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Adventures of a short vet

Romans, Ruins and Gelatos

ITALY | Wednesday, 13 April 2011 | Views [369]

I awoke to cloudless blue skies with the promise of an excellent day’s walking. Unfortunately I had to leave Riomaggiore and spend 5 hours on the train to Rome, where I was meeting a couple of Uni mates for four days of culture, pizza and gelatos. I discovered that was “culture week” in Rome, and as such all the museums were free. Sweet! More money for gelatos. I used the remainder of the afternoon to walk down to the Colosseum and explore the Forum. Which I could happily return to with my friends since it was also, yes the backpacker’s favorite word, FREE.

I met Ben & Hannah just after 8am for an early morning visit to the Colosseum before all the hordes arrived. Unfortunately a couple of wrong turns meant that we took a little longer than expected to find it. I may also have jinxed us by saying, “It’s a great big bloody stadium, how could you miss it?” Apparently quite easily. After tramping up and down the stairs pretending to be gladiators, we then visited the Forum and Palatine Hill. Not so difficult to imagine the senators crowding around back in Roman times, especially since I was conveniently reading a “History of Ancient Greece & Rome” as well as a Patterson (James, not to be confused with the guy who plays a vampire in a series of crap movies) novel about Cicero!

Our first fail having breakfast in a little café and not double checking the prices, as the difference between takeaway food and having it at the café can sometimes be almost double! First and last time I will ever pay 5 euro for a coffee!

We decided to have our picnic at the Trevi fountain, which turned out to be our second fail as it was absolutely PACKED. We could barely get near the fountain let alone sit down. Talk about pickpocket central. We stood around for a bit people-watching and trying to spot pickpockets, before hunger pangs drove us on a massive wander through the city fruitlessly looking for a bit of a park (or at least a bench)that wasn't taken up by alcoholics or homeless people where we could sit and have lunch. Finally, with Ben suffering from some serious “hanger” (hunger anger) we ended up squatting at Palazzo Chigi near some government buildings , but only got half way through our lunch before being told to move on by a guard with a big gun. Apparently you can’t sit for more than 5 minutes there or you look like terrorists plotting world domination.

So, grumpily with only half our lunch eaten, we headed for the Pantheon which was suitably impressive. Though the hole in the roof would be a nightmare for the leaky buildings commission. After stopping at the Piazzo Navona for the first of many gelatos, we headed back to their hotel room to enjoy a few cheap supermarket beers while playing cards, before heading out to a little recommended pizza place for dinner. Although the pizzas took over an hour to reach us they were worth the wait. Delicious!

We started out on my birthday bright and early (well, early anyway, I wasn’t feeling too bright without my coffee) in order to arrive at the Vatican just after 7am to miss the ridiculous crowds. Tip of the day: Book your tickets online as you can then enter at 8am, rather than wait for the office to open at 9am. This meant that we were in the Sistine Chapel with only around 15 other people, and the peace and quiet made it an even more amazing experience. We spent the morning wandering through the Rafael Rooms and checking out just some of the vast amounts of artwork stashed away in the Vatican museums. When we left around 11am the line for entry wound around three sections of the wall and seemed to go on for miles. I still can’t fathom why anyone would stand in a line like that when it is so easy to book ahead. The line to head up the dome of St Peter’s was even longer so we decided to leave it for another day (thus setting up our most epic fail of all…wait and see).

Instead we headed to the Castel Angelo where, once we’d managed to fight our way through the crowds of annoying teenagers, we were treated to some great views of the city and the church. And there was a lovely little park for us to eat our lunch in, to the melodious tunes of a local busker who thankfully was NOT playing a recorder.

After lunch we accidentally climbed the massive hill up to Monument Garibaldi (now we were surrounded by parks) where we were treated to yet another amazing view of the city…and the less amazing view of a couple making out in their car.

On the way back we stopped in the Trastavere neighbourhood, which is supposed to be the “happening place” of shopping etc, but seemed pretty run down and quiet to us. The Santa Maria in Trastavere church was pretty impressive though and worth the visit. Walking back through the Trevi fountain area that evening, we tried to have dinner at another recommended little restaurant. I say “tried” because they want to put the three of us at a massive eight-person table (despite there being at least 4 free smaller tables and a no reservation policy) which we were then expected to share with other people. Since I was already sharing a bedroom and bathroom in the hostels, I drew the line at my birthday dinner, and we left for another, more modern restaurant down the road, where we spent a little too much on mojitos and an amazing lasagna dinner (but hey, you only have your birthday once a year, and how many times in Rome?). We were tempted to go back to the first restaurant just to show them our bill and what they had lost!

Tags: colosseum, lasagne, rome, trevi fountain, vatican

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