Anyone who has travelled has had the experience – you go to a tourist attraction and find that it has, in fact, attracted tourists.
So many tourists that you are lucky to get a glimpse of the attraction itself.
And that’s when your fellow tourists become the most interesting thing.
We had this experience a few times in Rome.
Both times we have been there it has been on the cusp of summer – once in September, and once in May.
I’m told these are the best times to visit Rome – outside the high season, but when the weather is gorgeous.
But even though these were ‘shoulder’ periods, there were still plenty of tourists. And with them, plenty of observations to make.
In one crowd, for example, I spotted a local in a Centurion’s uniform nattering away on his mobile phone. It struck me as amusing – but like the ancient Roman he was portraying, he was just a dude trying to live his life as best he could – and if they’d had mobile phones back in the day, I can see old Dexius Midnightius Runnerio ringing his wife to ask if she needed some olive oil and figs brought home…
In another crowd scene, at the Piazza di Spagna below the Spanish Steps, there were thousands of tourists milling about – and a middle-aged dude nonchalantly navigating between them on a Segway.
And on the Spanish Steps themselves, there were lovers young-and-old sharing special moments, and flowers, and endearments – amid packs of (mostly young) tourists waving about what I heard called “The Wand of Narcissus” – the ubiquitous selfie-stick.
But my favourite crowd-scene picture from our last trip to Rome (in May 2015) was at the Piazza de Trevi.
This was just part of the crowd who had turned out to see the famous Trevi Fountain.
There are large tour-groups being marshalled by guides holding pennants on sticks, there are couples and family groups wandering aimlessly – and there’s the young lad in the foreground looking bored stiff.
And you’ll note that they are all looking in different directions.
Because behind me is the Trevi Fountain – the reason they (and we) had come to this piazza.
And it was shut.
Wrapped in plastic sheeting.
Cordoned off with ropes and barrels.
Unviewable, behind scaffolding and shadecloth.
It was undergoing a €2.2m renovation and restoration – but unbeknown to us, it wouldn’t be completed for another six months – and so there was nothing to see, really.
But that didn’t stop the crowds from shuffling down the Via di San Vincenzo, like Eloi being drawn to the Morloch’s lair, and suddenly stopping – to create a logjam of disappointed humanity.
Of course, I shouldn’t be too sassy about this … we were amongst those who had wended our way to the fountain, only to discover that it was essentially a building-site.
However being a glass-half-full sort of guy, I took the opportunity to photograph the reaction of the crowd (as well as the construction site, of course – but it was the people that were of the most interest)
Oh – and the fountain’s now operating again, in case you were wondering. So we’ll have to go check it out again, should we get the chance to get back to Rome.
Any excuse will do 🙂