some walls will be… scrubbed.
Another aspect, which will maybe interest those who are familiar with Pompeii, is that the text itself on the graffitis is nothing new – just a more contemporary take on what has famously been found on the walls of the city famously destroyed by the Vesuvius (if you’re easily scandalized, please keep in mind that some of the messages linked are of a sexual nature).
Comparing those graffiti with those seen today is a confirmation that… Romans have been trying to leave their mark since 79 CE!
Why are there so many homeless around in Rome?
The issue with homeless people is actually almost as old as the city of Rome itself, way before Christianity established itself as the leading religion.
Pliny the Younger recounted how under emperor Trajan the streets were lined with beggars, attracted by the bigger chances at surviving that the city could offer. Similar tales had been written by Seneca or Juvenal.
Nothing seems to have changed in the 21st century, and, if anything, the presence of the Pope seems to have attracted more desperate people, from those sleeping rough to knick-knack sellers and other similar characters.
They congregate mostly where soup kitchens are, and some are exactly by some of the major landmarks, including St. Peter’s Basilica, which is why they’re very visible in some part of the city only.
Why can’t I find bus tickets for sale?
We hear you. Coming from certain countries of the world, especially, we know you are able to buy tickets as soon as you board a bus or a tram. That doesn’t happen in Rome (it was a thing up to a few decades ago, and it’s possible that it will make a comeback in the next few years).
The public transportation system in Rome doesn’t currently allow drivers to have ticket money on them, so what to do? Again, we hear you: a huge number of tourists still gets fined daily because they have honestly no idea they should have a bus ticket on them when they board, ready to be validated.
Ticket machines in subway stations are obviously the first place to go, but what if they’re not within easy reach? What if you’re also too far away from a physical ticket office (again, found in subway stations)?
The main option is to look for shops carrying T signs like the one pictured below:
These are tobacco shops, but they sell a number of different other items, including bus tickets and passes.
Some newsstands may also have those for sale!
Of course more and more visitors go the electronic way, either by using third party apps like MyCicero, which can sell paperless bus and subway tickets, or using a contactless card to pay for their ride (we documented this new policy at this address – make sure you read on!).
What about your questions?
Do you have a question about the state of things in Rome? Has something piqued your interest? Let us know! We will answer you from the blog in the coming weeks!