Tip and Tricks that Rome Has Taught Me

Tip and Tricks that Rome Has Taught Me

Just in case you're thinking about traveling!
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After traveling in Rome and other parts of Italy and Europe for nearly six weeks, I thought it would be wise to share some of what I have learned while overseas. Here are some tips and tricks for traveling in Rome!

1. Pack an umbrella and a rain jacket.

Not only will an umbrella be useful for when it rains, but it will also bring some shade on those blazing hot summer days! Very useful, make sure to keep it with you!

2. Have some sunscreen and aloe.

It gets hot while you're here in the summer, and so wearing clothes that keep you cool are usually going to cover less skin. Therefore, sunscreen is important! And if you do end up burning, aloe is quite lovely to have on hand!

3. Phrase book.

Unless you've really studied Italian and can speak fluent sentences, having a pocket-sized phrase book can really come in handy! And if you don't want to spend the money on a book, at least do a little bit of research and know how to say common words and phrases. Good ones to know would be "Hello," 'Thank you," "Excuse me," "Where is the bathroom?" etc. This goes for anywhere else you might be traveling so you aren't totally lost.

4. Comfortable shoes.

Okay, this is so important. With the amount of walking you'll be doing, wearing shoes that aren't comfy isn't even logical. So make sure you pack comfy shoes! Your feet will thank you at the end of a long day!

5. Prepare for a lot of walking.

With the "comfy shoes" thing already being said, you need to prepare yourself for the amount of walking and stairs that you'll be taking, especially if you aren't doing much of it at home. Just go on some walks every day and take the stairs instead of the elevator. The little things can really make a difference!

6. Have your knees and shoulders covered when you visit churches.

As most of you know, there are churches all over Italy, especially Rome. Heck, Vatican City is the home of the pope! Many times, you won't be let into a church if your knees and shoulders aren't covered. Ladies, this means bringing a scarf or sweater if you're going to be wearing something that will be revealing, and guys, this usually means wearing pants.

7. Have your travel adapters.

Make sure you have your travel adapter with you for your plugs and outlets! From my experience, I haven't needed to use a voltage converter on anything unless I needed to use a hair straightener or hair dryer!

8. Supermarkets are awesome.

Supermarkets are the best, especially if you're traveling on a budget! Fresh fruit and cheap food is always a good way to go so if you find one, it's always nice to take advantage of one!

9. Stay hydrated.

This is extremely important! Especially if you're traveling in the summer months! One great thing about Rome is that they have free fountains all over the city that you can refill your water bottles from! It's awesome! Also, if you're not hydrated you just don't feel very well, and we don't want that, do we?

10. Exchange rates and fees with cards.

Make sure to pay attention to the exchange rates and the different fees associated with your debit/credit cards. If you remember this, you'll be less likely to maybe overdraw your bank account or be in shock when you see how much money has been withdrawn.

11. Call your bank before you leave.

Remember to call your bank before you leave home to put a travel notification on your account. This is to remind the bank that you're the one that's in Europe and your card isn't stolen. Also, make sure to tell them everywhere you're going, even if there's a random layover that's not in the United States. It's important that they know every place that you are traveling!

12. Validate your passes.

Make sure that you validate your train or bus passes before you go on a trip somewhere, because if you don't, it usually entails a 50 euro fine and that's money you could be spending on gelato.

13. If you're questioning whether to get gelato, the answer is always yes.

C'mon, this is totally obvious. You're in Italy and you can never miss out on a chance to indulge! Plus, it's always fun to compare flavors from different shops and see which one is the best!

14. No tipping, and no splitting bills.

Keep this in mind, because it's something that's definitely out of the ordinary. There is no tipping in Europe, and they don't split the bill when you eat as a group, so be prepared to cover the cost of what you eat!

15. There aren't really any condiments, or salad dressings either (I know, bummer).

This could be a crisis if you're the kind of person who smothers ranch dressing all over everything, but unfortunately for those of you who do that, the salad dressing used here is olive oil and vinegar! Don't be afraid to try it though, it's pretty good! And if you want condiments, they usually cost extra.

16. Public transport: convenient, but can be uncomfortable.

I'm definitely not a city girl, so being shoved on a bus or metro with tons of other strangers was definitely not my thing at first. Just be alert, keep one hand on your bag and watch for pickpockets.The ride will be over soon enough. But public transportation is a quick and easy way to get around the city!

17. Siesta.

Between the hours of 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., small shops, stores, and restaurants take a siesta and close down. So keep this in mind when you go out for the day. It usually doesn't happen in the bigger parts of the city, just in small quiet areas!

18. Don't be afraid to get lost.

This is one of the best things Rome could've taught me. It's OK to wander around the city and find something new every day. It's all part of the experience. Plus, you're usually never too far from the metro or a bus stop so you can always find your way back home!

Cover Image Credit: Wikipedia

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I Visited The "Shameless" Houses And Here's Why You Shouldn't

Glamorizing a less-than-ideal way to live.
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After five hours of driving, hearing the GPS say "Turn right onto South Homan Avenue" was a blessing. My eyes peeled to the side of the road, viciously looking for what I have been driving so long for, when finally, I see it: the house from Shameless.

