Why over-tourism is threatening the authenticity of a beautiful historic city of Rome
I still hadn’t checked off Rome, one of the biggest attractions in Europe, from my list. This destination, a historic city full of proud monuments that all exude history, is touted to be a must-see. Moreover, with the Colosseum, you can actually observe one of the seven wonders of the world. So, full of enthusiasm, I booked a trip for my dad and I, eager for some father-son bonding.
Our journey started off as pleasantly chaotic (well, so chaotic that I don’t know if I’d call it pleasant at times). The plane was full and as soon as we landed on Italian soil, we found ourselves in the middle of a perpetual crowd. Therefore, I was delighted that we had booked a small hostel on the outskirts of the city and not a popular tourist hotel in the busy center. It wasn’t too luxurious, hot water wasn’t always available, but it was quiet. No better way to recover from all the crowds!
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Selfie sticks and sunglasses in Rome
The Colosseum was, of course, at the top of our list of activities. Following Tripadvisor’s recommendation, we went quite early to avoid waiting times. From a budgetary and practical point of view, the metro proved to be the most economical means of transport. It was also a more eco-friendly way to commute, so this became our preferred mode of transport in Rome.
We boarded the subway early in the morning, fresh and cheerful, to quickly arrive at the Colosseum box office. We stepped out of the metro a bit less fresh and cheerful, because the sea of people that accompanied us had already raised the temperature by about 15 degrees. Like a tidal wave, we all flowed in unison from the metro to the ticket booths, because it turned out that all fellow metro travelers were going there. Together in a human traffic jam, with the sun treating us to some extra freckles, we were able to feast our eyes on a mighty view of the Colosseum.
It soon became clear that we would not get bored while sitting down. After all, we were offered everything to make it a bit more ‘enjoyable’. We had a choice of various colorful selfie sticks, key chains, bracelets, sunglasses and caps. We were also offered African figurines as a sign of friendship and were frequently asked if we were thirsty and needed a bottle of water (we had our supply of water on us, sunglasses on our noses, and a selfie stick was definitely not on our list). So, we kindly thanked the sellers and moved on. Two meters away, we were again offered a bottle of water, a selfie stick and sunglasses. Then again, and again, and again. When we finally arrived at the counter, we wanted to shout with happiness, thinking we were done with the craziness… no such luck! We received our tickets that listed a time to enter the Colosseum, and even after that, a one-hour queue awaited us. I did my best to maintain the mood of my ever-impatient father.
Time for some lunch
After all that waiting, it was high-time to grab a bite, because we hadn’t eaten since morning. So we quickly began our search for an Italian restaurant. With hundreds of others, we started looking for a cozy and sunny terrace, because eating indoors with such beautiful weather would be a shame. But, despite a few good kilometers on our legs, we still couldn’t get a place on a terrace. So, we finally decided to eat at a nice restaurant with fewer customers and trade the terrace for a full stomach.
A procession of people
After the Colosseum, we wanted to see the Trevi Fountain, another must-do in Rome. The many pictures I’d seen on Instagram already made me suspect that we would not be alone. Along with many other tourists we made our way there. In a procession of people, we marched up to the fountain, caught a glimpse and carried on. A photo for Instagram? Okay then! Me, a hundred other tourists, and the tip of the fountain in the frame: check!
Even though we spent the rest of the day in the historic center, the crowds had made us so tired that we chose to just walk around without entering any other hotspots. After so much waiting in the morning, we didn’t have the time or energy for that. Completely exhausted, we got to our hostel in the evening. It didn’t take us long to fall into a deep slumber.
Quiet places in Rome
After such a hectic day, we wanted something different the next day. Therefore, we decided to visit quieter places. After a nice coffee and breakfast at Le Foodie Cafe Bistrot near our hostel we headed to the Parco degli Acquedotti, a lush green public park on the outskirts of the city. Here, along with nature, you can also admire centuries-old aqueducts. From the moment we got off the metro, we found ourselves in a different world. In the pleasant, quiet neighborhood, we took in the fresh air as we walked towards the park, which itself proved to be an oasis of peace.
Needless to say, this stop was truly what we needed for some quality time between father and son! I finally also got the opportunity to make good use of my camera. We spent the whole morning here and then returned to the center, where we again ignored the most popular hotspots and visited the lesser known sights
I’ve ticked off Rome and I’m truly happy I did. All they say about it is true: the city is incredibly beautiful and breathes history from every angle. That, of course, also explains the popularity.
But sometimes, it can be too much. You see, Rome today has become too popular, too busy, too hyped, too touristy. Just as even too much chocolate is not a good thing, the crowds made Rome too much for me. You can still experience the history of the city and that will never change. But the authenticity and the local culture are increasingly in danger and that is a great pity.
The tourist has become central to the entire experience. Almost the entire urban economy now revolves around tourism, it’s what puts bread on the Roman shelves. So changing this is difficult. However, there are small things you can keep in mind. The extensive modes of transport ensure a wider range of options during your city trip. Do you really need to be in the center of Rome to sniff out Roman history? Of course not! Our journey to the outskirts made that clear. A city always has hidden gems and you will definitely get more satisfaction if you can discover them. Moreover, you will probably experience much more of the real culture and authenticity of a place this way. And here’s the best part of this: unpacking with a photo that nobody has.
So don’t let mass tourism kill all your buzz — honor the beautiful, unspoilt places instead!