The Great Swim Search…and other Rome notables

I’ve travelled enough that very few things ‘worry’ me while travelling. While many of my co-workers travelling with my on this trip are worried about typical international concerns like current exchanging, finding food, and pick pocketing – I’m typically most concerned about finding a pool and the whole experience of getting into it while in a foreign city.

This is because information on pool availability (even though I use is hard to put together for most international locations. There isn’t a way to visually map out all the locations yet, so sifting through the list of 80+ pools manually is really difficult. But, I e-mailed the guy (Bill) that runs Swimmers Guide (who I’ve talked to before) and he was able to give me an export that I could then quickly map out and find my nearest available pool. Before long, I had a plan of action.


It involved a short walk to the Metro (subway), and then a ride on that for about 15 minutes, and then another short walk to the pool. Simple enough, right?

Ummm…no. This is because nobody in Rome seems to know about other parts of Rome. Which, the more I thought about it is kinda logical (and a trend I see when overseas). See, in the US we drive our cars quite a bit, which means we cover a lot of ground in the huge radius around our homes. So I generally know where most major/semi-major streets are within a 10-20 mile radius of my place. But if you are more transit dependent (trains/buses), you probably aren’t as aware of these other streets (aside from your own) since you visit them less frequently. Anyway…suffice to say there was much confusion.

See this street name on my little paper? Turns out it’s not the same as the one on the sign. Who would have thought a few extra characters (Valle) would matter so much.


It turns off I got off a subway station two stops too early, then walked down the wrong street for over a mile (a long time to walk even past a Catholic Walking Processional), then had to backtrack, go down some more wrong streets and then get back on the subway, then get off the subway, wander around some more lost, then find a specific bus, get on the bus, and then get off at the right place (which I didn’t), and then finally find a place with a tiny little sign. It sorta looks like this:

image Eventually I found the place. It had a tiny sign poking out of the ground and looked very much like a subway entrance.

IMGP4138 IMGP4139

From there I made it inside and quickly paid. The guy gave me a discount…which was cool. I think he was just entertained by the fact that some random American would show up at his pool and we did chat a bit. I did think the little lesson price sheet was pretty interesting – amazingly cheap:


Then I turned and looked at the pool. Holy crapstick was it busy! It had 6 lanes, with some lanes having at least 6-7 people in them. And the last lane had floaty people in it.


So I suited up (including the required swim cap, which I had brought) and headed on in. I asked which lane to join and was shown the second to last one with a bunch of random non-swim-team members doing various aquatic acts resembling water based movement in it. So I jumped in, and started circle swimming. All good!

Well, eventually I realized that Bikini Girl (in my lane) was re-enacting swim styles from Titanic so we all (the other 3 swimmers in my lane) took turns sighting and making quick passes, always being aware of each other.

Except once.

I went to go make the pass, and quickly sighted – all good, I was about 5-10 meters from the end of the lane and could see the incoming dude standing at the end watching. So I logically presumed he wouldn’t start swimming head on. However it turns out I shouldn’t have included logic in this lane.

About 4.8 seconds later as I’m at full acceleration swimming as hard and fast as I can past Bikini Girl…crunch. Failboat – of the head crashing variety. While I was technically at fault, he takes a fair amount of fault for being dumb enough to start swimming head on into me instead of just waiting a few more seconds to finish my lap.

I was mostly fine post-collision, but he was doing his best to feign injury and moping about. I apologized a few dozen times, and I continued swimming while he continued whining. Both of us ended up with some small cuts and perhaps a bit of blood. But given the water clarity, a drop of blood was probably the least of our concerns. After a bit I noticed he had waved over the manager. The manager was a Northern Scandinavian dude who I had chatted with earlier and given me the discount.

The dude I had head butted was kinda complaining and whimpering a bit in Italian (I don’t speak Italian, but he had the whole whining act going on). To which the manager dude pretty much responded: “Oh…poor baby, do you want me to kiss it to make it better?…H.T.F.U.”. It was hilarious.

The manager then checked to see if i was OK before throwing Bikini Girl off into the floaty lane to do whatever. Order was restored to the universe, though whiney guy took the first opportunity to leave the lane when something else became available.

Eventually the lights went out. But it turns out this was sorta like Cosmic Bowling, as I and a few others just kept on swimming. Oh, and Italian Opera music was playing in the background. Pretty awesome. I was the last person to leave just before 11PM.

Above are the actual lighting conditions when I had finished (no lifeguards here). Kinda fun actually. Oh, and when I was done – I noticed the tiny pool had a bar as well. Awesome!


I would repeat the whole thing over again on Friday night, except this time with much more precision in the Tom-Tom navigation department…and no head butting. I was again the last person out of the water at exactly 11PM. Seconds later they put on the cover, which I thought was interesting for an indoor (and already overly hot) pool.

IMGP4168Couple of random observations about Rome swimmers after both nights that you can put in the ‘for what it’s worth’ category:

1) Nobody seemed to swim more than 50m continuous. Everyone always stopped at one end or the other. Perhaps sprinting is their thing.

