Friday, 23 August 2013

Do as the Romans do

Feeling refreshed from our sea scape holiday in Cinque Terre and our week in Umbria it was final time to take on the monster that is Rome. With its hectic traffic, bustling touristic crowds and numerous attractions, it was hard to fathom how we would fit everything in, in only one week. Fortunately enough for us, being the 'seasoned travelers' that we are, a little planning, a lot of walking and a gelato here are there we managed to fit everything in. So here is how we did it:
Day 1:
First up we checked in and met our host, Guiseppe, who's apartment we loaned out for the week from Airbnb. After his very detailed 45 minute tour of the surrounding area, and almost half of Rome, he handed us the keys and we then headed straight down to the train station to meet Sharon and Rodney (Ryan's parents). As it had been over 6 months since our last catch up, there was obviously a lot to catch up on. So with the sun setting we headed out for a stroll in the cool evening air to swap stories and watch the Colosseum being lit up.
Day 2:
The next day was spent wandering through the city getting our bearing. Along the way we visited Capoline Hill, Piazza Novena, the Pantheon and as it was State of Origin, the boys stopped off at an Irish pub while the girls shopped. Unfortunately, the boys were not too happy with the games result, however the girls were happy with their purchases.
Day 3:
We were pre-booked into the Colosseum, so not only did the ticket included an underground tour of the massive sporting arena, the Forum and Palatine Hill, but it also meant that we conviently got to bypass the ridiculous line spewing out of the main gates. Starting from the bottom up, we worked our way through the 4 main levels of the magnificent site, all the whilst learning so much about its gory history. After a relaxing lunch break in the Jewish quarter we then braved the intense sun to wander through the ruins in Palatine Hill. As most of the ruins were in fact that... ruins, it was a little hard to picture what exactly you were looking at. However just being able to walk through the original location that was the birthplace of Rome, was just truly amazing.
Day 4:
Possibly one of our longer walking days, we started the day by heading straight to the Spanish Steps and the Tivoli Fountain to beat the crowds and get a picture without 1000's of people in it. We were lucky to get to the steps to see locals doing their morning exercises, boot camps, push ups and jogging. We then walked on to the fountian to find that it was turned off for cleaning. As we watched in interest as they vacuumed up all the coins, which is estimated at €3000 a day, we soon realized that this was going out take a while. So after contributing our own small amount, ensuring our return to Rome, we set off towards the Appian Way to see the ancient catacombs and ruins along the beautiful cobblestone road.
Day 5:
With the day before being quite big, we all decided to have a much deserved sleep in before hitting the sights once again. Once rested and fed, we hit the pavement and made our way to Castel de Angelo, all the while admiring the back street beauty that is Rome. In the castle we learnt the history of its origins and previous usages, such as secret escape ways for the pope, and from the top we were treated to breath taking views back over the city. After that we then hiked up to the Villa Borghese gardens, but decided to skip the gallery as we were all feeling a little tired.
Day 6:
Being a Sunday the traverse markets, a flea market that I remembered from my first visit to Rome, was on so we thought we might go back for a second look. While the merchandise was mostly rubbishy clothing and jewelry, I did manage to pick up a bargain or two in the smaller flea market section. We then walked over to Aventine hill to get another view over the city and then took a long stroll back to the apartment with yet another gelato.
Day 7:
We fortunately had tickets booked to Vatican City as the lines were about 4 hours long! After a few hours of marveling at the magnificent art and the shear volume of works, we stopped in at the Sistine Chapel to see Genesis painted on the ceiling. We then went out for a quick gelato before heading to St Peter's square to line up to get into the catherdral. Entering the catherdral was an awe inspiring experience as there was a mass on and the choirs were singing with the sunbeams streaking in through the stain glass. After admiring the beauty of the catherdral and visiting St Peters burial place Rodney, Ryan and I took on the challenge of climbing to the top of the grand dome, 120 m over the alter. Of course we didn't feel that catching the elevator up half way seemed like enough of a challenge, so we opted to save the money and walk the whole 551 steps to the top. The view from top were spectacular - worth every step. While we didn't see the pope we had a great day of international travel!
Day 8:
After some pretty hectic days we checked out of our place in Rome and sardined ourselves into the car for the trip down to Bari to catch our overnight ferry to Dubrovnik. As it was only a short detour, we planned a stop half way at Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii to see some of the most well preserved Roman ruins in Italy. The mountain was a little easier then some of the others we have experienced along our travels, but with our decline in fitness and hot summer sun we still managed to work up a pretty good sweat. At the ruins we were all truly blown away by how amazingly well preserved everything was. Walking through the ancient streets, you could actually picture how the city actually look and viewing the petrified corpses you got a real sense of how frightened the people would have been.
So after a massive week in Italy's capital its time for some rest and relaxation, and what better place than the famous Croatian coast.
- Louise and Ryan -

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