Coop and I have spent the last three and a half days in Rome and it was fantastic! Our trip started off a little shaky…Coop is not a morning person and was fuming at me for booking a flight at 7:00 in the morning (therefore having to get up at around 4:45 to catch the 5:15 bus…) and expecting him to respond to me when I was bubbling over all the details of our trip. After five hours of airports and collecting luggage, we took a train into the city—apparently not that close to our hostel or anything else for that matter. So after standing around trying to figure out what to do in a little train station for about 20 minutes, we decide to just get back on a train and see where it takes us since we were obviously in the middle of nowhere. And since the first ticket didn’t get us where we wanted to be, we thought we shouldn’t have to pay for another one…..about that….As soon as we get on the train and it starts pulling away, we see a man checking train tickets (the first one we’ve seen on any metro or train) and a man being hauled away by several men wearing military uniforms—not police—legit army men wearing berets and armed weapons. Luckily we were able to get off at the next stop before they got to us and found a metro taking us relatively close to our hostel.
Let me just mention that in the process of lugging all of his stuff from the past six months from the airport to the hostel, Coop got just a little frustrated. One fond memory of mine was watching him kick his bag on the corner of a busy street and then breaking the handle. Nice…
So we FINALLY arrive at our hostel, Salvador B& B, to be welcomed by a very stereotypical Italian man—overweight, dressed in a white tee and “low riding” blue jeans with a faint whiff of B.O—but extremely nice. He spoke no English. Yessss. So instead of trying to get along with hand motions, etc. he actually calls his friend who speaks little English and hands me the phone to talk to him. In bits and pieces, I collect that a) a man is coming for us in little time b) we’re not staying at that hostel and c) this man really doesn’t speak English. So Coop and I are sitting in a little hallways listening to 80s hits off his radio as he continually urges us to use the bathroom---FOR FREE!
About five minutes later, another man shows up to take us to wherever. As far as we knew, he could’ve been an ax murderer taking us down some alley. Luckily his only issue was that he also spoke no English and he smelt of B.O (and not so faintly). So we really have no idea what’s going on except that we’re following a smelly man down the alleys of Rome. He was carrying my bags so I really had no problem with it. Coop, being the strong man he is, got to carry his broken bag down the exact same roads we’d walked from the Metro to get to the first place.
In the end, we got an upgrade from our first place to a different B&B because the place we had paid for had been overbooked. The location was perfect. We were right next to the Vatican and the metro stop was one street over. The last night, the man who worked there—Gerardo—showed us the pope’s apartment building from his balcony.
So after a stressful morning, Coop and I made ourselves feel better the best way we could---with food. Rome is full of good deals on pizza and pasta. We picked a place where we got a drink, salad, a whole pizza and gelato for 10 euros. The pizza in Italy has less cheese and is pretty thin-crusted but on the whole, is very similar to pizza back home. The two pasta dishes I tried in the time we were in Rome didn’t impress me but we didn’t exactly go to the most refined places so feel free to disagree.
Top Sights of Rome and the Vatican City!!!
Absolutely breathtaking! It was my favorite thing in Rome. (Note: If anyone is wondering, Coop’s favorite part of Rome was watching funny cat and dog videos on the metro. Very refined taste.) Anyhow, it was huge and we learned a lot about all of the gladiators and the games that were held by the Roman emperors. They had some really spectacular presentations. Apparently, when a whale was beached in the south of Italy, the Romans decided to make a life-size whale and put it on stage and then have 50 live bears run out of it into the arena.
We went there twice, fighting off the hoards of Indian men who were forcing roses onto us by saying how sweet I was and telling me they wanted to give me free roses and then sneaking behind my back and asking Coop for money. Tricksy….In the end, I got a total of zero roses. Coop’s excuse was if you buy one from one, you have to buy one from all. He wanted to help them out but he realized he couldn’t help out everyone. That’s okay. I gladly settled for gelato.
All I can say is a wild goose chase. You walk forever in huge crowds thinking its coming right up and then you’re led down another long hallway of art. And another. And another. The Sistine Chapel was so different than I thought it would be, as well. I thought the painting of man and God touching fingers would be a little bigger but its dwarfed by the surrounding paintings. I liked the full wall portrait of The Final Judgment. Very impressive, yet forboding.
Little known fact: There are several museums in the Vatican museums including an Egyptian museum that has sarcophaguses with mummy bodies that you can actually see.
In an attempt to not be lame and turn in early, Coop and I decided to venture out to the Spanish steps and Trevi Fountain at around 11 o’clock on Sunday evening. We got gelato and aimlessly wandered the lit streets of Rome. Coop had already been pretty tired before going out so we were hoping just for an evening stroll to the Spanish steps and then to take the metro back. Problem 1: Neither one of us has a great sense of direction and we can’t find the Spanish steps. I’m set on finding them because my dad has raved about how cool they are at night because everyone hangs out there chatting into the wee hours of the morning. Well, we finally get there and the only people there are again the Indians with the roses and a couple very awkwardly making out. Problem 2: The metro has closed. We walked into the Metro station, not knowing it was closed, and stepped into the twilight zone. If anyone has seen the Stephen King movie, “The Lindoliers,” it was just like that. While walking up seemingly never-ending moving sidewalks, we see no one. When we finally see three people, they just stare at us in absolute silence. When we see the metal gates barring off the metro, we decide to walk to the other exit of the metro. The other side leads into a completely desolate mall and a parking lot. The exit to the mall is barred so we head out into the parking lot. The lot is halfway full of cars but there’s no one there except the silent security guard that walks past us looking at us as thought we shouldn’t be there. The only way out of the parking lot is if we walk out the curving entrance for the cars which I don’t want to do because if a car comes in while we’re walking out, we’d definitely be hit. We head back to the mall, starting to panic. We spot the security guard and I ask him how to get out. He responds, eerily of course, “Where do you want to go?” I just ask for the closest exit and he takes us to an exit out of the side of the mall. So we’ve finally escaped the metro station. We exit to the middle of a park. Keep in mind it’s 1:30 in the morning and we don’t know where we are. All we see are buses and cars occasionally passing by. To keep the story short, we made it home without being robbed or stabbed at around 2:30 and agreed that sleeping in was a good idea.
We became friends with the man who worked at the B&B we stayed at when we went across the street to try limoncello. Apparently, he works there too. We had a good time talking to him and he actually even bought Coop a beer (someone from the hostel had stolen his out of the refrigerator and Gerardo wanted to replace it). He pointed out the building that the Pope lives in from his balcony and showed us all the publicity websites for his many ventures—the B&B, a party boat and the snack bar across the street.
Well the next day we had to go to Ciampino airport, which is located about 45 minutes outside of Rome. Somehow we always fly into the farthest airport from the city. Gerardo offers to drive us and I’m thanking him thinking he’s being so nice to take his new friends to the airport. Mid-thanks he lets us know how much he’s charging us. I felt so betrayed that our friend was making money off of us. We still accepted but needless to say, Coop and I were both hurt.
Rome, on the whole, however, was great and I’m definitely glad that we got to spend nearly three and a half days there. There’s a lot to do: great sightseeing, great people-watching and very friendly people in general.