Rome, the centre of one of the greatest empires the world has ever seen and the centre of the Catholic Church. I knew there would be lots to see and I couldn’t wait – October seems to be a good time of year to get away from London, just as everything is starting to get a little bleak.
Me and my friend Tom only booked it a few weeks ago and thought a Tuesday – Friday break would be perfect, and now in hindsight I think it was. We nicely timed all the main tourist things we were keen to do, whilst still having plenty of time to wander around without feeling like we were on a strict itinerary to get everything done.
The train from the airport to Rome was easy enough too, half an hour with no stops, and we also managed to find where we were staying with no drama. A nice little B & B handily near to the central Termini station. We dumped our suitcases and went straight out to find the Cappuchin Monk Crypt we had read about on the way there, a nice little introduction to the vast religious history of the city but pretty creepy, as the crypt is decorated with the bones of deceased Friars.
We then had a wander to see if we could find the famous Trevi Fountain. This was our first introduction into Roman roads. Firstly, the most tricky roads to navigate around I’ve ever come across in a city, none of them tend to be in straight lines – and secondly, the traffic. The zebra crossings don’t work like they do at home, Roman traffic doesn’t stop unless you make them ie. walking out into the road is the only way you’ll get across.
As we wandered we eventually found the Trevi Fountain, which unfortunately was undergoing works so had no water in it and we couldn’t get near enough to throw a penny in! But nonetheless it was still very impressive.
Next, we stopped for a Latte and went to the Pantheon, a huge pagan temple donated to the Christian church and now a Catholic place of worship – the first of the many Catholic Churches we would visit during our stay.
Our first night dinner we didn’t even give a second thought than to order pizza! I ordered a neopolitan (mozzarella cheese, tomatoes and anchovies) and we had our first taste of Italian wine. The pizza was, of course, the best I have ever had and I knew I needed to make the most of the amazing food here and try as many different Italian dishes during our stay – Pizza, check.
The next day we knew that we wanted to visit the Colosseum. We had purposely avoided going anywhere near it the day before so not to ruin it before we could explore it properly. I always knew it would be huge (and it was), but one thing I didn’t expect was the location. In my head I thought it would be in a vast field but really, it’s almost in the middle of a roundabout! Traffic swirling around on all sides, I couldn’t even imagine passing that everyday on my commute. We decided, after some obligatory photos, to get in the queue, which was a lot shorter that we had expected. The ticket we bought enabled us access to the Colosseum, Roman Fora and Palatine Hill, so we had our day of sightseeing sorted! All are a must see, but the Colosseum was the highlight, huge, vast, albeit a grim history but none the less impressive.
After about 3 hours walking around the Roman ruins, we needed to refuel – coffee and carbs, which the Italians do best. I had an espresso and a lasagne, which was again, the best I’ve ever had!
To finish off the day, we thought we would buy a ticket for an open top bus. The quintessential tourist thing to do, but we knew it would come in handy, especially as were were planning on visiting the Vatican the next day which was on the opposite side of the city to our hotel. So we grabbed a 24 hour pass and hopped on near the Colosseum and took in the city as we drove around, hopping off near our hotel at the Santa Maria Maggiore church, a Vatican church and one built on the site at which a 3rd century Pope whitnessed a ‘miracle’ midsummer snowfall – whether that’s true or not, it certainly was beautiful, grand and we spent an unexpected half an hour wandering around and looking at the many chapels inside before we decided to head back for a rest before dinner.
We headed to the San Lorenzo district of Rome for dinner, which the closest thing I can describe it was is their version of East London – bearded bartenders and graffiti of the legal kind. We had dinner (Calzone – check!) and then stopped at lots of bars for a drink on our way back to the hotel.
End of day two and we were doing pretty well as the touristy things go! And as for food, I was beginning to panic that I’d run out of time to try everything I wanted to – day three and four needed to include spaghetti!
To be continued…..