#TBT: Camping with Occupy Rome

Now that I’m in Park City waiting for snow and on momentary pause from globetrotting, I find myself sifting through old photos from pre-blog adventures. I haven’t done a #throw-back-Thursday post for a while, but this definitely falls into the category. So here’s an old travel story from when my dear friend Hannah and I crossed countries to meet up in the Eternal City in the final months of 2011 and found ourselves sleeping in a park, in the middle of the city, with Occupy Rome.


Of course, it all began with a couch request via Couchsurfing…

Hannah Wong wrote:

Hello there! I’m traveling to Rome this weekend to meet up with my crazy roommate from college. We’ve been apart for far too long and are ready for our next adventure together: exploring Rome! Here’s a little story about ourselves:

Once upon a time a 5’1” girl (me) from southern California met another 5’1” Swedish girl living in Minnesota on a mountaintop in Los Angeles. From there, we began our exploration of the vast world starting with the wild west coast of the US to a backpacking trip through Europe and N Africa. After getting lost in grand cities and wandering through Berber villages we decided it was time to go back and finish our studies. However, the call to travel and explore the largest university– the world, was too strong. Now, here we are back in Europe and hoping to reconnect and continue our dreams.

So, this is where you come in– we are messaging you because you seem like a genuinely nice guy, have some of the same interests and we are interested in hearing what you think of Rome or Italy or anything in general! We would like to stay from 16th until the 18th. However, neither one us has anything for camping out though we both would really love to… So, if you are willing to share your tent and have ideas on how to still stay with us, let us know…

Hope to hear from you soon…


 The response:

Hey hey! It would be so wonderful if you come to the camp, you have many stories to tell about your travellings. Ok the thing is that now there is a free tent quite big and there is actually a mexican girl from couchsurfing there, so you can share it if you want. I give you the direction of the camp: vialle delle terme di caracalla, just at the final, next to piazza di porta capena and via di valle delle carmene, just like in this map ok?=

How could we possibly say ‘no’ to that???

occupy rome campsite

The campsite was a colorful mix of characters and anywhere you turned someone was speaking a different language. Some of them had been there for weeks or months and others had just showed up or were passing through for a bit. Everyone was welcome and that’s what made the camp this strange, beautiful, and evolving thing.

camping, occupy romeoccupy rome, outdoor libraryoccupy rome

Hannah and I were there for a very brief period of time, but it was wonderful looking into this tiny community. You might mistake the camp for a bunch of homeless people or dreadlocked, barefooted hippies if you just walked by. Yes, the place wasn’t pristine and they were certainly roughing it on many accounts. But in another way they were all very organized. They had chores and were always working on new projects. An outdoor kitchen fed everyone free of charge, a library and sitting room were available for study, and people even did their best to sweep the earth tidily away.

occupy rome, sweeping occupy rome, kitchenoccupy rome

Oh, we got up to adventures with these people that we’d never have been able to do on our own. It wasn’t just the campsite. They were connected to the counterculture and activist communities of Rome and we ruled the city by night. I don’t think either Hannah or I will every forget the occupied cinema. Scheduled for demolition, it had been taken over by occupiers and was being converted into a multi-use space, a sort of after school boys and girls club where different groups could meet. One of the nights we went to a party there… it was probably one of the most epic nights of dancing we’d ever had. I wish you could see the open space and high ceiling, curtains and flashing lights whirling through my head when I close my eyes and think back on the day.

Don’t get the wrong idea, though. The people here were serious about the politics and anti-capitalism, about making a better and fairer and less wasteful world. But there’s no denying they were equally serious about testing the limits… hence the fire breathing.

fire breathing,fire throwing

Another night or maybe the same, it all blurs together, like some dream, and I see images of us wandering through the night in the yellow glow of the street lamps or waiting underground for the train to come. We went to some party at an abandoned old mansion, for night two of the most epic Rome dance party. No one had the money for the cover so they came up with some ridiculous plan to say it was my and Hannah’s birthdays and wanted us to ask for donations or a break. We did get in, of course. It was a night of video screens, lasers, graffiti, and grand old architecture.

dog tricks, jumping dog

This was not your typical Roman holiday, but when you’re constantly looking for adventure and travel beyond your regular few weeks vacation, the hotel rooms, and the site-seeing (which I love too). When travel becomes your lifestyle, these type of strange and wonderful adventures are really the ones that give you the greatest memories.

Viva la Roma!!! 

Can’t wait till I see you again.


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