Historical Rome

The train from Florence to Rome took about 3 hours so we were knackered already when we got off at our destination. Instead of being clever and reading the directions to our accommodation in an email we had received, we decided to get the metro to the nearest station, which actually turned out to be rather far away and we had to get a taxi the rest of the way. The metro was like no other public transport we had experienced so far – and it was a sign of things to come. The platform was rammed when we got there and the trains came every 7-10 minutes so you can imagine how crazy busy it got. We didn’t make it on to the first train that came so when the second one got there we were determined to get on. In spite of the rude Italians trying to push through. There was no air con on the metro so each carriage was boiling. Luckily we only had a few stops. Our accommodation was actually a spare room in a guys apartment near the Vatican which he called Envy Italy. Don’t be fooled – the pictures on Hostel World is not what the apartment looks like and the accommodation is listed under B&B when it is not – he doesn’t provide you with breakfast. But he was nice enough and showed us where all the main tourist places were and how to get to them. He had also recommended a few of his favourite restaurants around the city which was a nice touch. The room was clean and big with a table and fridge in it but it was so so hot that it kind of ruined the rest of the accommodation for us. We had a very old, very slow fan rotating above our bed and left the window wide open but this did not help. We could make our own food using his microwave in the kitchen and he made Jordan a really good cup of Italian coffee one morning which was nice. He also let us use his washing machine which was great as we were running out of clean clothes! As usual when we arrive somewhere new, food was the first thing on our mind so we went to a small street vendor/take away place round the corner from where we were staying and did the short walk to the Vatican to sit and eat surrounded by history. There was also a bit of entertainment as there were police men in cars driving around chasing away the people selling selfie sticks and bottles of water to the public. After a shower and relaxing in the room we headed out for dinner to try and find one of the restaurants the guy had recommended. We failed. But we found quite a nice restaurant in a small square the other side of the bridge which we enjoyed. There was even a man playing the accordion while we ate – very Italian. We had a wander up the main road after dinner and found a supermarket where we bought supplies for breakfast and lunch the next day. (FYI scrambled eggs in the microwave aren’t great!) 

The next day was a day of sightseeing. We caught the bus – which was awfully cramped and very hot – to the centre of town and had a wander around the Piazza Venezia which was lovely and had gorgeous views of the city.

We then walked along the straight road up to the impressive Colosseum. The guy we were staying with had recommended booking tickets for the Colosseum online before we got there so we did not have to wait in the long queues. Luckily this meant we could pretty much go straight in and also gave us tickets for The Roman Forum. The Colosseum was breathtaking. Initially it looked smaller than we thought it would but once we started walking round it and reading about everything that went on there, we began to imagine how it would have looked in its prime and just how many people would be there during the games. It was mind blowing.

They used to have Aqua games there where gladiators would fight sharks and other large sea life, as well as land games in which they would fight bears, wolves and lions. They even had skeletons and bones from animals the gladiators had fought on display which they had found during the conservation. There was also tools and instruments the crowds used to keep themselves occupied during the events. Things like makeup brushes, hair pins and oil lanterns painted a picture of the crowds enjoying a day at the games. The floor of the arena had been removed so you could see the dungeons and rooms they used to keep the gladiators and animals in. The whole thing was spectacular and definitely a highlight of our time in Italy. You’d be missing out if you didn’t go there.

We then tried to find some shade as the sun was scorching hot that day and had the lunch that we had bought from a supermarket the day before (we are on a budget you know). Then it was time to wander through the The Roman Forum which includes ruins of several important ancient government buildings at the centre of the city. It was fascinating trying to imagine what it would have all looked like, and the views were stunning.

After a long day walking in the heat, we caught the very busy bus back to our apartment and chilled out before dinner. That evening we went to Piazza Navona Square to have a wander. All the restaurants actually in the square itself were overpriced so we walked down some of the small alley ways to find somewhere to eat. The lanes were very cute and very Italian with tables in the roads for guests to dine at. We eventually decided on a place to eat. Natalie decided to go for a more authentic Italian dish as she hadn’t had one before so she went for lasagne, and Jordan had spaghetti and meatballs. Both OK but nothing to rave about. We then had a drink at one of the many bars there and watched the world go by for the rest of the night. 

Italian food did nothing for our beach bodies as it is all carby with pizzas and pastas and no real meat or vegetables. So the next morning we tried to find a gym. We caught the train one stop up and had a wander but couldn’t find the gym we had researched. However we found a very small (and again very VERY hot) gym called Gym Centre Sporting Club which was about €10 each for a one off gym session – not too bad for Italy. So we had a hard core gym session in the sweltering heat – again no air con, just a few fans – and headed back on the train to explore some more of Rome. After some more microwave scrambled eggs on toast we walked to the Vatican to take some pictures and see what the queue was like to go inside. It was huge. The guy we were staying with told us it was free to enter the Vatican which is great but you need to get there early in the day if you want to go inside, unless you don’t mind queuing for hours in the Italian heat.

We had a wander around and then walked to St Angelo Castle and National Museum. We actually went inside this landmark as it wasn’t too expensive and Natalie got it for cheaper as she is 25 and under. (It’s the same for the Colosseum as well). The castle was really fun to explore. There are lots of different routes you can take around it, with tiny staircases and hidden tunnels. There are original cannons and weapons to see as well as a few bedrooms and the library.

And when you make your way up to the top you can see some beautiful views across Rome. The castle was originally to protect the Pope and had its own bridge from the Vatican to the castle so the Pope could safely get from one to the other. You would imagine the bridge to be quite big but it is actually only wide enough for one person to walk along at a time.

Once we were satisfied that we had walked around the entire castle (going through a few extra tunnels just to make sure) we caught the bus to the centre of town and walked to the Trevi Fountain. The walk wasn’t long and took you through a main shopping street with lots of designer and high street brands. Throwing a coin into the Trevi Fountain was on Natalie’s bucket list but unfortunately when we got there the whole thing was fenced off so you could hardly see it let alone throw anything into it. The water had been drained and they were obviously doing major restoration work, so we left feeling very disappointed. To cheer ourselves up we went to a nice restaurant that did really good food. Natalie had a prawn, courgette and tomato pasta which was about €12 so was really good value and was delicious. Jordan had the carbonara which was also good. Thankfully this perked up our mood a bit. As the day drew to a close we headed back to our room and caught up with friends and family. We had had a late lunch/early dinner so neither of us were really hungry later on (that never happens!). So we took our shop bought chicken and cous cous (which was actually really tasty) and sat by the Vatican one last time while enjoying our light dinner. This was our last night in Italy and it was a great way to spend the evening, looking out over a true piece of Italian history. Next stop: Sri Lanka.