Day 6 – Sunday 26th June, 2005
Venice – Rome
So today we all got up and drove to Rome. It was one of those days on the bus that just starts to blur into each other one. I guess we would have had one rest stop on the way, but in Italy pretty much all of the truck stops are Autogrills, so like the bus rides, they start to blur into one.
By the time we were nearing Rome we were ahead of schedule, so Amanda stood up and asked us if we minded varying the schedule a fraction – basically we were so ahead of time that we could be dropped of at the end of one of the Metro lines and could fit the Colosseum into our walking tour. Naturally, I don’t think anyone complained. So Reuben dropped us all off at Rebibbia Metro station and we milled around while Amanda went to buy 42 return tickets. Caught the Metro (much nicer than London’s) to Colosseo station. It’s quite a shock to come out of the underground there. From its name, you would naturally assume that the Colosseum is nearby, but you are not expecting to walk out of the station and just see it right in front of you. In fact I think it took most of us a few seconds to realize that it was right there. We were still ok for time, so Amanda told us to take a walk around it and meet her back where we started in 20 minutes time. Now, it’s not so big that you need 20 minutes to walk all the way around it, but when you’re stopping to take photos and just let it all sink in, it’s just about the right amount of time. So from there we started our walking tour. The thing was, apparently to legally conduct a tour anywhere in Italy, you have to be a registered guide, and the only way to become one is to be a local person, so Amanda warned us if she stopped talking or anything we just had to mill around and pretend we weren’t on a tour.
Our first stop was on the road to the main part of town, where there are murals on a wall showing the expansion of the Roman Empire. From there we went to the Trevi Fountain, which was very busy, hung around there for a while, to allow people to take photos and throw coins in it (I didn’t, it was too much effort on what was becoming an increasingly hot day to push through what felt like a billion other people who were trying to do the same thing).
I think our next stop after that was the most awesome ice cream shop – they had around a hundred flavors, and by that I don’t mean they’ve had them in stock at some point – they had them all there at once. So it took us all a while to just decide what to get, let alone queue up, buy it and eat it. But it was a very nice and cooling break on the walking tour. I think I had chocolate, chocolate fudge (or mousse?), choc peppermint and I’m sure there was another flavor, but I don’t know what. We also then went to the Pantheon (massive inside). There were a few other small places we stopped at along the way, but those were the main attractions.
Then we were off to one of the squares, where we all split up and went off to find dinner. We were still early; most of the restaurants didn’t open until 6.30 or 7pm, so we wandered around the square, looking at the stalls & handbag sellers. Kirsten & I had decided that we wanted new handbags, so we started to wander and look at what they had. We couldn’t decide what we wanted, so after some people went to the ATM, we started wandering to look for a place to eat. Our main problem was finding a place that was actually open. Eventually we did, although I have no idea who actually found it in the end – we were all just getting hungry and sick of seeing places that weren’t open. So we sat at one of the outside tables (my chair was by a ditch in the pavement that was covered up by carpet, so I kept nearly falling off), and then we ordered. I had a pizza, I think Kirsten did too, J had pasta (Gnocchi I think), and I don’t remember what the others had. Kirsten & I decided to share a bottle of Frascati, which wasn’t too expensive, I think it was €10 for the bottle, either way it was quite nice. So we had about 2 hours to eat and drink, and we did that. We found out why the restaurant seemed a little cheaper than others – cars did occasionally drive up the road that we were effectively sitting at, but not too many, at the most 4 or 5 in the time we were there.
I had trouble finishing the pizza I’d ordered and I seem to remember cutting parts of it up to foist it off on some of the others so I didn’t have to eat it all. I don’t remember what it was, but it was nice, just very filling.
So after dinner we made our way back to the square where we were meeting, and luckily the handbag guys were still there. Kirsten & I wandered off to see if we could find ones we like. The really annoying thing about the handbag dealer guys is that you can’t look without them nosing at you and trying to sell you the first one they pick up. It really starts to piss you off after only a few minutes. Anyway, we finally managed to find one each that we liked (nearly identical ones, only mine is bigger), and started bartering with the guy. At first he wanted €50 each, and was claiming that they were genuine Prada bags. As if. We just kept repeating the price we’d quietly agreed on beforehand, which was €25 for two. The lowest he’d drop was around €30 or €35 each, so we handed them back to him and started to walk away, then all of a sudden they became €30 for two. Amanda had told us before we got to Italy that a good/average/maximum price was €15 each, so we looked at each other and agreed to take them for that. Realistically I’d pay ???15 for a bag, and €15 is around ???10 probably, so it was fine by me. As soon as we’d agreed to buy them, he shoved them at us, shoved some plastic bags at us and we paid him. I ended up paying €20 and Kirsten €10, but then I’d only put a few Euro towards the bottle of wine we’d had the day before, and it hadn’t been that cheap, so even with that I probably still owe her some!!
As soon as we’d finished with that handbag dealer dude, some woman selling scarves came up to us and started to convince us we needed some – as soon as you buy from one of the street dealers they all prey on you, so we just walked to the fountain where we were all meeting Amanda and showed off our purchases.
When everyone was accounted for we headed off to Spagna Metro station, with just a brief stop at the attraction there – the Spanish Steps.
From there we caught the Metro to Valle Aurelia station where we swapped for the above ground train to La Giustiniana, where the bus met us and drove us for a few minutes until we reached the hotel. Our hotel here wasn’t too bad – it wouldn’t compare to a Holiday Inn, but it wasn’t as bad as I’d expected – the showers worked and the beds were comfy enough. By the time we’d checked in it was at least 10pm, but I was badly running out of tops & underwear, and this was a two-night stop, so after having a shower I did some hand washing in the bathroom sink, then started to blow-dry the clothes dry with the weak installed hair dryer the bathroom had. Got sick of that after a while and just left it all hanging up to dry. Once again I discovered that my ‘European’ adapter didn’t fit the damn plug holes in the wall, so I took some washing powder up to Kirsten & Alison’s room and did another trade. I think I also ended up trading some after-sun gel for yet more heat rashes. This was a fun hotel to run around in – I don’t know why though, it had wide hallways and stairs, and they all echoed badly. Kate & I had a room that was at the front of the hotel, almost overlooking the check-in entrance.