I known you know the saying - don't make me spell it out...
So a friend and ex-colleague guessed that I would take on Bulgaria next -another classic Eastern European capital with decent forward routes for afterwards. That would have been on the cards (and hopefully still is) but I found myself with a number of reasons to first come to one of the World's most expensive cities....
1) I've actually not been here before. Our family originates from the north of Italy's boot - near Parma in the Emilia Romagna region and so whilst I've spent several weeks over the years 'up north', I've not once ventured 'down south'... until now.
2) Rome is home to one of the modern seven wonders of the World so it would be a shame to not get this on the 'seen' list - and of course hopefully finally get to see Vatican city. Actually, that counts as another country doesn't it? Good good.
3) There is also a third very valid reason but I'll update you later in the week on that one.
4) The Italian couple I spoke of in yesterday's post have invited me out to dinner with them, Rome style. What an honour and privilege. Yes, OK, this wasn't originally one of my reasons for coming here but it is now :-)
So I arrived here the other night and have to admit I was quietly surprised by how calm the city was. This is Rome, isn't it meant to be super hectic, non stop hustle and bustle? I left the airport and caught the express train direct to my next port of call, Roma Termini - Rome's main central rail station. I baulked at the cost - 14 euros for a 30 minute ride! I paid half of that for a 6 hour journey not so long ago.
Knowing I was getting into Rome late I remembered I booked a hostel within a 5 minute walk from the main central station and sure enough, this proved to be a good move. I found it with ease and was in bed a couple of hours later ready for the next morning to start the exploration of Rome.
Ahhh, this what Rome is really like! I thought to myself fairly quickly after I left the hostel early morning. Lots of people, busy-looking people, smart-busy-looking people and cars, lots of cars with blasted horns.
Anyway, armed with a road map and some general advice from the hostel owner, out I went to find a variety of monuments, ancient architecture and some pleasant scenery.
It wasn't long before one of the seven modern Wonders of the World appeared in view. Needless to say the queues were lengthy - even for a Tuesday early May morning! I will have to re-strategise if I am going to ever enter this place in the next few days.
There was no shortage of men dressed appropriately Roman. Unfortunately these buggers want your money for a snap with them so sometimes you have to improvise when they're nor looking!
On any other day I would have contemplated queuing but today brought another surprise - the weather! I remember it feeling quite hot really early on and it wasn't long before I acknowledged to myself that this was the hottest day I had endured so far on my travels. I'd been used to seeing 18 degrees so guessed at this being a pretty warm 24 but I was way off!
I don't know about you but I don't enjoy this kind of heat although it becomes more bearable whenever there is shade and gelato so I made sure I got some of both!
Still, whilst my skin burnt, I managed to take some Colosseum pictures for your enjoyment. I hope this also brings back good memories for those of you that have been here.
The problem with this place is that there is so much to photograph so I'll endeavour to get more pictures out in later posts.
All in all I was out for around eight hours and returned back for some Champions league football with some food bought from the Supermarket.
Right now it's past midnight and I've been up since 8am. I reckon I walked somewhere between 5 and 10 miles today in that 30 degree heat and my eyes are beginning to hurt so please forgive me for not supplying more information on the sites, how old they are etc... Instead I've saved my last bit of energy for something more personable and feeling-driven which I hope is what you prefer rather than me quoting monument names and stats which you'll forget about in no time...
I have to admit today I felt like a tourist - rather than a traveller (if that makes sense). I also say that a little unsure if that's a good or a bad thing. Certainly I felt safe and I didn't feel alone as everywhere I looked there were people like me, people with a cap and a camera - fellow tourists. I also felt at ease having my camera on display and I wasn't properly hassled once by the countless stall owners.
Y'know, given enough time I think I could come to enjoy Rome. As a solo traveller you get real satisfaction when the streets and places start to become familiar. This often doesn't take much longer than 24 hours depending on how much walking you do and how much information you retain. Another great feeling of satisfaction is your self-transformation of how you enter a city super-cautious, unsuspecting and little shy only to leave it with a proud smile on your face and your head held high as you navigate back down the streets that you are now vaguely familiar with.
I do however, have a problem at the moment (and it's one I'm no stranger to). You can perhaps appreciate it's very hard to adapt back to Central/Western pricing having been in Eastern Europe for so long. It's surely not abnormal for one to detest paying 4 euros for a sandwich that you could make better yourself. In saying that, I know that attitude doesn't have longevity here - nor will it make for a happy ending. As such, I know I need to relax a little on the finance side and accept that if I find a bottle of water for 2 euros, I don't need to walk another mile just to find an equivalent for 1 euro.
It's taken me a full day to realise that I will enjoy Rome a lot more if I accept it for what it is and what it offers and that part and parcel of that might mean be paying 12 euros for a meal and a few euros for a Cappuccino and croissant. #easiersaidthatdone - but I'm working on it I promise :-)
I would always welcome your advice but I have a feeling I now know what the best advice is and it goes a little something like this:
'When in Rome'....