This time last week, I was probably on an aircraft waiting to fly back to Gatwick, following five days in Rome. It seems like a long time ago now.
You really can’t take more than three steps in Rome without stumbling over some ancient ruins. They’re everywhere. Often, they’re just some pillars, supported by metal bands and standing among weeds and rubble, usually up against more contemporary buildings. I don’t doubt that just a few feet beneath the pavements, so much more remains undiscovered. The point is, you can see so much without paying a penny, like the Trevi Fountain, which is pretty much what we did.
I didn’t bother to do any specific research before I went. I watched Mary Beard’s series on BBC4 when it was broadcast. I wanted to just look, and take it all in. And it really is spectacular. My general photos are here. The river you can see is the river Tiber – the Tiber! I don’t know why this excited me so much, but it did. I wish I’d kept up with Latin, though. Just the street names can tell you so much, but I might have been able to read some of the inscriptions and graffito.
Anyway, out hotel was this one, which was central for everything and very comfortable. Mind you, it was a bit inconsistent. My room was right at the top, with my very own balcony, and very spacious for a single room. Wifi was pretty near impossible to get, though. My travelling companions had single rooms each, both of which were smaller than mine (although one had a queen(?) sized bed and a door that was incredibly difficult to open. The other was more like a cupboard and had a leaking bidet. And none of our rooms were in the hotel we originally booked, which was this one. For some reason, they’d made a mistake and had to move us. The Helvazia was more central, but further away from the Colosseum and the conference venue which is the reason one of us was there in the first place.
In fact, the mistake with the hotel booking came at the end of a day that had started with the rail strike meaning that I had to get a taxi to the station because my train was cancelled, then the aforementioned taxi hit a cyclist who had come tearing out from a park straight across the road (and was wearing his earphones….), and then the train to Gatwick was cancelled as well so we ended up getting another taxi (fifty quid each) to the airport because we didn’t want to take any more chances with public transport. Sigh.
I didn’t find Rome as expensive as I thought it would be, which probably says more about how prices have risen generally than anything else. We are really well (apart from the last evening, which was ok but not up to the standard of previous choices). We ate here (which was my favourite, and by far the cheapest, especially with wine at 7 euros a litre) on the first evening; lunched here on Thursday (lovely, freshly cooked food but very uncomfortable seating if you have anything other than a small bottom); a Sicilian restaurant Melo on Thursday evening; and here on Friday evening. The Constanza was something special. Not only was the food and wine excellent, but the restaurant itself is partially in the remains of a Roman theatre. Saturday was a bit of a disappointment. We wanted to go to a place that made pizzas fresh and right in front of you, but unfortunately it was full, complete with queue of people waiting for a table
Two spectacular places we did pay to visit were the Colosseum and Trajan’s Market. My Colosseum pictures are here. Trajan’s market (photos here) was originally directly linked with the Colosseum. The magnificent horse sculptures you can see are modern, and part of a touring public exhibition, the Lapiderium. Given that I hard a tour guide say that more ‘exotic’ animals were dispatched for public entertainment (and probably by ‘accident’ in the chariot races) in the Colosseum than at any time in history, I thought they were a poignant reminder of how cruel human beings can be.I would definitely go back to Rome again. I didn’t see the Sistine Chapel, or visit any of the art galleries. I’d do some more research as well, and visit something with a bit more knowledge under my belt. Oh, and I’d take several pairs of comfortable walking shoes and loads of pairs of socks. Walking around Rome is incredibly hard on your feet, paved as it is with small granite blocks if you’re lucky, crumbling concrete and tarmac if you aren’t. It’s the best way, though, as nothing is especially far away and public transport looked packed and tricky to negotiate unless you speak some Italian. I wouldn’t like to be there in the summer. It was very warm even in October, and busy. I can only imagine how hot and crowded it must be July/August.