On to the plate

Experimenting with flavours, colours and style of food served at our place

Rome – you moved me to tears (Day 1)

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After a bit of uncertainty at the Roma Termi station we finally started to see signs directing us to the Taxi rank.

There are these little tents that go for as far as the eye can see. They look so pretty at night all lit up.

There are these little tents that go for as far as the eye can see. They look so pretty at night all lit up.

What I had completely forgotten was the research I had done about getting a taxi in Rome. I had forgotten that they have unofficial taxis, those that will fleece you for more than you should be paying. So what taxi did we get into?  One that did not have the official taxi markings. It wasn’t until we were on our way that I began to look around the inside of the taxi for signs that we had got the right type of taxi.

The taxi we got into was the first one in the rank. In NZ, or at least in Christchurch, you’re expected to take the first taxi in the line. I won’t take the first in line if it’s not Blue Star or Goldband taxi, but at home I know who is who, and work only uses either of those two companies, and so I’ve just adopted the same for whenever I need to get a taxi from the airport (which is almost only ever for business travel).

The driver asked where we needed to go. I showed him the address from my phone and he said that was fine. I put our luggage in the boot and then he said “lady the other side”. I’m not sure why this was requested, but I was behind his seat and had no view of what was on the metre until we stopped and he said how much to pay. At this stage I knew we’d been taken for a ride, literally.

The other thing was he explained there was a protest going on in the city and certain roads were closed. I guess we took the long way to get where we needed. It was only 3.5km from the train station but it took a long time to get there. We put that down to him needing to travel a different route due to the protests.

I had my phone out and I could see where we were going, and I was relieved when we were finally going in the right direction. Then he said he couldn’t take us up the street to our hotel because of the road closures, he would drop us at the bottom of the street and it would take us 5 minutes to walk up.

The street was a one way street, the traffic coming toward us. The street and footpath were all the same, square chunky cobble stones with some having quite large gaps all around. It was really hard work trying to pull suitcases behind us. The heat was amazing. It was so very hot. The cars were parked on one side parallel to the street. Our street backed onto the perimeter of Circo Massimo (the original city of Rome) so there were no houses or buildings on that side. The other side had all angled parking. There was barely enough room for one person to walk in the gap left between the buildings and the cars parked, so I was walking up the actual street part stopping here and there when a stream of cars were hurtling toward us. Honestly, they drive so fast in Italy.

I no longer remember where this is, or what it is of.

I no longer remember where this is, or what it is of.

Luca must have been looking for us out the window as he meet us at the door before I had a chance to get his contact details off my phone. Luca lead the way taking Mr Fussy’s suitcase from him and striding up the flight of stairs. Mr Fussy took my suitcase and I was pretty much having to run after them they were going at such a pace. And that’s with 20+kg weight.

The apartment was really lovely. The aircon was on and it was a big space for the bedroom. The kitchen, while dull, was a good size and had everything we needed.

The first time we did (after connecting to Wi-Fi and setting up all our chargers) is get a load of washing on. While the washing was going I was trying to figure out how to book a taxi to get us to the airport, and also the next morning to the meet up point for our Tuscany tour. I’ve got to say it almost was my undoing. It seemed to be so incredibly hard to book a taxi online. The address you want to be picked up from is written first as the street, and second as the house/apartment number. One site took what I had written and said there were several matches. The matches were listed by Municipality, but I didn’t know what Municipal we were in. Trying to find out what Municipal we were in was also proving to be too hard, even Google maps wasn’t showing it.

Feeling like I’d wasted so much time already we decided that we’d go for a wander up the street to see how long it took us to walk to the meet up point for the following morning, and hope that along the way we’d see a supermarket. I was starting to doubt my research skills because I couldn’t for the life of me find on Google maps where the supermarket was. I even tried to find out what the locals called a supermarket in case I was using the wrong word.

The plan was to go off to the meet up point and understand how long it would take in case I couldn’t get a taxi organised, then head off to where the Segway Tour was to leave from and then mill about there until it was time.

During the (expensive) taxi drive we passed a lot of historical places. I couldn’t really take it all in. I didn’t know how to process it. And I can’t really explain how I was feeling. All through Europe the size of the Basilica or church or piazza has been impressive in size. But in Rome everything was so much bigger. And you could tell the buildings/ruins were older. I just kept saying to Mr Fussy “wow”. It didn’t matter which direction I looked, there was always something there. In some ways it was a hodge podge. There would be some individual column, or group of columns just jutting out of the dirt with other buildings worked around them.

Such a grand statement. So old.

Such a grand statement. So old.

Because our accommodation was on the perimeter of Circo Massimo our walk lead us by the ruins. I really was in awe of the history that I was so close to. We walked up the hill, Capitol Hill and at this time we saw the “To the unnamed Solider”. I mentioned to Mr Fussy that photos would not do it justice. You can’t gauge the size of a monument or building from a photo. Some of these were monstrous. The atmosphere also has a part to play in the over impression you get of a place. You can’t capture that with a photo alone.

By the time we walked up the main street (which we didn’t realise it was) we had passed a supermarket and made note of where it was so we could pop in there on our way back down the hill.

It was easy enough to find the meet up point and it had taken us at most 45 minutes with a few stops and dancing around people in the streets. We decided to stop and sit on the stairs for a few minutes. It was at this point that I felt so overwhelmed that my eyes filled with tears. Even writing this sentence I can feel tears welling up just with the memory. I don’t know what it was. Maybe I was overtired, frustrated (with trying to book a taxi), annoyed (with being duped by the taxi) or maybe it was just being among so much history and realising just how tiny and small and naive you feel living in New Zealand.

