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Hi Everyone.  Stef and I have just spent the last two and a half days in Rome, and I thought I’d SQUEEEEEEEHHHHHHHH share some observations and let you know how things went.  The first SQUEEEEEEEHHHHHHHH thing you might wonder is what the SQUEEEEEEEHHHHHHHH heck is that noise and how in the world are you supposed SQUEEEEEEEHHHHHHHH to appreciate centuries of art and history with that god-awful SQUEEEEEEEHHHHHHHH noise interrupting you every four seconds?

Well, it seems there are no regulations whatsoever for street vendors in Rome, particularly near famous monuments, stairs, obelisks, and churches.  Since there are no regulations, the entire population of Bangladesh has decided to relocate near these attractions and sell, basically, crap.  And apparently in Bangladesh, they seem to think that tourists are absolutely crazy about stupid gooey balls of gel.  (I don’t know where they get their information about other countries from, but they all seem to think we love these.)  Further, they seem to think that the best way to sell these things is to splat them onto pieces of Plexiglas over and over and blow through some stupid noisemaker as they do this.  Hence, SQUEEEEEEEHHHHHHHH.  You got irritated with that noise in the space of one paragraph.  Imagine hearing it for two days…

SQUEEEEHHHHSpanish Steps?  Check.  Annoying Jerks with Stupid Gooey Balls?  Double Check.

These guys are incredibly irritating, and more to the point, not very good at analyzing their market.  In our two-plus days in Rome, I saw about 1,500 of these guys.  That number is NOT an exaggeration – they are about six feet apart any place you find something significant (in Rome, that’s basically everywhere).  We actually did see over one thousand five hundred of these guys.  In all that time, with all of those guys, NOT ONCE did we ever see ANYONE buying any of these stupid gooey balls.  NEVER.  There are two possibilities here:

  1. There is a huge, pent-up demand for stupid gooey balls, and these guys are such terrible salesmen that they can’t close the deal.
  2. Nobody wants your stupid gooey balls.

Either way, these guys are so dim, that they haven’t figured this out yet.  And so, you have the Colosseum and SQUEEEEEEEHHHHHHHH, the Spanish Steps and SQUEEEEEEEHHHHHHHH, Pope Benedict and SQUEEEEEEEHHHHHHHH, and so on.

Speaking of the Colosseum.  It’s been around for basically two thousand years, but it closes at 4:30.  (Keep that in mind if you’re ever planning a full day of sightseeing.  We didn’t.)


Here’s a picture of how the Colosseum looks today.  They’ve been working on it since 79 AD, but the rumor is it will be finished any day now…

Other than the aforementioned annoyances, the sightseeing went basically as planned.  Her majesty and I walked to most of them, which amounted to a whole lot of low-level exercise over the two days.  We saw most of the major attractions, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peters, all that stuff.  We do have pictures, but I’m not going to share them.  The pictures in guide books and online are better.  In other pictures, you can see the monuments, but in our pictures, you can see mostly drunken soccer fans.  We visited Rome on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Apparently, it’s even worse on weekends.

While we did see most of the sights in Rome, one thing we did not see is a Starbucks.  Here’s how our conversation went on Wednesday morning.

Her Highness:  Pull up the internet and find a Starbucks.  I want a White Chocolate Peppermint Latte with two pumps of peppermint, one pump of white chocolate, extra hot, non-fat, no whip, with salted caramel sprinkles.  Bring me one.

James:  Yes, your majesty.

… moments pass …

HH:  Well?

J:  It’s in France.

HH:  What’s in France?

J:  The nearest Starbucks is in France.

HH:  OK.  So run over and get me one.

It turns out that American style coffee is not popular in Rome.  (Which is odd, since it seemed to be about half Americans there.)  Oh, there are plenty of places to get coffee, to be sure.  It’s just that Italian coffee, while quite good, is very… small.  And it’s mostly espresso style drinks there.  You can get an Americano, but that’s typically the closest you can get to what we in the US think of as coffee.

You also can’t get it “to go”.  There’s just no such thing.  We didn’t see a single paper cup in all of Italy.  It’s all served in china cups, and you drink it there at the counter or at a table.  If you’re like me and you need a Big Gulp of coffee to keep you going, you’re just out of luck.

I also didn’t see any Rockstar Energy Drink there.  This is odd, because they say “Rome” right on the can.  But yeah, also not available in Rome.  Needless to say, I’ve been dragging the last few days.

One place we did find decent, American Style coffee was at THE BEST BREAKFAST BUFFET IN THE UNIVERSE.  Seriously.  I’ve stayed in a lot of hotels, and the complimentary breakfast buffet in the Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria is far better than any buffet anywhere, ever.  The presentation on the buffet was spectacular; the food choices were vast, varied, and interesting; and the service was great.  I wish we could have stayed in Rome another week or so, just so that I could try all of the things they had on the buffet.

Our last day in Rome was really interesting, but not because we did anything touristy.  Some weeks ago, when Stef was contemplating what she wanted to do in Rome, she suggested that we go visit an RV dealer to have a look at some Italian RVs.

