I had uncharacteristically been quite proactive in my organisation of this trip, mainly because I wasn’t travelling alone and wanted to make the journey memorable for my companion. However, as it is with the lottery of life, a romantic city break for two became a valiant solo attempt to romance myself with the delights of Rome. If I have learnt one thing it is that not planning at all means you cover yourself for every eventuality, but detailed plans are difficult to alter.
The trip got off to a shaky start when my Ryanair flight from Stansted had a slight delay. I have flown with Ryanair often enough to know that you get what you pay for. However, that was the only hitch on an otherwise smooth journey towards the city.
Upon arrival at my accommodation I was greeted by a lady who told me not to worry about paying her for the room until it was completely necessary. This level of trust did not sit comfortably with me. I took her up on it though and took the advice of a Brazilian girl to walk the main historic sights during the afternoon, and saving the Vatican for another time.
In all honesty the Collesuem is what I associate more than anything else with Rome, and it was within walking distance of my hostel. I found myself getting quite excited as it became visible in the distance and it didn’t let me down close up. I think I must have navigated around the Collesuem twice before I realised that I had missed the 4pm closure of entrance. I must of looked slightly strange as I continued to circumnavigate my way around the Collesuem (continuing to imagine myself as a gladiator as I did so). Despite its majestic appearance I was slightly angered by the scaffolding covering about a third of the exterior, which I am sure is completely necessary.
I then spent the afternoon walking until my feet wanted to fall off. This meant that I was able to see many of the ancient roman sights, such as the Forum and the Trevi Fountain, and eventually treated myself to a sit down on the busy Spanish Steps. It was a lot to take in. Rome clearly isn’t a large city, but it has an abundance of things to do and see within a small area. I couldn’t help but note that Rome is not the kind of place where a solo traveller thrives. Company is definitely beneficial here. Yet, I tried to take advantage as best I could.
After my short spell on the Spanish steps, where I almost certainly photo bombed scores of family pictures, I decided to have a sit down dinner. My original intent was to have a glass of Italian wine with my dinner as that had been so successful in Milan last year. However, one look at the prices on the wine list and I stuck with beer. I decided that first night was to be pizza night and second pasta night. Naturally, the real Italian pizza beat the frozen pizzas I often lazily purchase in Asda.
With dinner finished I had a short stroll beyond the Spanish Steps before making my way towards a bar that I had researched earlier. In the bar I was told that the WIFI password was ‘never drink alone’ and as a consequence I was instructed to drink with another man at the bar. He was a Canadian naval officer and was also travelling in Rome alone. Coincidently we were by ourselves for the same reason.
Just before the football started we were joined by a 46 year old English man on a business trip. He revealed that his business had paid £850 for his flight from London. Why would they do such a thing? He was a Man Utd fan but I let him off. The final member of our ‘party’ was the lady behind the bar. She was Bulgarian and expressed a dislike for my English accent. When conversation inevitably led to Bulgarians being able to emigrate and reside in Britain she responded angrily. She said “why would I want to go to a country where it’s own people don’t know the difference between their, there and they’re in their own language?”. I took her point.
After the football finished I walked back to the metro station with the businessman (who I think was called George but he probably wasn’t) before making my way back to my accommodation. Prior to hitting the hay before the next day I was invited to share conversation with some more Brazilians, Koreans, Germans, Peruvians and Italians. That’s why I travel, even if all conversation had to be in English for my benefit.
The following day began earlier than it probably should have, but I had a plan to fulfil. By arriving at the main train station at 7:30 I had plenty of time until my train to Pompeii via Naples.
Pompeii – wow! I knew it was going to be amazing because of the luck that lead to my arrival. First I managed to escape buying a ticket for the Napoli express train to Pompeii by beating the barriers and then I was offered half price entry to the ruins.
I had not given Pompeii much thought until I arrived. It instantly surpassed any expectations I had through sheer wonder. The beauty of Pompeii is that visiting it poses more questions than it answers. It really is a staggering city.
Walking amongst the ruins is easy, the hard bit was actually trying to picture it as a civilisation. It just seemed too realistic. I had given myself 2 and a half hours in Pompeii which I thought would be more than enough time. Yet the TV shows and documentaries about it never seem to have informed me of its vastness. Pompeii is massive.
I spent the whole of my time walking around the city with my mouth open, probably because I think this is a natural response to something wonderful (and makes a change from sticking my tongue up my nose). Aside from the ruins and artefacts from within them the most staggering sight was that of the people who had been covered in ash and preserved for so long in their dying poses. I honestly think they might be the most astonishing things I have ever seen.
I don’t think I can exaggerate on how glad I felt when leaving the ruins that I had made the long trip from Rome to see it. It was certainly worth it.
From the way that the day was moving so swimmingly I was sure that Arsenal were going to win in the evening. The train back to Napoli arrived just 10 minutes before my change towards Rome, leaving me in Rome one hour before kick off. Thus, the day would end perfectly with an Arsenal victory…But, the less said about that logic the better. It was a bitter end to a rewarding day.
On my last day I decided that there was no need to set an alarm as I had nothing to rush about for. I ended up waking up at 9 and eating breakfast at the hostel with some French-Canadians who had arrived in the middle of the night. I was then ready to let me feet know that they were in for a third day of walking.
My first task was to return to the Collesuem so that I could have a walk around in side. Within it is spectacular ruins and, like Pompeii, the element of time travel. The things that happened inside the Collesuem were so brutal and it was so surreal to imagine it happening right in front of me. I find it slightly strange how we almost celebrate the blood lust of the Romans, but fascinating all the same.
I had intended to spend the early part of the afternoon in Vatican City so I made my way there. Upon arrival I perched on the steps outlining the Piazza San Pietro before making my way into the magnificent St Peter’s Basilicia. It is probably recommended that I should have spent more time inside. However, there are clearly people more passionate about the Catholic Church than me.
I decided to walk an alternative route back towards the Pantheon. As I did so I stopped off at a new restaurant. I had bypassed dinner the previous evening because of the football so needed to eat some pasta based dish. I was not let down. However I do feel like I’m under suspicion as a lone eater in Italy, when I was more welcomed in Latvia and Lithuania.
Following lunch I planned to return to my hostel to prepare for my flight home and finish this blog. On the way back I stumbled across a major street protest. I couldn’t resist getting into the middle of it. Italians love a good demonstration, but I feared it was slightly right wing. I still don’t know.
That was the last major act of a very eventful 3 days in Italy. Rome is an incredible city which would be even better enjoyed with company. However, Pompeii has been my highlight and I would recommend it to anyone.