I kind of doing this all backwards as Rome is the last stop on my trip to Europe and I have not posted about the earlier places yet, but as it is my last morning in Rome I wanted to write about it now.
I agonised over where to go with my 5 extra days in Europe for some time deciding between Prague, Stockholm, Copenhagen, London (again) and Rome. In the end I decided to come here because I studied classics and it is one of those cities that you need to visit at least once. Let me just say, I am so glad I chose here.
I will admit I was kinda nervous when I arrived at the airport, as every second person I had spoken to felt compelled to tell me to watch out for the pick pockets that were rife all over Rome. What was this city like? How had the economic downturn affected the people? Was the poverty that bad that people were everywhere trying to steal from you?
From the moment I arrived at my hotel I knew this was going to be a good trip. Hotel Alessandrino, is 10 mins walk from the Vatican, in a suburban street on a hill and it's a pretty lovely place. I was checked into my room at 11.30am, given a great orientation to the surronding area and felt at home. I would recommend this hotel for anyone wanting a safe, lovely place to stay which is not in the hustle bussle, but close enough to everywhere.
I have felt nothing but safe everywhere I have walked in Rome and I have walked. From the Vatican to Trastevere, to the Forum, to the Pantheon, Piazza Navona. I have walked all over central Rome. Small alleys, big streets, crossing intersections with no lights (sticking with the Italians) as the traffic magically stops and doesn't kill you somehow. I sported a bum bag (for the first time in my life) which worn at the front kept my cards, money and phone in sight and never had an issue.
Rome is charming, the history is immense and overwhelming, the sites beautiful and the feel of the city homely but cosmopolitan. It's a lot more human than Paris I think, which while I loved, tends to be more remote and dare I say it, a bit elite. The combination of medieval and classical combines effortlessly and the Italians have made it work.
I like the people here too. The Italians are effortlessly classy. I have delighted at watching them. The men are so well dressed and Italian, the women invariably beautiful and just a tad carefree (or at least appear to be). The scooter riders make me laugh. They go full steam down the roads, dodging cars. Men in suits, women in lovely dresses, nipping down the Lungotevere del Vallati like it was Forumula One.
I find the street hawkers here less annoying than Paris too. The edge of the Vatican City is covered in people selling hand bags (genuine Guchi I assure you), Rosary Beads and anything that you can reasonably sell to someone on the street that in some way links to Rome. A simple no, and they are on to the next person. I also noticed, it's the pretty ladies who get the most attention around here. Not a 43 year old guy with a handlebar mustache.
It's truly hard to find a favourite place here. The Vatican was amazing, from the museum to the Basillica it was all just amazing. I spent a full day there and then next, a full day at the Forum, Collessum and Palatine Hill. This too was incredible. Having spent so much time studying this place, to walk where Ceaser and Augustus walked was mind blowing. To leave a coin in Ceaser's temple and to stroll the gardens on the Palatine Hill was just truly special. The Collessum helps you sense what this place must have been like before it was largely ruined and I agree with a guide book which says visit the Pantheon and the Collessum first so you can visualise the rest.
Food! Oh the food. I have largely lived on Pizza and Pasta for five days and its been great. Oh and Vino. The hotel here has been great at ordering takeout Pizza and getting it delivered and it is just bloody amazing. I made a couple of new friends (Rosco and Nicola) who where over from the UK and we spent two great evenings, sitting in the roof garden, drinking Chianti and eating pizza. Good company, great food and a beautiful city.
Things I missed this trip? The Trevi Fountain was drained and scaffolded. I'll need to come back for that. Also, I didn't make it up to the gardens above the Spanish Steps.
Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention the Churches and art. The artwork in the churches here is truly astounding. I was impressed in France, but what occurred here during the Renaissance is something else again. The beauty, intricacy and sheer volume of the work on walls, and in particular on domes and ceilings is astounding. What you cannot appreciate until you have seen it in real life, is the work of Raphael and Michelangelo. The 3D effect that they produced is astounding. It's breathtaking. This has been my learning for this trip and one that I feel blessed to have seen.
Viva Roma. La più bella delle città. Mi hai incantato con il tuo popolo, i tuoi edifici e la tua arte