Rome is a place that I’d dreamt of going to since I was a child – The Eternal City, the City of Love… When my husband booked it I was so excited… Then the Brexit vote hit, our holiday provider went out of business and we were told our holiday was cancelled.
We called the provider who told us our fights were still booked and we’d need to check with the hotel to see if that had been paid for. I contacted the hotel by email and by phone – I did this almost every week (for around 6 weeks!) and I was assured that everything was still valid and that they were looking forward to seeing us soon. I contacted the hotel again two days before our flight (just to be sure) and was reassured, we were even told by our hotel that we could check in early for no extra charge.
I could finally enjoy my holiday! …..or so I thought.We had a lovely flight, jumped into a taxi and went straight to Hotel Artis. We were told we couldn’t have an early check in but we could leave our bags with reception and they kindly provided us with a map on how to get into the City, with bus routes.
The bus stop was about a 5 minute walk away. We ended up on the wrong bus, taking us to the wrong place and got completely lost, in the rain. After a stressful two hours, bus, train, metro we eventually found our way to the Termini, bought our Roma cards and went exploring (Roma cards give you your metro travel and entry into some of the museums and Colosseum so worth getting). What amazed me was the amount of graffiti that covered the buildings. In some areas it made the city look dirty and like a bad place to be, yet in other areas it so beautiful and a lot of thought had gone into it.
We walked .. and walked.. eventually finding the Piazza del Popolo. I loved the Egyptian Obelisk with the Lion fountains surrounding it and the Fontana del Nettuno. It was so magical, and the sun had started shining so even better! We then tried to find a coffee shop. This is impossible to find – After looking for hours, we’d have been happy to find a Costa or a Starbucks and Dan was very disappointed and very grumpy.
We made our way up to the Fontana del Tritone and found the Trevi Fountain. It was so busy with crowds queuing to make a wish. Near the Trevi were lots of little Gelato shops, we stopped for one instead of a coffee, it was delicious!
We went to look for the Pantheon but nothing could have prepared me for what we found instead. The “Wedding Cake”, also known as Altare della Patria and Il Vittoriano is the most breath-taking thing I’ve ever seen. I was so overcome with emotion from it’s beauty and grandness and the more I looked at it, the more beautiful it became. It gave me goose pimples.
The stairways, columns, fountains and the sculptures of horses were outstanding. The Eternal Flames were lit for the unknown solider and flags were flying proudly.
As it started to rain again, we went inside and looked around the museum and inside the building was as grand as outside.
Nearby we could see parts of Ancient Rome and the Colosseum in the distance. We decided to head that way and as the weather cleared up we saw it lit up in shades of green and blue – which gave us some amazing photographs. Outside of the Colosseum was a large equestrian sculpture, inscribed with what appear to be Egyptian texts which I fell in love with.
Our trip back to the hotel was eventful, being harassed by people selling us a sob story and selling us things. We found that the Metro was around a 10-15 minute walk away from our hotel, once we eventually figured out the right way to go.
We arrived back at the hotel to check-in. We were told our room had been cancelled the day before by our holiday company. It was like someone was playing a cruel joke on us. Eventually we managed to sort it out, the Hotel luckily had a room free.
The room was comfortable, but after a tiring day filled with walking and the stress of our bookings we were ready for a long sleep!
The next day was very wet and windy and our breakfast wasn’t great…. We hopped on the metro and found our way to the Vatican. Outside of the Metro we were sold a “Skip the Queue” guided tour and a car ride down to the Vatican entrance. Whilst we waited for our guide we stopped at a small café and ate Crepes for breakfast and Dan eventually got his Italian coffee. Even the sun had started to shine. I would recommend a ‘Skip the Queue’ deal as the Vatican isn’t covered in the Roma Cards. It’s quite pricy and ‘skip the queue’ isn’t what it sounds like – you basically skip the 3-4 hour queue and join an hour queue instead. Ladies! Wear sensible clothes as it’s a religious place. Shoulders and legs need to be covered up or they won’t let you in… no matter how long you’ve queued. You need a full day to explore the Vatican and the City and be sure to check opening times and pope visits as this will determine if you’ll be allowed in certain areas.
