Well, it’s taken what feels like a million years to write this, but here I am.
I’ve been in love with Rome (well, ancient Rome at least) ever since I can remember. I must have read hundreds of books on various aspects of it, and have spent much of my life dreaming of going. From the 19th – 23rd June, I was lucky enough to finally visit (thank you, grandparents!)
Seeing as we had to get up ridiculously early (I think it was about half 2) on the day we were travelling, I’d planned to go to bed super early, but my Grandma and I ended up staying up discussing various things about Rome (and feminism… but that’s a different matter!). The lack of sleep made me feel pretty sick on the flight (and there was nasty turbulence!), but luckily a lot of seats were free, and I got to lie down. None of that mattered when we landed though. It took us a while to wait for the Terravision into Rome, but we got there in the end! Our hotel was pretty near both Trajan’s Market and the Trevi Fountain, and we had to walk from the train station to there, which wasn’t fun whilst wearing jeans in the heat, let me tell you. But we got there eventually, and after a quick change, set off to go explore a little.
My first sight of Rome was the Trevi fountain, which we ended up walking past every day, and I could never get sick of it. For some reason, I’ve always imagined the Trevi to be in a huge, open square, but it’s beautiful nonetheless. It’s probably one of my favourite monuments in Rome – it’s just so breathtaking. And extremely crowded, unfortunately. Then, we walked on to the Pantheon. Before reaching it, we were stopped by a man in Roman centurion attire, who I posed stupidly with. We ate in a cafe in the square by the Pantheon, and I swear I had the world’s best bruschetta (and also some of my grandma’s tagliatelle with bolognese, which was amazing), and combined with the sun and view of the Pantheon, it was perfect.
I won’t lie, I am a major Dan Brown fan, so a lot of my fascination with the Pantheon came from Angels and Demons. I did do a kick-ass impression of an American lecturer whose video on the Pantheon we watched in class, though. The Pantheon (I’m hearing that in that lecturers voice as I write this now) is just as breathtaking as I expected to be, and gives you mega neck ache when you try to look up to the oculus. After looking around all the different statues and tombs, we sat down for a little. The tracks of different languages telling people to be quiet made me chuckle, and ended up making more noise than the people in the Pantheon (much like the policemen ssshing people in the Sistine chapel).
After this, we went and got icecream, walked round the back of the Pantheon, and looked at the elephant and obelisk statues before exploring the Santa Maria sopra Minerva (which is absolutely stunning. The blue ceiling in there is utterly gorgeous).
When you’re in Rome, you end up walking way more than you realise, and your feet begin to absolutely kill, so we headed back to the hotel for a little break. We then went to L’Archetto for food, and they honestly do my favourite spaghetti pomodoro. So lush.
This is probably where I should explain that I took stupid looking selfies with various sites… my first one was with the Trevi fountain at night.
My grandparents had prebooked tickets for the Vatican Museums, because they knew it’d be absolutely insane, and I’m so glad they did. We got up early to get a taxi there so that we wouldn’t die of exhaustion, and the woman driving us was so lovely. She told us how she’d worked in offices for about 20 years, and became a taxi driver a year ago (and learnt English so well in that year! Amazing). Driving past the Vatican, the queues went ALL the way around the walls, so it was great to just be able to go in straight away. Immediately, I went to look for the Augusto di Prima Porta, as it’s something I’d been studying in Classical Civilisation. I got to take a look at various statues of Julius, Gaius and Lucius Caesar on the way, but when I asked a security guard where the Prima Porta was, he told me it was closed for restoration. I was gutted, but my grandma spotted it through a window. Every statue in the room was covered up except for the Prima Porta, so I got a nice side view. Better than nothing!
Many of the things in the Vatican Museums are absolutely beautiful, but it’s impossible to see everything. I wish I could have seen The School of Athens painting, but maybe next time! The Sistine chapel is also incredibly beautiful, but you get major neck ache from trying to take all of the ceiling in. There are shops throughout the museums, and I was desperately trying to find a postcard with the Prima Porta on. We got to the last one, and I had given up, but my grandma prompted me to look at the postcards, and I found one! I bought 2, one to send to myself from the Vatican post office, and one to keep, just in case.
We then stopped to get the most gorgeous buffalo mozzarella and tomato pizza, bought a mini Prima Porta statue and headed to St. Peter’s. St. Peter’s is the kind of place that no matter how many photos or videos you see of it, what you imagine will never live up to the real thing. It is absolutely huge. My grandma had the idea of walking all the way up the dome, which seemed great, until I was walking up tiny spiral staircases (I’m terrified of them) and being squished in between loads of people in the heat. By the time we got back down, we were absolutely exhausted, and didn’t stay and look for long. Though we did go to an underground bit, and got to see (through glass) one of the settings in the Angels and Demons book. There were also tombs of various popes, which was an odd feeling.
There are plenty of street sellers in Rome, and one tried to sell me a bag which I already had (my grandma had brought it back a few years before), and then one noticed I was wearing one of the scarves he was selling, and gave me a nod. It was like a bro moment. Then we walked past Castel Sant’Angelo (another Angels and Demons site!) and on towards Piazza Navona (for yes, yet another Angels and Demons site). I had parma ham and melon before heading to look at the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (and taking selfies there).
