In December, I was lucky enough to go swanning around Rome with my mother and a noticeable absence of children. This was thanks to my dear husband who very kindly said he’d stay at home with the children so I could have a holiday without them.
In the airport, I began to get really excited about the trip. I was off to a foreign country! Without my minions! And best of all? There was going to be history absolutely everywhere I went. That’s a dream come true right there. I got even more excited when we had to actually walk up to the plane instead of being ferried across the airport. I love walking by all the big jets, wondering if they’ve just come in, or just going out and where the people on those planes might be going.
Here’s a picture I took as we walked up:
We were on the plane that has 'Yorkshire' in massive letters all over it.
Anyway, soon enough, we were in the air and my mum started getting as silly as I was, and we started trying to play I Spy. There’s not a lot you can really use for that game on a plane, so eventually, we gave up and started reading the brochures. That got silly too, when we started rating items out of ten and trying to decide other possible uses for the things we saw.
Thank goodness it wasn’t a long flight. I think we began to annoy the flight attendants with our silliness.
Around 9pm Rome time, we got to our hotel. I have to say, the Hotel Trevi is one I would recommend to anyone and everyone (actually, writing it here is doing just that, isn’t it?). The staff were absolutely fabulous and couldn’t do enough to make sure we were happy and best of all, it was only a two minute walk from the Trevi Fountain.
Hotel Trevi on the night we landed.
Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain)
The next morning, we set off on a mission. We were going to see as much as we could, as fast as we could because we only had four days in which to cover just about everything we wanted to see. Our first stop was the Pantheon. I loved it there, even with all the people milling around, there was a sense of tranquility there that faded all the background noise out as we sat on the benches. We even had a chance to help some Italian children with their English homework and received a Christmas card in return.
Our next stop from there was the Piazza Navona, which is a marketplace of sorts and of course, had some wonderful bits of history floating around it such as the Egyptian Obelisk.
Piazza Navona with the Obelisk
After hitting a couple of the stalls there, we headed back to the hotel. That’s something that took a while to get used to. In Rome, there’s a couple of hours where everything slows right down and a lot of places close up until about 4pm so that they can have an afternoon nap or get something to eat themselves.
That evening, we tried the Chinese restaurant around the corner from the hotel. It wasn’t too bad, so we agreed that we’d go there again the next night. After food, we headed out to look at touristy type shops for a while until about 10pm when we headed back to the hotel once more.
It was at this point, I became very well known to the reception staff. You see, I’m a smoker. I’ve tried and failed to quit but have yet to achieve that. Anyway, as you’re not allowed to smoke inside the hotel, I traipsed downstairs in my pyjamas, my coat and bright pink beanie hat and sat on the bench outside to enjoy the night air. This became a routine for my entire stay and all the staff said hello and asked after us every single time. God, I love that hotel. Eventually, I fell asleep.
The following day, we went to the Colosseum. What can I say? I love history, and the Colosseum is one of the most famous places on the planet so I wasn’t going to miss that for anything. On the way, we stopped by Trajan’s Column and my father and I (he’s a Roman History buff) discussed all the various adventures of Trajan while mum took time to rest from all the walking we were doing.
When we got to the Colosseum, I was amazed. I shouldn’t have been, but I was. When you see it on TV, it looks large enough, but not really monumental. When you’re stood in front of it though, it’s a different matter entirely. It dwarfs you and you can only look at it in awe, wondering how on earth they could build something so huge, that has lasted for so long. Inside it is just as good although, I’m still wondering how on earth they held mock naval battles there without losing all the water from the arena.
Outside the Colosseum.
Inside the Colosseum, including the recreated arena floor.
We spent a good few hours looking around there before heading back to the hotel once more. I do have to say at this point, the underground system in Rome is superb. It’s way better than that in Britain. It’s something like four Euros for a ticket that lasts for 24 hours, and you can go anywhere in Rome on it. I think Britain could learn a lot from them about how an underground should work.
