Rome’s Dirty Little Secret


View Slide Show of Rome’s Dirty Little Secret below

We all have them…secrets…sometimes small, sometimes big, sometimes innocent and sometimes dirty…and Rome is no exception. If you’ve spent time traveling around the city of Rome then no doubt you’ve been to the main sites – along with thousands of other tourists. You went to the Vatican City, Sistine Chapel, Piazza Narvona, Trevi Fountain, Colosseum, Roman Forum, and my personal favorite the Pantheon. They are all within walking distance of each other and every day you see thousands of other camera toting tourists, wearing tennis shoes, carrying a backpack and a bottle of water going from site to site enjoying the beautiful ancient city.

The city is extremely beautiful – but like any big city it has its not-so-pretty parts too. The areas that no one talks about, or the sites that no one takes pictures of. You see these things with your own eyes, but you try your best to ignore them in the picture and focus instead on the Colosseum. However – this was my 5th visit to Rome, I was tired of trying to ignore the elephant in the Rome…errr…I mean the room. I was ready to stand up, arm myself with my camera, and acknowledge the secrets of Rome, no matter how unpopular that might be.

doors These dirty secrets manifest itself in trash, graffiti, homeless people, and construction. These items are actually littered all over Rome at the main sites, but we focus on the beautiful Colosseum or Pantheon, looking past the beggars and graffiti. Let me warn you though, the graffiti is EVERYWHERE. It’s not just in the ‘bad’ parts of town, or on the abandoned building. It’s on the walls of buildings in the nice nieghborhoods, where people live every day and tourists walk through. The town is overrun with it – on the buses, on the trains, and on the phone booths. If I stood still too long – it would probably be on me!

I’m used to seeing graffiti – I lived in NYC after all – however, it pains me to be walking through the streets of Rome and see a beautiful old door with graffiti all over it. I mean really…what did that door ever do to deserve that? It’s probably good that I couldn’t understand most of the writing as it was in Italian – else I really would have been depressed to see FU painted on someone’s door…sort of like the scarlet letter. The worst area for graffiti seemed to be Trastevere – which is a travesty (hee…hee) as it’s one of my favorite neighborhoods in Rome.

scaffolding One of the disappointments that tourists face throughout Italy is they get to a much anticipated site – say Piazza Narvona…they’ve waited for months and months to see the famous fountains, they’ve saved money for the last 2 years to take a trip abroad, and they get to the Piazza armed with their cameras…and the fountain is covered in scaffolding. It’s a big disappointment, however it’s rather normal. These ancient sites can’t simply be closed from the hours of midnight to 8AM to be cleaned and refurbished and then opened back up for the tourists as if it were Disneyworld. Unfortunately, they are refurbished for months and months leaving all of the tourists that come to take pictures disappointed. Shit happens…yeah, it’s a bummer, but it’s better that they take care of these ancient places, than let them fall apart just for the sake of your photo op.

While I was in Rome there were a number of places that had scaffolding surrounding it like a girdle. Instead of shying away from these monuments in their girdle of scaffolding…I embraced them…I took photos of them! Sure, some people thought I was a little crazy…but oh well…I got my picture of the fountain and they didn’t! One of my favorite types of scaffolding was when they would have scaffolding, and a tarp wrapped around the monument. The tarp would have the picture of the building on the outside. Somehow this was supposed to make you feel better. Sure, you didn’t get to see the real thing because it was covered with a tarp…but you got to see the next best thing, a picture of the monument surrounding the monument.

View all photos at once by clicking on the image or use go to Rome’s Dirty Little Secret

I have to admit – I had a lot of fun taking these photos…of course people looked at my strangely, but that’s nothing new. It was something a bit different and got me excited about going to the sites again for the 5th time. Sure, these photos won’t end up in any tour brochure – and they shouldn’t. They need to remain a secret…so forget you ever saw them…as it’s our little secret.

Sherry Ott
Sherry Ott is a refugee from corporate IT who is now a long term traveler, blogger, and photographer. She’s a co-founder of, a website offering career break travel inspiration and advice.

Additionally, she runs an around the world travel blog writing about her travel and expat adventures at
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