Having now composed myself we set off back down the hill. We got what we needed from the supermarket and dropped out stuff off at the apartment. I had another crack at signing up for the taxi service (a different one) and finally made a booking for the next day. I booked it early enough that if it didn’t work we still had time to walk to the meeting point.

Mr Fussy and Massismo our Segway tour guide.

Mr Fussy and Massismo our Segway tour guide.

Now we set off in the other direction to suss out where the Segway tour started from. Their map differed to what Google Maps showed as the address location. We wanted to allow plenty of time to get lost and find our bearings. Rather than use the path that Google maps had for their actual address, we decided to find where they had pinned on their map. We did find it and we didn’t find them there. Next we walked to where Google maps had their address and thankfully they were easy to spot. Now sorted with where we had to be we took a wander around the area. The weather was looking a grey and there had been warnings of thunder (yet again!) so having had our daily gelato we looked around for a place to take shelter if we needed to. We found another Basilica and sat on the stairs just chatting away. A man and two women arrived. The women went inside and we got to chatting with the man. He asked how long it had taken us to find the Basilica. We said we had just stumbled upon it. They however had been walking around for 2 hours trying to find it, they were from Hamilton, Ontario and had only arrived off the plane at 1pm. They were doing well to be on the go already. We guessed they were Canadian. He had the Maple leave on his cap, but he thought it was his pin that had given him way. Next thing he was scooting two Canadian pins along the step to us.

We were well and truly too early for our Segway tour so we pottered about for a while and then with my feet giving me some more grief we thought we’d drop into the Segway office and discus with them the refund that we thought we were due. When we originally booked the tour the price was one price. Then I needed to change the date because the Tuscany tour date clashed, and I hadn’t realised I had double booked us. When they changed the date they confirmed the price was less and showed a refund on the new confirmation, but they never said how they would process the refund.

We got to chatting with the co-owner and then I said I had a question, but with the accent and the co-owner interpreting English to Italian he answered a question we hadn’t answered and he wandered off to chat with the bloke who was repairing one of the Segways.

After a little bit of waiting we realised that we were the only people on the tour. I hadn’t realised the booking was just for us, but now it made sense how come I was allowed to set the start time. And since the tour was only with us I was happy to pay the original price, I wasn’t going to mention any refund due.

The Coliseum at night.

The Coliseum at night.

Massimo was our tour guide. First of all we had to prove would could control the Segway. Mr Fussy had a little practice while we were waiting. These Segways were a bit different to the ones we’d used in Queenstown. When it came time to get moving forward I found that it was much easier to control every movement, and there was a very tight turning circle too. That didn’t mean that I was hurtling off. I was still concentrating very hard. Besides that, even at 8:30pm, there were still a lot of people on the streets.

Massimo checked what sights we had already seen so that he wasn’t taking us to some place we had already experienced. We hadn’t done anything at all so that left things wide open. We were tootling up the street to one of the gardens, one with a good view across Rome, we were going 15km/hr uphill. It felt great. However, my idea of resting my feet wasn’t well thought out. Instead of walking, I would be on them full-time. Each time we reached a destination and got off for a better view, or to take photos was a welcomed break. I actually found relief in walking about. When we were travelling I would awkwardly lift a foot to put the pressure elsewhere but it was really uncomfortable. I think too because I was concentrating so hard I wasn’t relaxed and maybe I was trying to plant my feet a bit too solidly.

We learnt all sorts of interesting bits and pieces and while the light was still good we got some photos in. Massimo took us all over the place but I lost my bearings since I was totally focused on what was ahead of me and not comfortable enough to be travelling forward and looking all around me. Mr Fussy on the other hand was taking video while we were moving.

I don't think you can spot one of the cats but there were a lot of cats sauntering around.

I don’t think you can spot one of the cats but there were a lot of cats sauntering around.

We arrived at the place Julius Cesar was murdered and learnt that with it being a sacred place nothing can be touched, but it has now become the place where cats hang out, and they are feed daily. One of the other things vivid in my mind was the smell of a BBQ as we rounded the corner.

I love Italian food and even while in Paris we often had Italian food, but after two weeks of it I was in need of something more than great pasta and silky sauces and the smell of that BBQ had me looking around hoping I could remember where it came from for another night (I didn’t remember unfortunately).

Even Massimo knew my feet were giving me grief and each time we hopped off the Segway he made mention of it. But those short breaks were very welcome and gave me just a little bit of relief.

We were warned not to bother eating at places that line Piazzas. Not great food and you wont find locals eating there.

We were warned not to bother eating at places that line Piazzas. Not great food and you wont find locals eating there.

We arrived at another Piazza, one that turns into a Market during the day (which we did return to). It was here that Massimo told us of the “best” pizza place in Rome, and that during the day there would be a queue of people lining up outside the door. He suggested we go between 11:30 and 12:00. I tucked that we nugget away. He’d also mentioned where to get the “best” gelato in Rome as well. Another gem added to the memory bank.

My memory wasn’t doing so well. When we arrived back at the office I asked Massimo to mark where the Pizza and Gelato places were on our map. Again with the interpretation being what it was, he proceeded to mark out every stop me made, then I asked if he could also indicate the places where the pizza and gelato were. Mission accomplished.

While I made use of the facilities (another toilet added as an afterthought) Massimo and Mr Fussy were discussing where to get a taxi from given the state of my sore feet. When I returned I decided that by the time we figured out where the taxi rank was, potentially waited for a taxi it would be just as quick to get across the river and back to the apartment. But I was very glad when we arrived and I could finally put my feet up.

We arrived in about 11pm and had to be out the door for 6:25am the following day for our Walks of Italy Tuscany tour.



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