Now, where was I? Oh yes, going back to the hotel. We had our afternoon nap and once more headed towards the Chinese restaurant around the corner from the hotel. We definitely chanced our luck that night.
The next morning I woke up and I could barely move. I was doubled over with horrendous stomach cramps and I was upset because I was jeopardising our chance of going to The Vatican. I tried to go the breakfast buffet that is held every morning on the terrace of the hotel, but I managed precisely one spoonful of cereal before bolting back to the room.
My mum, my other mum (long story), and my Dad were beginning to get very worried at this point and didn’t care about the Vatican any more. They were busy making sure I had my European Health Card and my passport ready so they could take me to the doctors when I silenced them. I told them I would visit the pharmacy that was helpfully located by the side of the Trevi Fountain and, if they couldn’t help, I’d go to the doctors with them.
I managed to stagger down to the seats by the fountain before the cramps hit again and then spent ten minutes trying to breathe through them. The police (who are just about everywhere in Rome and all armed) came over, full of concern and asked me if I wanted them to take me to hospital. I managed to explain in broken Italian about going to the pharmacy and they offered me a lift if the pharmacy couldn’t help.
When I finally made it through the door of the pharmacy, the wonderful, wonderful pharmacist took one look at me before saying food poisoning and telling me what I needed. I paid for something that looked like an Alka Seltzer as well as acted like it, and staggered back to the fountain. My mum grabbed a bottle of water from the nearest shop and dropped one of the tablets in it.
I have got to say, that tablet was the foulest tasting thing I’ve ever come across in my life. I’m not even joking about that. The taste alone made me want to vomit my guts up there and then in the street. It was however, a life saver. Within 45 minutes of drinking that godawful mix of tablet and water, I was myself again. No pain, no temperature, it was if the poisoning had never happened.
It seems strange to me now that this whole escapade had lasted less than two hours, but it’s true and we still had time to go to the Vatican.
The Vatican is a place I can’t even begin to do justice to. St. Peter’s Square alone is huge, and on the day we arrived, there were women everywhere in wedding dresses. We couldn’t understand why until later on, someone explained that novitiates were taking their holy orders and that as they were becoming ‘Brides of Christ’, their families paid for astounding wedding dresses to symbolise that wedding. That alone was worth going for.
St. Peter's Square from the doorway of the Vatican.
Inside the Vatican was breathtaking. I truly didn’t realise it was so big inside there. There’s so much to look at that at first, your eyes can’t take it all in and they dart everywhere, trying to capture as much as possible, as though it would disappear if you didn’t. The thing that surprised me most, was the sense of peace that pervades. It’s unreal. There were hundreds of people in there, all clicking away on their cameras and yet, it was strangely muted. You find yourself responding to that by talking in hushed whispers yourself and you can feel all the tension you feel, begin to drift away.
I know it sounds strange, silly even, but it’s the truth. It doesn’t matter what religion you are, what you may or may not believe, in the Vatican, everything is peaceful. A visit there is better than any spa day.
Inside the Vatican.
The Pope's Altar
I was strangely reluctant to leave the Vatican, but leave I had to and so, slowly we wound our way back to the hotel once more, cutting through the Jewish quarter as we did so. Our last night was spent wandering around, not really looking at touristy type places, we walked the back streets and the alley ways and eventually, ended up back at the Trevi fountain where we followed custom and threw in a few Euros to ensure we would return again some day.
Our last day was spent packing up our things and the things we’d bought (which involved me sitting on my suitcase and praying the zip wouldn’t split) before heading back to the airport, ready to come home. Mum was right. I didn’t want to leave. Rome had captured me and I felt a little like I was leaving a piece of myself behind. There hadn’t been enough time to do every single thing we wanted, to see everything there was to see, do everything there was to do and now, it was too late.
Sitting here at home now, I still feel a little like Rome is calling me back, whispering in the night that I need to come and see more of its wonders, share in its secrets, but I can’t. Not yet, anyway. So into the night I whisper a promise that I’ll return soon, and that next time, it can show me the things I missed.