Visitors: Part and Parcel of the City

October 26, 2012 / Local Interest
Rome, Lazio

Visiting friends will often ask if the numbers of visitors bother Romans. An understandable assumption . . . but truth be told, visitors, whether religious pilgrims for most of the city’s history or tourists more recently, are just as much a part of the city as any of the monuments or piazze.

Granted, Romans will steer clear of any restaurant with a menu in 7 languages, but there are hardly any places not frequented by visitors. Actually, their absence would be strange.

A lovely example of a Roman gracefully handling visitors? A friend was on her cell (speaking in English) when she noticed a obviously lost gaggle of nuns nonchalantly milling about. As soon as she was done, a nun came over and in a lovely thick Irish accent asked, “Excusemedear, might you be so kind as to point us in the general direction of Saint Mary McGuire?”

Needless to say, there is no St.Mary McGuire in Rome, but she thought hard and fast and realized that the good nun had phonetically but adorably de-interpreted (!?) the name.

“Umm . . . Saint Mary McGuire is just down the street,” she answered, having understood that they were in fact looking for Santa Maria Maggiore.


by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

11 Responses to “Visitors: Part and Parcel of the City”

  1. My first trip to Rome was just after 9/11 and I had no idea how oddly visitor-free Rome was that month, until my following trips. I spent hours wandering usually packed museums and monuments nearly alone. Even the Vatican Museums were quieter than I’ve ever experienced them since that time.

    As soon as I opened my mouth and it was obvious that I was an American, everyone I met was incredibly nice to me and usually commented on their support for the States.

  2. Peggy and Bob Corrao

    How delightfully thoughtful and true. We also steer away from restaurants frequented by too many tourists.
    And you are always welcome here in Bermuda!

    A wonderful little piece!

  3. Kind and helpful locals make me want to return. Helping like this is simple courtesy and too often we’ve lost sight of it, whether giving or receiving.

  4. Having JUST returned from a two week venture to Italy, I concur that their hospitality is genuine.

  5. Anne Robichaud

    Loved that vignette!
    Here’s another good visitor comment, shared with me by a Rome tour leader: as all are boarding the bus after an excellent tour with a top guide in the Sistine Chapel, a woman asked the tour leader, “…and when we will see the other fifteen chapels?”

    • Susan Luber

      Oh that’s a good one, Anne! When are you coming to SF and Sonoma? Please let me know. Also, if you have time for potentially doing a private dinner here in Kenwood. Hope you are well, Don and I send warm regards. Susan

  6. Joan Schmelzle

    Can’t wait until I am one of those tourists embraced by Italian cities. I land in Milan four weeks from yesterday and then four weeks from then in Rome–my favorite!

  7. What a great story and I do agree, considering the throngs of tourists, I find Italians extremely genuine and warm hosts…

  8. I just returned from a delightful two-week visit to Roma, as well, and wholeheartedly concur! No matter how exhausted the Romans must be from the tourists — me included, they are so friendly and helpful. Roma is my favorite city in the world! And that’s saying something from someone who lives very near San Francisco.


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