This actually makes Stef a super-giant RV nerd.  Just think about what must have been going through her head for a minute…

“Hmmm…. I’ve never been to Rome before.  There are maybe three thousand years of history there.  Vatican City, a whole other culture and all of that.  But what I’m really wondering is: how big is the refrigerator in an Italian RV…”

I was only too happy to oblige to her request.  This makes me an RV nerd too, but we knew that already and at least I’ve been to Rome before.

Italy RV DealerHere are Lorenzo and I, on the lot at the RV dealership in Rome.

Before we left, I contacted Centro Caravan Costantini, and asked them if we could come by and have a look.  They were happy to oblige, and we had a blast with them.  I’ve got a lot of video footage to go through, and we’ll be putting up some interesting videos soon, so look for those.  (And if you’re wondering about the refrigerator – they’re quite big considering the size of the RV – Lorenzo told us that no Italian worth their marinara would buy an RV without a large refrigerator.)  If you’re wanting to get an RV in Europe, let us know.  We’ll hook you up, and the folks at Centro Caravan Costantini will take great care of you.

After that visit, it was a cab ride to the port, and onto our ship, the Noordam, which will take us back to Florida.  The ride to the Noordam, while expensive, was actually uneventful and smooth.  I was really glad about this because that was the part of the whole excursion I was the most worried about.  The “show up at an RV dealer where we don’t speak the language carrying three week’s worth of luggage, and then somehow arrange for a taxi to another town an hour away” thing had been stressing me out for weeks.

Not Stef though.  She doesn’t stress out about travel at all.  She doesn’t know where her passport is, or if she even needs it.  Because all her majesty has to do is show up and tell me to find her a coffee…

Next stop, Spain.  (They have Starbucks.  I’ve checked.)

James is a former rocket scientist, a USA Cycling coach, and lifelong fitness buff. When he's not driving the RV, or modifying the RV (or - that one time - doing both at once), you can find him racing bicycles, or building furniture, or making music. In his spare time, he works for a large IT company.

    6 thoughts on “When in Rome… SQUEEEEEEEHHHHHHHH.

    1. Deanna

      I’m currently staying in Rome and had to google what this noise is that I keep hearing from these street vendors. They definitely make it on their own with no device, we have had several of them just walk up to us and make strange duck and squeaking noises and walk away. It can be heard from like 200 feet away! I was wondering if this meant anything but now I suppose it is just to get attention, or in some of their cases, be disrespectful. Thanks for the article!

      1. James - Post author

        Deanna – How I think they make the noise it that they take the little plastic noisemaker part out of a party favor horn and keep that inside their mouths and somehow blow through it. I’ve never tried this myself, because I don’t want to annoy people 24×7, but that’s how I think they do it. You also probably noticed that IT DOESN’T WORK! NOBODY BUYS THEIR JUNK, regardless of what noise they make. Thanks for reading!

    2. Jami

      My wife and our two kids (7yo daughter & 4yo son ) visited Rome this summer, and you’re not exaggerating about the number of terrible gooey ball salesman there are in the city!

      As bad as it was for you, imagine having two young kids with you. I think I heard that noise at least 5,000 times during our three night stay. And you forgot to mention the guys that sold the little helicopter light sticks that they would shoot up into the air with rubber bands. There were probably another 2,000 of those guys throughout the city near every location where more than two tourists might pass by. (But at least the lights were nights to look at as they came down – unlike the annoying noise of the gooey balls.)

      We were approached so many times and it became so bad that my normally quiet and extremely respectful 7 yo daughter would shout “NO” every time one of these salesmen would approach us. Which meant she did this about every 15 seconds on average. (I say “on average” because it occurred about every 3 seconds near the big sites.)

      And like you, I never saw them sell even one of the balls (or helicopter sticks). If just one of these salesmen had been selling earplugs he could have made fortune:)

      We were so happy when we got to the Tuscany and Cinque Terre areas and there was no one selling those terrible things.

      (As a side note, if you get back to Italy soon be sure to stay a few nights in Vernazza, which is part of the Cinque Terre, and Lucca in Tuscany. We loved both of them. Lucca was absolutely wonderful. Very few tourists visit it compared to the other Tuscan cities and the city has tons of charm. Plus and it’s a dream city for cyclists. They’ve got everything from flats to rolling vineyard hills to the lower Alps all within riding distance of the city. In fact we made friends with a local store owner who said a lot of pro cyclists live there and pointed out that we had just walked by Tejay van Garderen’s wife as we entered his shop.)

      Thanks for the great articles you’ve put together. My wife and I are looking at buying an RV and taking off six months to a year to travel around the country with our kids. And the information you’ve put on here is really helpful in giving guidance to complete newbies to the RV world.

      1. James - Post author

        So glad you like the site! Thanks for the comments. Cycling in Italy is certainly on my bucket list, and doing it from one of the Euro RVs (in our other post) would be even better. How cool about bumping into Tejay’s wife. (And we’re glad to know it’s not just us who noticed the gooey ball guys…)
        As for getting into an RV… Come on in! The water’s fine! We’re both happy to help out in any way we can. If you have any questions, please let us know. It might make a good subject for an article or video.


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