The few days between Milan and Rome were spent as a hectic and brief stop off in Florence. Delayed trains and wrong turns made it shorter than intended,but that is a subject for another time! What little time we had in Florence was fab, we wandered the streets, popping in and out of cute shops, admiring some of the sites but most importantly, I had that carbonara I had been dreaming of!
Whilst Florence was an enjoyable stop off it just didn’t compare to our time in Rome. This was the stop in Italy I had most been looking forward to and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Accommodation in the centre of the city in the height of summer proved very expensive even when we were booking in January, so we stayed in an apartment nestled in the outskirts. With a metro stop just down the road commuting into the centre was quick and easy and meant we were able to stay in a beautiful apartment for a fraction of the prices charged by hotels and hostels in central Rome. We purchased a two day metro ticket for €12.50 which gave us unlimited travel, although single journeys are also available and very reasonable at just €1.50. The temperature rose to 35 degrees when we visited, so we found the metro the best way to get around the city quickly to the various sites without too much walking in the direct sun. Particularly for those constrained by time, this mode of transport offers a cheap and easy way of getting around Rome. However, after spotting many vintage Fiat cars, like the one below in canary yellow, we may have missed a trick!
With just 48hours to explore this vast city we tried to squeeze as much in as possible. Rory was keen to see the Colosseum so we took the metro right to it and joined the queue. As soon as we arrived we were bombarded with several tour company ambassadors insisting that the line for tickets would take at least 90 minutes and that they could get us to the front of the queue as well as a tour guide. However, given that they revealed this would cost €30 each and the ticket price for EU members aged 18-24 was a reduced rate of €7.50, we decided it wasn’t worth it. I mean we had best take advantage of of EU membership status whilst we still can! In reality the queue only took 30mins and there is plenty of information signs to detail the history, so unless the colosseum is something of major interest to you, or you don’t have any time to queue, buying from these companies seems like an expensive extra. The official ticket also gives you access to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, between these three sights we spent the whole afternoon, soaking up the history of this amazing city. With enough time for an ice cream from Venchi, an ice cream parlour that I would love to see come to my home town, Omagh. We picked up some fresh pasta, pesto, mozzarella and cherry vine tomatoes for an Italian inspired dinner, enjoyed al fresco on the balcony of our apartment – Bellisimo!
With just one more day in Rome I wanted to see the Vatican, which is again very accessible on the metro. The experience of the Vatican City was amazing and even for those without faith, *cough* Rory, or those part of another religion, the architecture and history of this place is overwhelming. It is free to enter the city and St Peter’s Basillica though there is a charge for the other parts including the museum. Unfortunately, we didn’t realise that the gardens and the museum are closed early on a Sunday so we weren’t able to gain access to them. This disappointment was made better by an appearance from the man himself, the Pope! Alerted by the screams of the gathering crowd we hurried into the square to catch a glimpse. This was entirely by chance but served to enrich the experience.
Thankfully, before setting of to visit the Vatican I had looked up the dress code and upon arrival realised just how strictly this is enforced, even in the blistering heat of the July midday sun. Essentially, shoulders, legs and chest are the focus area, anything sleeveless, low cut or exposing too much leg is not permitted. Rory was fine in shorts and a t-shirt and I brought a long kimono style cover which I put on before queuing to enter. To avoid disappointment, or having to buy something from a street vendor you will likely never wear again, it is definitely worth remembering to bring something, like a scarf, to ensure you meet the dress code.
With time against us the Vatican City and the colosseum were the attractions that we spent most of our time exploring, though we did hop on and off the metro to have a quick look at various other tourist spots, including the Spanish steps and the Trevi fountain. As we threw our money into the fountain the only thing I could wish for to improve our visit was more time in Italy’s capital. Although, Rory probably wished that he hadn’t dropped his ice cream and that he had paid more attention in Geography class, so as not to be disappointed when he discovered the Pantheon is in Rome and not what he actually wanted to see, the Parthenon which is in Athens! Having reluctantly left Rome we travelled to Venice this morning and have been shut indoors with a thunderstorm all afternoon, but the gondolas have to float in something I suppose!