Well they say Rome wasn’t built in a day (and that’s no joke), but that’s all we had left to see parts of Rome.
Clearly we needed a plan since we had to spend our time wisely.
We (or I mostly) chose The Colosseum, The Pantheon, Old Rome – Circo Massimo (which was right outside our door and Mr Fussy hadn’t seen it during his previous visit), the “Best” Pizza and the “Best” Gelato as told by our Segway Tour Guide, Massimo and Mr Fussy insisted that I see The Trevi Fountain.
I would have liked to see The Vatican too but we knew it would be unlikely and rather than be really disappointed we couldn’t squeeze it in, it’s earmarked for a future visit to Rome (and we’re already planning – I’m writing having been at home now for almost 2 weeks).
I suggested that we may need to use Taxis to get from one place to the next so that we could cover the distance needed, but in the end we walked almost everywhere, and it was still stinking hot.
The alarm had been set early so that we could get to the Colosseum for 8:30 when it opened. I’d booked our tickets the day before so we expected to pretty much march in there. But no. Things had changed in recent weeks, and despite having booked our tickets, we still had a line. A separate line, but we still had to go up to the counter to have our email confirming the purchase checked and exchanged for paper tickets.
Having tickets in hand we proceeded through the gate to pretty much have to return to the same cubicles to get an Audio Guide. What I hadn’t known was that without having booked the audio guide, I was required to leave my passport or other ID with a photo at the counter. There was a great deal of unease on my part about walking away from my passport. It pretty much ruined my use of the audio guide and believe it or not I only really started to listen to it as I was lined up to return the audio guide some hours later.
We made our way up to where the audio guide starts. I was so confused because the map we had showed something like 6 places for the audio guide. I didn’t understand how somewhere like the Colosseum could have only 6 points of interest and though the map was therefore for something else.
I stood and tried to take it all in. I recalled several movies I’d seen of Roman times and conjured up the sounds and images. It sure does look and feel very different when you’re there. Reading the boards where accounts of activities or descriptions of what we saw was an eye opener. Strange how being a part of the Colosseum made those descriptions seem more barbaric than how you feel when watching a movie portraying the same things.
I wished we had booked a guide, I know there is so much more to the place than what we read, and what I heard when I was listening to the audio guide.
While it had been cool inside the Colosseum when we’d been in line, being out in the open was very hot and so when we decided we had to move on (we could have spent so much more time). We had to walk past The Circo Massimo (Circus Maximus in English) to get to the apartment and we’d pretty much expected we would go there on our way, but now there was a very long line. With the heat of the day at 11am we decided to return when it was later in the day and instead head off to the best Pizza place in Rome. We’d been told to arrive there around 11:30 – 12pm so leaving the Colosseum at 11am meant we should arrive right on time.
We swapped a few things at the apartment before heading on. I’ve got to say it was so welcoming being in the apartment with the air con going that it made it difficult to go back out into the heat.
As we headed to the pizza place we found ourselves walking down a very narrow “road”. All of a sudden the buildings become shop fronts and we were walking past shoe and clothing shops. We walked past one place I wanted to visit if we had time. They had a number of sort of crocheted type tops that I was interested in. I could see wearing them over a singlet type top allowing me to look a bit smarter but still stay as cool as was possible.
Almost immediately past that shop we entered a Piazza and here by day it was a Market place in full swing. I recalled Massimo had described this during our Segway tour. Not that I knew where we were then at night, but now I knew.
We made our way to the Pizza place and were pleasantly surprised that there was no queue at all.
The Pizza place is a walk in only. They weighed the pizza a bit like we’d experienced in Modena with the Focaccia, then you take it up to the counter to pay. We couldn’t see anywhere we could sit but decided the edge of the fountain would do. Ordinarily in that heat I’d welcome the little bit of splash we got but not when food is sitting around. After enjoying our pizza we wandered into the Market to check it out. Mostly there were scarves and other ladies items and fruit stalls. There was on that sold lollies and several that sold spices. We made out way to one of several that had plastic milk shake sized/shaped containers filled with fruit. We’d been craving fresh fruit. We paid for one filled with cut strawberries and the one I got had pineapple and grapes. Then the staff sort of pointed and gestured to join another line. The cups of fruit were cut for the purpose of making into pure juice. In our best English (haha) we in turn did our own gesturing to explain we just wanted the fruit to eat. We got the usual daft looks. We spent the rest of the time it took to eat the fruit wandering about. I bought a couple of square shawls the headed to the shop I spied on our way into the market.
