InTrans / Feb 25, 2016
Rome through the eyes of a traveler
posted on February 25, 2016
I’ve read that Rome, Italy, is one of the most amazing places on earth, but don’t take my word for it. I talked to a very experienced traveler who lived in Rome for six months. Kelsy Postlethwait is a graphic designer living and working in the Wicker Park area of Chicago. She also happens to be my older sister. In college, Kelsy lived in Rome and traveled around Europe while studying abroad. Here’s what she said about getting from point A to point B during her time abroad.
A conversation with Kelsy Postlethwait
How did you get from home to Rome?
My mom drove me from our home in Iowa to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. When I got to the airport, I went to the international terminal and then flew into Barcelona, Spain, actually. We had a stop in Madrid, Spain, and from Madrid we went to Barcelona. The reason we flew into Barcelona is we found that if we bought tickets to Barcelona a week earlier than we needed to get there—instead of flying directly into Rome the week that school started—we could save $600-$700. We were able to fly in, spend a week in Barcelona, and then fly from Barcelona to Rome. We saved $300-$400 total. We came through the Leonardo da Vinci airport—the only airport I used when I was in Rome.
What are some experiences you had with public transportation when traveling in Rome?
We used the train to get to other places in Italy. The train station was close to where we were living, and so we were able to walk there. The only problem we ran into was realizing that you need to plan ahead. When we took the train from Rome to Sorrento (Metropolitan City of Naples), we got seats, but the kids who came after us had to stand and wait for hours for the next one. Buy a ticket ahead and buy a ticket online, so you have a reserved seat. Some trains were cozy and even almost empty. Trains in Rome can be very pleasant or very crowded, depending on if you planned ahead. Either way, they were very accessible.
When it came to leaving Italy, the train was accessible but not always practical. It was cheaper to fly to a lot of the bigger cities that we wanted to visit. The train to London, for example, would’ve taken 12-15 hours and cost 60 euros for the ticket. We ended up flying from the Leonardo da Vinci airport in Rome to the Heathrow Airport in London. When you’re over in Europe, they have an airline called “Ryanair.” It was amazing. It’s the most obnoxious hour or two of your life, but flights are as cheap as 4-5 euros. Our flight to London cost 5 euros, and our return flight cost 15-20 euros. So round-trip was about $40. The reason that Ryanair is able to make their flights so cheap is because they bombard you with advertisements the entire time. It’s kind of a headache, but it’s affordable. In London, the London Underground was amazing. Using the “tube” in London was so easy and accessible. It helps that all the instructions were written in English. The subway is iconic. We would stop at different stations, like King’s Cross (the one from the Harry Potter series), because they were familiar.
How did you primarily get around Rome?
We mostly walked everywhere; it had to do with the way the city is set up, and what was accessible to us. We obviously didn’t have cars. I wouldn’t have wanted to drive. There were really crazy drivers on the road. They were always zipping around, going really fast. The choice to walk came very naturally; it’s a very pedestrian-oriented city. You see everyone out walking all hours of the day. I think it’s normal for Romans to just walk to where they need to go. The city is very accessible on foot, and I think there’s a rich history in that. We only took taxis when we absolutely had to; it probably only happened three to five times. It was almost scary to take a cab because of how fast it was—seriously fast.
Did you see the Colosseum?
Yes. The Colosseum was amazing. Many of the landmarks in Rome are much older than those in the United States. I believe that the Colosseum is thousands of years older. You can really feel it. We walked through the maze, in the bottom, where the gladiators would go through before they went up to battle. We walked through the stands where people would sit and cheer for the tiger, or for the gladiator. It was like seeing the Colosseum through their eyes. It’s well preserved, but you’re constantly trying to imagine what it must have looked like so long ago. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I also got some insight about the current culture of Rome, like why things are so different there. I think it’s because their culture is so much older than ours. You don’t see mentalities like the Romans in America, that’s in part because we’re just so new. We don’t have that rich history yet; whereas in Rome there’s reminders of the history all built up on top of each other. You pass by these landmarks every day, and it’s different from anything here in the United States.
What did you take away from the experience?
One of the reasons I was so interested in moving to a big city like Chicago is my experience in Rome. I was looking for something that had rich culture, specifically somewhere I could easily walk to the grocery store and walk back. I fell in love with being able to walk everywhere I needed to go and having everything in reach. Coming back from Europe and having to get in my car to drive places felt like such a huge task, so one of the things that made me want to live in Chicago is how walkable the city is. I also use Chicago’s public transportation all the time. All of the things I learned using the tube in London, or the bus in Switzerland, made me feel much more comfortable moving to Chicago and using public transportation. It felt much less like something I had to learn and a lot more like a second-nature. I thought, ‘If I can do this in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language, I can definitely do this here in Chicago.’
By Hannah Postlethwait, Go! Staff Writer