Okay, I’m just gonna say it: It’s important to do the touristy things, you definitely *should* do the touristy things. The reasons why they’re so popular for tourists visiting a country or experiencing a new culture is because most likely they’re historic, integral to understanding the basis of the country’s culture that you are partaking in, or they’re just plain fun. Over break, I went and did all the touristy things I could imagine in Rome and Florence. I fully expected for many of them to be overrated, like too much hype has been created for these specific things. [Spoiler Alert: I was wrong.]
For instance, last week I went to go see the Spanish Steps (they had recently been re-opened after being closed for a period of time so that they could be cleaned). I expected them to just be…well, steps. I had walked past them plenty times as they were closed, but I finally walked up them. It was beautiful! I met a lot of nice people on them and I got an incredible view of Piazza di Spagna. I don’t know if it’s because the sun was setting, because I had just come from a nice meal, or because I was in a good mood; but I like to chalk it up to the fact that the Spanish Steps are just cool.
The same thing happened with the Trevi fountain. In all of my dreams and Lizzie McGuire imaginations, I expected the Trevi fountain to be really cool. I wasn’t prepared for it to be one of the most beautiful pieces of artwork that I have ever seen. When you specifically go to see the fountain at night as it’s lit up and you throw your coin in, you feel a sense of wonderment at it all. It’s huge! And it’s full of incredible detail and history. And who doesn’t love a good chance at ensuring your return to Rome with the simple throw of a coin?
And the Colosseum, in all of its colossal glory, was also astounding. Getting to go on the stage where the gladiators and wild animals battled, getting to go underneath where the slaves and animals were kept, climbing to the third level to get the view that actual Romans would have had at the time, was incredible. I don’t think I’ve experienced something as evocative as that; standing in a space where hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of people were murdered left me awestruck. Not to mention the sheer size of it all; the fact that it could have potentially fit as many people as the Lincoln Financial Field fits now is wild!
From the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City to the Piazza del Duomo in Florence, there are so many things I am glad to have experienced over this past week. None of them, not even the most publicized (through culture and hollywood) artifacts, places, and buildings (like the Colosseum), were a let down. Each one had its own charm and history making it well worth the trip. I know the idea of being a tourist is one that’s particularly taboo, and that’s because there are many things that tourists might do that one shouldn’t, such as be disrespectful to a culture in some way. But, the things that are specifically set up to entertain or educate tourists are worth experiencing because whether you like it or not, there is a part of you that is a tourist when you’re studying abroad. And in some ways, in order to understand what a country and/or culture has become, it is vital that you experience the uber popular things. After all, if they are wildly popular, there’s most likely a good reason for it.