Spending our Honeymoon in Rome in the romance of the most ruinous ruins of the ‘Eternal City’ in the republic of Rome. With traditional British gusto, we’ve managed to curse at an early flight but get 3 whole days when it’s uncomfortably hot.
Catching the Terravision bus from Fiumicino airport to the termini station is considerably cheaper than hailing a taxi and being taken for a ride in a foreign city. I will assume the bus service is called Terravision due to the look of horror that follows on the faces of British travellers as their orderly queues are disintegrated as the bus pulls up and you are expected to rugby scrum your baggage into the hold yourself and then jostle and shove your way onto the bus.
Do not expect any assistance or crowd control. How on earth these guys in their toga and Centurion outfits managed to conquer the world I do not know – they can’t even queue for a bus. On reaching the termini station, it’s a frantic few minutes as you attempt to rescue your luggage while others are trying to load theirs at the same time – it doesn’t work. I’m pretty sure that UK Police would have deployed horses at this point.
Wheeling our luggage behind us and clutching a map in hand, we’ve decided to walk to the hotel quoting the mantra of the guidebook that everywhere is walkable in Rome. The hotel is supposed to be a stones throw away from the Trevi Fountain, I just hope the travel agent didn’t mean a stones throw away by a ballista. Google says it’s walkable in 20 minutes. That’s 20 minutes if you follow Google maps and don’t take a slight unplanned detour past the official residence of the President of the Italian republic at Quirinal Palace. There we were thinking the armed guards and reporters assembled outside were there to greet us.
It would also have been a little quicker If we didn’t have to keep consulting the map with Sam asking “is that the Trevi Fountain?” every two seconds when stumbling past some sort of old marble monument. Eventually we arrived at our hotel being lucky enough to have a private veranda but unfortunately no ballista was provided to throw stones at the Trevi Fountain which really did end up being only a stones throw away.
Off we trudge to the much talked about Trevi Fountain. You know that scene in the film La Dolce Vita when Anita Ekberg decides to frolic around the Trevi Fountain? Well, it looks nothing like that. It’s currently hidden behind tons of scaffolding and what looks like 2 inch thick bulletproof plexiglass (maybe some was left over when they made the Popemobile). There isn’t even any water.
The whole thing is undergoing restoration although you are able to examine the scaffolding close up by walking across the gangway. We didn’t even toss a coin in, throwing a coin in is meant to guarantee a return to the ‘Eternal City.’ To be honest, it’s a little underwhelming so we have an ice cream that immediately drips and stains my pristine white shirt. I feel right at home.
It is easy to wander around Rome, just keep putting one foot in front of the other and before long you’ll happen upon something old or ruinous. Your feet will soon become ruined at the amount of walking. Not everything old is in ruins though, the Pantheon is an impressive structure especially when you consider its 2000 years old. While Britons were mucking about with wattle and daub, the Romans built this. Not sure we’ll be saying that about a Barratt house in 20 years time.
One thing you can’t help but notice is that these Romans like to pose, everywhere you turn there is a column or statue, even that bloke from Gladiator managed to get himself a column with intricate carvings depicting his military victories in northern Europe. It appears ‘selfies’ have been happening for a long time.
Looks like the god squad didn’t spare much when it came to painting their houses. Stumble into one of the many churches to see amazing baroque and renaissance art that adorn the walls and ceilings. I’m thinking of doing something similar to the bathroom ceiling. Popping along to the Vatican to be greeted by the sight of billions of tourists snaking along in a massive giant queue on St.Peter’s Square queuing to get in the Basilica. The size of this queue is definitely unholy and crucifying slow in the baking heat. Unfortunately the secrets of the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel would have to wait for another trip.
Instead, we opted for the mausoleum of Hadrian, the Papal stronghold of Castel Sant’Angelo which give great views of Rome. It’s also the place where Tosca from Puccini’s opera got a great view of Rome before she flung herself off, probably at the thought of joining the queue for St Peters.
Staying on the theme of queue’s and death, we popped along to the Spanish Steps. It’s busy during the daytime with every nationality resting their weary travel-worn feet plonking their bum down on the steps to eat their gelato, have a rest and soak up the sun. Maybe they’re just queuing to get on these steps for later.
If we thought the Spanish Steps was busy by day, that’s nothing compared to nighttime where there isn’t a spare seat to be found and hordes of nationalistic young Europeans are seemingly intent on out-singing each other. Quiet it is not. The romantic poet John Keats came to Rome to help recover his health and ended up in a house at the bottom of the Spanish Steps. It comes as no surprise to find that he ended up dying here at the age of 25, no doubt pissed off with all that singing.
At least food in Italy is a simple delight, apparently you can’t eat badly in Rome and we can attest to that, but Sam was disappointed that food we ordered wasn’t riddled with garlic. Simple and tasty dishes, the hardest thing to complain about is how to pronounce bruschetta, it really doesn’t matter if you say it with a ‘k’ or with a ‘sh’ the waiter always understands you. Very cosmopolitan like most other homogenized western capital cities.
The only off-putting thing is when you order seafood pasta and your dish ends up staring at you throughout the meal. Sat down at one restaurant to find it was occupied almost exclusively by honeymooners. If you fancy a little more romance, pop along to the Pantheon to witness a waiter singing opera style as the restaurants put up their prices while you are distracted. When in Rome I guess.
Of course, no visit to Rome is complete without a trip to the ancient part of Rome including the Forum and the Colosseum. The forum and the surrounding area can best be described as a load of old republican rubble and ruins. Mentally project every film you’ve seen of ancient Rome with senators squabbling and you’ll soon get the idea. Now these Romans love a bit of violence, so we queue to the Colosseum, the Flavian Amphitheatre, to get slaughtered in the sweltering sun.
Totally unprepared for the hustle of water sellers, ticket jumpers and others dressed up as the Roman Legion. They were lucky they didn’t get their Gladius snatched and shoved where the sun doesn’t shine. Once inside, we managed to get on a tour of the place, the types of gladiators and informed of how criminals were dispatched to the lions. I’d do the same thing for the ticket jumpers personally.
You might fancy your chances as a gladiator, nice fancy outfits and always paired against another gladiator that offset strengths and weaknesses. These Romans used to insist on a sense fair play, if you can call invading your country and selling you as a slave as fair play.
It’s definitely worth a trip and the main sites are walkable although your feet may not love you for it after 3 days though.