Rome fails

We’ve recently got home from a lovely short break in Rome. Lots of stuff worked out well for us, but some of it wasn’t quite as good. Here are our Rome fails…

The Vatican City

When I asked the boys what they wanted to visit in Rome, my eldest said the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel. This surprised me as we’re not Catholic, but I soon realised EVERYONE visits the Vatican when they’re in Rome. I asked the boys to research it a bit and they told me it was closed on Sundays. So we went on Saturday.

I’ve never seen crowds like it. It was like a massive stadium concert. And if one person who ‘wasn’t trying to sell anything’ (they totally were) told us the ‘church was closed until 1pm’, a hundred people told us. The younger kids were stressed by the crowds and the people hassling us. We wanted to stay to see the Sistine Chapel and then we decided that it really wasn’t worth it. It was horrendous there. Yes, we should probably have done our research a bit better. It was a shame to miss the Sistine Chapel, but I have no regrets about walking away.

Vatican City, Rome, Holiday

I lifted my phone up really high to cut the crowds out of the picture


There aren’t any. I didn’t see a single public toilet block in the whole of Rome. Toilets can only be found in restaurants. And there’s only ever one cubicle. The queues are horrendous. I did 23 minutes in McDonalds and 27 minutes in a shop in the Vatican (yet another reason I was desperate to leave the place).

Daughter losing a butterfly clip off an earring

Following the Vatican incident, my daughter lost a butterfly clip off her favourite earrings. Her reaction was not dissimilar to how I would expect someone to react if they lost their iPhone. I would not recommend losing a child’s butterfly clip to anyone.


They make no sense. Not to us, they don’t. They have endless lanes. They have policemen in the middle blowing whistles. And the cars don’t stop when there’s a green man. I feared for our lives every time we crossed a road.

Getting hassled

Everywhere we went, there was someone trying to sell us something – tours, information, food, bits of tat… It was constant. I know they have to make a living and Rome thrives on the tourist trade, but it gets really tiresome. Especially as my husband hates it even more than I do and it just makes him really grumpy. And they’re cunning – they know the kids aren’t as switched-on as us, so they engage with them. ‘But the man said it’s only €4’ ‘But the man said it’s quicker to take a tour’ ‘But they’ve got really nice pizzas in here’ etc etc.

The one time we ventured into the city in the evening it was even worse and my kids found it quite threatening. Our plans to walk back to the hotel went out of the window and we opted for the safety of a taxi.


I hate smoking. I’ve always hated smoking. But in Britain, it doesn’t really affect me. You forget how far we’ve come with the smoking ban and so many people giving up. In Italy, there is smoke EVERYWHERE. People don’t smoke inside, but it doesn’t make any difference. Because everyone smokes and they do it right outside buildings, it just gets trapped inside the tourist attractions, restaurants and shops. The smell is often worse inside than outside. It was a relief to get back home for some fresh air.


We’re not big shoppers, but we wanted to spend a little bit of time in the shops looking for presents for family and maybe even pick up a souvenir for ourselves. But we couldn’t actually find the shops! Rome has a sprawling city centre, with no central shopping area, and we walked round and round in circles, becoming increasingly irritated (the toilet issue didn’t help our moods) to find there was just a lot of tat shops and a handful of department stores and not a lot else.

If you think it was all bad in Rome, it really wasn’t! Read about the good bits here

Colosseum, Rome, Holiday, Rome success

Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. Some of these things are on my list of major annoyances, so I’d have been p****d off too. Lucky there were some good bits too.

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    • There were lots of good bits, but unfortunately being endlessly hassled everywhere we went took the shine off a bit 🙁

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  2. Oh that’s such a shame! We really enjoyed the Vatican and didn’t find it too crowded although it was obviously busy. I think any large city can be quite stressful and these things must have added to the stress. I’m off to read your nice post too now!

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    • I’m pleased to say there were lots of good bits! I think the Pope was giving an address when we arrived at the Vatican, which would have explained how busy it was. x

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  3. Hi Sarah, it’s a shame you didn’t get into seeing the Sistine chapel. I am not in the slightest bit religious, but it was an amazing place to see. I hate it when hawkers target children, we get it here all the time in the summer and it shouldn’t be allowed… It’s funny the things children overreact about, on the up side it’s much easier to carry spare butterfly clips than mobile phones!


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    • I learned about the Sistine Chapel at school and would have loved to have seen it. Hopefully we’ll go back to Rome one day and I’ll be better organised and manage to see it!
      Spare butterfly clips are definitely easier than spare phones! She only had her ears pierced a few months ago and she’s still finding the concept of being able to change her earrings a big deal!

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  4. Really interesting read and bits did make me laugh! The last time we were in Rome it was without children, and I do love the City but I can imagine it’s so much different with children!
    The Smoking section did make me smile…it’s so true! It’s really noticeable, isn’t it?!
    I read your other post on Rome, too, and saw some of your beautiful IG photos – between the two it does sound like you had a good time, despite the Butterfly clips!

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    • Thanks very much, we really did have a good time! What would a holiday be without a few small disasters and irritants, anyway?
      I’m pleased to say the kids really did enjoy Rome. It is such a fantastic city with so much history.

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  5. Oh my goodness! I can only imagine how tough all of the above was with 3 children in tow. Rome is most definitely on my list of places to go, but I’ll do my homework before we visit. Thanks for the useful tips.

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    • It’s an amazing city and definitely worth a visit. We should definitely have done our homework about the Vatican really. Clearly finding out it was closed on Sunday wasn’t really enough information!

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  6. Sorry to hear you didn’t get into seeing the Sistine chapel. You’ll have to go back. It’s funny the things children overreact about, bless. xx

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    • It is funny the things they overreact about! I think it’s because having earrings is still a fairly new thing for my daughter that she got upset.
      We will definitely have to go back to see the Sistine Chapel at some point! x

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  7. Crowds, hassling and smoke are three things I don’t like and the thought of waiting that long for the toilet regularly. Whatever do the locals do? I would still go to Rome, but I think I’d need to consider how we do it to avoid stress.

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  8. Smoking is a big no for me and we found that when we went to Disneyland Paris there were lots of Europeans who just smoked around us and it is so annoying. I can’t believe that there are so few toilets, what an absolute nightmare. All good to know though and if we ever go, I will bear these points in mind

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  9. I always forget about the smoking bit and it always take me a bit by surprise. People don’t seem to bat an eye lid do they? And I’m forever wafting it away from the boys. The queues are mental at Sistine chapel and I have to say I would find it stressful with multiple kids there!

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    • I would still love to see the Sistine Chapel, but I would definitely book next time! The smoke always takes me by surprise anywhere in Europe, they just don’t have the same attitude we do.

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