Things I learned in Rome:
_ A large camera is awesome. I enjoy my professional cameras. But after hours of walking in the hot sun, and I do mean hours, it gets heavy and cumbersome. It is actually cumbersome during the 28 hours it we spent in airports and on flights all the way back home as well. It seemed that in Rome all you needed was a wide angle lens and I found that in Florence and Venice I never took my large camera and all of my lenses out at all. I used a point and shoot and was thrilled.
-Bidets are something you have to try at least once. Enough said.
-If you are away for more than a few days something crazy will happen at home. We had a minor, yet stressful, family event occur. In most places there is at least some internet available and you can check for local internet cafes. I had to just relax and realize that I could only do what I could do while I was away.
-Wear pants with pockets. I brought several cute pants that didn’t have pockets and regretted it. I realized that I did not always want to drag a purse or a backpack around to carry my things. Pants with deep front pockets were perfect. I could carry a lipstick and Euros or Pounds with no worries. I also kept a printed copy of my passport on me at all times. I was only ever asked for it in Rome when I was exchanging money or in the airport trying to buy postcards…but you just never know. I know that some people advise you to carry a money pouch around your waist. We actually saw a woman with a backpack on and the backpack made her shirt ride up and the zipper of her money pouch was right there for everyone to see. They don’t seem comfortable and you are not used to it so why put yourself through it when you can just put it in your front pockets.
-Rules are different. In Italy I was never asked for ID except for exchanging money. Your lost/stolen credit card could easily be used against you so keep it close. I saw a small child playing in the back window of a fast moving small car and almost choked on my water. Rules are different now but I remember having done that as a child and survived perfect fine…well, pretty dang good anyways.
-Wine is less expensive than water in Italy. It is wonderful and rich and delicious but sometimes you just need to hydrate and pay for the water. Water at a restaurant will never be free. Some bottles of water will come carbonated (with gas) so be careful what you ask for. I wanted to try one with gas and it was way too carbonated for me. To each his own.
-Soda is unpredictable in Italy. Not exactly in the flavor, as Coca Cola products have a strong hold on the market, but how it is served and how much you will pay. At a restaurant I had paid anywhere from 3.50 Euros to 6.50 Euros for a Coke. The serving sizes vary. Once I got a glass of less than fully carbonated Coke (which still tasted fine) and was of a decent size and the next time I would get a tiny can and a glass. It is very different from the US in that you will not get free refills and you most likely will need to ask for ice if you want it….however there were very few overweight people in Italy.
-Italian meals are large, incredibly large and sumptuous. Rome had the best food I had ever had in my over 40 years. The pasta was melt in your mouth. The sauces were incredible. I contemplated leaving all of my clothing and smuggling back pasta sauce. The pizza was amazing and crisp, the best crust I have ever had. I said that a lot. “The best (pizza, lasagna, grapefruit juice..) I have ever had” and I meant it every time. I heard that meals there take hours. It is very true. You get to really enjoy your food and company. There is no big tipping there as most places have service charges or sitting fees and so an extra Euro or so is ok. No one is pushing you out so that they can fill your table and get the next tip. You have to flag people down, pretend that you are a mime writing a check and they will understand and bring your bill.
Most of the service charges and sitting fees have to do with sitting outside. There are different costs depending on where you sit. If you get the food at the bar and stand it is one price, much lower than outside. But tourists generally want to sit outside in the piazza. You can watch the people go by, look at the incredible architecture, see the vendors try to entice you with their goods, and be entertained by the street performers. Al and I saw many according players, an opera singer, a violinist, and saxophone player…incredible talent on the streets of Italy hoping for your loose coins. They are very good and will entertain you then walk up to your table with a small empty cigar box hoping that you will fill it.