I arrived in Rome a few days ago from London in the early evening. I then ventured out to nearby Tuscolana Railway Station to meet my couchsurfing host, Andrea. His apartment was beautiful and very Italian with high ceilings and wide beautiful windows and a stone balcony.
He made me fresh carbonara to celebrate my first night and a friend of his arrived for the night having just driven from Venice to Rome for her move. They were both so much fun and we chatted late into the night on the balcony, sharing wine and stories and our favourite movies.
My first day full day in Rome was long! I beat my own steps record and smashed out 28,000. My hosts apartment is located about 2km from the Colosseum and my time in New York made me confident this would be a worthwhile walk. I then basically walked my feet off and spent the day finding almost every key iconic site in Rome.
In between sights I enjoyed a cheap pizza and beer lunch in a local deli style shop for 7 euro (!) and some bruschetta in the afternoon where a woman fainted for a number of minutes and scared me, her daughter and husband and the restaurant staff half to death. I think I lost weight in my silent panicking while the Italians around me flustered and yelled. It was a whole thing. She was OK though thankfully, at least she was when I left.
Throughout the day I saw and enjoyed the Colosseum, Roman Forum, a couple of Basilica's, Alter of the Fatherland (great views and free to wander around!), Trevi Fountain, The Pantheon, St. Angelo Castle, The Vatican, St Peter's Square, the Spanish Steps and the Piazza Navona. Here's some pics:
In the afternoon I spent some time in the Da Vinci museum and learnt all about his engineering work (which I hadn't known about) and his engagement in designing of superior military weapons which was a shock given he was a pacifist. That night I went to bed pretty early as I was super exhausted! But it was an even longer day the next day.
Day 2 started early with a trip into the centre via the metro system to Piazza Popolo. Here I met with my guides and the other 50 or so tourists ready for a 12 hour day. We stopped first in a town called Cassino (DAD! can you believe it??) and had breakfast. We then headed off to Mt. Vesuvius. The drive was tenuous and stressful. There was a long winding road up the mountain that was very tight, the driver kept honking before each corner to make sure the cars knew there was a huge bus coming around the corner. I swear my stomach dropped through my ass multiple times.
But the view on the way up was lovely.
Our guide told us that the way up was manageable. Only 2km she said. We'd all make it no worries! What a liar she was! The road up was practically vertical, and made of loose gravel and stones that my feet sunk into with every step. If that wasn't annoying enough my calves ached to the high heavens. But I made it! In a denim skirt no less.
The views into the volcano were pretty awesome and cooler than that was the view down over Naples. It's a little awkward asking strangers to take photos of me but it would be worse having no proof I really saw these places so I'm overcoming my anxiety one photo at a time.
After Mt. Vesuvius we got back into the car and headed back down the mountain (I kept my eyes closed) to the city of Pompeii. We got some time to have lunch and I wandered around a little to a restaurant along the road. Although when I asked if they were open the man behind the counter literally looked me up and down and said "this is a restaurant". I just said yeah? and waited for him to lead me in. Minorly confusing moment.
We then received a two hour guided tour around a section of Pompeii as it's so large. I was enthralled. The city had stayed hidden until 1736 when the excavation began which means so much of the city is well preserved in comparison to other monuments when have been more weathered by time and the conditions.
Here's some pics of the day:
I saw a number of artworks that had been painted onto wet plaster, a technique I'd learnt in my tour of the Da Vinci museum in Rome was something he'd tried to avoid in one of his fresco's that he didn't end up finishing as it didn't work well. I love it when little bits of knowledge I've found out connect together. One of the paintings was of the Greek philosopher Menander but it's too thin to take off the wall so the guide told us it would only be visible for another 50-70 years. I think that's kind of cool to know I've seen something that one day won't be visible by others.
The saddest part for me was learning the "bodies" are made of plaster from filling in the moulds their bodies indented in the ground. My childhood imagination had always thought they were the actual bodies. Only a minor disappointment.
The guide was hilarious. One of the things he pointed out was this hilarious marking on the stone. He had us all gather around for a good look then asked with a completely straight face: "do you know what this is?"
An American nearby goes "my god that looks like... well you know!" And the guide looked at him confused and said well it is. It's a penis. It points to where the prostitutes are so the travellers know where to go. Safe to say the American was thrown. Our guide laughed at him and said they weren't so prudish in those days.
Also don't mind my shadow, it was windy but I am aware I look like the Michelin Man.
On my last night in Rome my host Andrea asked if I wanted to go for drinks somewhere local. I happily agreed. It was his friends friends birthday and we headed off to Teatro India, a place for alternative theatre productions in this old industrial style factory and surrounding area.
It was definitely somewhere the locals hang out. There was very few English speakers but I kind of liked the atmosphere and listening to them all laugh and joke with each other in Italian. Occasionally somewhere would venture over to me and we'd have a crumbly conversation with my very little Italian and there minimal English. It was a lot of fun. Here's a video of some Italian Happy Birthday singing.
I also got to explain the concept of "sculling a drink" to the Italians and got them engaged with the song "here's to [name], she's true blue..." I feel I truly passed on some aussie fun.
Overall my time in Rome was lovely and I really loved my trip to Pompeii. I'd recommend it to anyone with the time to spare. It's definitely worth it!
Till next time,