Rome: Please try again and again… and again!
Ah! Rome. What a city, what a shitty weather!
When we first got there, we took another train to a city south of Rome, called Ferentino, and there our host picked us up. Lorenzo was really easy to talk to and also training to run a Marathon, and then a 100 km race. Later that night, after settling down, we went to get some Calzones, something resembling a folded Pizza. It was delicious but huge and we made many meals out of it.
Piazza Repubblica and adjacent church
Saturday morning we got to Rome at around 11.30 and it was raining. We made our way to Piazza della Republica and then to a church right beside it which didn’t look like much from the outside (it is located inside an old thermal bath building I think) but was really nice inside.
It was also a small science museum. We spent a few minutes searching for the stars on the ground that could be seen only from a certain side depending on lighting.
When we got out of the church we tried heading for the colosseum but it was raining like crazy. We did get there but we were soaked and could barely even look at the building. After turning down the 50th umbrella seller (because we had ponchos) we were so dejected of the day that we decided on going to the cinema to see Harry Potter.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1
When we finally found the cinema that played it in English (with italian subtitles) it stopped raining. But there were already people in line waiting for the cinema to open so we stayed there and queued too. And it was definitely worth it because the movie was great but now I can’t wait for the next one. I’ll tell everything I thought of it to anyone that asks but I’m trying to keep from spoiling all the others.
Meeting a couchsurfing friend
After the movie we went to Piazza del Popolo to wait for Davide, a couchsurfer I met while he was visiting Quebec. We tried taking pictures but without a tripod by night it’s almost impossible. So we just sat and chatted. With Davide we went to the Fontana de Trevi and ate in a restaurant some very good pasta and wine. He also showed us a very good ice cream place but we were too stuffed to have some then so we tried to remember its location for the next day.
By the time we were done with that, our last train to Ferentino was gone and Davide had to drive us back to our hosts. On our way to his car he showed us Piazza di Spagna, Piazza Navona and Castel Sant’ Angelo. We then had our first good look at italian driving (from others) and we thought it was rather crazy. We also got our first look at european highways and then we we got lost trying to find our host’s flat and blessed 3G network and GPS.
The next morning was rather painful for we went to sleep very late and we had to get up pretty early to get to Rome in a timely manner. We missed the train we wanted to take though and couldn’t figure out the timetable for the bus to get to the train station so we missed the next bus also. This discouraged us and we walked back to the flat and stayed in all day. We did well because that day was also rainy and even stormy. We watched some glee episodes and also The Walking Dead which is a zombie series that started a few weeks ago. At night our host was exhausted from his race in the rain that day so he cooked us some pasta and we called it a day.
Monday morning we woke up pretty early and headed for Rome with our bags. We said goodbye to Lorenzo and stored our luggage at the station for the day. Then we tried heading for the Colosseum but it turns out I can’t read maps and we got lost. We ended up at Quirinale which was also a pretty place and asked the police which was abundant around there where we were.
From then my sister took charge of the map and she led us safely to Fiori Imperiali, an impressive archaeological site. It was pretty impressive to look at old constructions and think they have been built thousands of years ago. Much more impressive than waling through streets lined with hundreds of years old buildings.
Walking around the ruins we came to Piazza Venezia, adorned with a majestic building. We went up the stairs to get a nice view. There were a bunch of sculptures, marble and bronze, guards and frescoes. It was really grand.
We then headed once more to the Colosseum and finally got to see it properly, in all it’s glory. We didn’t go inside but walked around and even touched to stones. It is really huge but there is not much description I can make of it. Pictures are worth a thousand words.
Our next stop was Circo Massimo, suggested to us by our host. It was half under construction but we walked slowly along its side and picked up rocks for my sister’s pleasure.
From there we made our way to the Pantheon (which was also half under restoration). There was no sun so the place was pretty dark and the occulus in the roof was not so impressive. We still saw Rafael’s tomb and some very nice sculptures and paintings. Not quite as breathtaking as expected though.
San Crispino Gelatto
Our rumbling stomachs made us head for the Fontana de Trevi. Not because we wanted to eat at the same restaurant as the other night but because we wanted to find the ice cream parlor and taste San Crispino’s gelatto. The square was filled with tourists and we walked quickly seeing how we enjoyed the sight with Davide on our second night.
After looking in every street near the fountain we finally found the gelatto shop and enjoyed a well deserved treat. We both had rum chocolate ice cream and I had Banana, while my sister got grapefruit. Delicious. We recommend.
The time at which we were supposed to meet up with our new host was fast approaching so our last stop was Piazza Navona, a very long piazza with 3 fountains. We learned later from our host that one of the statues in the middle fountain hides his eyes from the sight of the church behind it because it was designed by one of Bernini’s competitors and on the church is a statue of the virgin Mary that looks down on the statue disappointed at it’s reaction.
Meeting our new host
After some walk and a long bus ride with our backpacks we finally met with our host Alberto and we went to take a drink with one of his friends. We then headed back to his place, a big house on the outskirts of Rome where he lives with his parents and brother as well as a cute dog named Daisy and 4 cats which are all very loving. Experiencing the crazy driving there with a Roman was pretty scary but we survived!
On tuesday morning we woke up at the ungodly hour of 5 am to get a crazily crowded bus (the third one that passed because the others were too full and we were still lacking air) and two crazily crowded metro (where I thought my back would break and all the stuff in my bag also) to get to the Vatican Museum. We reached it at 9.15 and we didn’t really wait that long to get inside.
