One taxi, four trains, two planes, two busses, plenty of walking and a measley 38 hours later on zero sleep for the entire time, we arrived at our hostel in Rome.
We had a tiny cabin to ourselves, with two beds, a shelf and nothing else. The beds squeaked when you blinked and the whole room shook when you scratched your nose. That’s hardly even an exaggeration. For three nights, we stayed in Tiber Camping and Hostel, 40 mins out of the main city in a dodgy looking area. The hostel itself was nice though and this was our first chance to catch up with home. For both full days, we hung out sleeping, eating, reading, learning Italian, watching our DVDs catching up on some much needed R&R.
After our three nights, we moved to Alessandro Downtown, another hostel in the centre of Rome. The first thing we did was go for a wander around the area to get out bearings, finding a big old thing we dubbed ‘big old thing’ and a tower we named ‘Hayley and Ella’s tower’ cause the Italians don’t name anything. We kept walking, and got caught up in a stream of people all heading in the same direction. Standing on a corner looking at some more big old things, we turned around and noticed the Colosseum about 200m away. We had a quick squiz, but didn’t go in, only stopping again to check out a big white building with statues on it that turned out to be a museum at the end of Palatine Hill.
After a reasonable sleep considering we were in an eight bed dorm, the next day we set out to find Vatican City. The ticket was pricey but we can now say we’ve seen the Sistine Chappell, a real life mummy, a bunch of statues we vaguely remembered the significance of from classics in high school, and a giant ball thing that we still don’t understand (really, the Italians don’t label anything). After the museum we went to visit the Pope, but the lines were insane and would’ve taken all afternoon, so we stood outside and played tourists for a bit before moving on. On the way back, we visited Trevi Fountain – one of the coolest and biggest fountains in Rome. Legend has it that if you throw a coin over your shoulder into the fountain, you will guarantee your return to the city – this is how approximately 3000 Euros are thrown in every day. Since the Spanish steps weren’t far away we trekked up those as well. That night we halved a bottle of 3 Euro wine and watched some movies off Ella’s hard drive, and decided to ring Khalid for an early morning wake up call… sorry.
On day three in central Rome we decided to go back to the Colosseum and Palatine Hill. This time, we actually took the scenic route – aka got lost – on our way there. Though by some stroke of luck we had arrived in Rome during ‘Culture Week’, meaning our entrance fee to these was waived. It did also mean there were thousands of school children midgets in colourful hats to avoid, but when you can buy almost two bottles of wine from the money we saved, we didn’t mind so much. The Colosseum was pretty cool, we didn’t know about much of it but eavesdropped on tours (apparently if the slaves survived in the arena they got let free) and used some of Eleanor’s Lonely Planet guide to piece it together. Unlike most tourists who whip the book out all day, Ella had ripped out the relevant pages and used those instead. It was very weight-economical. We found our way over to Palatine Hill – a huge place with more bits and pieces of ruins, statues and buildings that didn’t mean much till we consulted the ripped pages. It was, “the social political and commercial hub of the Roman Republic”. With a few fancy aqueducts, the remains of Augustus’ house and Saturn’s temple and an arch for someone called Severus (aka Snape). We had a lazy night back at our hostel.
We’d planned the next day to be a cruisy one, so had a bit of a sleep in before sending off some postcards and doing a bit of laundry. We decided to have a look at the Pantheon, which is 2000 years old has the biggest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. It was pretty cool, but we ran away before there was an earthquake. Close to the Pantheon was the Piazza Novona which had the ‘Fontana di quarto fiumi’, or fountain of four rivers. There were actually three fountains in the piazza, cause even though they don’t name stuff, they do get really excited about fountains. We walked home, having more gelato on the way, and had the afternoon to relax before heading out to a nice dinner. The plan was to get lost, have dinner somewhere cute and find our way back again. Surprisingly, we actually managed it. We finished the night with another 3 euro bottle of wine and a Disney movie.
Rome is actually a lot smaller than you’d than think. On one of the days there was a strike on the metro, so we had to walk. This is how we found that most of the sites are less than 30 mins away, and you get to see so much more on foot. On our last full day there, we went walkabout. We found the Trevi fountain again, as well as the Pantheon, Piazza Novona and the four fountains (one on each corner of a random intersection). We were sort of hoping to find the Campio di Fiori, where we’d heard there was a daily market. Eventually, without really trying, we did. It was a real life Italian market with all the fruit and pasta you could ask for, stalls with clothes, some with jewellery, some with wine and cafes all around. We bought amazing fruit salads and a few knickknacks before finding lunch (more pizza) at a nearby restaurant, served by the charming David who demanded kisses before we left. We walked down lots more cobblestoned streets, which are incredible in themselves as a decent amount of Italian women wear heels during the day, and somehow navigate their way around without breaking their ankles. We struggled just doing this in flats. Avoiding more gelato, we found our way back to the hostel without getting lost for our last night in Alessandro Downtown.