Having developed an affinity for Italy we welcomed the opportunity to spend a week in Rome
It should come as no surprise that I have a beautiful collection of photos from a week wandering through the ample piazzas and cobblestoned streets of Rome. Indulging in the best gelato in the world and washing that down with fantastic coffee even made the break times in Rome seem very enticing. We felt very fortunate to have the company of Lou’s parents and youngest sister for our week in the Italian capital.
Speaking of which, I’m going to spring Lou’s devious plans in this post. She had spent six months campaigning for her parents to come across to Europe through a variety of subtle hints, guilt trips, and leveraging one parent against another. Classic strategies that every child will try in an attempt to get what they want. In Lou’s case, it worked and the holiday trip by her family worked as an excellent way for me to meet her mum, dad, and younger sister whilst getting to do what we do best – travel.
Logistically, this trip was far more involved than any previous trip. Catering to five people is much different to two, and Lou had worked very tirelessly to ensure her family were well-accommodated and that we had a solid agenda in place for the week. Simple tasks like grabbing a cab became more difficult owing to the fact there were five of us, along with the challenge of finding suitable accommodation to sleep five in an expensive European city such as Rome. A majority of hotels would expect us to book 2/3 rooms for our group so Lou turned to the ever impressive Airbnb to try and find an apartment. She was very successful in this regard, locating a clean, well furnished, and modern apartment next to the tube station and about 15 minutes walk from Vatican City.
I had wanted to visit Rome for some time, having travelled across some of the other cities in Italy (Venice, Genoa, Pisa, and Gerona) I had fallen in love with the culture, architecture, and food of Italy. Rome represented the culmination of these features and I was excited to explore the city. On our arrival, it was clear that our week in late June would be hot with the temperature above 30degrees celsius most days. Therefore the perfect day to sit on an open top bus tour in heavy traffic.
This was my first open top bus tour and it was pretty disappointing outside the aforementioned heat and traffic. We used headphones to listen to a recorded guide explain the local sites. Sadly the explanation and history provided was fairly shallow and quite sparse, we got off the bus after nearly an hour having learned very little. Since then we’ve been hesitant to use the bus tours in any other city. My one useless fact from the trip – during the height of the Roman empire, Rome routed more clean water into the city for it’s residents than the city of New York in 1989!
Following our tour, we grabbed some food at a local pizzeria and then headed for the Colosseum. En route we were able to head around and alongside The Forum – a vast excavated area of Roman buildings that leads up to the Colosseum. The Colosseum is one of the most (if not the most) impressive Roman structures in the city and upon seeing it, my mind reminisced scenes of battle from the film Gladiator. Getting to see the Colosseum in the flesh helped me to understand the scale of those gladiatorial battles although it was hard to appreciate the bloodshed by both man and animal. In my opinion, you can’t come to Rome without visiting this impressive site.
Dinner was at a restaurant not too far away, no doubt a bit of a tourist trap but it was quiet and served some nice food. I have always loved Italian food, the quality of the produce, meat, and fish always make for some excellent dishes. The Italians always seem to do a very good job of making fresh ingredients taste great in a very simple way. Bruschetta, pizza, gelato, lasagne, it was all good times for me!
We decided to follow up a busy day on the Italian tourist trail with . . . another busy day on the Italian tourist trail. As we were all first-time visitors and this was more holiday than the work/travel lives that Lou and I are used to, it seemed like a good idea to enjoy as many of the sites as possible. We crowded around the beautiful Trevi Fountain for some photos and to marvel at the architecture before heading into the side streets to enjoy some of the local stores, more great food and shopping. Whilst Lou’s family jumped between gift stores I took a little detour to a tailor to try on some suits and jackets. Sadly travelling hasn’t required a nice suit and carrying one would be tough but I’m always happy to look at nice suits. Lou came into the store to see me dressed up like the Godfather’s security guard.
As a treat mainly aimed at Lou’s mum Dolores, Lou had booked tickets for us to see a homily by the Pope. The following morning we made our way into Vatican City and took seats in the rather open and very hot St.Peters Piazza. The piazza faces St.Peters Basilica and was crowded with thousands of people, many who had travelled from far and wide to see the Pope. It really struck me to see the reactions of people upon seeing the Pope as he toured through the crowds, waving and kissing babies, on his converted golf cart. For the non-religious, I can only compare the experience to seeing the President, or meeting one of the all-time greats in their respective fields – the Michael Jacksons, Michael Jordans and Muhammad Ali’s of the world. Heatstroke and reactions aside, the Vatican is the most impressive building I have ever seen. As a way to celebrate and demonstrate the history, wealth, power and influence of the Catholic Church, the Vatican is something else.
And this is before we even got to the Vatican museum. We journeyed between rooms and corridoors adorned with artwork and displays that exhibit the history of Rome and the Catholic Church. The museum holds a vast collection that was difficult to comprehend at times, some of the hallways were so long you couldn’t see the end of them. And all of this was just a precursor to the main event, the Sistine Chapel. As the only silent room in the museum, we were greeted by a harsh “Silencio!” from the Italian guard who ushered us into the Chapel. The ban on the use of mobile phones and noise gives the Chapel a breathtaking feel, all you can do is stare in awe at the detail and scale of the artwork you are engulfed by. The low murmur of sound that does emanate in the Chapel is really just the gasps of people as they realise what am impressive and beautiful location this is. Yes, it is a huge tourist trap but for once this didn’t make it any less impressive.
The week in Rome went pretty quickly and looking back, it was a blur of sightseeing, eating, and walking. I really enjoyed my time in the city and I do feel like I could go back and enjoy it all over again – there was so much of the Vatican museum we didn’t get to see and there are many parts of the city we couldn’t cover during our visit. By the time we made it back to the apartment each night I think everyone was ready to crash due to a combination of the walking, crowds, and the heat. I loved the opportunity to get to know Lou’s family, both as a group and, at times, individually. Spending more than just a meal time together was a great opportunity, you learn so much more about people when you get to experience new things with them, especially whilst travelling!