Episode Fifty Nine – Ancient Rome

Hi everybody! I know… This story really is ancient history now. It was my mum’s visit and then the end of term and then exam season and between all that my blogging mojo never emerged at the surface, so the thought of putting together a post worth reading was not exactly a realistic goal. And I’d much rather leave you all hanging than waste your time on a post not worth reading. But here I am, ready to keep ploughing through my Italy narration and onwards to Grant’s visit too… eventually.

This is what I have in store for you today: a gorgeous day in Pope-ville!

So, the bus to Rome from Florence – which we did end up catching, to our relief – was long but pleasant enough. Arriving in Rome, though… that was a stress. Much more so than it needed to be. Having failed to learn our lesson in Florence, Nicole and I arrived without any idea how to get to our hostel, nor even its address. It took us a good few hours to make it to the city centre, find internet access, sort out our travel passes and make it to our hostel. Which was, it turns out, on the same side of town where our bus had come in in the first place >_>

Ok, so maybe there were a couple of slightly creepy murals... but it was a legit hostel with dorms, room keys, the whole works!

This time, our hostel situation was the inverse of Florence. We’d sacrificed on location here, because the city centre hostels were expensive even without the 2€/night city tax. (That’s right, we were staying in the grade of accommodation where an extra 2€ a night actually influenced our choice). Peter Pan Hostel was further from town than we were quoted: even right after we’d just spent 40 minutes getting from Rome to the front desk, he insisted it was a fifteen-minute journey.

I guess maybe it is if you know the ropes. We didn’t.

If you imagine Rome is above Nicole's head... our hostel is somewhere over to the west near the coat of arms.

Anyway, aside from the location, the hostel was great. There was a proper, fully-equipped kitchen and a dining room: real communal space, unlike the Eurostudent Home in Florence. The showers were multiple and warm. While there were no convenient lockers in our rooms, we had access to a locked storage room for peace of mind, which was more than we’d had in our previous hostel too.

That first evening Nicole wanted to go into town for dinner and go out; but, having only just arrived, we weren’t too confident about negotiating the buses back late at night, so we ended up in an empty pizzeria sharing a fantastic mushroom pizza while a violent movie screamed dubbed Italian rape scenes at us. Italy is a special place.

One thing you will not find me complaining about... the food. Predictably.

Back at the hostel, we made the acquaintance of Roz, Kylie and… I wanna say Caitlin? They were American students studying abroad in Aix, who had rented a car and were road tripping for spring break. They told us tales of their run-in and subsequent coffee date with the Italian police, and shared their gummy worms. I knew this was going to be a beautiful roomie-ship.

Exhausted after our daybreak Uffizi visit and cross-country coach trip, we slept late on Wednesday morning. Still, despite the long commute into Rome proper, we still managed to make it to two major attractions before lunchtime: and it was to be a busy afternoon! Our first point of interest was the well-known Trevi fountain, which was, of course, beautiful. I’d have kept my nose peeled if I’d had Jenny’s post fresher in my mind… Still, I do seem to recall a ‘clean’ sort of smell emanating from the waters: I expect they treat the water to make it gentler on the ancient stone.

Faced with such a masterpiece built for a public space, I couldn't help wondering what the unveiling ceremony had been like.

Unfortunately, the relative luck we’d had in Florence with regards to crowds did not extend to the capital. As such, our experience at Trevi was marred by six hundred other tourists (whose experience was also, of course, being marred by our own presence, so no hard feelings, guys). After this teeming space, we were somewhat apprehensive about visiting the Vatican, but in fact Nicole’s inside tip about visiting between midday and 2 worked like a charm: naturally, there’s not much of a selection of eateries chez Pope, so it really did clear out at lunch time.

See how empty the place is?! If you ever visit Rome, bear in mind that the Vatican is definitely a lunchtime activity.

We’d brushed off so many ‘tour operators’ by the time we arrived at the Basilica that, I’m sorry to say, the first words I uttered once inside the courtyard were a string of expletives directed towards a posh young scammer who, when we ignored his touting, had ended up calling after us, ‘You’ve dropped something, Madam… your manners!’. Seriously? You and a hundred other peddlers try to con us into some or other ‘exclusive’ tour of the Vatican, and I’m obliged by the laws of etiquette to offer explanations and gentle declinations to each and every one of you? No, get out of my way, leave me to enjoy the Vatican in peace, and stick your ‘queue-free’ tour where I first told you to, right before I clamped my hand over my mouth because I was in God city.

Whose blood could stay boiling in a place like this?

God city did make short work of my frustration though, it has to be said. It really was almost empty, and the serenity of the place was such that we shunned the 7€ entrance to the cupola and sat instead enjoying the view of, rather than from, the Basilica. The weather was so perfect, the surroundings so sublime that even the prospect of the Sistine Chapel itself had trouble moving me from the steps where we sat.

I couldn't resist putting this up with the little hand in the corner. Taken from inside the Basilica.

But once inside… Ok, so I’ve already confessed that I don’t really ‘get’ much of the art that was produced before, let’s say, the 18th Century. However, even an art know-nothing like me could tell that this place was beyond special. The realism and use of perspective on the ceiling arch makes the images truly seem alive in front of your very eyes: it was utterly incredible. Unfortunately for my readers, though, that’s as far as this art know-nothing’s analysis can go, and photography is forbidden so my camera can’t even do the talking for me this time :(

Relaxing in the Musei Vaticani courtyard...

Eventually we dragged ourselves up to enjoy some more strange Italian museum, indulging in the odd sacrilegious conversation along the way; grabbed some food from one of those elusive creatures known as ‘supermercati’, and trekked back out to Peter Pan. By this point my body was protesting against all the sun, activity and weird eating habits we’d been following, and I arrived back in the hostel room thoroughly nauseous and headachey. I napped for an hour, Nicole brought me pasta and hot tea, and I felt right as rain…

Which is more than could be said for Nicole the following morning. But you’ll have to wait to hear more on that story in Episode Sixty – Rome Antics. I know, cliff-hangers are becoming my thing!


Buona cera a tutti!





Filed under France

3 responses to “Episode Fifty Nine – Ancient Rome

  1. Great pictures! :-) It is so much fun hearing about your adventures. Keep the stories coming!

    p.s. Were the sunflowers in bloom between Florence and Rome?? I’ve never seen anything so bright and beautiful on a road trip!

    • Thanks! I should have mentioned, the Trevi fountain was taken by Nicole – I’ll go back and add that in.
      And no, it was still February so no sunflowers growing :( I know what you mean though, I was in the south of France several years ago with my dad and the place we stayed was literally surrounded by sunflowers. It was gorgeous!

  2. Pingback: Episode Sixty – Rome Antics | A Trail of Breadcrumbs

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