There we spent about 4 to 5 hours looking at the hoards of art, statues, antiquities, and so on. We first skipped all the rooms to go look at the Sistine Chapel and were a bit underwhelmed by the size of it though the paintings are very beautiful. We just thought it would be bigger. Then we backtracked and walked through the whole museum. The statues were the most impressing as well as the part on ancient Egypt with a very well conserved mummy.
Halfway through the Museum I noticed my camera didn’t have much battery left and I had forgotten to charge it. It was dead by the end of our visit and I was so depressed at not being able to take pictures on such a beautiful day that we just went back to our hosts and got stuck in the traffic jam for a long time. Once we arrived we took it slow and I bonded with the dog and cat in front of the fireplace. In italian homes, they make a fire in the kitchen and cook over it a well as spend time there as a living room because it is warmer. Quite interesting.
Crazy night out
At 10.30 we left for town and met up with Francesco, one of Alberto’s friend as well as Leanne and Helena two friends of that friend. We went to Trastevere. We first stopped at a pizzeria to grab a bite and a sweet and then we headed to a special place where they serve chocolate shots which consist of a glass made of chocolate, some alcohol, chocolate liquor and cream on top. You have to eat it from the bottom and drop it all at once in your mouth and it tastes delicious! Then we headed to a pub where we saw they had Kriek and having loved the sweet taste in Belgium I recommended it to the girls. We got ourselves a big bottle and when we tasted it we all had a shock. It tasted like pickles, vinegar or the likes and it was really gross. At first we thought it had turned but it turns out that’s the “original” kriek and after a big discussion with the barmaid we had to keep our Kriek. It was a lot of fun but nevermore will I drink Cantillon. After the bar closed we went to a pastry shop and got croissants and other sweets and with all that sugar we drove back home and went to sleep past 3 am.
Santa Maria Maggiore
The next morning was horrible and we could not wake up. At least the bus wasn’t as crowded but this being our last day in Rome we had to see so much stuff that we couldn’t waste time. Our first stop was Santa Maria Maggiore which is a church near the Termini but that is technically part of the Vatican. It was really beautiful and we saw a big pyramid with an eye in some painting and it reminded us of the Da Vinci code which we thought was funny.
San Giovanni in Laterano
We then took the metro to head south and visited another church, San Giovanni in Laterano, which was the initial seat of the papacy. That church was mighty impressive with a huge white hall lined with statues and a lot of paintings. It was very impressive.
Baths of Caracalla
From there we walked to the Baths of Caracalla and around them since we didn’t want to pay to visit, our budget having been dilapidated by excessive outings and restaurants, transportation, expensive entry costs and so on. It looked once more pretty impressive as far as ruins go.
Under the rain we made our way to a hill near Circo Massimo were we asked our way and finally found the keyhole through which to look to see St Peter’s Basilica framed by an arch of trees. It was really breathtaking as a view and very unexpected. The very friendly military guys posted nearby helped us find our way to our next stop, the Pyramid.
Yes there is a pyramid in Rome and it is rather impressive and out of the ordinary, as well as rather ugly. It’s not something you would expect from that city but it seems there is everything in Rome!
San Pietro square
We took the metro next and headed to the Vatican once more to see the Piazza San Pietro and take pictures this time! The place was half under restoration which is really a depressing thing about monuments. What we really like though is that when you stand on a certain spot, the columns on the side align and seem to be one.
We then entered the Basilica and saw Michelangelo’s Pieta as well as a bunch of other artworks and statues. The Basilica is gigantic. It was really impressive but the lack of lighting makes it hard to take good pictures, especially of the ceilings. We thought it funny that they offer confessionals in almost every language.
Although the sun as setting pretty fast we took the lift to go up the dome and see a panorama of Rome. The steps after the lift brought you to the inside of the Dome first, close to the paintings and then up a winding, slanted stair around the Dome and to it’s top. After catching our breath we tried taking pictures but most are blurry because of the lack of light and tripod.
Castel Sant’ Angelo
By the time we climbed down the sun was set and our feet were killing us. We still went to Castel Sant’ Angelo to visit it because it was our last chance and we didn’t want to miss it. The inside was pretty old and some of the rooms were very impressive, with small corridors and frescoes on every wall. We weren’t allowed to take pictures of the most interesting stuff though. The Terrace at the top was very nice and the angel statue was right beside us almost. It was a nice evening sight.
Crazy dinner night
After the visit we called our host and it was decided that we would meet with Francesco and Leanne in Trastevere and go for a drink while waiting for him to join us. After one beer we were all very happy and crazy and we then headed to a restaurant near Piazza Venezia were we had a great meal of pasta with wine and entrées and desert. We tasted some tripes from Francesco’s dish (which weren’t that bad but gross looking) and some of every dish on the table which was a great way to try everything. At the end of the dinner we drove back in a very very very crazy way to Francesco’s car to take our bags and there we split to go back to sleep while the others kept going. We had to catch our train the next day and we didn’t want to repeat the horrible morning we’d had.
We left Rome with some sadness at leaving some good friends but with the feeling that we’d been in Rome for a month. When you change cities every 3 days, spending 6 nights in one is very disorienting. We wish we’d have had less rain but in all we had a great time. Let’s just hope we can rest now and take it slower!