The $10 Purchase That Can Save Your Italy Trip

Rome at nightRome looks peaceful at night… but looks can be deceiving.

First, let’s make one thing clear: I am a greedy sleeper.

Ask anyone who’s known me for a while, and they’ll tell you. Anything less than 8 hours of sleep and I become a grouch. That’s if I’m just sitting at home. If I actually have to do something—like move, think, write, or, worst of all, travel—then it’s simply impossible.

As well as annoying everyone around me, my underslept self is also one that could be in the most beautiful city in the world (like, say, Rome), and not even notice the little things that I moved here for, like the friendly barista at my local cafe wishing me “Buon giorno” (what do you mean, it’s a good morning) or the beautiful light on the Colosseum (ugh, what a *$&@!!!-ing tourist trap).

But here’s the thing. I may need more sleep than some most. But in not managing very well on a lack of sleep, I don’t think I’m that different from anyone else.

If you’re coming to Rome, I think that’s particularly important to keep in mind. After all, traveling can be stressful. Traveling in a city even more so. And traveling in a foreign city, one where you have to figure out everything from the local public transport system to how to order the kind of coffee you want? Still worse.

And for many people, the one thing that can dull your decisionmaking abilities, as well as your enjoyment of what’s going on around you, is not feeling physically up to snuff.

Making matters worse, it can be a little trickier to get a good night’s sleep in Rome than back home.

For one, if you’re not a city-dweller already, you might not be used to having such close neighbors. Even in that private-seeming apartment or B&B, you’ll be living practically on top of other Romans (above, the common sight of hanging laundry): I’ve written before about how common it is to hear everything from a babies’ cries to domestic spats while, say, cooking dinner.Romans tend to live on top of each other...

That’s exacerbated by the fact that a lot of the walls in Italian buildings just don’t seem to be as thick and soundproof as those back home. Many apartment buildings and hotels in Rome were previously structures that belonged to one family; when they were later turned into housing for more people, walls were thrown up to create separate living spaces. Needless to say, these often can be paper-thin.

Aside from the noise from inside the building, you have what’s going on outside to contend with. Rome is (duh) a (wonderful, fascinating, beautiful, chaotic) city. With lots of traffic. And people.

And forget noise-blocking double-glazed windows. Hardly any apartments, B&Bs or moderately-priced hotels have them. In fact, I’ve done a lot of writing about hotels lately—with another article on them upcoming—and I’ve been consistently surprised by just how few of even Rome’s luxury hotels have invested in double-glazed windows.

(Tip: If your hotel is on a main thoroughfare, like Corso Vittorio Emanuele, Via del Corso or Via Nazionale, or if it’s near an area known for late-night festivities, like Campo dei Fiori or Via San Giovanni in Laterano, ask about the windows. If they’re not double-glazed, ask for a room that doesn’t face the street. And invest in the $10 trip-saver that I’m getting to).

Typical apartments in RomeSo. All of this is to say: You could do as I’ve done many nights before, being awoken by anything from the person who lives upstairs who finds it necessary to walk in high heels across the wood floor at 3am, to the construction work that simply must start in the building’s courtyard at 7am, to the party on the street outside that continues to sunrise. Again, while these are the pitfalls of staying in an apartment or B&B, they’re more than possible at hotels, too—the last occurrence happened to me while staying at a nice business hotel in Naples two weeks ago.

Or… you could buy earplugs.

Foam ones work. My favorites, though, are wax earplugs, which (even though the idea is sound of gross) are great for molding right into your ear, and tend to fall out less. You can get them at any pharmacy in Italy (ask for “tappi per le orecchie”). Or, if you want to arrive prepared and have them for your flight, just in case you’re across the aisle from 3 screaming children under the age of 5 (…also something that happened to me two weeks ago), buy them before you go; you can even get these wax earplugs straight from Amazon.

You might not need them. But if you’re woken in the middle of the night by a sound that has no sign of stopping, you’ll kick yourself for not having thought of it earlier.

Finally <startrant/>: Please keep all of this in mind when you, yourself, are enjoying a late night in Rome. As annoying as the mysterious high-heeled person upstairs from me is, I’m also plagued, at least once a week, by groups of loud Americans and Brits staying in one of the building’s many makeshift B&Bs who think it’s appropriate to leave the windows open, play music, and have shouting conversations until the wee hours of the morning. On weekdays. Please, remember that not everyone else in Rome is on vacation <endrant>.

Happy sleeping… and happy traveling!

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