I’m about to reveal the most expensive photos I’ve ever taken.
No, I did not hire a photographer for these gems of photos you’re about to see.
Let me set the scene:
A balmy May afternoon in Rome – our first day in Italy, my second day in Europe. We just toured the Colosseum, both a bit high from the excitement of our tour. We circled the Colosseum, as we gushed over experiencing this ancient wonder where Gladiators fought during the Roman Empire. Gladiators. Speaking of Gladiators, two ever-so-charming men garbed in Gladiator costumes caught our attention and invited us over.
They stationed themselves in the back of the Colosseum, far from the crowds. They staked out this particular location, perfectly framing the amphitheater.
The dialogue went something like a greeting, them inquiring about our Colosseum experience, and us complimenting their skirts and swords.
It was good fun.
“Come take a photo with us!” they offered enthusiastically.
And this is where the silent “cha-ching!” cash register sound effects begin.
Then Tammy had her round of photos. Then we had photos taken together.
It was fun! It was all sorts of kitschy. It was a tourist trap. It was not worth the money.
We thanked our Gladiator friends for the photos, but they weren’t in it for the friendship. Nope. They were in it for the cash. They demanded money for the photos we took.
What?!?! There was no notice about payment. No sign expressing a charge per camera click. No price tag on their gladiator skirt. No sign that read, “Will Pose For $.” There wasn’t even a verbal exchange that warned, “We’d be glad to take photos with you… for a fee.”
WE WERE SCAMMED. We were scammed by men wearing skirts.
They demanded 10 Euro. EACH.
There was no way.
We’re broke backpackers! We have a budget that needs to last the trip!
We tried talking our way out of it. Really, we should have just walked away. But the stress of being in a foreign country, the lack of knowledge about how the country operates, and the men’s resolute persistence that we needed to compensate them for their “services” all resulted in our white flags of surrender.
We paid them.
Not the full amount they demanded, but yes, we paid costumed men for terrible photos that WE didn’t even ask for. They lured us over and made US feel like the bad guys for not wanting to pay them.
The photos have sat latent on my memory card for longer than I’m willing to admit. For the price, they now deserve to be seen.
Call me naive, but I had no notion of their intentions.
I know better now.
This was Italy, not Disney World. In Disney World you take photos with evil villains for free. In Italy you take photos with scammy gladiators for a cost.
So let this be a warning to all naive travelers going abroad for the first time: men don’t dress in skirts for nothing!
So thanks for your support & patience, dear readers. Writing this has felt like a therapy session for this embarrassing facepalm story of money, photography, swindling, and stupidity.
And because I paid for these darn photos, here is another for your (or my) enjoyment: