Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Eternal City

No, this in't anything to do with "that" City - Cardiff City, but rather a recount of a long weekend Anne & I have just spent in "the" Eternal City - Rome. We went ostensibly on the back of it being our 20th wedding anniversary this year (though not until the end of May) - how time flies!

We flew out via Bristol on Easyjet, often maligned, but it does what it says on the tin. From dank dull UK, we arrived at Fiumicino airport in 20 degrees plus. A quick and easy train on the Leonardo Express took us into Rome's central Termini station. All the guides and info tells you to be on your guard because of pickpockest and hawkers. I can see why - the place is heaving. We had no problems though and walked the 5 mins to our hotel, the highly recommneded Artimede Hotel on Via Nazionale.

The hotel was great - not the cheapest, but everything about it was good. It's also very central for the sights. All the main sights - Fontana de Trevi, Colosseum, Spanish Steps etc are within 15 - 30 mins walk (recommend walking to see the real Rome). The Vatican which we also visited is further away - we took the Metro, but actually walked back - a bit further but easily do-able at a slow, sightseeing amble.

The full set of photos from our visit are here, but be warned, there's over 230 of them - just see the overview and pick the ones that take your fancy!

Food and drink was predictably expensive, although the restaurant we went o on our first night, Giovanni's was very reasonable - and quite traditional, recommended if you ever go that way. My review here.

There were two downsides - both to be expected, and one linked to the other. Firstly, the crowds. The place was absolutely heaving. You're not going to get any of these sites to yourself - unless you go at 4am in the morning, and probably not even then. If crowds aren't your thing, don't go. Otherwise, just go with the flow.

And because there are crowds  there are people trying to flog you stuff at every opportunity. It's hard to go more than 10 yards without some street hawker trying to sell you something. There appears to be an order. Lowest are the beggars. Sitting outside churches, on streets just holding out a cup. Next up are the migrant immigrants throwing "splat" balls onto pieces of card. Why anyone would want o buy one is beyond me. How they make a living out of it is even further beyond my imagination. Next up the line are those selling umbrellas (even if you're carrying or using one!), shawls, pictures, watches - you name it they've got it. Top of the tree are the professional scammers - people who often appear quite respectable, offering to help you out at ticket machines and then demanding payment for helping you - we didn't actually see this, but have heard reports.  Bottom line is walk past, and ignore them all. Don't be taken in, and keep your hand on your wallet and bags.

Having said that, we had no trouble. Concentrate on the good. Be prepared to wander off into side streets to see the real Rome. The scale of the buildings, especially the churches which appear on every corner is mind blowing. Even if you're not religious, go into some and look around. It's staggering.

Top tips:

  • Travel - by single tickets for the metro - it's unlikely you'll need to make many, metro trips, and you can go anywhere for a Euro (75 min time limited).
  • Walk - take comfortable shoes - you'll be on your feet a lot.
  • Keep water about you - there are drinking fountains (not the big fountains) around the City where you can fill up.
  • Go a few streets away from the main tourist traps before using a cafe/pizzaria - otherwise be prepared to pay through the nose
  • Book Vatican museum tickets online before you go.Then it's as near as darn it a walk up. Otherwise either a) go VERY early, or b) be prepared for a 2hr+ wait
Just enjoy - we did!

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