3rd June 2006
We touched down in Rome Ciampino airport and while we were waiting for the Terravision bus, we were greeted by a black cat, the first of the so-called Cats of Rome we were to meet. It was almost 11pm when we boarded the very comfortable coach style bus to Rome. We travelled along the Appian Way, an ancient Roman road, still in use today and couldn’t see anything as it was very dark. We got off at Rome Termini train station and then had to find our way to the hotel. We searched for about an hour, we asked some locals where it was, and they seemed to have no idea. We had a map and kept arguing over which way was the right way. In the end, I was right albeit we walked right past the hotel, which wasn’t a hotel at all. It was the proprietor’s home address; we rang the bell and were taken to a completely different location. When we arrived it was about midnight, and we stood in front of two huge wooden doors and I wondered how the petite lady who was showing us the way would open them. To my surprise the doors had smaller openings built into them and didn’t have to be opened.
We went up a short flight of stairs to a lift, another thing in Italy that looked like a medieval torture device. The lift was only about two feet wide by 5 feet long and was surrounded by a cage. We had to go up in it one at a time. We got to the floor on which the room at the Chez Liviana was located and we actually had a suite, which was very nice, with our own bathroom. Before we went to bed, we learned that again we couldn’t pay with a credit card, which was one of the only reasons we had elected to stay at this place. The women who owned the place took us on the ‘bankomat’ tour of Rome – I say tour, because by this time all the ATM machines were empty from the previous day and had not been refilled yet. It took us about four different locations to get to one with actual money in it!
When we got back to the hotel, we had a quick look around and to my horror there was this evil looking statue with bad hair staring directly at the bed, well that has to go I thought and turned it around. We went to bed, but alas were woken up at about 3am by garbage men emptying the dumpster outside the hotel, the flashing lights and horrendous noise they made would have woken the dead.
We decided to get breakfast and walked along to where we could see Castel San Angelo a building which had originally been used as a tomb and converted into a fortress. I ate my breakfast, a chicken sandwich and a Bacardi Breezer in its shadow, looking out at the Tiber River, into which many great people had been thrown for disrupting the republic. People like Tiberius Gracchus who had been clubbed to death with broken benches before he was thrown unceremoniously into the famous river. We decided to get the metro to our next location and on the way down into the subway, a woman stood on the back of my shoe and broke it! No apology just kept walking. I was now barefoot in Rome! Luckily, or perhaps, unluckily we stumbled across a street stall selling shoes soon after. I ended up with these faux leather thongs with dogy pastel flowers all over them. To say they were uncomfortable was an understatement, especially with the cobblestones.
Rome is like a living archaeological site. Everywhere there are ruins poking out of this bustling city, including the exact spot where Julius Caesar was murdered by Brutus. We wandered through the Piazza Navona and around a few alleys and stumbled on the Pantheon, which I have to admit took my breath away and everywhere there were fountains, famous in Rome. There was also an Egyptian Obelisk here and I was disappointed to see that no credit had been given to its maker, only to the people who had brought it to Rome. This seemed to be the case with everything, the Pontificate had carved its name on almost every ancient Roman monument, PONTIFEX MAXIMUS was stamped everywhere and on everything. Mum and I noticed there were men with horse drawn buggies not unlike those at Edfu or Aswan in Egypt hanging around the area and we decided a ride in one of these would be nice at this point. Mum went up to one of the men and asked how much and to say she was shocked at the quote would be an understatement, he had said one hundred and fifty euros, talk about taking advantage of tourists, they had only been five Egyptian pounds in Egypt, the equivalent to about fifty cents Australian.
We saw the Vittorio Emmanule monument which was spectacular, Mum calls it the giant typewriter and I found Trajan’s Column and the old marketplace, things which my mother had previously seen but never knew what they were. We even had a walk around the old marketplace and up into the old apartment buildings and found yet more cats among the ruins. One even came sliding out from under a huge marble block, he looked at me and posed for a picture, he then licked his lips as if to say tip, and I gave him a pat. It was great to see a settlement site, a place where people had actually lived and gone about their business.
We attempted to go to the Colosseum and the Forum, but I couldn’t stand the shoes any longer and I don’t think Mum could stand my whinging. We decided to get the Metro from Colosseo station back to Termini and go back to the hotel. We had almost worked out how to get there, there was one street we couldn’t pronounce properly so Mum and I ended up just calling it via Marijuana for a laugh.
I decided that I would go to bed and have a nap, as I was still irritable from the night before and then wake up and pretend, I had just arrived in Rome. I decided to do this because even though the first part of being in Rome had been so bad and I already wanted to go back to London, I was still quite determined to enjoy this city, one I had always wanted to visit.
We decided to have lunch in McDonalds near Termini station to avoid the ever-annoying copperto. The place was disgusting, and I can safely say it was the most disgusting McDonalds’s I have ever eaten. I think you could have used the chicken nuggets for ammunition, they were so tough. One thing I learnt while I was in Italy was that you either ate Italian food or it wasn’t worth eating. Italian food in Italy is to die for but eat anything else they try to make, and it may end up killing you.
I had my little nap and got up feeling refreshed and wrote some postcards to people back home and then went downstairs to use the internet, which was surprisingly cheap and no e-mail from Ramez very disappointing. It had started to get dark, and I suggested we go see the Trevi Fountain, something I was sure would look beautiful at night. So, we boarded the Metro again and got off at the right station and stumbled upon the famous fountain. It was magnificent all lit up at night and I stood backwards and threw a coin in over my opposite shoulder as goes the tradition. This is more like it I thought as I gazed at the fountain’s magnificence, I actually spent some time talking to a couple of friendly locals about my travels. One guy was quite skinny and not bad looking and talked quite a bit and the other guy was big with dreadlocks and said nothing. They kind of reminded me of Jay and Silent Bob. We decided to have pizza and had dinner alfresco in a nice pizza restaurant, which had African people selling fake Gucci wallets and handbags outside of it. The pizza was divine as always in Italy and the place was self-serve so there was no copperto to annoy us further. The Metro had stopped running by this point, so we had to make the long trek back to Chez Liviana on foot. When we got there, I looked at my feet and they were black, from half an hour walking around Rome barefoot. I also realised I felt quite dirty and decided to take a bath. Now that sounds simple, but the bath in the hotel, I can only liken to Chinese water torture. It was a big bath and there was not enough hot water in the tank to fill it. It had a shower head attached to it, with nowhere to hang it. Not that it mattered anyway, as, as soon as you raised the shower head above your head the pressure dropped to a trickle. I basically had to sit in the bath with my head between my legs with the water running over me to get clean. I thought, right I won’t be washing my hair till I get back to England. After that ordeal I went to bed and slept like the dead.