The guy dressed as an ancient Roman soldier at the Trevi Fountain took a drag on his cigarette and put a cellphone to his ear, perhaps calling his agent to see about getting a better gig. We jostled our way through the throng of tourists and made our wishes. Mine was that we could get out of Rome quickly and onto the next leg of our journey- the Amalfi Coast.
Don’t get me wrong, the sites in Rome are worth seeing, and the history is palpable, but so is the sweat and stench and sense of being taken advantage of.
We had parked our car about a mile and a half away, in front of the Colosseum. There was a paybox with complicated-looking instructions, all in Italian. There was a slot for credit cards and a slot for cash. I tried both and neither worked. I looked around at the other cars and not one had a sticker or other sign that showed that they had paid. Then I noticed the hours listed and it looked like we were in the middle of a free section of time, like Sundays on meters in the U.S.
Well, when we finally got back to the lot there was a team of Italian workers surrounding our car. They were just about to put a boot on it when I ran up to intervene. “Whoah, whoah, whoah, partner” I said to a guy in uniform, not sure why I was channeling John Wayne. “I tried to pay and it wouldn’t take my money.”
The Italian ticket-master just looked at me with a shrug. Apparently he didn’t speak English, or he did but didn’t like being called “partner.” The boot-team was about to lock the metal piece onto my tire, and I could just imagine navigating the bureaucracy to get that removed after they had left.
I grabbed my wallet and flashed some cash. Now I was speaking the ticket-master’s language. We settled on everything I had, which was thankfully only about $50. The guy nodded to the boot-team and they quickly removed the boot and went on to their next victim.
We pulled out past the Colosseum and saw another fake Roman soldier wandering around amongst the tourists on his cellphone, perhaps calling the other guy to see if he could bum a smoke.
We pointed our car south toward the Amalfi Coast and got the hell out of Rome.