2) They were unable to choose a place other than the middle of the lane end to stand at, thus making flip turns really difficult without drop-kicking them every time. I noted that virtually nobody did flip turns except the swim team guys.

3) The floaty people violated the ‘keep all body parts and objects inside the vehicle at all times’ law. The number of times I got bonked (or hit) with a floaty toy or their legs sticking out of their lane and into my lane was beyond count. Normally one would get upset, but that’s hard to do when it’s a 7-8 women in their mid-20’s in bathing suits, leading to…

4) Nobody in the pool was overweight. Nobody. Everyone was very slim and fit.

5) They love breaststroke…and the doggie paddle. Not so much freestyle.

Other Rome Stuffs:

I had Friday off work since we finished stuff for Rome on Thursday, so I wandered the city a bit (actually, for 8 hours nonstop, totaling over 10 miles of walking per Mr. Garmin). Here’s a few of the 1,000+ photos I took during the three days I was there, in no particular order:



Workers way up high on the upper rim of the Coliseum:

IMG_8212 And inside the Coliseum:


This one below is HILARIOUS. My co-worker took a taxi, and he was given this for a receipt. Note it says Taxi up in the top, but also check out the left hand side text. The best part will be when he has to hand in this receipt to the accounting folks.


On a similar front, as my co-worked noted: More Bars in More Places:
IMG_8191 Some storm clouds started to come in during late afternoon, which made for a cool dramatic pic taken in HDR:


Here’s some inside the Vatican:




IMG_8434 IMG_8403_4_5 And a few on top of the Vatican Basicala:

IMG_6692VaticanPano Finally, some wandering around town:


Below was cool, got some cycling jersey’s. But it was also a Massive Moment of Fail (MMOF). We had initially been planning to go to Naples for the day instead, but one of my co-workers (he with the car) decided against it. So we stayed in Rome. It was while at this sports shop we learned that the Giro Italia was actually finishing the stage in Naples that day, and the train ticket was only $10.50 (about 2 hours away). Massive bummer. Had we found out an hour earlier, we could have made the finish. Sad Panda. :(


The below however made me happy panda:

IMG_8580 IMG_8581 IMG_8583 IMG_6772

In the market, hopefully the dog isn’t on the scale next…


Speaking of food, you see these little snack trucks everywhere in Rome. It’s my belief they should also be along the side of long running and triathlon races.


With that, I’m outta Rome and onto my next destination – which involves one medium size plane, one big-ass plane, and a bunch of tiny little planes. Oh, and about 5,000 or so more miles. More details on that tomorrow.

(Slightly delayed posting by a few days…)


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  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Thanks for the report. Sounds like a grand time. I can’t wait to find out where you are next.

  3. I was hoping there would be pics of delicious pastries! The swimming pool pics and observations are fascinating…

  4. Navigating in foreign countries is always an adventure. Glad you found the pool – I love the swim guy’s response to the whining Italian, that’s just plain awesome.

    Pretty sure if I got that taxi receipt I would not hand it in for reimbursement, haha.

    That’s too bad you didn’t know about the Naples cycling but I would think the day wasn’t a complete fail with those pastries and sightseeing.

  5. are like a younger version and a much more fit version of rick steeves. amazing stuff… loved the clouds shot and i think the cover of the pool is like a giant condom or something… its to keep all the bacteria hot so that more wild things can grow….
    you better be making some money off this blog cus its some entertaining stuff….
    btw did you do as the romans and wear the banana hammock suit??

  6. OH MY GOD this post is hilarious. way to get it done in re: the pool. your days are so adventurful!!! and best of luck to your co-worker submitting that reimbursement…and i can’t imagine someplace where people aren’t overweight. it’s beyond me.

  7. I also rammed a guy head on head while sprinting, he had fins. Shit, that hurts. Enough to get me out for the day. Super post.

  8. Wonderful post, Ray. We look forward to making it down there in the next few years.

    BTW, which Canon are you using? Lovely images you’re making here.

  9. Awesome post, damn those cannolis look amazing.

    That scene at the pool looks a lot like some of the Fairfax County pools on Sunday mornings – only, without the in-shape people, the bar, the cool employees…

  10. I’ve done the pool headbutt manuever a few times. Usually it results in profanity from my mouth. In a foreign language, I’m not quite sure how that would work, but I’m glad to hear the lifeguard told him to HTFU.

    Those pictures of Rome are awesome. Having just seen Angels and Demons a few weeks ago, I keep looking at all those sculptures and looking for “clues”.

  11. Cica cica boom! Hilarious!!! That is terrible swim etiquette for sure. Looks like you saw some amazing things in Rome. Safe travels!

  12. Oh, this brings back such wonderful memories for me! Cica Cica Boom Lap Dances! That is great!

  13. leave the pork ass, take the cannoli!
    (apologies to Peter Clemenza). Now we’re talking my language! Chica chica boom boom!

  14. I totally admire you for you.. tenacity? There are probably about 5 places in your story when I would have given up and just gone home. I need to realize that just because something is slightly difficult, or frustrating, or even just different then what I’m used to, is no reason not to keep moving on. Hmmm

  15. next time come to me in Tivoli (30km from Rome) there are many beautiful places to enjoy!