Day 128, 129, 130, 131 & 132
Rome, Zaccy G and Aids last capital city was a place we were aching to explore. Hearing so much about it from many different people we had a long list of plans before we even got there. However Rome would have other ideas for us. It would turn out to be the city where almost everything we planned would fall through. From tours to exploring to even just getting places, very little of what we tried to do actually ended up happening.
Whilst the majority of the 5 days was, let me say, an experience, the first night couldn't have been better. After getting a shuttle straight to our door (cheaper than the train :D) we arrived at our hostel only to be upgraded from a dorm to a private. We had done well with our hostel choice. Not only that but they gave us drinks whilst waiting for paper work and our room had a Tv. Things were looking good.
We headed out for dinner to an authentic Italian restaurant finding one just across the road. There I had probably the best pasta I have eaten in my life. I don't know if I was just because I was in Italy or the tomatoes or something else but I have never had such fantastic pasta. The food, as always, put us in a fantastic mood so much so that rather than crashing as we usually do on the first night, we headed out. Into town we went with no plans whatsoever. We had heard of things like the Trevi fountains and Spanish stairs but we really had no idea where we were going. We walked and walked and walked passing the Quatro Fontana (four fountains) before reaching the Spanish Steps. There we just kicked back and watched the teens getting drunk, the oldies taking photos and Indians selling crap. It was particularly fun when the police arrived and, just like in Paris they all bolted away. From there we headed to the Trevi fountain and just like the 100s of other people there at 11pm we threw some of our money away. There we grabbed some Gelato, took some photos and just watched everybody walk past. From there we headed home wrapping up an awesome night. We did so much since we had gotten there I feel like we had completed the Italian experience in a night.
Whilst we did manage to eventually get to most sights in Rome it was quite a challenge. The trains broke down several times due to rain, preventing us from getting anywhere quickly. We never managed to go inside the colosseum as on both days that we tried to go it was closed due to flooding. The exact time we decided to go see the pantheon was 5 minutes after a 2 hour congregation only prayer service had began. We went to see the massive Shul there only to get there to find it closed to tourists as it happened to be the last day of Succot. Even tours backfired on us. Not once, but twice the guides for the city and the Vatican tour didn't show up. Eventually we did find a free walked tour around the city however the guide was so terrible we left 10 minutes in. To sum up we were not having the best luck.
We ended up going to most of the sights ourselves including the Trevi fountain and Spanish steps numerous times. We checked out many Piazzas, fountains, the tomb of the unknown soldier as well as the colosseum, pantheon and Shul but only from the outside. We did get to do two tours however which completely made up for the lack of the others.
The first was of the Vatican which was absolutely excellent. We got there latish in the day to miss the crowds and walked around outside a bit ourselves. We found a tour guide at the door of the museum and simply asked to join her group. She was more than happy to oblige. She took us through the museum and Sistine chapel explaining some of the artworks along the way. Thank god she pointed out the important ones otherwise we probably would have walked straight passed them. As you aren't meant to talk in the Sistine chapel, before we walked in she explained to us every artwork we would see. It was soooo helpful. Rather than just looking at a whole bunch of paintings we could actually understand what they were, who painted them and the little stories behind them. After the tour ended with Wayne's advice we climbed St Peters Basilica which was quite the adventure. 520 steps up into the sky we squeezed and squashed around corners and small corridors until we got to the top. It was cool not only to see the view of Rome once we made it but as we climbed we also saw the inside of the Basilica from way up high.
Our second tour was of the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum which was just as good as the Vatican. Despite us not actually going into the Colosseum which we were all devastated about, our tour guide was so good and knew his stuff so well that we still had a great time. He told us all the history about ancient Rome, how and why the collusseum was built and showed us all the spots in which ruins of the ancient city still exist. It was a long tour but it was good. We saw so much and learnt quite a bit about Rome, one of the best tours I have been on so far.
It goes without saying that the food in Rome was on another level. The paninis, pizzas, pastas, gelato, bruschetta, and everything else we ate was absolutely fantastic. The only food we didn't enjoy in Rome was a 10 euro meal deal at a fancy restaurant ruined by the fact that the chicken actually smelt like fart. We couldnt understand it. The meat itself was good, however after a while the smell proved to much for us and we couldn't actually finish our meal. One dinner did stand out from the rest but it was not because of the food (which was of course fantastic). The company that joined us (and paid for us :D) made the meal as Wazzy and his parents treated us to a shmancy dinner. It was awesome to see them making us feel as if we were back home for a night. We swapped stories and had lots of laughs, we couldn't have been happier to see some familiar faces.
With our days so packed in Rome by the time we got back at night no one really felt like going out. There was one exception when we forced ourselves out to go on the world famous Spanish steps pub crawl. This pub crawl definately lived up to reputation for us with an all you can eat and drink first hour. We got free shots, played beer pong, watched skulling competitions and had a fantastic time. It was a great night out in Rome and would do it again in a second.
That pretty much sums up Rome for us. It was one of the busiest cities yet we struggled to do anything. Whilst we had so much trouble we still absolutely lives it. The vibe of the city was always pumping no matter where you were and I will definately be back to do all I havent very soon. Winks and Jay your tips were fantastic and we did everything you said except watch them clean out the Trevi fountains. If you have any more for Cinque Terre, Venice or Milan send them my way please.
To Florence we go...