Lessons Learned From Impromptu Stunt Driving and Almost Dying in Rome
Updated: Aug 13, 2020
It smelled like a ham sandwhich as we stepped into the shuttle. Was this a bad omen?
We made our way from the car park to the Hahn airport, and our driver was eating his breakfast. I felt sick to my stomach at the smell. Who eats a ham sandwhich at 6:00 in the morning?!?
Our first day in Rome was about to begin, but little did we know an important lesson (or two) was about to be learned.
Lesson 1: Leave the Glutes Alone
The day before arriving in Rome, Ryan and I had just finished some intense, butt-building exercises. In preparation for all the sitting we would be doing on our flight, as well as the sitting we anticipated we would be doing on public transportation, working out seemed like a good idea.
We were wrong.
As we made our way around the city, we peppered our conversation with phrases like:
“oh man, my groin! Ugh, I think I just pulled something”
“I think my body is telling me no more hills...”
"Where's a gladiator to give me a chariot lift when I need one?!?"
Public transportation in Rome turned out to be our enemy. We had hoped to ride the lime scooters around Rome that were introduced in June 2019 to the city, but we couldn't find a single scooter anywhere! So, we thought we'd take the local buses or the metro to get around. Easy, right? Unfortunately for us, we walked right into a public transportation strike. (Apparently this happens often???)
What did this mean for us? No metros. No buses. No Scooters.
We ended up walking A LOT, which was a great way to see the city but our feet and our glutes were incredibly dead by the end of the day.
If we were to go back to Rome again I would recommend doing one of the hop on hop off bus tours. They actually seem like a decent bang for their buck, and if all the public transport workers go on strike, you’ll definitely save your feet!
Lesson 2: Let the Professional Stunt Drivers Do the Stunt Driving
I know what you're thinking. If public transportation was such a bust, why didn't we just rent a car?
Well, we did. What we forgot to rent was our very own Jason Bourne.
Driving in Rome for any amount of time was freakishly painful. Have you ever driven in Rome? Basically, there’s one rule coupled with one addendum: do whatever you what and be as rude as you want doing it.
I've never seen so many scratched, dented, rammed, and beaten up cars! We have never driven in a more sporadic or frenzied place than Rome. At one point, we thought we would be safe following a taxi through the city. Of all drivers, they would know their way around, right? We thought so.
Following the taxi was going well... until it drove onto the tram tracks and we suddenly found ourselves trying to outpace a train on it's own tracks!!!! The tram began honking at us, and we desperately searched for an exit.
We pulled a Jason-Bourne worthy u-turn, shooting (narrowly, I might add) between a few crazy motorists, and came back out onto the street.
I don't think I could breathe after that.
Once we finally calmed our thumping hearts, we were able to laugh about the craziness of it all. We even found the humor in our driving fiasco and starting playing a game.
It's called fill in the blank:
Driving in a Rome is like _______________
• Making your way through a cluster of ants in their own anthill
• Getting caught in a pinball machine while trying to impossibly avoid all the levers, knobs, and doodads
• Playing bumper cars with all the bumps and none of the fun
Have you driven in Rome? Can you think of any other phrases to fill in the blank?
Lesson 3: It's Okay to Eat Your Feelings in Rome
By the end of the day, we had logged over 25,000 steps. We were tired, had had enough bone-chilling excitement, and were maybe even a little hangry. If there was ever an excuse to eat copious amounts of carbs, this was it.
Thank Jupiter, Rome has INCREDIBLE food.
The Italians just really know how to eat.
We stopped for gelato and pizza. If you're ever in Rome, you've got to try Aracina if you've never had it. It's little fried risotto balls with different fillings. Delicious. What fried food isn't?
Take advantage of the street vendors and little shops throughout Rome. I've often found the most delicious meals came from little hole-in-the wall, ma and pop shops that I stumbled upon. It's hard to go wrong in Italy.
Lesson 4: Know Where You're Allowed to Park
We won't lie. It's hard to park in Rome. We ended up parking near the Roma Termini train station because there are free parking zones. They're often full, but we lucked out and caught a space.
Rome has a few different colored parking zone throughout the city. Blue zones are typically pay per hour spots, but they are free on Sundays and public holidays. There are a few other zones to familiarize yourself with, and if you're crazy enough to drive here (like we were!) then you can read all them: Parking in Rome.
From the train station, it was a 30 minute walk to reach the Colosseum. I'm a bit of a history buff and love to delve in deep to the stories behind sight-seeing. If you've seen the movie Gladiator, you may be interested to check out the Historical Accuracy of Gladiator. We were disappointed to learn that Gladiator the movie was, in fact, not filmed here! Angels and Demons, Eat Pray Love, Oceans 12, and MI 3, however, were filmed here.
If you want some more fun history, check out these lesser-know pantheon facts.
Lesson 5: When in Rome... ROAM!
We walked and walked some more. Meandering can actually be quite fun, even when you end up at dead ends or walk up and down the same street 4 times. We always stumble upon surprising adventures—like Emil.
Ryan really wanted to get a new fanny pack since his old one was literally falling apart.
On our way to the pantheon we stumbled upon a leather shop owned and operated by an elderly craftsman named Emil.
At first, we walked in to his leather shop and looked about, not really feeling inclined to purchase anything. Emil started to walk us through (in Italian) how he makes the leather and fashions the bags in his shop. Surprisingly, we can get by pretty well with Ryan’s Spanish. Ryan was chatting with him in Spanish and they both seemed to get the gist from each other. We ultimately decided not to purchase anything... but after leaving the shop and making it a block or two Ryan changed his mind. We went back for the fanny pack.
You should always take a chance to meet a few of the locals when you travel. While places are what we come to see, the people are the ones who make those places meaningful.
Final Sights to See
If you decide to walk from the Colosseum to the Pantheon like we did, then there are several fun sites you should make sure you don't miss:
• Roman Forum
• Theater of Marcellus
• Torre del Milizie
• Trevi Fountain
• Pinocchio shop
• Church of Maria in Campitelli
Do you have any crazy travel stories? Share them with us in the comments below!