I had read the advice online ahead of time: Go late at night or in the early morning hours to enjoy the Fountain without all the tourists, other travelers said. Otherwise, it’s a mob scene. I didn’t heed their advice. What a mistake.
Of course, it’s not like I had a lot of choice. I had very limited time in Rome and several priorities on my list: The Colosseum, the Forum, Palatine Hill, Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, Castel Sant-Angelo. I couldn’t see them all first thing in the morning before other tourists arrived. And I’m nightblind, so wandering around a strange city at night—especially one with such confusing streets and crazy drivers as Rome has—is probably not the best idea for me.
So I found myself at the site of this most famous of Baroque fountains in Rome in the middle of the day, at the beginning of summer tourist season (who knew early May would be so crowded?), with hundreds of other tourists. You may find that you, too, are forced by circumstance to just deal with the hordes crowded around the Trevi Fountain during your one and only visit. How, then, can you maximize your time—especially if you want to capture photos to last a lifetime?
Sorry, I’m just telling it like it is. If you’re over 6 feet tall and can see over the heads of all those other tourists, you’re in a better position to take photos than shorties like me. You might consider trying a camera extender with your camera’s self-timer stretched over your head, but don’t be too obvious about it, and make it quick. The Roman polizia don’t like people using tripods, so they might hassle you about your camera extender, too. (Spoilsports.) But hey–nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? I’ll let you decide if you think it’s worth the risk.
Working your way to the front of the horde may require some time. Observe the crowd, try to see where the gaps are, and create your strategy for weaving through the crowd. There may be jostling. There will definitely be PSVs (personal space violations). Perhaps even an elbow throw or two. If you’ve got to throw something, I’d advise. . . .
Throw a Coin, Not an Elbow
Legend has it that if a visitor throws a coin into the Trevi Fountain, they are fated to return to Rome. (See Three Coins in the Fountain, one of my favorite classic films.) Of course, in order to do that, you have to make sure you actually have a coin on you!
Be a Quick Draw
Have your camera at the ready. Once you get there, you’ll have to work fast to get your photos. Stand your ground. If you want a photo of yourself in front of the Fountain, it might be good to enlist an ally. Find another tourist and ask them to take your photo, while offering to take theirs in return. They now have motivation to make sure no one pushes you out of your prime spot, because it’s about to be their prime spot. (Note: Be sure you approach them, not the other way around. Thieves have been known to offer to take tourist photos, only to run off with the camera. I recommend finding a couple who are obviously tourists; they’ll be grateful to have their photo taken together, instead of separately.)
Zoom Zoom Zoom
Don’t forget about the benefits of a zoom lens for getting in close when you physically can’t. See if you can’t focus on some of the details for some artsy shots.
Don’t Be Blinded By the Light
This has nothing to do with crowds, but I’ll offer it as advice anyway: Maybe you can’t arrive first thing in the morning or late at night, but for the love of God, don’t do what I did and arrive in the middle of a very sunny day, when the sun is at its most blinding white. An overcast day might actually create better photos–and without the sun bouncing off the white statues, blinding you in the process.
Watch Out For Pickpockets
No need to wonder if there will be pickpockets working the crowd. There will be. Count on it. Make sure your valuables are secured in a location where no one can get to them.
If you can’t get in close to the Fountain for the photos you want, at least console yourself with a gelato from one of the nearby shops and a little people-watching from the periphery. I mean, really, why get stressed about not being able to get in close to see a fountain, anyway? Enjoy the circus of humanity, the cold gelato, the fact that you’re in Rome. . .and then move on to some place a bit less crowded where you can breathe and snap photos to your heart’s content.
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