Tan’s Travel Guide: Rome

Italy (or most specifically Rome) has long been on my bucket travel list and it’s surprised even me that it’s taken so long to go there, especially since I was first in awe since seeing it in Sabrina Goes to Rome. Now Rome has been ticked off! But how did the Eternal City fare in terms of expectations as one of the most popular travel destinations and culturally and historically rich cities of all time? This blog post under Tan’s Travel Guides after my one for Copenhagen will answer those questions and if you’ve not been before, will give you some insight into this ancient hotspot.

View of Vatican City across the Tiber river


For its long history, old European vibe, great food, a place that’s the birth of opera and classical music, and has remained largely untouched by the ever-growing desire to modernise everywhere, Rome is undoubtedly a place everyone should visit if and when they can. It’s a city that’s great for walking around as nearly all its main attractions are within walking distance of each other – even Vatican City is not that far when you get to it – however, for a civilisation that supposedly invented roads, their roads are not the nicest or safest to walk or drive on, being in dire need of repaving. Oh, and if you’re not a fan of walking slow, you may find yourself getting more impatient with ramblers who prefer to move at a glacial pace down narrow, crowded pavements.

For many, much of Rome can be seen in a day or two – much quicker than it was built – though that does depend on your interest in or affinity with history and religion, making the Eternal City a perfect city break or somewhere to pass through for a couple of days whilst on a whistle stop tour Italy. In addition, for a capital city and in comparison to others (particularly Paris and Copenhagen), it is actually not that expensive for most things, except perhaps accommodation – though that does also depend on your preference for accommodation. Are you someone who cares much about where you’re staying or someone who thinks “it’s just a place to sleep and shower so as long as that’s ok”? If the latter there are plenty of budget accommodations available at almost every corner of every street.


Of course the top attractions in Rome to see are the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and Vatican City. The former is a glorious sight to behold even in its half destroyed state that, and the half that’s remaining being half held up by metal infrastructures to ensure its future stability. Sadly, the Roman Forum, a group of barely there ruins are not sights to behold as such but certainly for history buffs will hold a lot of interest and archaeological value.

The Pantheon, a temple of gods, is known for having the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome and is one of the best-preserved ancient Roman buildings. It is obviously a very busy and popular attraction but not being very big can result in large queues outside. The Trevi Fountain is a perfect place for must-take selfies in Rome for its intricate and grand architecture and statues, though it’s naturally a never dead quiet area – the best time to visit are early in the morning after the sun rises but would absolutely recommend going during the day and night to see the difference and get as many good pictures as possible.

The famous Trevi Fountain

For those interested, Vatican City could require a full day at least to explore as there is so much individual culture, history and religious importance within the world’s smallest state. You may however, find yourself queueing for at least a quarter of that day sometimes. If you’re LGBTQ though, it is understandable if you do not wish to go there for their official and often hypocritical stance on homosexuality, of which will be expanded in the next part.

Throughout Rome, there are countless buildings, monuments and statues of major historical importance, including churches, cathedrals, government buildings, palaces, Roman baths, museums and galleries. The most prominent include Altar of the Fatherland, the Spanish Steps, Navona Square, Castel Sant’Angelo and Borghese Gallery. The city is also home is many beautiful open green parks, always a nice addition and often a rarity in capital cities that have been overrun in favour of new, modern buildings and high rise skyscrapers or flats.


Unlike most capital cities where you would expect a thriving or at least growing LGBTQ community and nightlife, Rome is practically still living in ancient times in that respect. Despite having an area named “Gay Street” round the corner from the Colosseum, I wouldn’t get your hopes up about the Eternal City being a place to go wild in. Gay bars and clubs are few and far between, dotted around much of the city centre – only two café bars reside along Gay Street (My Bar and Coming Out), both of which seem more like daytime hangouts than anything else. So for a street that you would expect to be as bustling with businesses akin to Manchester’s Canal Street or London’s Soho, Gay Street is underwhelming to say the least – even more so that there doesn’t appear to be a sign or flags to highlight it.

Rome’s “Gay Street” has a great location but is a bit sparse

That said, there are certainly some clubs and club nights that are popular with crowds, especially for those who like a bit of fetish and kink, such as Company Roma (for bears and their lovers) and Censured (a self-proclaimed gay cruising bar), both of which are locked and you need to “ring” to be let in. Yellow Bar and The Random are also known hotspots for the LGBTQ community. Still, its gay nightlife lacks in many ways with no lesbian-specific bar (as with too many places), no cabaret bar with poorly made up, aging but sharp or overly glamorous, young and biting drag queens, no old man’s pub for people to chill with a pint and listen to terrible but entertaining karaoke, and no swanky higher end cocktail bar for the 18-40s crowds.

Furthermore, as I said above, coming to Rome – and specifically Vatican City – may be at odds with many LGBTQ people. While surprisingly, same-sex sexual activity has been legal since 1890 (as long as it’s non-commercial, private, adult – above 18 – and consensual), LGBTQ rights in Vatican City are practically non-existent, including when it comes to transitioning and gender recognition, workplace discrimination, adoption, donating blood, and of course marriage. However, Pope Francis’ stance on homosexuality has been surprisingly liberal considering his position, yet his views on “gender theory” have been critical.

But in Italy, LGBTQ rights are better, hence why Rome’s limited community for LGBTQ people is jarring so if you’re looking for somewhere that is more visible and inviting then Milan – the centre of high fashion – is naturally the place to go to instead.

ESEA life

According to statistics, there are nearly 350,000 Chinese citizens in Italy, although these figures do not account for former Chinese citizens who have acquired Italian nationality or Italian-born people of Chinese descent, and more than 12,000 reside in Rome (though more are in Milan). There is the Vittorio Emanuele neighbourhood in Rome that is known as “Chinatown” though is absent of any arches that signifies it as such like many other cities. There is also a large population of people from the Philippines (150,000+), though other ESEA populations are not well known about.

Chinese cuisine is popular in Rome, with a large number of restaurants dotted around the city, many of which are surprisingly cheap and not bad – yes, even Chinese people have been seen eating there, so you know it can’t be shite! This begs the question why many other cities – including London and Manchester – charge so much for Chinese food, when Italy isn’t known to be a cheaper country? Supermarkets selling ESEA groceries, Thai massage places, sushi bars, bubble tea cafés, and even Buddhist temples can also be found.

This sign was thankfully removed by police.

Whether Rome (or Italy) is safe for ESEA people is a matter that is perhaps not so bad now. During the pandemic, Chinese and ESEA people were targeted – as many were everywhere – by government officials, businesses and the public. Incidents include a bar by the Trevi Fountain which barred “people coming from China”, stores being vandalised and declines in businesses reported, Rome’s prestigious Santa Cecilia music conservator suspending music lessons for all students of East Asian origin, and people of Chinese and Filipino descent being victimised and attacked. For a country that welcomes more than 5 million visitors from China, Japan and South Korea alone (all in the top 20 countries by people who go there), you would hope Italy would be more tolerable and judging by the sheer numbers that live there and have businesses.


For history and European culture buffs, Rome is one of the best places to visit. For LGBTQ people, it lacks the fabulousness you might otherwise expect. On the face of it, Rome is a lovely, old city with remarkable sights to see and food and drink-wise in restaurants can be amazingly affordable (there was a restaurant with a €10 pizza, Peroni and gelato deal, for example) if you want them to be, great for walking but also cheap for public transport, but back alleys and non-touristy areas and streets are not pretty sights. I’m glad the Eternal City can now be ticked off my list, but it is unlikely to be a place I’d return to – the rest of Italy is definitely next on said list though!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s