Christiane drove me to the bus station where I got my connection to the airport – spent the waiting time talking to Mum on skype which is always nice. After a quick flight into Rome I waited for my luggage and walked straight through customs – no passport check or stamp or anything which I was freaking out about a bit. (but then a French girl told me about the Schengen agreement) Caught a shuttle bus to my hostel – thought they had made a mistake as they dropped me off in a fancy looking street lined with hotels and I had only booked a cheap hostel room! But it was the right number so I tentatively rung the bell and entered the big door and found my hostel inside. My room was not ready so I got a map, left my luggage and went and found somewhere for lunch. It was the start of me discovering delicious Italian food! Had the special of the day at a nice restaurant in the Barabarini piazza which was just across the road from my hostel – tomato and vodka penne pasta and tiramisu and coffee (they just brought out an espresso!) Feeling energised I found my way to the Trevi fountain (less than 5 mins walk) and sat at the fountain for a while in the sun. There were lots of people there all throwing coins into the fountain and such a buzzing place. It was cool just to sit in the sun and enjoy the atmosphere and tried a gelato which was amazing!! Then got a little lost trying to find the Spanish steps but eventually found my way through the numerous narrow winding streets. Randomly bumped into a free walking tour that was about to begin so I went on that – it went for about 3 hours, traipsing around the streets of Rome – went into the Pantheon and an amazing church called St Ignatius with a fake dome that was painted but looked totally real (A true optical illusion!!) Our guide was really funny and told great stories and really knew his history which made it a really enjoyable tour. There are just so many statues, fountains and oblixes in Rome! A great first day in Rome!!
Tuesday I slept in a bit and then found an internet café before walking down to the Colosseum via some interesting streets, it took me a while as I stopped and looked in some shops, explored a supermarket and stopped at the Vittoriano. It was a massive white building which is nicknamed either ‘the white typewriter’ or ‘the white wedding cake.’ It had the tomb of the Unknown Soldier protected by two army soldiers. From there to the Colosseum I passed so many old roman building ruins. I couldn’t’ believe how many there were and how they were just in the middle of busy Rome! They were so big and terracotta brickwork. The Colosseum was just amazing! I bought a guided tour ticket in which the guide did a lot of talking and showing us pictures of what it used to look like. Apparently it used to be all white and sparkling inside as the seating was made from white marble blocks which is all gone now but you could see where the 5 stanza levels were and they went up so steeply! We were allowed to walk around the first and second levels and it was cool to look down onto the arena where they had reconstructed a part of it. The rest showed the passages and elevator systems where gladiators or animals would use to appear on stage to surprise their opponent. Learnt a lot about Gladiators and how the Colosseum worked which I had no idea about before the tour and it was really gruesome! After walking around for a while on my own after the tour and bumping into the two French girls I sat next to on the plane I used my ticket to get into another big area of roman ruins (I didn’t really know much about it like what it was called or what was there as there weren’t any brochures or info around.) Anyway I spent a while walking around this huge area where there were ruins of a big palace, roman baths and pretty much like a whole community. I did see a sign which said that part of it was called ‘Palatino’ and another area ‘Arco di Tito.’ Even though I really had no knowledge of what I was seeing it was still really amazing to see just how civilized the romans were and how it is all still around today for people to see! I saw again the two French girls so we swapped details and decided to meet up for dinner later that night. Got lost walking back to my hostel but it was nice as I saw lots of backstreets and found that everywhere there were fountains or statues – even in the tiny deserted backstreets! I really like the feel and look of Rome – all the houses have flat roofs and are all painted terracotta’s or other warm colours with big windows and shutters. Went back to the Trevi fountain and met up with the Two French girls (Helene and Charlene) and we found a really nice restaurant nearby and we all had yummy pizza. They were really friendly and it was so nice talking to them – they are policewomen and were on holidays as it was Chaleine’s birthday! It was a very fun night and nice not to have to eat alone (as I think that’s the worst part of travelling by yourself) Got back to my hostel rather late – no one was there – I think I was the only guest!!
I woke up to Wednesday and it was pouring with rain! I bought a bus ticket and rode to the Vatican City where I went first to St Peters Basilica. I had an audio guide as I went around inside – again I was blown away at how big a Basilica could be and how ornate it was inside. The dome was amazing – and the big alter was impressive (I had found out on my walking tour that the bronze was taken from the roof pillars of the Pantheon and made into the alter). There were so many memorials and statues for various saints and there was a big nativity scene. Had a true Spaghetti Bolognese for Lunch and an espresso to charge me up for the Vatican Museum. It was such an amazing place and full of so much artwork and sculptures. I made my way to the Sistine Chapel – it took you through some incredible hallways which were completely filled with paintings and murals – the walls and ceilings were covered with frames – no space to see the actual walls!! It was hard to take it all in and in the end you had to keep walking as I could have spent all day walking down one hallway there was that much to see! But going into the Sistine Chapel was just the best experience. It was so quiet but busy at the same time. There were seats along the edge of the room and I was lucky to find a space after standing for a little while which I appreciated as you just wanted to look up at the ceiling which your neck felt after a while!! I had an audio guide which was so helpful in explaining where to start looking as it was such a detailed ceiling. The nine middle panels were where you looked first as they are the famous parts of the Sistine chapel – with God and Adam stretched almost touching fingers. But it was split into 3 sections – depicting God, Man and Noah. The end wall was a massive depiction of the final judgement and the frescos on the side walls were equally amazing – one side depicting Moses’ life and the other side Jesus. There were no photos allowed so I had to make do with a postcard as a memento but I won’t be forgetting what it looked like for some time. I caught the Metro back which was so quick and easy and had an early night packing for my trip to Florence the next day.