Two weeks ago I went to Rome! It was beautiful all weekend averaging mid-60s with sunshine. I left Thursday night (3/21) and returned Sunday afternoon (3/24).
Initially, this trip wasn’t supposed to have a Thursday. For this trip to Rome I was going to leave early Friday morning and stay until Sunday morning. However, I received an email in the afternoon on Thursday from Umbra saying that all local transportation was going to be cancelled on Friday (except for a few hours in the day). At the bottom of the email, in bold mind you, it said that all Trenitalia trains were cancelled on Friday. Well, as you can imagine, this presented me with a problem since I was going to take the Trenitalia train on Friday morning. So I somewhat frantically started looking for hostels to stay the night in Rome on Thursday, found one right by the train station (Roma Termini) for a decent price (16 euro), and booked it. An hour later, I received a “just kidding” email stating that only the local transportation was going on strike and Trenitalia trains would be running. I realize now that I should have looked into it myself before making quick decisions, but I had class in the afternoon and didn’t want to get stuck not being able to go to Rome until Saturday. However…I’d still say that Umbra owes me 16 euro.
So I took the 8:30 PM train to Rome and arrived around 11:30 PM. Why did I take the train so late? Well, I didn’t think there would be much for me to do in Rome on Thursday night (by myself) and I didn’t want to frantically pack and be stressed after class to catch an earlier train. I will admit that when I arrived I was a little sketched out to be walking in the city so late by myself, but the hostel was really only about a 5 minute walk from the Roma Termini and it was fine. The hostel (Alessandro Downtown Hostel) was nice with a good environment and welcoming staff. I shared the room with 5 other women who were already in bed so it was difficult getting settled in in the dark, but we each had a little storage area so I at least had a place to put my things.
I will say that I was able to get more sleep (sort of) sleeping at the hostel because I didn’t have to wake up early to take the train, although some others sharing the room with me certainly woke up early. Most of them were quiet (or at least trying to be) except one girl who forgot to turn off her alarm before she went to take a shower. The first time it went off for a solid few minutes until a French girl got up out of bed and turned it off. However, she didn’t know how to actually turn it off (only snooze) so it went off twice more, much to her (and all of our) dismay. When the culprit returned from her shower, the French girl did not waste any time letting her know that she needed to turn her alarm off. I slept until about 8:30 AM, when most of the others had left already except for two girls. They were nice (one of them the night before had pointed out the only free bed which I was very thankful for in the dark) and described how they are spending a few months all around the world where, if they work for 5 hours a day, they can get free board. It sounds like a cool program – I had never heard about it before. I checked out of the hostel at 10 AM and went out to find Stellahouse, the bed and breakfast where I would spend the next two nights.
I found the place relatively easily. Stella and a lady who I assume is her daughter checked me in and were wonderful hosts. They provided me with a good map (that actually lists all the street names) of Rome (not in its entirety but of the main section most tourists go – so it was all I needed). They circled areas, told me the best routes to go by walking, train, and by bus, and provided me with keys. Here I paid extra (35 euro a night) to have my own room and the less hectic atmosphere of a bed and breakfast. I have to say it was well worth it – Stella was really a lovely host.
I then set off for the day to explore Rome! For this city, I decided to follow Rick Steves’ advice for what to see in a 2-3 day period. This meant that on Friday I would see the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Roman Forum, Pantheon, Piazza del Popolo, and then walk the “Dolce Vita Stroll” – in that order. I opted out of buying the Roma Pass for the weekend for a few reasons. The first was that the only pricey item I would want to see that would be covered by the Roma pass was the Colloseum-Palatine Hill-Roman Forum combo. Second, all local transportation in Rome was also on strike on Friday so buying the Roma Pass (that covers the metro, buses, etc.) would not be worth it.
