Going on a Rome Walk About, Plus Pickpockets… The Armchair Series

Today, I am continuing to dip into my archives as part of my armchair travel series in the age of Covid-19. On Wednesday we visited Rome’s impressive colosseum. Today, Peggy and I go on a walk-about visiting various historic sites and dodging pickpockets. In terms of coronavirus, I had an amusing thought: It must be much harder for pickpockets to work when 6-foot social distancing is being practiced!

One of the joys of walk-about is you come on treasures you might not see otherwise. This delightful elephant carved by Bernini is located near the Pantheon. It serves as the base for an obelisk.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know we like to walk extensively when visiting a new city. It’s a good way to become acquainted with the region and its people. Plus it’s great exercise. While Rome is huge, the historic section is confined to a relatively small section. It was large enough, however, that we used mass transit for longer distances.

There were two challenges. The first was figuring out the where and when of catching a train in a language we didn’t speak. The second was that the subway is a great place for pickpockets, especially during rush hour. Rick Steves, in his book on Mediterranean Ports, was constantly admonishing us to be on theft alert.

Peggy, who is more paranoid than I, is always urging me to transfer my wallet to my front pocket when we are in a crowd. Sometimes I even comply. Once, she didn’t even have to ask. We were in Amsterdam and the city had put up huge banners across the streets warning people about thieves. Neither did I require urging in Rome. Folks in Southern Europe were suffering from serious Euro Deficit Dysfunction. Times were tough. We both wore money belts.

The stories are legendary about various scams. Travelers love to share tales. One of my favorites is a woman will ask you to hold her baby while her compatriots grab your wallet. No way was I going to hold a stranger’s baby. Heck, I’ll hardly hold the baby of a woman I know. Babies are known to burp and pee on you. Can you imagine the insult added to injury if a baby was burping and peeing on you while someone was stealing your wallet?

While the stories are fun, the problems are real. A man staying at our hotel lost 2000 euros. A woman told us she was waiting at the airport when a nicely dressed couple told her something was sprayed all over the back of her jacket. The woman took it off. Sure enough, the jacket was covered with green goop. While her husband took the jacket to the restroom to wash, the couple kept her company. They left when her husband returned. Only later did she realize that her purse left with them.

We were at the Termini, a major transfer point on Rome’s transit system, when our turn came. It was at the peak of rush hour and the train was crammed full. John, Peggy’s brother, and his wife Frances had climbed on first. Four little kids, maybe eight years old, jumped on in front of us. Peggy and I were squeezing in when John shouted. He had felt someone reaching in his back pocket. Meanwhile, the four little kids were trying to jump off the train. Peggy, being the ex-elementary school principal she is, thought the kids were confused and tried to shove them back on. The little pickpockets, of course, thought she was trying to collar them. They managed to escape just as the doors were closing. Fortunately, John was also wearing a money belt. He kept his euros and we had a story to tell.

Besides our experience with the pickpockets, we had managed to visit Trajan’s Column, the Trevi Fountains and the Pantheon on our day’s walk-about.

The emperor Trajan apparently had lots to say about his victorious Dacian campaign circa 103 AD. He told it on the bas-relief making its way up the 140-foot column— in a cork-screw fashion. See below for details. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)
This photo shows how much detail is included on Trajan’s Column. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)
The Trevi Fountain has always been worth visiting on its own but its popularity got a significant boost by the 1950’s movie and theme song, “Three Coins in a Fountain.” Sinatra sang the song. The coins are for wishes. The first gets you back to Rome, the second helps you find true love, the third sees you happily married. Or so they say.
The Pantheon is one of the world’s most famous structures. It was built to honor Rome’s numerous gods. Its dome has served as a model for domes ranging from St. Peter’s Basilica to the US Capitol building. Peggy’s brother John and his wife Frances made it into the right corner of the photo.
The interior of the Pantheon is quite striking.
It was common practice for the Catholic Church to take over sites that had been used to worship Roman gods. It was a clever ploy that the church also used for other local gods as well.
A final view of the Pantheon’s dome from outside.
This fellow was attached to a carriage out side the Pantheon. I liked its ear covers. A horse approach to ear muffs! Or maybe just decorations.
Peggy found this door knocker intriguing. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
And this dragon lamp. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
A final street scene from our walk about through Rome.

NEXT POST: No trip to Rome is complete without a trip to the Vatican.

28 thoughts on “Going on a Rome Walk About, Plus Pickpockets… The Armchair Series

  1. Fun thought – pickpocket recession due to social distancing.
    I have encountered pickpockets in London, Paris and most frequently in Barcelona [fortunately all unsuccessful but one who manged to get a pocket translator I was taking for repair] but it did not occur to me I never had the problem in the U.S. even when living in and visiting crowded cities. Maybe here mugging is more profitable.

  2. I have wondered myself if pickpockets and burglars can apply to join the Government furlough scheme. It must be tough for them right now.
    I was done with the green goo trick in Barcelona. The thief spent £2,700 on my credit card in less than 20 minutes. The bank accepted responsibility for lax security and promptly paid me back. PHEW!

    • Wow. Who would have ever thought that green goo would be so expensive! Glad the bank covered you. And I just had a great thought for a pickpocket. Train a pigeon to fly over and poop on a person’s forehead. That should be an effective distraction. 🙂

    • Three coins, three wishes, right. 🙂 One to return to Rome, one to find true love, and one to get married. I’d already taken care of the second and third. Grin. But I wouldn’t mine returning to Rome. Thanks, Miriam

  3. We had no problems with pickpockets in Rome, but were royally ripped off by a taxi driver there, and Don had his wallet lifted from his pocket in Antigua, Guatemala. They’re so stealthy and fast!

  4. Bert was targeted by pickpockets on a very crowded, standing-room only subway in Athens, Greece. The pickpockets, professionals by trade I guess, watched as we got on. Then one stood right behind him — we were all extremely close — and tried to get his wallet out of his back pocket. Bert was quick, but it could have just as easily gone the other way. An incident like that colors your whole opinion of a place, but it shouldn’t. In fact, there were people who saw what was going on and they admonished the man, an immigrant from another country, as one person told us.

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