And before we knew it, our feet were killing, so we went back to the hotel a little. My grandparents had planned without telling me to go walk through the area where the forums and Colosseum are at sunset, and this was my favourite part of the trip. I honestly had to stop myself from crying on multiple occasions, because these are things I’ve dreamed of seeing since I was a little girl. It all looked so gorgeous, and I couldn’t stop myself from running around and being like “HEY LOOK, THAT’S THE FORUM OF [X]!!!” We walked up to the Colosseum and Constantine’s arch, and it was wonderful. There was also a man sat on the street dressed as the Pope, reading a Bible and waving at people. My favourite thing was that he had a little sign in Italian which stated that he wasn’t the real Pope, and couldn’t give benedictions!
We then wandered a little, past the Typewriter and into a backstreet, and had a meal there. The waiter called me ‘bella’, and I swooned. A lot.
After taking a photo with a replica of the Prima Porta, we finally got our Roma Passes from a place near the Colosseum. We planned to visit the Palatine Hill, and then the Colosseum, but we did way more walking than we realised. I adored the Palatine and everything on it, but was specifically looking for Augustus’ house, which was, yep… closed for restoration that day. I wasn’t having much luck with Augustus, my favourite emperor.
Everything was so gorgeous though, and we then walked on through the forums (including the temples of Vesta, Jupiter, etc). It was everything I dreamed of.
After that, we sat down for a while outside the Capitoline museum, before looking at some insulae which my grandma had recognised from a Mary beard tv show. We then walked on to the Theatre of Marcellus, pas the ancient fish market, and stopped for a drink at ‘bar Toto’ in the Ghetto. Then it was shopping time, and I bought some shorts from Zara, and two beautiful dresses (and saw the most gorgeous one I’ve ever seen… unfortunately, it was 350 euro) and then looked for the cats in the ruins of the Largo Argentina (where Caesar was assassinated!), but they were all hiding from the sun.
That night, after doing a little more shopping (I bought a cute cloche hat), we ate at a restaurant named Al Presidente. All I can say is, if you visit Rome, DO NOT GO HERE! There was a friendly looking waiter at the front to attract customers, but once inside, service is ignorant and uncaring. The food came under prepared, and the staff were extremely rude. We were asked to move so that a group of twelve could sit down, which was no problem. They moved us, and offered to bring us champagne. Then, they were wandering around with our food for ages, as they didn’t know where we were anymore. Finally it came, and the portions were so small. Plus, over half of my grandma’s mussels were closed. When she complained, the waiter told her to prize them open in a rude manner, even though that’s not what you’re meant to do (and the couple next to us agreed). We finished eating, and we got the bill, which was overpriced for what we had (though thankfully, we weren’t entirely ripped off like some people seem to have been). My grandma refused to pay it all, so we were sent to the manager, who found it funny and gave us money back. When leaving, a waiter who was taking a photo for a family started shouting things like ‘go say hi to the queen’ in a really rude manner. Basically, don’t go there. After that minor stress, we went and sat at a bar/cafe we liked near the Trevi. Someone walked into the fountain, making the crowd surrounding it cheer. This was by far the best night, because we got served by THE CUTEST WAITER I HAVE EVER SEEN, and it was the world’s best milkshake, I swear.
This was our last full day. We started by walking to the Spanish steps and walking down them before doing a little bit of shopping. We passed a Venchi chocolate shop, and planned to get ice cream, but my grandad couldn’t be bothered to wait five minutes for the shop to open, which was pretty funny (luckily, I got some Venchi ice cream in the airport the next day). My feet were killing already, and we stopped at a little cafe to rest our feet and have a drink. Then we headed to Piazza del Popolo, and then towards the Ara Pacis. I’d studied this in Classical Civilisation, and had fallen in love with it, so I was really excited. What i didn’t realise, though, was that I was in for a bit of an Augustus feast! The Ara Pacis is by the aptly named Piazza Augusto Imperatore, and his mausoleum is there too! It’s so sad to see it become overgrown and littered now, though, and I wish I could have gone inside. By the Ara Pacis museum was an inscription of Augustus’ Res Gestae, and I got a bit overexcited. My grandparents waited outside whilst I looked at the Ara Pacis, and had a geek fest. In my head i was like ‘yes, this frieze represents this, blah blah blah’, and got a stranger to take my photo with it. (Thank you again, whoever you are!)
Finally, I’d seen something Augustus, and we walked then towards the Colosseum. We beat the crowds once again with our Roma pass (seriously, if you’re visiting in summer, invest in one). I loved it, and thankfully the sun was hidden by the clouds on this day, so it was a little less warm. I really want to be able to walk in the bottom part some day, and I was so tempted to just jump down and explore it. (I’d probably get arrested though, so maybe not).
That night, we went back to L’archetto and the bar with the cute waiter and chocolate milkshake (though the cute waiter was unforunately not woring that night). Once again, men selling weird light things and splatty things (yeah, no names for them) were lined the street, and it was amusing to watch them pester people.
Leaving Rome in a taxi the next day, we passed some utterly beautiful churches and the Circus Maximus, and I just had to stop myself from crying. It’s been a few weeks now, and I still feel like I’m in ‘post-Rome depression’. My only cure for this is to watch tv programmes dedicated to Rome (go check out Rome: A History of the Eternal City – episode three is on tonight), check all of the Rome tag on tumblr, and reading everything about it. I’m already planning to go back next year, and maybe I’ll become one of the men who sells splatty things so that I can stay there forever. Or maybe I’ll just go stay with the cats.
Until next time.