We caught the train from Florence to Rome, enjoying speeds of up to 300km/h and a very comfortable ride. We hefted our bags down the main thoroughfare, and without any trouble, found our cool little Airbnb . It was in a great neighbourhood, and even had its own ground-floor courtyard for chilling out.
We made ourselves comfortable then went for a wander to scout out the area, which amazed us when we turned left and realised the Colosseum was right in front of us! We walked the two blocks to get there, marvelling at the whole are and the crowds (and a huge number of folks selling selfie sticks!) We wandered up the hill a bit, essentially tripping over the Trevi fountains and, despite the crowds, getting some good photos!
The Trevi Fountain
It’s beautiful when you can see it past everyone else who is trying to see it too. The tourists at Trevi are packed five deep and everyone’s trying to get a great photo or toss their coin in the water to find luck in love. I would have loved to go back at sunrise to get a less populated shot but it didn’t feel worth sacrificing something else on the list to go twice.
Palatine Hill and the Forum ruins.
It’s a pretty amazing thing to see the ruins – both because of how well-preserved and excavated they are, but also because the information points along the way give so much colour and life in their descriptions.
The open-topped dome and stunning artworks arrayed around the space were pretty incredible. The breathy spaciousness and decoration were amazing to see.
I found the Vatican City remarkable for lots of reasons – its size and status as the world’s smallest country/state, the history and the sheer number of people! We did a guided tour with Garth and Ella, and the throngs of people, particularly at some of the choke-points within the Vatican gallery, made it a very congested experience. During summer, they get 25000 visitors a day, which equates to about 5 million a year, just through the galleries! The Sistine Chapel was stunning, as were the other frescoes in the old Papal apartments. I was a bit miffed at how many tourists flagrantly ignored the instructions not to take photos in the Sistine Chapel, but the roaming squads of shouting guards did a lot to shut them down.
We also visited St Peter’s Basilica, which was breathtaking in size and opulence as well. The photos don’t do the space justice. As one of the largest spiritual buildings in the world, it’s clearly meant to impress a sense of smallness on the visitor, and leave pilgrims with a sense of awe.
Nothing prepares you for it. Despite the countless film appearances (from Van Damme to Gladiator to Bruce Lee’s Chuck Norris battle) the Colosseum lives up to its name, despite the name having come from the giant statue that no longer stands beside it. The site of so many battles and spectacles, it’s incredible to stand in the space and imagine the screams, shouts, crowds and growls of everything from animals to the flooded naval battles. We luckily were in almost before everyone else, so have a few photos of the space totally empty of the almost inevitable crowds that surge through it. I had a strong desire to go home and watch Gladiator after touring it, but instead we went and found a park to read in and reflect.
The vibe of Rome, despite all the beware-of-scam tourist warnings we’d read, was incredibly welcoming and casual. Like London, Rome’s citizens seem to have cultivated a deliberately blissful unawareness of tourists, just working around them. I guess when you’ve been a tourist destination for two thousand years, you get used to it. We weren’t unduly hassled and had some great meals in the open squares and spaces while we toured around.
So that was it for Italy, now off to Spain via a quick stop in Aix En Provence!
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