If I remember correctly, travelling from Bern to Rome was the longest leg of our journey taking around 16 hours, we stopped off in Milan for a couple of hours, grabbed a few snacks and a beer while we waited for the train to Rome to arrive. As the journey was so long we decided to opt for the sleeper train, I was accustomed to these through travelling around China; for those of you who have never been on one, a sleeper train usually has small cabins each with 4 to 6 bunks. The cabin was too warm sleep with the window closed and too noisy to sleep with the window open but unfortunately I only had these two choices, so I opted for opening the window and sleeping with my head at the opposite end of the bed with my earphones in and a mini tornado at my feet.
Like most major european cities, Rome has a fantastic metro system which makes getting around the city super cheap and very easy, with each journey only costing around 1.5 euro, much cheaper and more efficient than taking cabs. We hopped off the train and made our way to the metro line, stuffing ourselves onto the metro carriage like tinned sardines, fortunately we were only on the metro for around 10 minutes. We stayed in a place called Hotel Beldes which was very well priced and a nice little hotel, we loved it there.
You can see where our hotel is located at the top of the map, it’s on the same side of the river as the Vatican City. For the most part, everything is over on the other side of the river, this is where you’ll find the Pantheon, the Colosseum, Piazza del Popolo and so on. The advantage of being on the other side of the river is that it’s a lot quieter, prices seem to be better and there is still a lot of beauty to be seen.
During our time in Rome it was pretty hot, not painfully hot but still enough to get you yearning for some good gelato and we found what one American guy described to us as ‘the best gelato in Rome’, as it turns out he was probably right, the place we went to for gelato was just around the corner from our hotel and we ended up going a few times, it has a very good reputation in Rome amongst locals and tourists alike. If you want to pay it a visit, it is called Gelateria dei Gracchi and I have to say it is pretty amazing.
One thing you will notice about Rome is that every inch of it is outstandingly beautiful, and although I am sure it has it’s not so nice places in the suburbs, from what we saw the place is pretty flawless. Every building looks like something out of the history books, I kept thinking every single building was a famous landmark of some sort, even the normal buildings that are home to shops, cafes or apartments look like they should be on the cover of a magazine.
I’m not a religious person, but I’ve always wanted to visit the Vatican City given how rich its history is and how grand its architecture is. When we were walking in the area of the Vatican, something happened that I never thought would happen to me…we got duped into getting an unnecessary tour…I know, fore shame. I’m putting that all down to a learning exercise and will hopefully not let it happen again. To be fair to us, the guide made out like the Vatican would close before we got in if we didn’t go with a guide who could take us straight to the front of the queue and neither of us wanted to miss out. In hindsight it wasn’t the best idea but it was only around 15 euro each and we did jump to the front of the queue, the only downside is that I think the guide was Usain Bolt in disguise because I have never seen somebody move so fast; she took us around the Vatican so quick that a lot of it was a blur. When I first entered the Vatican, my mind was blown and continued to be blown the whole way around, the awe inspiring art that is plastered over every single inch of the place, the ancient hand carved statues, the architecture, the literature, the history, all of it is absolutely astounding. The Vatican is a place where you should spend a day, appreciate the place, give it the attention it deserves, this is why I would recommend not going with a guide unless you get a good one that will take their time.
As previously mentioned, over on the other side of the river is where it’s at. When you’re walking around this area, there isn’t a corner that you can walk around without your eyes widening and your jaw dropping to the floor. It is an area of outstanding beauty, you’ll be walking around and see the Pantheon, then walk through a few quaint alleyways and there is the Trevi Fountain staring at you (which unfortunately for us was being reconditioned during out stay so it was covered in scaffolding). What I’m getting at is that you can’t walk anywhere in Rome without thinking ‘how can this place even be real?’, I’ve honestly never seen a city that is so consistently awe inspiring, mesmerising and steeped in history.
Now, onto the Colosseum, we were smart enough to avoid the tours this time. Again there are tour guides acting as though you’re going to have an awful time without them. Ignore them, stand in line and pay the cheap fee to get in *they also offer student discount*. Walk around at your own pace and try to imagine what it would have been like in the past, I have a good imagination so I could almost hear the crowds roaring, wine getting sloshed all over the place, people jeering for blood and the sound of clashing steel. You have to wonder how they even built the place without modern lifting equipment, the huge stones must have weighed in at over a ton each.
The Pantheon is an area bustling with life, you’ll find street artists performing, musicians sat on steps playing instruments and a stream of people gathered in a small courtyard to gaze their eyes upon Rome’s second most famous structure. The Pantheon building itself is a beautiful piece of history, it must have seen some sights during its lifetime. I couldn’t help but wonder how it has remained so well preserved, how it looks like it has just been scooped up from a couple of thousand years ago and plonked in the middle of the city.
An area of beauty I would advise anybody visiting Rome to check out is a large square called Piazza del Popolo, although watch out for the people trying to sell you little wrist bands which they will tell you is a gift, put it around your wrist and then become irate when you don’t return the gift in the form of money. The Piazza itself sits below a beautiful ancient garden, and in the square you can find some very nice, yet expensive restaurants. One night, we decided to treat ourselves as a celebration of our engagement, we went to a restaurant on the corner and ate some amazing food, the porcini mushroom pasta was out of this world and we had the best red wine we have ever tasted, neither of us even knew wine could taste that good and that day started our love affair with red wine, bruschetta and tiramisu.
Whenever I go to Italy, there is only one food on my mind and that is pizza, it’s like I have entered into a competition of how many pizzas can you eat in 3 days. I wish I could have some of that sweet food of the gods right now. But Rome is generally food heaven, pizza, pasta, gelato, wine, tiramisu…what’s not to love.
I fell in love with Rome as soon as I stepped out of the metro, and don’t take it lightly when I say it is the most beautiful city I have ever seen, it really is.
Anyway, hope you’ve enjoyed this segment on Italy’s capital. Hope to see you in the comments.