The Italian capital: city of love and city of great food. I’d been to Rome before when I was younger, but was very keen go again… definitely because it is such a beautiful city, and nothing to do with overriding those old photos with nicer, newer ones…
Obviously, the first thing Katherine and I did when we arrived in Rome was to find a way to leave the airport. There were two main options; taxi and train. We decided to go for a taxi as our hostel was a little further out.
So we went up to the desk, where we waited… and waited. It was one of those joint minibus scenarios and gradually people started to join us. The taxi stand man kept coming up to us to tell us to wait there and it definitely wouldn’t be much longer, however it had already been a very long time and we, along with a British couple that we got talking to, were getting annoyed. Just when we all planned to leave (they managed it!), a lady came over and introduced herself as our driver. Relief that she was finally here was tinged with annoyance that we just missed our chance to leave. That relief became complete annoyance soon however, as she grabbed my suitcase and started wheeling it through the terminal. Obviously I had no choice but to follow, and we were committed to the taxi.
And what a ride it was. She was cutting people up, changing lanes erratically, spending more time beeping than not beeping her horn, and all whilst on the phone. It was a huge relief to get to the hotel, although she could’ve dropped us anywhere and I would have been more than happy to get out.
We were staying in the Mosaic Hostel, a short walk from Termini (the main bus station), and an easy walk into the centre (although parts of this walk did feel dodgy, particularly at night, when it was unlit and there was a distinct lack of people). It was pretty basic, with just a bed and a desk and a TV, however we did have our own bathroom, which was very nice, despite being a separate room down the corridor. We got breakfast here most mornings, however it was again very basic, and the range was quite small.
After a quick freshen up, we were out of there to start rome-ing around. Starting the classic way, we did a hop-on, hop off bus tour to get to know the city. First stop was the Trevi Fountain, followed by the Spanish Steps.
Now, this is not the place for you if you don’t like getting offered one euro water every third step. (Even though Rome has a free supply of drinking water in the streets).
One of these guys had some roses that he was trying to flog on the steps. We said no, thinking that was that, but then he offered to take our picture. Usually, we would obviously just ignore him until he moved on, but filled with a mixture of first day naivety thinking he was just being kind, and not believing our luck (usually I have to harass people for pics), we accepted. He took quite a few and was directing us to stand at different angles, and life was good. But then he expected some sort of payment (of course), so I gave him €2. Not content with that, he continued to push his luck and harass us until I gave him more.
We may have wasted money almost straight away, but on the bright-side, we did get a nice picture!
We were up early and ready to explore on Saturday. First stop was the Roman Forum. Walking around these ruins, it was weird to think that this is exactly where people used to live their lives, in fact a lot of houses and artefacts were still remarkably in tact, and I wondered what they would think if they knew people were still walking around ruins of their houses and looking at their belongings now!
After we were finished here, which actually takes a good few hours to explore, we headed over to the main attraction: the Colosseum. There was quite a queue for this one, but it is definitely worth the wait! Again, it’s incredible once you’re walking around to think of all the history behind this place!
In the afternoon, we found ourselves with a little bit of free time, and so ventured towards Aventine Hill, just slightly off the beaten track, near the old chariot racing stadium, the Circus Maximus. It was very hot and so climbing a hill was a bit of a struggle, however it was worth it to find the hidden gem that is the Aventine Keyhole. Peeking through this nondescript door, you’ll find a picture perfect view, with the Dome of St Peter’s in the centre, framed by green trees.
On Sunday we headed to the Vatican to see St Peter’s Basilica firsthand. After clearing security, we stood outside marvelling at the building, before deciding to go and see if the inside was just as grand (spoiler alert: it was).
Obviously you have to dress conservatively and respectfully when visiting a religious building, so I’m not sure why I was surprised when they wouldn’t let me in in shorts and a thin strap top (I thought I might be able to tie my cardigan round my waist and use my hair to cover my shoulders HAHA). Luckily, there was a shady lady with a strong business acumen and an eye for stupid tourists not far away, who slid up to us and discretely asked ‘you need scarf?’
Yes actually, I did happen to need a scarf.
I subtly bought one for €5 for my waist, swiftly followed by hunting her down to buy another. I may have been €10 down, but at least I was now a style icon.
When we eventually got inside, it didn’t disappoint…
We went for lunch at a nearby restaurant. Everything around the Vatican is extortionately priced so I would recommend filling up before hand and heading back into Rome for food later on. Alternatively, don’t drink for three days beforehand so you really get your monies worth… look at the size of this Fanta!
Although it was a lot of money, it was a great location.
We slowly headed back to the hostel, making a stop at Piazza Navona, before getting ready and heading out to see the Colosseum at night.
IT WAS STUNNING.
Against the midnight blue backdrop it is lit up and is just picturesque. There was something both magical and mesmerising about it, and I could’ve stayed forever (if we didn’t want to get back on the tube at a reasonable hour before it got too dodgy).
Monday was our last day and we decided to make an early start in order to get to some of the sights we visited on the first day, but this time with minimal tourists, for ultimate picture opportunities (obvs). We arrived at the Trevi Fountain, and found it pretty void of crowds: absolute result right?! Wrong. It was empty because it was closed for cleaning. Men with giant hoovers were in it sucking up all the coins people had thrown in, aswell as hosing down the stone.
We waited for a while but soon realised that it wasn’t going to end soon. Sacrificing our place in the front row, we headed back to the Spanish Steps for a photo opportunity, before coming back to the Fountain.
Once satisfied with our updated photos, we headed off to do a bit of shopping, saw the Pantheon, and then decided to get on the tube and go somewhere new. And what a mistake that was. There was definitely a reason we hadn’t visited this area previously. Just one stop on the tube past the centre, and we were in the centre of a very questionable neighbourhood. There were gangs of men huddled around, and when we walked through the park we didn’t feel at all comfortable. We got straight back on the tube to safety. Rome is such a walkable city, which is good because although the tubes serve most major places, (such as the stop right outside the Colosseum, or by the Spanish Steps), and it is a very easy system to use, with just three lines, it got very crowded and uncomfortable at times, and I didn’t always feel completely safe.
Shortly after, it was time to head to the airport, marking the end of a fantastic weekend in Rome.
I would strongly recommend Rome as a destination: there is so much to do that you don’t find yourself running out of activities, the food is incredible, and the way they blend the Roman ruins in with modern life means a stunning view is never far away! There really is no place like Rome!