Ciao da Roma… an Italian travel journal

Why are we so fascinated with chronicling our travels? Ever since people began traveling for the
sake of travel, the adventurous have made permanent records of their exploits. These precious accounts of adventure offered
insights for the masses, filled with personal reflections, narratives, and sometimes
exaggerated details of the foreign people, places, food, and cultures they
encountered. The exotic tales enabled
readers to live vicariously through the lucky few who were able to travel to
the ends of the earth. Today, the
advent of technology has ushered in a new format of travel writing: the
blog. Blogging makes it easy for
travelers to keep in touch with loved ones back home and, possibly, gain a
following among interested strangers.

In some instances, such as the New York Times’ Frugal Traveler column,
blog readers actually dictate where the traveler will go next in his or her
journey. Matt Gross, the Times’ resident
budget-travel blogger, is currently undertaking the traditional “Grand Tour of
Europe,” updating it for the modern, savvy traveler and attempting to stay within
a budget of 100 euros per day (which, I can attest, is harder than it
seems). Matt just wrote about his
stopover on the island nation of Malta. His next stop is Cyprus, but his itinerary for the
following weeks is undecided. So log on and weigh in; your suggestion could be
one of his future destinations!

Travel bloggers range from professionals on their mid-life
crisis trip-of-a-lifetime,
to college students on their term abroad. My personal experience studying in Italy last year actually led me
away from blogging in favor of a more traditional direction. Before my departure for four months in Rome, I was unsure what
my internet situation might be, and unable to forecast my level of commitment
to updating a blog once I got to “The Eternal City.” I wanted to keep my friends and family back
home in the loop, but the atmosphere of Rome
was just too intoxicating; there was so much to experience on the crooked
cobblestone streets and in the smoke-filled cafes that I was hesitant to bind
myself to expensive and touristy internet outposts.I decided to take the old-fashioned route instead.  Like many travelers, I felt intimidated by the
idea of describing a place so well-documented. As Mark Twain once said:

What is there in Rome for me to see that others have not seen
before me? What is there for me to touch tha
t others have not touched? What is
there for me to feel, to learn, to hear, to know, tha
t shall thrill me before
it pass to others? What can I discover?

Despite the prolific precedent of Italian
travel writing, I was intent to try my best to carve my own niche. I bought a
beautiful, handmade journal in Florence
and wrote in it religiously for four months. Every night, from my apartment overlooking the Tiber River,
I would reflect on the day. Even if it
seemed mundane, I felt I couldn’t afford to forget a single memory.

By the time December rolled around, I had visited Florence, Cinque Terre, Pisa, Siena, Greve, Orvieto, Venice, Padua, Vicenza, Verona, Naples, and the Amalfi Coast.

Through my travels, I had also become a
better writer. Exploring the hill towns
and medieval villages was incredible, but I craved something tangible that
could take me back to the olive grove or the Renaissance cathedral cloister anytime
I wanted.

For lack of an infinite budget
to spend on trinkets and souvenirs, I wrote instead: The old woman stringing
her laundry across the balcony to dry – a practice, it seemed, she had
performed every day of her life. The young boys kicking a soccer ball around
the alley outside their father’s bakery – they didn’t need a grassy field or
uniforms to dream of being the next Totti. The ancient relics of saints’ bones (and in
some cases, their tongues) – the pride of the city, prominently displayed and
universally revered.

Through all these
small moments and character sketches, I felt that I was creating my own
relic. Less sacred to be sure, and far
less macabre, but I had my own timeless and irrefutable evidence that I had
been there.

With the final product, I had created my own authentic, unique
experience while traversing the well-charted territory of the “boot.” And while
I may have been a bit selfish in keeping it to myself, rather than posting it
online, I treasure the journal now as a testament to the personal nature of my
journey and the unique perspective I had when writing it.

Have you ever written
a travel journal, or a travel blog? W
do you prefer? Do you regularly read an
y travel blogs?

5 thoughts on “Ciao da Roma… an Italian travel journal

  1. I have been six times in Rome since the last 10 years, always staying in self catering apartments. I think that are cheaper then the Hotels and more friendly. I suggest to search accommodation in this website, where i book some Apartment Rentals Rome.

  2. Angel, the website seems very cool. I’m glad you enjoyed reading my thoughts. “Hotels in Rome” – I definitely learned that lesson over the course of my time there! Thanks for your comments!

  3. I really enjoyed reading this article, thank you. Some very interesting points to think about. It would be great, if you’re interested, to share this at It’s an online tool for travelers where you can post the best travel news and articles on the web and then vote for your favorites.

  4. There’s no need to feel apprehesive about the fact that many people have documented their experiences of a certain place. Everyone’s experience and perception is unique.

Leave a Reply