27 November 2015

Is Rome just like other tourist cities?

Following the all but forced resignation of the former mayor of the city of Rome, the Prime Minister of Italy appointed a commissioner to oversee the Eternal City with the particular aim of preparing the city for the Jubilee of Mercy that begins in just a few days.

In the hopes of both improving the city's reputation and of providing greater security around tourist sites throughout Rome, the commissioner banned men who dress as gladiators and accost (it really is the best word) tourists for money, bicycle-drawn rickshaws who offer rides through Rome, and licensed (possibly, at least) tour guides who accost tourists to employ their services at each of the main sites.

The announcement of this ban made me very happy because each of these different groups purposely place themselves directly in front of you and make it difficult to navigate the streets and piazzas. Even if you pass the same person(s) two or three times in the same day - or even once or twice every day for nearly two years - they do not leave you alone, often following you down the sidewalks or streets shouting after you.

Naturally, however, not everyone was pleased by this ban and one Italian travel agent even took to scaling the Colosseum today to voice his displeasure:
“Rickshaws and gladiators are illegal but we are not,” yelled the man from an archway 12 meters above the ground.

“We are just doing what people do at tourist hotspots the world over. This new law will kill our sector and put 2,000 jobs at risk,” he continued, before demanding to speak to the city's interim mayor, Francesco Paolo Tronca.

After spending two hours at the top of the Flavian Amphitheater [as the Colosseum was known to the ancient Romans], the man climbed down as members of the police, fire brigade and a crowd of curious onlookers looked on [more].
I've been to many different tourist sites throughout the world and, contrary to the travel agent's claims, I have never seen anywhere else what I see in Rome. No one accosted me at Edinburgh Castle for a picture. No one tried to sell me a ride in a rickshaw anywhere in Jerusalem. At no ancient ruin in Greece did anyone try to sell me a tour. It may be time for that travel agent to travel more.

I hope the changes introduced by the commissioner will actually make Rome like "tourist hotspots the world over."

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