Having bought much more than I had expected (that elderly shop owner was shrewd!) I consulted Google maps to plan out our path to the next destination, The Pantheon.
The Pantheon was pretty impressive from the outside and I really wanted to stop and take photos before we got inside the building, but it was so hot. I really didn’t know what the Pantheon was. I was pretty naïve about so many things. But I know better now!
I couldn’t believe it was free to enter this place. There was a lady in a booth but she was there to ensure you were reasonably dressed to enter. I had to put on my shirt over my top, but I had carried it for just such occasions.
It never ceases to amaze me just how serious people are about their religion. The place was filled with people gawing in amazement but there were the faithful seated in quite reflection, some clearly praying, those kneeling in front of the alter and crossing themselves. I really did feel like I was intruding. Every so often a voice would come over the speaker system reminding people this was a place of worship and to keep quiet. Even whispering, as most were, it was very noisy. As per usual we found a seat, more that I needed a rest from walking all day. It was good though to sit and look around an just absorb the atmosphere and try to understand what draws people to a place like this, or what reasons they had. Some were there simply to take professional photos. Others seemed to move about quickly, having somewhere else they had to dash off to. I like to people watch. There was just too much to see. I wish we had more time. I’d love to spend an hour or so to just soak up all of the paintings and sculptures, to think about what it was like to build a place like this, what it must have been like to live in those times and how life was so different, responsibilities, priorities and status having different meaning to today. I bet it was as hard for them to see into the future and understand how the building would be received and used as it is for me to think back to the time in which it was built.
We headed to the Trevi Fountain but would pass the “Best” Gelato shop to get there. We were almost at the Gelato shop when we saw a crowd of people looking at something. We weren’t sure what it was until we go much close, but there was a guy levitating. Now I’m not usually one to belive in such things, they seem to be best suited for magic shows (which I’m also sceptical about), but I couldn’t see anything going on that could disguise any sort of ledge or wires. This guy truly appeared to be levitating. He much have been so hot all kitted out in full garb, but then if it’s to hide “things” that are needed in his “act” then I guess you have to put up with it.
The Gelato store wasn’t just gelato, they had chocolates and pastries and savoury items as well. I joined the queue waiting to get into the area where the Gelato counter was when it dawned on me that we had to pay first before we got there. Instead of sending Mr Fussy to pay, or to take my place, I left the queue and paid for the gelatos and rejoined the queue. Then after a few moments the lady at another counter said there’s no queue and to move away from and into the gelato area.
It didn’t take me a moment to begin walking and then shuffling about to try and get a position. The thing with being vertically challenged is that I don’t get seen if the counter is lined with say cones, serviettes and chalkboards describing flavours. I desperately looked at Mr Fussy who understood that in order to be noticed he was going to have to jockey for position since I seemed wedged right in the spot you wouldn’t see anything! There were about 6 men serving and they just took the ticket from whoever waved it in their direction. We were in front of the side of the counter where all the gelato was made from fruit rather than milk based. That suited us just fine and I wasn’t worried I couldn’t see the flavours from the other counter. Mr Fussy had champagne and I can no longer remember the other flavour, I had mandarin and again, the other flavour escapes me. Both were intense and refreshing, but as for the “Best”. Mr Fussy still remembered our very first Gelato in Milan being his favourite.
I had read reviewed on Yelp that explained that once served you had to move outside, past the tables. Some people in the past had been “yelled” at for sitting at the tables. In Europe they really are serious that if you sit at a table there’s a service fee. So you move right on outside and line the narrow street and gulp down your gelato that is melting furiously because it’s so hot.
Next we set off for the Trevi Fountain. I had recalled Mr Fussy talking about the fountain when we was recounting his Contiki trip. Did I know what it was or what made it so famous/popular? No. I just knew that people threw money into it. So imagine our surprise when we came across the place and it was completely engulfed in wire fencing and EMPTY. Wikipedia has some details about the restoreation. While we were there I saw no way we could walk over the scaffolding and knew nothing about a pool of water from the fountain you could throw your coins into.