Shameless is a hit TV show produced by Showtime. It takes place in modern-day Southside, Chicago. The plot, while straying at times, largely revolves around the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. While a majority of the show is filmed offsite in a studio in Los Angeles, many outside scenes are filmed in Southside and the houses of the Gallagher's and side-characters are very much based on real houses.

We walked down the street, stopped in front of the two houses, took pictures and admired seeing the house in real life. It was a surreal experience and I felt out-of-place like I didn't belong there. As we prepared to leave (and see other spots from the show), a man came strolling down on his bicycle and asked how we were doing.

"Great! How are you?"

It fell silent as the man stopped in front of the Gallagher house, opened the gate, parked his bike and entered his home. We left a donation on his front porch, got back to the car and took off.

As we took the drive to downtown Chicago, something didn't sit right with me. While it was exciting to have this experience, I began to feel a sense of guilt or wrongdoing. After discussing it with my friends, I came to a sudden realization: No one should visit the "Gallagher" house.

The plot largely revolves the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. It represents what Southside is like for so many residents. While TV shows always dramatize reality, I realized coming to this house was an exploitation of their conditions. It's entertaining to see Frank's shenanigans on TV, the emotional roller coasters characters endure and the outlandish things they have to do to survive. I didn't come here to help better their conditions, immerse myself in what their reality is or even for the donation I left: I came here for my entertainment.

Southside, Chicago is notoriously dangerous. The thefts, murders and other crimes committed on the show are not a far-fetched fantasy for many of the residents, it's a brutal reality. It's a scary way to live. Besides the Milkovich home, all the houses typically seen by tourists are occupied by homeowners. It's not a corporation or a small museum -- it's their actual property. I don't know how many visitors these homes get per day, week, month or year. Still, these homeowners have to see frequent visitors at any hour of the day, interfering with their lives. In my view, coming to their homes and taking pictures of them is a silent way of glamorizing the cycle of poverty. It's a silent way of saying we find joy in their almost unlivable conditions.

The conceit of the show is not the issue. TV shows have a way of romanticizing very negative things all the time. The issue at hand is that several visitors are privileged enough to live in a higher quality of life.

I myself experienced the desire and excitement to see the houses. I came for the experience but left with a lesson. I understand that tourism will continue to the homes of these individuals and I am aware that my grievances may not be shared with everyone -- however, I think it's important to take a step back and think about if this were your life. Would you want hundreds, potentially thousands, of people coming to your house? Would you want people to find entertainment in your lifestyle, good and bad?

I understand the experience, excitement, and fun the trip can be. While I recommend skipping the houses altogether and just head downtown, it's most important to remember to be respectful to those very individuals whose lives have been affected so deeply by Shameless.

Cover Image Credit: itsfilmedthere.com

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Everyone Should Visit Rome At Least Once In His Or Her Life

The atmosphere of the city truly makes you feel like you're in the middle of a movie set.

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I am writing this article while sitting on a bus heading from Rome to the airport to catch my flight to Paris and it has given me some time to reflect on my last few days here. After spending quite a bit of time here, I definitely think that If you get the opportunity to travel to Rome, you should do so, you will not regret it. You may be asking yourself, why is Rome so special and fantastic? Isn't it just home to the Colosseum, the Vatican, and some good Italian restaurants? The answer is no, Rome is so much more than that, it's fabulous cuisine, jaw-dropping architecture, fantastic attractions, and it truly makes you feel as if you've been transported back in time and are in the middle of history.

While in Rome, my family and I had the opportunity to visit both the famous Sistine Chapel and the Colosseum. Both of these incredible attractions made us feel as if we were really there, in Ancient Rome and in the presence of Michelangelo as he painted the ceiling of the chapel. In addition, the jaw-droppingly gorgeous architecture added to the beauty of the city. From the Trevi fountain to the capital building to the statues in the Vatican, every structure made me look up in absolute awe. Truthfully, it is well worth going to Rome just to see the beautiful architecture.

Furthermore, the atmosphere of the city truly makes you feel like you're in the middle of a movie set. Everything is so picturesque that you feel like it isn't even real like it's a facade. One day my family and I stopped to have a snack at this small restaurant that was situated on a quiet street and we all kept remarking at how it was so beautiful (and how the food was so good) and especially how it felt like we were on the set of a movie, with how picturesque and quiet it was. Simply put, the sights of Rome are breathtakingly beautiful! Everywhere you look you find more "hidden gems" that add more and more beauty to an already incredible city.

In addition to talking about all of the beautiful architecture, great attractions, and amazing atmosphere, how can one go to Rome and not talk about the food! The food in Rome in indescribably good. The pizza, while very different from what you typically find in a pizza place in the United States, is extremely fresh and delicious. The pasta was absolutely amazing and much thicker than what you would find in America. The vegetables were extremely fresh, especially the tomatoes which were very red and actually much sweeter than I anticipated.

Overall, from its architecture to its atmosphere to its attractions to its food, going to Rome was an incredible experience. And it was definitely an experience that I will never forget! I will definitely be back for another experience of a lifetime! Now it's on to Paris and then London. Ciao, for now, Rome, and Grazie (that's thank you in Italian) for everything.

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