Our tour guide was amazing – Mama Marisa! She was an elderly lady with a little yellow raincoat and matching wellington boots.
She took a group of us, ‘her Bambinos!’ and was brought to life the art works and history. She was quick to tell us that the Sistine Chapel would be closing early and ensured we got there before it closed.
The Vatican was insanely busy, if you didn’t keep walking you’d get squashed. As Mama Marisa said “Use the Elbows!” to get through.
The artwork, tapestries, sculptures and architecture was out of this world. It was everything I’d hoped it to be. It’s a shame about the crowd and having to rush to get into the Sistine Chapel but it was well worth waiting to get inside.
I loved seeing the paintings of the maps and the animal statues and I think I spent a lot of the time looking up, as the ceiling was mesmerising, painted to look as if there were sculpted pieces hanging.
The Sistine Chapel was eerily quiet and we spent a while learning about Michelangelo’s ceiling and all of it’s secrets.
Outside in St. Peter’s square we sat and enjoyed the sunshine and walked around Vatican City. That evening we decided that because we were in Italy we just had to try a pizza, we were a little disappointed as the one in Crete was better – but I guess we expected more from a proper Italian pizza. That night we had regretted not buying decent walking shoes as due to all of the walking and the wet weather our feet were raw and blistery!
Our last full day we spent exploring the Colosseum. As we had bought the Roma card we decided to use it and not buy a skip the queue ticket. Don’t listen to what the ticket sellers say – They told us a two hour wait, we were 45 minutes at the most. Skip the queue is only worth it if you want to visit the very top of the Colosseum.
This is nothing like it looks on the pictures, its another place which is extremely busy and packed with people.
It was so interesting to see from the inside with it’s underground passages and museum pieces around the massive arches. I was fascinated by history of its use from Gladiator fighting, hunting and sentencing people to death by animal to putting on plays and reciting poetry.
Following this we explored the surrounding area in the daylight – with even more people harassing us for money – one even charged us 10eu to hold a pair of Budgies.
The Ancient Rome ruins look amazing and is another place for cat lovers as the steps are littered with them. I enjoyed looking at the bronze equestrian statues in the distance and seeing the ‘wedding cake’ once again. We found the Patheon which was lovely and visited fountains around Piazza Navona.
The Capuchin Crypt was unsettling – it contains the skeletal remains of 3,700 bodies. The bones covered the walls, and lights were made from tiny bones.
Each room had a different theme; ‘The Crypt of Pelvises’ was a room covered in Pelvis bones, ‘The Crypt of Skulls’ had a wall made completely out of skulls, ‘The Crypt of leg bones and thighs’…. you guessed it! There were more rooms like this, but the most unsettling for me was ‘The Crypt of the three skeletons’, there was a Skeleton on the ceiling in the centre, surrounding by an oval of bones, in its hand was a scythe made from different size bones and the other hand had scales made from what appeared to be fingers and toes. The two other skeletons were dressed like monks…. you can’t speak throughout the tour and the air felt heavy.
I left feeling sad and a little scared – Dan said it had a similar effect on him too. We joked that one of them was following us home, then didn’t sleep a wink that night.
The last place we visited was the Zoo (Bioparco) in the Villa Borghese park, it’s one of the best Zoo’s I’ve ever been to. I loved the Elephant, Giraffes, Hippos and Jaguars. Dan didn’t enjoy it so much because he was tired and his feet hurt, but it was a lovely end to what ended up being a lovely trip.
So to sum up my Rome trip – One of the most stressful places I’ve been but also one of the most interesting and beautiful.
If you visit make sure your hotel is in the City itself as it was a pain being based so far away from our hotel and getting lost just added to the stress.