While Rome definitely does not seem chaotic to anyone who has ever lived in the third world, it does have a completely different feel from very orderly (and slightly stuffy) Vienna. There is just a whole lot more going on outdoors. I liked it.
To start with, there are street vendors everywhere. Some run food carts, but mostly they just seems to hang around all selling whatever fell off the truck that week. When we were there, they were selling incredibly irritating gel toys that squeal like a stuck pig when thrown on the sidewalk. And some kind of laser helicopter pen things. And umbrellas, which makes a bit more sense. In theory, these guys are Roma, but they sure looked Tamil to me. They were pretty good at taking “no” for an answer, anyway.
There are also Africans, who are all selling the exact same carved wooden bowls and masks, or knock-off Gucci purses. The whole time I was there, I did not see even one of these guys making a successful sale (other than the laser helicopter pen things, which were a hit with kids, of course). So, I have no idea how they make a living.
We saw a few beggars, which were pretty much like beggars everywhere, except thankfully a lot less pushy than in some third world countries. (No icky “give me money or I’ll touch you” routines.) I did think it was interesting that each church had just one beggar at the door. There seems to be a system at work: maybe Roman Catholic churches sell begging concessions along with bobble-head Popes and saintly baseball cards.
And Italian guys dress up as gladiators and pose for photos. Some of them are really into it, with “Roman” tattoos and quality gladiator wear. And other street performers who make themselves up as living statues of various kinds. And a few musicians. And Tigger (?)
There are some established street markets. At Piazza Navona you can buy prints and watercolors. There are small food markets at various points throughout the city. We also saw piazzas with booths for antiques and books, but they were closed for Easter. Next time, maybe.