Feeling a bit disappointed the fountain was empty and nothing like Mr Fussy had remembered we decided we’d head back to the apartment, ditch the goodies we’d bought and see if the queue to Circo Massimo had lessened. Sadly the heat of the day hadn’t.
This was the one time we got a taxi during the day, and it wasn’t exactly easy. As we walked to the taxi rank one taxi was being loaded up and on its way. There was another taxi there but it was empty. We couldn’t see the driver. Another person who was also waiting managed to flag down a taxi. Wolf whistling really does get the job done. But as for us we just waited and eventually a taxi pulled up. Initially I thought he was getting out for a rest but when we asked if he was free he got back in and away we went.
Walking to the entrance of Circo Massimo was exhausting. The wasn’t a queue and we were soon loaded up with a map and decided on a direction to head. I’m afraid I was so hot that even getting my phone out to take photos was becoming too much of an effort. I walked around trying to imagine what the place was like thousands of years ago when it was the city. In some parts the ruins were so insignificant that you could have missed the place as being something of importance, but other structures still stood large and foreboding. We took shelter and rest wherever we could, and were thankful for the numerous fountains which we could fill up our water bottles. It was a scorcher of a day, even by Roman standards. Okay, now that I’ve gone looking for links online, the place we were at is known as The Roman Forum. But all the time the maps showed this as Circo Massimo, and our Segway Guide had called it that too. I’m just a bit confused.
With taking a seat where we could often we’d end up with a tour guide with a group talking about what sort of activities took place in the building. It was quite nice to eavesdrop and learn a few more tidbits than we picked up from the plaques outside each site. But at the end of the day it was far too hot to spend more time and so we cut our visit shorter than I would have liked. There was a whole other side that we never got to see. While I’d been impressed by the column structures that we could see easily as we walked from our apartment, now we were in amongst them, and they were larger than I can ever explain. I really do wonder why they built things on such a large scale. I’m not sure what the purpose was, it certainly wasn’t for structure. Again the details and carving in such stubborn materials blew me away. We made our way to one of the exits and headed for the sanctuary of the apartment. I’ve got to say 36 degrees is about 8 degrees too hot to be able to move in. Before we got too far we saw a number of bridal parties up at the Captioline Museum. Again, using any excuse for a sit down, we sat on the stairs and observed the proceedings. There were lots of photos and it was interesting to see part of the celebrations and see how they are not dissimilar to NZ. Apparently it’s very expensive to get married and so it’s all that common, as if getting married should be considered common, I’m just stuck for a more appropriate word. The two parties we saw seemed to differ quite a bit in style, even when you looked at their guests and their behaviour. We sat listening to an Australian accent next to us that would turn to Italian. Mum was explaining to her two young daughters what was going on. One of the daughters was thrilled that the bride had paid some attention to her and given her some flowers. Anyway, having spent a good 10 minutes regrouping we were on our way back to the apartment to gather some strength to soon head out for our last evening meal in Rome, last evening meal in Italy, last evening meal in Europe.
You’re going to laugh. We went to the Pizza where we’d seen the Market that lunchtime, to the place we’d be warned not to go for a meal because it’s too touristy and the food is not so good. But we really didn’t feel like pasta (I can’t believe I reached that point). We sat at a table facing into the Piazza and I had the most glorious green salad while Mr Fussy had a meal that closely resembled a Mexican dish.
We had a great view, again the people watching was interesting. I noticed a number of street vendors quickly pack up their things and high tail it over the back corner just out of view. After some time they’d slinker back and pull out their make shift tables and set up their wares again. And then they’d scatter and be gone again. It took a few times of this for me to realise that they were probably not meant to be selling what they were and any sniff of police they were gone. Poof, vanished. Well not quite because I could still see them hovering about out the back corner of the Piazza. I checked with one of the waiters and he confirmed they were trying to keep under the radar of the local police. The other thing that was fun to watch was a young boy at the water fountain. He was having a ball putting his finger over the end so that the water spouted out of the hole (meant for drinking from), he was doing it in such a way that it jetted out and wet anyone walking in the vicinity. Occassionally he’d back away and let someone fill up their water bottle, or someone would cup their hands trying to get some water (they really needed to know you could drink from it like a drinking fountain) but then the little boy would return and more hijinx ensued. His Mum, finally having enough, scooted the little boy and his sister away and order was restored, but not before a good many people enjoyed the entertainment and remembered what it was like to be a young child where the simpliest of things gave us the greatest of pleasures. Ok, maybe it was just me 😉
Having finished our meal we headed across the corner where the street sellers kept racing for cover and had our very last gelato. Chocolate Mint for Mr Fussy and I have no recollection of what I had, but I suspect it was fruity. We were finally completely satisfied and made our way back down the tiny narrow streets to the apartment to try and do the best we could to get our packing in order.
