If it’s Friday it must be Rome (or something like that…)
Arrived via train from Naples, found our hotel easily, stored our baggage (too early to check in) and set off for a walk around the city. After the chaos of Naples, Rome is a pleasure. No congested streets, very little hooting and traffic flowing smoothly. Of course the place is full of tourists, accompanied by the inevitable touts selling – oh yes, hold me back – wooden African giraffes (like the ones you see leaving SA with overseas visitors) and elephants.
In the afternoon we joined a free walking tour (we have derived great benefit from these various tours) from the Spanish steps, criss-crossing the streets to end up at the Trevi fountain. Very hot, but most enjoyable. A great first day in Rome.
One very busy cultural day:
Part 1 – The Colosseum. We met our well-informed and interesting guide bright and early (again – you need to try and do things before it gets too hot) and were shown so much relating to the ancient Romans. It is amazing how advanced their engineering was e.g, staircases planned to get 70 000 people or so out of the stadium in 15 minutes.
Rome seems to be the city of temples (formerly) and churches (now) as well as fountains. Fortunately there are fresh water fountains regularly placed in both the ancient and modern cities. A real bonus!
Part 2: We made our way (with some difficulty, getting confused with the transport system) to a meeting place near the Vatican. With our guide, we went through the museum, as she carefully explained what we could expect to see in the museum and Sistine Chapel. There was just so much excellence seen in sculpture, architecture, painting and tapestry in the museum. Then the Sistine Chapel (with strict controls regarding dress for both men and women) no pics allowed but just the most amazing artwork, something that will stay with us forever! Then San Pietro – we have seen so many churches on this trip, each with its own character (and glorification of the local big politician) but St Peter’s is in a different league. Such artwork, such architecture, a wonder to behold. We feel privileged to have had the opportunity to visit places of this calibre. WOW!!
After a hectically cultural day yesterday, today was quiet: a leisurely breakfast, then we walked towards the gardens of Villa Borghese, and had a glimpse of Sunday as the Romans do it – families in the park, walking their dogs, children playing, picnics on the grass. A visit to Hard Rock Cafe for M to souvenir shop. Then pizza and beer at a local eatery, maybe coffee for locals but for us today, just far too hot! – and possibly a gelato for families with children. We walked through the city, tossed coins in the Trevi fountain (me – making a wish, as required, to return to Rome and adding some cash to the apparently €1500 collected daily!) and then back to the hotel.
Our budget doesn’t stretch to Sunday as the Romans do it – couples walking out of Bulgari, Gucci and Louis Vitton with smart bags advertising their purchases – “saldi” meaning sale when items have been reduced from €200 to €150 – still a cool ZAR 2500 or so! Sorry SA friends, no such fancy souvenirs for you!
Interesting observing the general population in Rome – a lot more cosmopolitan, not as well dressed as the Florentines. The streets also seem dirtier than Florence, but cleaner than Naples. In all cities, an obvious police presence, although the more attractive ones seem to be out of the capital. Generally Rome seems more expensive, although public transport is cheaper than Florence. Most cities seem to have gone for a ticket that gives you access to the network for approximately 75 – 100 minutes, so you can change routes as many times as you want in that time. We have found this most convenient, especially when getting lost, and having to turn round and find another route!
Tomorrow our last full day before we have to consider the logistics of getting all our goodies into our suitcases to go home. One friend says she always takes old clothes when traveling, then ditches them at her last stop to make space for purchases! Sounds like a good idea!