Friday, August 5, 2016

When in Rome!

Navigating the airport in Paris was terrible! We arrived with plenty of time to spare but the baggage check in line was incredibly long and didn’t seem to be moving. Once we got through that, security decided we must have something sharp and pointy in our bag so they stopped us to pull everything out of one of our carry on bags. I don’t blame them, it’s just for safety but it’s really frustrating and made us very late. We ran upstairs to find our gate but everything was written in French and none of the workers seemed very helpful when we asked them for help. ‘’Just check the board’’ they told us, pity it was in a foreign language.  After some very tense running around, we found our gate only to stand in line for 10 minutes!

It’s not often I say this but I was glad to eventually be sitting on the plane. We flew with EasyJet and I was surprised at how good they were. Being so busy meant that we were forgetting to fit in time to eat. We ate lunch on the plane as I knew there would be no time to eat when we arrived in Rome. It was a good flight, relaxing even.

We landed, found our bags and caught an Uber to our accommodation. Our host was excellent, wine and chocolate on arrived for us and he was a wealth of knowledge on his home town. He gave us a map, showed us where to walk, where to eat and which places to avoid. Also his home was beautiful. Like staying in a hotel in the heart of Rome.

Once our host left we quickly changed (it was cool in Paris but we arrived to 34 degree heat in Rome) and literally ran through the streets of Rome to meet our guide for a Twilight Tour of Rome. We made it just in time and spent the rest of the afternoon being lead through the beautiful streets of Rome, learning so much about the history. We saw the Patheon, Trivie Fountain, Spanish Steps and so much more. We learnt about why many of the fountains are running freely into the street. Rome has a huge, fresh spring for the city with over 1000 litres of water per person, per day. There is no need for the taps to be turned off. People just drink from them in the streets and the water is icy cold and tastes amazing. We also stopped for the best gelato I’ve ever tasted. Our tour guided suggested the flavour I had as she said ‘’You will never remember Nutella after you eat that’’. Big call but she was right, delicious!!

Our tour guide

The best gelato!!!

Walking the streets of Rome

The Twilight tour was the best way to see the city and navigate yourself but by the time we finished, we were both tired and ready for dinner. Our tour guided recommended a little restaurant not far away and it had amazing pasta. After dinner we slowly walked home and collapsed on the couch. You know you’re very tired when you wake up an hour later and have to drag yourself up the steps to bed.

Walking home

Ancient ruins near our apartment

Street to our apartment

Such tired feet!!

Thursday we were up the earliest out of all our travelling day. 5:30am my alarm went off to get ready. We were out the door at 6:30am and jumped on a bus to Vatican City. We met our tour guide for a guided tour of the Vatican museum along with breakfast in the Vatican courtyard. Breakfast was amazing and I was so excited to at long last have fresh milk in my tea. All of the food we ate was produced by the Vatican either within its gates or at a small farm not far away which is also considered part of their state.

Breakfast was in the Pinecone Courtyard

The beginning of our tour was strange because there were not many other people around. It was so quiet and our guide told us this is what it’s like when the Pope walks through some mornings. The Vatican museum is a beautiful place filled with history artwork in every place you look. I simply couldn’t take enough photos to justify it, though I tried. We were also taken in to the Sistine chapel where you are not allowed to take photos or talk. The Sistine chapel is huge and the artworks are beautiful. No photo online would do it justice, you just have to be there in person to see it.

Our tour guide

My only disappointment of the whole tour was that we weren’t allowed inside St Peter’s Basilica due to the Pope talking to his people. We decided to walk down to St Peter’s square to actually see the Pope in person. I’m sure he was very interesting and all but it was very hot and very crowed so we only stayed for a short time before leaving to find lunch. Pizza and gelato was on the menu today at a café not far from St Peter’s square. When we finished lunch we caught a bus home and decided a quick 1 hour rest was needed before heading off on our Colosseum tour.
The Pope giving a speech

We met our tour guide in the stinking heat right outside the Colosseum and thankfully had the common sense to buy a bottle of water each.  Our tour took 3 and half hours and we visited the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and walked through the Colosseum, including visiting the underground level, arena floor and third tier. Our tour guide was a retired archaeologist and had so much knowledge to share with us. It was a little bit sad to learn that so much was taken from the area by the Catholic church to build the Vatican and a lot of history lost or destroyed because of this. I was also surprised to learn that even though most of the ruins are dull, stone coloured structures, the buildings way back then would have actually been quite colourful and bright. I commented to Jeff that the Colosseum reminded me of the ancient version of The Hunger Games… may the odds ever be in your favour!

Our tour guide showing us a piece of coloured marble still in place.

My feet have never been so sore before.

Australian Geographic re-created a lift they thought might have been underground at the Colosseum

Too many steps

The highest point that you can go at the Colosseum

By the time our tour was over, we were both VERY ready for a rest and some dinner. With our aching feet, we slowly walked the streets of Rome until we found a nice little café. Laree and Jason later commented to us that they had eaten at that exact place too. It was my favourite pasta yet and I also had my first Italian coffee, which was really good (excellent if it had real milk). Our host had suggested we try a traditional Italian dessert, cannoli so we visited the shop he suggested and took some home for dessert. It was amazing and I will definitely be trying to track some down in Australia. Basically it’s a hard, sweet roll which they put fresh, sweet ricotta into and dip each end in sweets of your choice. We had chocolate chips and a variety of nuts. We also bought some other dessert type pastries and found ourselves VERY full by the end.

Walking the streets of Rome

After work, everyone sits around the fountains drinking and chatting.

Fresh slowing water

Such pretty streets and buildings

Our delicious dessert

One thing I really wanted to do before we left Rome was see the Colosseum at night. Even though we were really tired, I managed to convince Jeff that we should take a night time walk. I’m so glad we did because Rome really shines at night. All the ancient ruins are well lit and it’s just a beautiful place to walk around and look at the street art. We saw the Colosseum in all its glory at night and we also watched a slideshow which they play over the ancient buildings to demonstrate what they could have looked like when they were first built. It was a really clever idea and again I was surprise by the vibrant colours of the stone and marble.

The next morning I decided that I just had to see St Peter’s Basilica before we flew out. We were up early again at 6am and booked an Uber to take us to St Peter’s. There was no way either of us could manage the walk after yesterday, in fact I think I’d hurt my foot from it. We arrived at St Peter’s early and were some of the first people in for the day. I am so glad we went to the extra trouble to see it because it is amazing. The building alone is incredibly vast, marble everywhere with stunning artworks. We didn’t have time for an audio guide but I enjoyed walking around the building and taking in how incredible it is. It’s also amazing to think that scientists genuinely believe St Peter is really buried there.

St Peters

Next up we had a very scary taxi ride back to our accommodation (check out the picture) and wandered around for a little bit until we found a café for breakfast. I’m pretty sure it was a café that catered to Americans because everything was enormous. I could have swum in my coffee but on the plus side it was real milk (a whole litre I think) and tasted really good.



My enormous coffee

I didn't even drink half of it.

We finished off our time in Rome by catching a fancy Uber car back to the airport, ready for our flight to Santorini. I was really impressed by Rome; it was exactly how I’d imagined it. Cobblestone roads, narrow streets, window shutters and flower boxes. A really beautiful place with so much ancient history. In our short time there we didn’t even touch the surface but I also felt like I’d learnt so much. For now Rome, farewell.

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