Thankfully I checked out EasyJets website and noticed our bag allowance was just 20kg each. Suspecting we’d be a bit over that I bought an extra 6 kilo (you can pool your luggage allowance). Feeling like we were all set for our flight the next day it was lights out since we had a very early start of the day.
I’d like to say everything went well leaving Rome, and I guess it did, but while standing in line for bag drop (yes there was a line, another line!) I realised I had entered Mr Fussy’s passport number incorrectly into the EasyJet website when making our booking. I had a horrible fear that it would cost us a lot of money for that oversight. I was trying desperately to get online on their site to update our details and willing the line to move slower. Who ever thought I’d be happy to be in a line after all. Anyway I couldn’t get a connection (story of my life, airports show as having free wifi but in reality it doesn’t exist, it’s just a myth) and just hoped the fine wouldn’t be too awful, or worse that we had to cancel the ticket and buy a new one (I was thinking worse case scenario). When we got to the counter I showed the boarding pass issued on their Android App. The lady spoke really slow like we might not be understanding her, though her English was really good and we, were, well, English speaking. She was taking everything so slowly. She was looking at her monitor, then looking at the weight of our bags and then started to say we were overweight. I explained I’d purchased more baggage allowance the night before and then as if time wasn’t an issue she looked back at the screen and said yes it was showing. It was so strange. Everything in slow motion. Anyway she then gave us a really thorough explanation of passing through security and through to the gate which hadn’t yet been announced. And not once did she notice the passport didn’t match the details saved on their database.
We passed through security without a hitch then my next concern was the airline hostesses might notice when they checked our ticket against the passport at the gate. I started to think logically and realise they didn’t have time to compare numbers, rather just make sure the photo in the passport matched the person in front of them. And so it was.
What I couldn’t understand was the time which the flight was scheduled to leave. We were still standing in a queue waiting for tickets to be checked before getting on the bus to be taken to the plane. Clearly the flight time was taking into account the time it would take to get all passengers to the plane and seated. As it turned out we were sitting on the tarmac for a good 70 minutes before getting underway. There were thunderstorms in London and so we were waiting for the backlog of planes to have landed until there was a gap for us to arrive.
When we finally arrived we made the very long journey to Immigration. I found it really weird the non EU people were directed down a different ramp to the EU passport holders only to arrive back at the same area. We weren’t the only Kiwis on the flight, and not the only Kiwis having sussed out the situation and commented on the extra distance we had to walk in order to reach the same point.
The only reason I’m talking about having now arrived back in the UK (Gatwick airport) is to explain the third degree we got when questioned about our arrival. When we first arrived to London at the beginning of our trip we just breezed in and pretty much were ignored all the way through. Now we were being treated like we might be trying to slip into the country and overstay. I just wanted to show the lady our booked flights. Honestly we were really getting more questions than were necessary. After all, we were a couple, we weren’t young, we hardly looked like we’d be hoping for a better life in the UK. I didn’t think the questions were ever going to stop. She wanted to know which countries we’d visited which I said, then she wanted to write down all the places we’d been, in the end she settled for Milan, Modena, Bologna, Florence and Rome being listed as Italy. What were were going to do with our time, how long we were staying, what address would we be staying at, what was our relationship to them, and then one question I’ve never heard anyone being asked before was whether our leave was paid or unpaid. Clearly we looked like a threat to the UK. I guess this made up for all those times in the past we’ve just sauntered on into the UK without so much as anyone batting an eyelid. But really I thought it was overkill.
Finally being released from the questions we were finally reunited with our luggage and found David (Mr Fussy’s mum’s cousin). Now I felt like we’d arrived, and dodged the thunderstorms. Honestly, they’d followed us all the way through the EU, I was beginning to feel like the Piped Piper, but of thunder storms.