Travel: Rome is a wonder to be seen
After a few days negotiating myself around the canals of Venice and the super-charged Biennale, I journeyed south on a fast train to Rome. The gentle lapping of water and gondolier singers were replaced with smog, hectic Vespa traffic and leathery middle-aged women that were frozen in time from when I had seen similar beings in my 2002 Italian Language for Beginners book. It was amazing, I loved it the capital city from the second I jumped off the platform and a gypsy woman/angel of transport accosted me/helped me buy my connecting ticket.
I wandered the streets for hours on my first night without checking in with the real world (Facebook) once. I spent time with the masses at the Trevi Fountain, just one of the structures that would make my eyes bulge in the forthcoming few days.
After a stressful nights sleep at The Yellow Hotel (I’m no good at sleeping at hostels, like most people; and I was so darn excited to go explore the city I’d fallen for the night before). I hit the Roman Forum at 8am after a quick croissant and coffee (for two euros!) and a burly man dressed as an ancient Roman guard offered to take me on my own private tour of Rome on the back of his Vespa, which I understood as a sexy Italian euphemism. I passed on the offer and made my way through unbelievably incredible ruins.
Throughout Rome there are structures that are incomprehensibly old and the collection of relics at the Roman Forum are unmissable on any trip there. You have to go. If you do, go early, there are no queues and you can wander freely without the annoyance of tour guides disturbing the peacefulness of the site. Having the ticket in hand also gives you access to nearby Palatine Hill and Colosseum sites. Doing the Roman Forum first gives you the golden pass to glide to the front of the 2 hour+ queues that trail around the Colosseum at all hours of the day. A great sense of smug satisfaction ensues when that happens.
Having learnt about the Colosseum (pictured, left) throughout my school years, I thought I would be easily able to imagine lions and tigers brutally battling ill-fated peasants on show for onlookers in the stands who were drunk with merriment at the spectacle. But, it was hard to focus on my fantasy when all I wanted to do was take a few selfies to show the fam back home like the rest of the thousands that lined the perimeter of the structure seemed to be doing. Perhaps an audio guide would have assisted in my imagining my fantasies at the Colosseum, but Italy was proving to be quite expensive and I was on a pretty strict budget and had allocated funds of eating rather than educating. D’oh. Nevertheless, the Colosseum was mind-blowing in its size and the fact that it remained at all after all of the years and at the hands of a destructive Mussolini was incredible.
The nearby Altare della Patria, also known as National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II, is a massive commanding presence of white marble. The monument was built in honour of the first king of a united Italy and featured a particularly victorious sculpture that captured my eye (pictured above). A good people-watching vantage spot sits between this monument and the edge of the Roman Fourm, I spent a great amount of time there gazing out over these incredible ancient wonders of the city.
I was subjected to the tourist tax a few times, I have never before savoured a pint like I did the one I paid seven euros for. Same said for the cappuccino that I forked out three times the usual price to have with the luxury of sitting down to enjoy. But fuck it, it’s only money right? And I was on vay-cay after all.
In high spirits and well caffeinated I found a visit to the Vatican to be mind mindbogglingly amazing (view from the museums, pictured right). While there I was in such a state of awe and in auto-tourist-mode that I accidentally had the audacity to take out my camera and try to snap Genesis in the Sistine Chapel, which is against the rules. What a nob. The museums that surrounded the Chapel took hours of my life, and the Vatican itself was so incredibly grand and ornate. I usually feel weird about gawking inside churches but oh my good-goodness, it was such a wonder to be seen.
The torrential downpours with seconds of warning, the excessive prices or the erm, ‘black snot’ were in no way dampeners to my visit to Rome. The ruins, lavish buildings and monuments exist harmoniously within the city alongside enormous ZARA stores and counterfeit shoe markets. It’s amazing, go there without delay.
Words by Carol Bowditch.