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Kate's European Adventures.

When in Rome...

ITALY | Wednesday, 12 August 2009 | Views [1006]

For me, that meant wearing what my mum would call my Roman sandals (purchased in Florence, mind you) because there was no dressing up in toga’s or gladiator get up for me! A little change of pace on our trip today meant that we got into Rome right in the heat of the day, and set up camp in the shade a little after lunch. This was our first encounter with Pepe – the campsite cleaning man.

Does anybody else think it’s odd that a campsite has their cleaner go through the bathrooms about 3 in the arvo? Hmm...at this point not really, but keep posted for the Pepe shenanigans that followed. This was also where a bunch of us got to meet our Nona! The campsite in Rome was the best equipped one we stayed at on the trip, pool to while away the heat in, a funky little bar/shop complete with a mechanical bucking bull, and Nona in the laundry (or launderia). Not quite halfway through the trip meant that clothes were starting to get a little stinky and underwear was running low. Off to the launderia we trudge (up this massive hill and a mammoth amount of steps – welcome to Rome really) and encounter this older Italian lady who we paid €4 or so to wash, dry and fold (!!) our washing for us, ready to be collected the following afternoon. The funny thing is that it was cheaper than doing it yourself with the available washers and dryers. Perfect really!

Freshening ourselves up for a late afternoon walk around Rome, we encountered Pepe in the shower block again. He seemed to have been ‘cleaning’ the girls side of the loos for a while now (hours really) and he had this really bad habit of talking to you as you were putting makeup on/brushing hair/teeth or generally beautifying yourself. Not to mention how he saw Katarina hand washing her delicates (yes her underwear) and decided to show her how to do it properly?! Little creepy, but hey, we’re in a foreign country so you go with the flow.

Rome on a summer’s evening was gorgeous. The sun was still shining and there were people everywhere just milling about. We got to check out the Trevi fountain (where we did the obligatory throwing coins in over our shoulders – which also saw my picture produce an extra 3 chins for me, so you may never get to see the evidence), ran up the Spanish steps (well half of them before we all got puffed and walked the rest) and found out why they are actually called the Spanish steps (named from the Spanish embassy that was housed at the top and next to them). We headed to the Pantheon and got to wander around there for a bit. The whole time I was in awe with this city. Everywhere you turn there are monuments and buildings that are hundreds of years older than my country is, and being a history teacher walking around this city was a little dream like. We headed to the Piazza di Fontana, where Bernini’s Four Fountains is, to grab ourselves some dinner. The girls (Brooke, Katarina, Christine) and I headed to a little restaurant at the top of the Piazza that looked out on everything happening and sat outside enjoying more Italian food. We even got to see a Bride and Groom pulling up to have their pictures taken at the Piazza. Summertime in Rome certainly has a special buzz about it. We bussed back to camp and grabbed ourselves some very cheap bottles of Peroni to drink around the campsite and be entertained by the few who braved the bucking bull.

Day ten of our trip saw one of the most anticipated sightseeing days.  Quick showers trying to dodge Pepe again, and then off for our mega day. Rome is the pinnacle of tourists in Europe and we were all going to do our best impersonation today. We joined in on the real Roman experience by catching public transport into Rome and came out of the underground station faced with the Colosseum. Tour leader Jonny, said that he loves watching people’s faces when they walk out of that particular station and realise what’s in front of them. We had an Imperial walking tour of the Forum and Colosseum – which I would say you could give or take. I think the fact that we were, yet again, a little sleep deprived, it was hot and the woman wasn’t terrible interesting meant that we were struggling a little. Having a guide in the Forum was certainly worth it though – otherwise I think the place would just look like ruins without any real purpose. Our guide was able to point out where Cesar stood and where the Emperors gave speeches from, where the philosophers of the day would gather and where the churches were. Wandering around the Colossuem was pretty impressive, just as you would expect from it really. It would have been an incredible atmosphere to have the whole place full of cheering Romans.

After a quick call home to mum and dad (‘just sitting in the shadows of the Colosseum dad’), we crossed the city, and onwards to Vatican City. Considering that the Vatican City is the smallest country in the world, we still managed to get lost in there and quickly realised that if you were sticking with one friend that was a good thing; trying to stick with a group of 20 was a nightmare. After wandering up, down, around and through corridors lined with artwork we found the Sistine Chapel. I don’t know what I really expected but perhaps it was the entrance (through a little door, not much grandeur there) or the fact that there were guards shushing everyone who looked like they were going to talk, but it was sort of not what I’d thought it would be. Don’t get me wrong, it was amazing and amazing there was no scaffolding or repairs being conducted, but not the experience I had thought.  St Peter’s Basilica on the other hand was incredible. After getting lost (again) trying to find it, walking through the doors and into the cathedral was the experience I had expected from the Vatican City. However, I didn’t get to meet the Pope, so I had to make do with a fridge magnet calendar of him and not the sexy Italian pin up Priests calendar.

We really didn’t have that much time to kill before we had to head back to camp, so a wander up to Castel Sant’Angelo pretty much filled in the time. Then our real Roman experience kicked in – the train ride back to camp in peak hour. Needless to say I never want to get that close to a sweaty, fat Italian man again!

We became real campers that night, drinking while sitting around on our inadequate camping stools (with me being the first to break one – I really didn’t think I’d eaten that much food in Florence – and copping a fair amount of stick for it too), but having a blast and enjoying the Roman summer evening.

Tags: rome, summer



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