BootsnAll Travel Network

When In Rome

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Hey peeps! Still here in Cape Town as I fill you in on Roma and the rest of Italia. Just BTW, if any of you are thinking of coming to South Africa in winter (their winter) here’s a piece of advice: bring a jacket. Got here on Wednesday afternoon, weather was okay, but I was exhausted from 24 hours of travel. Thursday it pissed rain, yesterday was thankfully gorgeous, and today, tomorrow and Monday it’s gale force winds and rain. Sigh. At least the hostel is nice, cause I sure am spending a lot of time in it. More about Africa later, though. Now I’ll cast my mind back to Rome and what already seems like forever ago.

Met Karen and Mike at the baggage claim in Rome, with my bag and those of most of my flight companions’ mysteriously missing. Picture an irate Italian man, gesticulating forcefully with his hands – now picture about 7 of them. Well, our luggage turned up on a different baggage carousel, and we were off on the Leonardo Express into Rome. Now, when you buy a ticket on an Italian train, you have to validate it as you board. Oops. We ran to catch the train and probably passed two dozen validation machines, without even SEEING them. Five minutes later:

Karen: Hey, why do our tickets say (in plain English) “This ticket must be validated. You will be beheaded if you don’t stamp this ticket.”
Me: How could we have missed the machines and the writing on the ticket?
Mike: We are dumb.

Seriously though, it made for a nail-biter of a ride into town, because we thought for sure the ticket man would come and fine us for being ignorant Americans. We made it though (Take that, Italy!) and decided we would save our 11 Euro tickets for the return ride. Karma, however, bit us all in the ass, because all three of us managed to lose the tickets over the course of the week. We, as Mike said, are dumb. So, into Rome, found our hostel without much difficulty. It was very clean and in a good location near the Colosseum: It was also very, very loud. Teenagers. We did go out for an amazing meal that night at a restaurant coincidentally very near our hostel, thanks to my super-cool friend Nicolle, who showed me a Food and Wine before I left with lots of great Roman restaurants. The first one we ate at, and returned to two nights later (La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali), was actually full of Americans who had read the article and taken the tip. Well done, Food and Wine. Luckily Karen and Mike were into the food thing, cause we took the magazine’s suggestions for the next three nights.

So our first day in Rome was a bit overwhelming – strike that, they all were. We literally didn’t know where to look, there was so much to see; everything seemed old and important. Everything is old and important. We went first to the Colosseum. Got there nice and early before the crowds and the heat set in. Another life-time must-see sight = checked off! Wandered through the Forum with no guidebook, so everything pretty much just looked like ruins, but we returned a few days later and made up for it. After the Colosseum and the Forums, we went to the Trevi Fountain, which was cool, but packed to the gills with tourists of course. In fact, I’ve never seen more tourists and tour groups in my life than I did in Rome; I don’t think there were any actual Italians there. After tossing the requisite Euro into the Trevi Fountain to ensure our return to Rome, it was off to the Spanish Steps. Guess what, everyone? They’re just steps – but it was very hot, which may help explain why I was so underwhelmed. Here we found the rest of the tourists who weren’t at the Trevi Fountain. Then, it was on to the Pantheon via a gelato stop – Pistachio, Chocolate and Tiramisu – then to the Piazza Navonna to see some famous fountains. Unfortunately, the most famous one was covered in scaffolding, but we hung for a little while anyway, looking at all the artists’ prints in the square. Somebody was also filming a model draped across a car for an ad or something. At least we think she was a model: vacant stare + stupid outfit + anorexia = model. We considered getting a cappuccino, but at 5.50 Euro, we decided to carry on to Campo dei Fiori, a nearby square and the site of a small farmer’s market early in the mornings. Had some coffee here (1.80 – yay!). Believe it or not, we carried on – over the Tiber River to the Trastavere neighborhood to check out a church, then back over to see the Circus Maximus (think “Ben Hur”), which is now just a field, THEN to a church called St. Peter In Chains to check out Michelangelo’s Moses. Man, I’m exhausted just writing it. After a great meal at another Food and Wine recommendation, it was time to collapse into bed.

Read on for Day 2…

I got up early and walked to the Vatican from our hotel, about a 45-minute walk. I wanted to see some of the city before it woke up, but it was too late at 6:45. Another day of what Mike began to refer to as The Bataan Death March, as we toured St. Peter’s (without realizing you could go up in the dome) and then went to the Vatican Museums, where we stood in line with a nun who blatantly butted in front of like 10 people – go figure. Saw the Pieta in St. Peter’s – gorgeous, and then of course the Sistine Chapel. It was packed, packed, packed, but still, when I went in there I have to say I got goosebumps, being in the presence of such genius and such beauty. The crowds were getting pretty unbearable, so Karen and I lobbied hard to leave, and we somehow missed the picture galleries, much to all of our chagrin.

Back outside and on to a castle, where Mike got the audio tour and Karen and I got a beer. Then, on to another Piazza, which I could carry on naming, to see a church with some Carravaggios inside. Hung out in the Campo dei Fiori again that night, shooting nearby pigeons with a mini water gun that Karen had conveniently packed in her purse. Just the necessities, she said. Had some Spaghetti Carbonara and collapsed in a heap at the hostel.

Day 3: Another grueling day, which began with all of us crabby, as the hostel had magically increased its price from 20 to 33 Euro (that’s $45 for a dorm bed, folks – each) for this night, which we hadn’t booked in advance. A nice young man from Utah who spoke Spanish (which was the only language the d-bag at the front desk could speak) convinced him that was insane and we got the beds for 23 Euro. Still annoyed though. Shook it off and went back to St. Peter’s to climb the dome, which was awesome; the wall was curved like in Willy Wonka. After that, back to the Forums, armed with a guidebook, where Karen and I mostly tried to find shade while Mike edified his mind. After a quick lunchie, we made the trek via subway and bus out to some catacombs, just in time for the last tour of the day. Met a nice couple from San Francisco whose 6-year-old daughter took a shine to me – I’m a kid whisperer. As she was staring at me on the bus, I decided to strike up a little convo:

Me: What’s your name?
Her: Emma.
Me: How old are you?
Emma: I’m six.
Me: Oh, that’s nice.
Emma: I have to tell you something. (Motions for me to come closer)
Me: And what’s that?
Emma: I saw the David. (In hushed tones.)

Very cute. She walked in front of me throughout the tour and looked behind every few paces to make sure I was still there. Dinner that night at our favorite place, the one from the night of our arrival. The next morning, a train and then subway to Sorrento.


One response to “When In Rome”

  1. Megan B says:

    Bowe and I totally did the same thing with our train tix in Italy when we were on our honeymoon! We were so overwhelmed by the whole train system when we arrived because we had to switch trains 3 times (!) between the airport and Siena that we didn’t catch the whole validation thing either. You can be thrown in jail for not validating your tickets! We obsessed about getting caught the whole ride (over 2 hours!) and then saved the unvalidated tix for our return trip to the airport. Score 🙂 Which brings to mind the train we took on our return trip to the airport: it was one of those long distance sleepers with different compartments for 10 passengers with assigned seats. Bowe and I didn’t figure out until almost an hour into the trip that we actually had assigned seats on our tickets and we didn’t have to stand in everyone’s way in the aisle of our car with two pieces of luggage. I don’t even know if this makes sense cause I’ve just had half a bottle of wine so I’d better stop writing things now. Bye!

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