Going to Rome I was most excited to see the Colosseum and I am glad I did that first before walking the many miles I would this weekend. When I first saw the Colosseum I do have to say it took my breath away, I had never seen anything like it. I decided to join a group tour (27 euro vs. the normal ticket price), bypass the long line, and get more out of the experience. I saw the Colosseum, Palatine Hill (basically used to be a giant palace on a hill with gardens), and Roman Forum (used to be the center of Rome’s activity so all the famous Romans at some point walked through there). By the Roman Forum I joined some others on some stairs and had a snack under the warm afternoon sunlight. After my snack, I did a lot more walking, seeing many sights such as Capitoline Hill and the Pantheon. At one point a guy tried to convince me to go on a private tour (his tour) of major sights…needless to say I said no thanks to that one. He did have a quote I liked though. He said that “You (americans) like Italy because it’s so old. We love the USA because it’s so new.” I just found that to be interesting if you really think about it. Later on my journey on Via del Corso I heard my name! I was very confused at first but then realized it was the two girls from the hostel I had met that morning! Very cool. Anyway, we parted ways and after more exploring it was eventually time for dinner.
Dinner was, how should I say it, an experience I wasn’t quite expecting. And by an experience I wasn’t expecting I really mean a price I wasn’t expecting to pay. I ordered pasta alla carbonara (9 euro), a side salad (a whopping 6 euro), water (an ever more whopping 4 euro for a bottle), and bass (5 euro… per 100 grams that is). In my defense, I did not have my menu when I ordered the water and thought it would be no more than 3 euro. The pasta and side salad I understood – but the bass was the killer! From my Brussels experience I thought I would get a small piece of fish for 5 euro (I blame the menu for not making it clearer that it was per 100 grams). I was already full after bread, pasta, and salad, so imagine my surprise when they brought out an entire fish (head, tail, skin, everything) on a plate. The problem wasn’t really having to deal with getting the meat off the fish, it was more the shear amount of food I would have to consume to not feel guilty wasting the meat. I ate slowly, chugging along… but I just couldn’t do it. I ate as much as I could (perhaps 3/4 of it), then had to give up for fear that I would get sick! Then I asked for the bill… and what a bill it was! Turns out the fish was 400 grams (you do the math). Not only that, but the restaurant charged a sitting charge and a service charge. I had never experienced that before in Italy – I think they were targeting tourists. How lovely, right? Anyway, it cost a total of 46 euro (around 60 dollars). Yikes! Most expensive meal I’ve ever paid for. Needless to say I promised myself I would not be eating at any restaurant for the remainder of the weekend. I waddled on home after dinner, stuffed to the brim, and was greeted by Stella asking about my day for a brief conversation. After a nice chat, I settled into my room and watched Gladiator in honor of the day’s activities – a great movie!
Here are some pictures of Friday:
Saturday morning I ate breakfast at the bed and breakfast (cappuccino, croissant, bread that was crouton texture but is the size of small bread) with Stella, another woman who was a photographer mostly for heavy metal bands, and a professor. Afterwards, I walked to the metro station and took the metro (the only time I took public transportation during the weekend) to the Vatican. Unfortunately I got there around 10 AM which is the start of peak time on a Saturday, but the wait was only about an hour and I caught up on reading my Rick Steves book. I enjoyed the museum, particularly the ancient Egyptian exhibit and obviously the Sistine Chapel. I have to admit the room isn’t quote what I was expecting – I am not sure why. I think I was expecting more of a dome type ceiling and different lighting. Nevertheless, I found a seat in the Sistine Chapel and sat there awhile, taking in all of the scenes. It’s amazing what humans can create! Afterward, I checked out St. Peter’s Basilica and finished up in Vatican City.
I eventually found a delicious panino (salami and mozzarella) for a not ridiculous price (everything was around 4 euro!) of 2.50 euro. I then walked over to Campo de’ Fiori where there is an outdoor market with food and other assorted items, pre-bought my dinner of a panino (focaccia, mozzarella, tomato, olive oil, and spices), some brazil nuts, and dried papaya. I continued to explore, making my way over to the Trevi Fountain. Eventually, it was time to actually eat dinner which I thought would be nice to do on the Spanish Steps. Unfortunately, as I was walking I started to hear music playing aloud…kept walking closer and the steps were blocked off! By this time I was so hungry and tired from walking for a few days straight that this was quite upsetting. I was soon distracted though as I looked closer at the steps because instead of people on the steps there were… small pandas? Turns out there was a benefit concert for the World Wildlife Fund – so clearly I couldn’t eat my dinner there. I ended up walking back to Piazza della Repubblica (relatively close by the bed and breakfast) and ate dinner. I don’t think a sandwich ever tasted so good! I lounged on the steps eating and people-watching until eventually the sun set. Rome had been a success!
Here are some pictures from Saturday: