Rome Day I

En Route

Our trip to Rome began at 4:30 in the morning. These early morning flights let us enjoy a whole lot more sightseeing, but it’s hard to appreciate that when you get up in the middle of the night.

We hopped the airbus to El Prat and soon were Vueeeeeeling to Rome. The flight attendants spoke Catalan! Encomana en català indeed.

After sleeping through most of the two-hour flight, we arrive in Roma! We took the local railway to Termini Station, just a short walk from our hotel. On the way to the hotel, we noticed that the subway kiosks were selling boots and Prada bags. (I guess you have to have something in which to carry your newspaper?)

Our hotel was in a fantastic location in the center of the city. Since it was still very early, we left our backpacks and set out with map in hand. The kind receptionist had circled all the main sites on our map, with our hotel in the center of them all. Talk about convenient!

Vatican City: Meh

We decided to hit the Vatican first, mostly to get it out of the way. Good idea, since it was the most disappointing part of the whole trip. Okay, the piazza is impressive, but the museum? Big time waster. Two hours herding past miles of Catholic art to finally push our way into the Sistine Chapel (the only thing we were really interested in seeing). Once inside the chapel we couldn’t even appreciate it, as there is no talking allowed. Everyone is pushing and shoving, and the guards yell at you if you take a picture – even without the flash! Plus, after all the trudging around we were too exhausted to fully admire this masterpiece. For 14 € a head, I say save your money. You can examine the Sistine Chapel at your leisure on the good ol’ internet without anyone yelling at you.

(Sacred?) Cash Cow

Something even our two guidebooks didn’t warn us was that Roman museums and historic sites only accept cash. You cannot pay the (outrageous) entrance fees with a credit card. If you’re going to Rome, please remember to stop at the ATM on your way! Also feel free to map onto this anecdote whichever sinister back story pleases you the most. (So far we like money laundering or mafia “protection” fees.)

We wanted a snack, so we found a café near the museum (classic tourist mistake!). Twenty euros later, we had consumed a disappointing, doughey pizza and  two coffees. Lame! I should also mention that it was frigidly cold for most of the weekend. What’s that nonsense? First BCN, now Rome. The “Mediterranean” weather is overrated! (Just kidding, please come visit, I miss you!)

Holy Crap the Colosseum is Awesome

The marathon on Sunday was going to make visiting this landmark tricky, so we wanted to do it today. Also, well it’s the coolest part of Rome! After a confusing few minutes of disorganized group assignment (plus we had to scrounge for enough cash for the entrance fee), we joined a tour and learned about gladiators, lions, and mob mentality. Politics as usual, I’d say. I can think of a few bankers we could feed to the beasts…

It was just very, very cool to visit a place that has captured the imagination for 2,000 years. Although not much remains of the structure except its skeleton, it is still one of the most impressive things I have ever seen. You might wish that the government would restore it, but any attempt to do so would probably turn it into a charicature of itself.

After a quick bite at a street vendor cart, we wandered around the Palatine and the Forum. It’s just incredible to stand among all these historical ruins. I was really, really impressed. Don’t know what else to say.

At dinner time (post nap) we got lured by a wiley old man to try his local trattoria. The food was good (pasta and saltimboca for me, ossobucco for Ã’scar, followed by tiramisu) but the prices were a bit high. Plus, two American twenty-somethings were acting out their own sad version of “Sex and the City” at the table behind us, which put a damper on the ambience. Since two out of every three people in Rome on any given day are tourists, I guess the ambience was probably more realistic than what we had envisioned anyway. Tired but happy, we had an early night so we could rest up for our second day of sightseeing.

Stay tuned for Rome Day II: Gimeno Death March, Then Pizza!