Thursday, April 20, 2006

Roman Holiday

After a bit of a flight delay at Gatwick on Thursday night, I touched down in Rome, Italy for the Easter weekend. Getting in quite late in the end, I taxied from the main station to our hotel, Colors, to meet Nata and Laura, to prepare for our long, long weekend of exploring the Eternal City. Technically two countries in one, there was much to see and do!!

Good Friday we visited the Vatican. Wowed by the site of San Piedro's Basillica from the Tiber River, we walked up the main street up into the Square, and joined the queue to go in. Accosted by someone offering a free tour in English, we tagged along and listened to an American lad with too much time on his hands tell us all the history and the special sites of the Bascillica itself.

After a tour inside, and a walk through the Grotto below the Basillica where popes including John Paul II are laid to rest, we had lunch (pizza!) in one of the cobbled side streets near the Square, before heading up the hill behind San Peidro to the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. Loads of rooms full of amazing paintings before the final, gob-smacking roof of the Sistine. Full neck crick material, we each walked through with our faces glued to the roof, trying to take every intricate bit in.

The next day, we walked Roma! Walking across the Tiber and finding our way to Piazza Navona. Taking in the square and the amazing sunshine, we then set out through the cobbled streets preparing for the next sight....the Pantheon. Taking the piss about setting our face to stunned (The Simpsons style), I was soon silenced by the massive pillars and structure that is the Pantheon. Wow! Hee hee. A little disgusted that the piazza had a Golden Arches in the coloured shuttered buildings surrounding the obelisk and fountain.

Every couple of turns in the street and we were confronted with another towering, amazing old old building....

Walking then further, we located the Trevi Fountain, and threw the necessry three coins with our right hands over our left shoulders. Depending on which guide book you read, this ritual means that you will return to the Eternal City I can certainly live with that!! - or you will get married - hopefully that can wait!!

Walking a little way more, we then found the beautiful Spanish Steps. Covered with people, basking in sunshine, with a fountain at the foot and an obelisk at that top. Resting at the top to people watch and gaze on the sight below us, we sampled some gelati.

Still more city to explore we set off south, and once we knew we were in the vacinity of our intended destination, we stopped for lunch. Pasta was the call this time, and some much deserved Italian beer.

On the day my girls were watching our team deliver the biggest upset in the AFL season so far, in the shittest stadium in the world, I visited the greatest stadium in the world, the Colloseum. (Although perhaps the two stadiums are in the same state of disrepair - hee hee, Laura made a funny!!) Wow! The Colloseum is amazing! Awesome!

After lining up, and then walking through the giant ruin, we then wandered across to CIRCUS MAXIMUS. Just a green paddock now, was once the site of chariot races, and a huge crowd. Ahhh, I had built that place up all day!! Hee hee.

Veiwing the Roman Forum ruins in the setting light of the sun from up higher, we then had espresso and chocolate taking in the wedding cake building, the Vittorio Emanuele Monument towering over the Piazza Venezia.

Nata being sick all weekend, Laura and I headed off to see the Roman Forum ruins while Nata rested. Tasting some gelati to die for after walking through the huge, crumbling ruins of an anicent civilisation, we then walked over to Piazza Bocca della Verita, where the Mouth of Truth is located, and a rather nice lawn for a nap was found!

Walking along the river after this, we wondered over Isola, the island in the middle of the Tiber, before walking through the beautiful cobbled streets to find Piazza de Fiora. And a gnocchi and people watching stop here for lunch. And then some sun soaking and a beer in Piazza Navona.

The next morning I headed off to see Piazza della Repubblica, with it's grand pillared buildings and the Santa Maria degli Angeli, before having coffee along Via Vittoria Veneto, made famous by the 1950s La Dolce Vita fame. Tree lined, and now big multi-national hotel street, there was much people watching to be done here.

Laura and I then headed out to see one of the catacombs, St Sebastian. Site of Christian burials, our tour was unfortunately disappointing. Joining the English tour, this was lead by an Italian man who seemed to speak rote learnt speech for the walk through, which seemed to make very little sense. I don't think we came away from there the wiser!!

As darkness gathered over the city, the three of us then set out for a food and beverage crawl through the city, getting in some views of the lit up sights along the way. (More photos.)

With Laura heading off in the morning on Tuesday, Nata and I took in some final wanderings through piazzas and cobbled streets. Some authentic Italian cooking, more pasta and espresso....before having to head out to the airport for our respective flights back to London.

Roma! What an amazing city. Has easily become my favourite European city, just like that!! Five days in Rome. A city bustling with good food, amazing sights, cobbled streets, and vespas aplenty!

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