Saturday, May 28, 2011

Rome, Italy

You win some you lose some.

My driver looked on booking.com to find accommodation for our final two nights and found a very charming hotel on the outskirts of Rome, with awesome reviews. We need to be fairly close to the airport for our flight out on Sunday morning, yet close enough to the city so that we could see all the attractions.

When we left Spoleto today, my driver gave George the very prestigious and important duty of taking us to our new destination. George has been behaving exceptionally well of late and I wonder if he didn't hear me saying something about him being the worst navigator I've ever had, because things have changed and suddenly my mate George, is responsive and alert - a bit like your first boyfriend who dotes on you, then all of a sudden, three years down the track and he turns into a monster!

George found our hotel very easily and as I watched our surrounds and where George was taking us to, I started praying that he was lost again. He took us into the seediest place, down the dirtiest, darkest streets where we saw the most awful looking people. Then he navigated us up a steep road and there it was, our charming hotel. It looked a bit like a hospital from the 11th century. One could imagine gurneys lining the sides of the building, horses and carts littering the filthy road and sick people sitting in a line on the unpaved walkway, waiting to see the local medicine man.

We checked in however, wondering if we shouldn't just make a dash for greener pastures before we settled. Before we knew it, we were fighting our way into the smallest room with the ugliest decor ever. We could hardly fit our suitcases in the room without rearranging the furniture to fit everything in. It would appear those Internet reviews were falsified. It's not a trains ash though because one only sleeps in the room, right?

Then it was time to find our way to the city for some serious sight seeing. Our hotel man directed us to the nearest station - about ten blocks walk away. We found the right train line and train without hassle. The entire train ride (about half an hour) was underground.

Rome is a magnificent but dirty city. My driver will tell you that he is unimpressed by it. He will tell you that it's a waste of time visiting, but believe me, when one arrives in the heart of the city and when one begins to see all the archeological sites unfold, one is totally blown away.

I felt absolutely insignificant by the sheer magnitude of the Colosseum. It is breath taking and spectacular. It's so hard to think that the remnants of a broken down building could be so beautiful, but it is. We did a radio walking tour of the Colosseum and it was well worth the extra cost. One gains so much information. I couldn't help wondering how much of that information was in fact 100% factual and how much has been added on for effect over the years.

The Colosseum used to seat between 40 000 and 70 000 people at any one time. The Romans of those times seemed to be barbaric and cruel and class distinction was huge. How fortunate we are that times have changed.

The Vatican city certainly is the place to be if one is Catholic. One can see nuns walking the streets in groups, the odd priest and men dressed up as Cesar. There are just hundreds of people walking around and one is exposed to a few rather sad social issues. We saw an elderly lady sitting on the sidewalk with all her belongings around her. She had about 10 lettuce leaves spread out on the floor with her pet snails neatly placed on the leaves while she poured a little water over them to either cool them down or hydrate them - whichever was in her mind at the time.

While we've seen some, but not very many social issues in Italy, I must admit the litter and general disrespect of the land is huge. The big cities are far dirtier than the country villages. I'm surprised there aren't any serious diseases in these major centers.

We took a hop on, hop off bus tour around the city to get a general feel of the layout, then we walked. As it gets dark, the place comes alive. People all congregate around all the water fountains. One can imagine this would have happened in bygone days.

We found a little watering hole and had two beers and one coke and were charged €17! Be careful where you go to and what you pay, there's always a shark out there preying on the innocent. Thank goodness we had the good sense to find a different restaurant.

When it was time to return to our hotel, there were no trains running. Apparently the station closes at 21h00 on a Friday night - we had no idea. We walked all over the city trying to find a bus that was heading in our direction. We eventually found one after midnight. It dropped us a fair walk away from our hotel and we were forced to walk the dark, seedy streets alone. I didn't feel safe at all and even removed my wrist watch from my arm and put it in my pocket so that it didn't attract unwanted attention. Even my driver was not feeling safe, although I'm sure he will deny this if questioned later.

No time to sleep, Rome awaits!

Ciao.

~ Vanessa

1 comment:

  1. Yes, isn't the Colosseum amazing! And the Vatican.

    Although I agree it's a bit dirty. We, too, got dudded on our accomodation from booking.com in Rome :(.

    Take it all in your stride. You're in Italy - OMG!!!

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