Rome was a two-night stop on my passage from Israel to Tunisia. Not all airlines fly to or from Israel, but Alitalia does. I’ve been to Rome before but what history/food/people-watching buff is going to complain about having to spend a day and a half in the beautiful Eternal City?
It’s a 45-minute drive from Fiumicino Airport into the city. My travel angel’s advice – hi BJ! – was that the taxi should cost 50 euros. I should have gone straight to the legitimate taxi queue out the front of Arrivals, but I got intercepted by a pushy tout and like a fool got sucked into sharing a ride. By the time I was frogmarched to where the big SUV was parked it was too late. I and my suitcase were left there while the driver went back to retrieve my fellow passengers, who were buying a local SIM card. ‘Five minutes’, he said. Hmmph. It was more like 15, and I ended up paying 50 euros anyway. Won’t make that mistake again….
But I determined that when in Rome one should not be in a bad mood so I enjoyed the ride, which sped along nicely despite the driver’s ominous warning that this was ‘bad traffic’ time. Well I must say it wasn’t as bad as driving into Melbourne from Tullamarine at 7pm on a weeknight. Plus we drove past the forum, the colosseum, Trajan’s column and the Victor Emmanuele monument, all of which I recognised even though it was dark. And of course there’s the considerable entertainment of Italian traffic: zipping up picturesque little lanes, passing cars with 2 millimetres to spare, watching the driver conduct his social life through the window – greeting and occasionally kissing acquaintances.
I was in the Rome Times Hotel in the Via Milano off the big Via Nazionale. This magnificent edifice was on Nazionale at the end of my street, first thing I saw when I set out to make the most of the day. I love that Rome is so full of this glorious architecture that plenty of it doesn’t get swarmed over by tourists, although this was marked on my tourist map as the ‘Palazzo degli Esposizione’.
Rain was forecast, and there was a brief shower, so I spent that hour shopping and bought a nice new top. Fortunately the rain stopped for good after that and I was able to throw off my yellow plastic poncho in which no self-respecting Roman woman would be seen dead and of which no photos will be posted.
This church was at one end of Via Nazionale, 5 minutes walk away.
It had a dome comparable to that of the Pantheon, which was tomorrow’s project. At the other end Via Nazionale was the King Victor Emmanuele monument which I’d seen on my previous visit to Rome with a fellow history buff and we took note of Lonely Planet’s advice that it’s regarded by the locals as a piece of sentimental, overdone 19th century kitsch. So I spurned it once again and headed for ….
…the Forum! What can I say? Words fail me at being able to walk in and gaze on such a storied place, which still feels like the hub of the world.
I love that you see ‘SPQR’ – the original ID of the Roman empire – even on the covers of manholes in the streets. It stands for ‘Senatus Populusque Romanus’ – the Senate and the People of Rome.
I think the Colosseum was closed inside, or closing for the night, which was rapidly approaching although the gods were smiling on me because the weather continued sunny and cloudless.
I wandered up past Constantine’s arch till I came to a dead end here at a church of San Sebastian. It wasn’t marked on my map either but my phone camera locator reported it as being ‘Campitelli’. I think it was up the Palatine hill.
I wandered round for a couple of hours then found a bottle shop on the way back to the hotel which sold these for E7.50 each, about $16. Not cheap for half-bottles of average wine, but I had to lay in a stash in the event of muslim-country shortage. I have three to go: Tunisia, Morocco Egypt.
The next morning I headed off in the other direction, up through the Piazza Quirinale to see what I reckon is one of THE marvels of ancient Rome – the Pantheon, the best-preserved ancient monument in the city, now a Christian church but still bearing that inscription noting that it was commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus about 2000 years ago. The spectacular dome is the featured pic above.
Then a walk back to the hotel past the usual bustling street life…
African immigrants trying to make a living selling trinkets and toys in the street…
These men were washing at a public tap before going out to tackle the hordes of tourists at the Trevi fountain, also on my way home.
The gods continued to smile on me and I got to the airport in even less time than on the way in, there was no queue at check-in and even though I was early Alitalia let me check my suitcase in. To top off my lovely little Roman holiday, the airport wifi was excellent.