rome - the eternal city, for reasons i'm not motivated enough to find out.. an impromptu trip booked by my gf maja only a couple of weeks in advance, and with very little research done (or needed)..
we arrived on a cold sunday afternoon and took the train to the calm neighborhood of vitinia, were our CS hostess was waiting for us.. we had some tea and cookies, then she drove us to what she thought were good spots that maybe we wouldn't know about if not recommended by a local.. and boy, was she right!
we first went to the basilica di san paolo fueri le mura (basilica of saint paul outside the walls), one of four main papal basilicas in rome. it's a huge 4th century church, with a beautiful garden outside and pretty a impressive interior..
the curious thing for me, in every church there, were the innumerous offering/donation boxes. they're just everywhere - next to anything that might draw your attention, anywhere you must pass by to get to other areas, and of course, even in the bathrooms.. so much ostentation and grandeur contrasted with shameless begging.. i guess even the richest and most powerful institution in history of mankind needs some loose change tossed at them sometimes, right?
then we went to get a glimpse of one of the best panoramic views of the city from gianicolo hills and then parco savello, mostly known as the orange garden, and right next to it, a pretty curious "secret".. there is a keyhole, and if you look through it, all you can see is saint peter's basilica far in the distance (actually across 3 states: italy, malta and vatican), framed perfectly by the bushes of the gardens of at piazza dei cavallieri di malta..
it was time to get very italian.. so we went to la romana, a gelateria with delicious and fair priced ice cream, and from there, back to vitina to get some suppli (kind of a fried rice croquette with cheese inside), bruschetta and, of course, pizza!
then here's the thing.. people say you can't really explore all of rome by foot, or even most of it.. we proved this wrong.. of course, there are some scattered spots you probably can only get by public transportation or car, but i'd say 95% of what most people see there are relatively easily accessed by foot..
we planned to divide the city in areas and do a bit each day, but we saw pretty much everything except the vatican city and some less known areas on the first day, walking! in a nutshell: basilica di santa maria maggiore, arco di constantino, palatino (palatine hills), foro romano (the roman forum), piazza campidoglio, colosseo, piazza venezia, campo dei fiori, piazza navona, trinità dei monti/piazza spagna (the spanish steps), piazza del popolo and finally fontana di trevi , dry and closed, mostly covered by scaffolding, but still crowded with people lining up to walk over a bridge to have a quick close-up view. all before it even got dark..
quick tip: when going to the colosseo, you get a ticket that also includes entrance to palatino and foro romano. buy them at palatino, as it's the least known of the three places and there is no line, while specially in the colosseo, you might have to wait for over an hour just to get the ticket.. or buy them online paying a couple of bucks more..
we had already moved to a very centric hostel, and at night there was a free sangria "party" where we hung out with our roommates and met some other travelers (mostly a whole bunch of brazilians.. surprise surprise!)
up at 6:30 and out by 7:30 to beat the long lines in the vatican, we decided instead of walking, to take the bus 64 from termini (the the central station).. this bus is known as pickpocket express, and it's easy to figure out why.. it stops at many of the main touristic attractions, and full of distracted (and slightly stupid, i must say) tourists, it's a banquet of opportunities for well trained thieves to feast on..
another curious thing is that apparently nobody pays for bus rides there.. you can get in through any of the three doors, and you're supposed to validate your ticket once you're in, but we didn't see a single person do so on the few bus rides we took.. and we heard there's very little enforcement.. so.. you know.. just sayin'..
we managed to get into an almost empty saint peter's basilica, which interestingly enough, didn't really impress us as much as we expected.. maybe going to saint paul's before had something to do with it.. there, again, an absurd number of donation boxes.. shame on you, catholic church!
the weather was far from good at this time.. and after checking out the nativity scene in the middle of saint peter's square, the rain got heavier and we decided to get some "holy" coffee and cornetto (croissants) right there at the vatican until it gave us a break..
when it did, we had a look at the castel sant'angelo (castle of the holy angel) and its beautiful bridge decorated with a bunch of angel statues, and next to it, the imponent palazzo di giustizia (palace of justice), both on the margins of fiume tevere (the river tiber)..
the only main spot left to see was the pantheon.. another one that didn't impress us much.. it's interesting to see the gigantic dome with the big hole in the middle (the oculus), but other than that, not much to see, really.. oh yeah, donation boxes!
we passed by the largo di torre argentina and piazza della repubblica before going to the hostel to rest our legs and take a nap.. in the evening, we headed out to the bohemian neighborhood of san lorenzo, a lively and alternative area dotted with bars and restaurants with good food and good prices.. had dinner, then did some night time sightseeing: piazza barberini (really nothing there), piazza spagna, piazza de pietra, and finally the colosseo again..
next day was also rainy, but we managed to walk to isola tiberina (tiber island), one of the two islands in the tiber river, passing again by the colosseo and circo massimo (an ancient chariot racing stadium), then to trastevere neighborhood and santa maria in trastevere church..
when the rain started to pour, we decided it was time to go to the hostel, get our stuff and pay an overpriced bus to go to the airport, since the only other option was the far more overpriced train..
in conclusion, rome was much cooler than i expected.. even though it's mostly religious related monuments, the historical relevance of this city is undeniable, the food is just what you'd imagine, and the people we met were the icing on the cake.. a little better weather would've been a bonus, but really, it wasn't too limiting, so i won't even complain..
PIZZA! PASTA! PEPERONCINO! PRINCIPESSA! MARIO! PREGO! TORTELLINI! RAGAZZA! ALLORA! POPOLO! FIUMICINO! MUZZARELLA! BAMBINO! DOMANI! CAPUCCINO! GRAZIE! SIGNORE! BUON GIORNO! CAZZO!
view from the orange garden
the roman forum, i guess part of palatine hill and a bit of the colosseo far back
the vittorio emanuele II monument, by piazza venezia
the palace of justice
need i say?
the catholic church, accepting your donations for 2 millenia! bravo!