Follow my leader: a view of the Colosseum as tourists are herded along (pic: Harry Mottram)
Follow my leader: a view of the Colosseum as tourists are herded along (pic: Harry Mottram)

He came, he saw and he joined a tour group. Harry Mottram was herded round Rome

Romans conform to stereotypes. They ride scooters while texting, a cigarette in mouth and one eye on the traffic; appearing to have taken a course in looking cool at all times. Or they walk and talk in couples while emphatically gesticulating to each other, as they cross four lanes of traffic―oblivious to the concept of looking left and right.
In contrast there are the visitors who are divided into two types. The independent ones go round on their own, in couples, or in small groups. And then the large shambling assemblages led by their leader holding an umbrella or a rolled magazine.
In groups of 20 or more they follow in an untidy column listening to their tour guide’s notes―plugged into a running commentary of the history of the eternal city shutting out the traffic, graffiti and other groups of tourists.
Whether they are shepherded through the narrow streets of Trevi to Nicola Salvi’s fountain to take selfies and toss a coin or three into the frothing waters or trail across the wide open spaces of the Piazza del Popola their sense of the herd remains intact.
At the Colosseum in the early morning sunlight where young Bengali men with gleaming teeth try their hardest to sign them up to the yellow, red or blue open top coach tours they stay loyal to their guide.
Ah, those national stereotypes: handy to use and which occasionally even contain a grain of truth. The Americans are fat with lots of cameras, the Chinese thinner with smaller cameras and the Japanese very slim with tiny cameras. The Poles smoke while the French talk constantly.
And as for the Brits. Well… of course there were the chain store shorts, socks with sandals, and a look of constant hope in their faces of being able to discover a newsagent and buy a two day old copy of The Daily Mail or find a café that brews a real cup of tea.
And I should know, as I was one of them.


It’s turned out nice again: an Englishman in Rome