All Roads – and Trains – Lead to Rome

Friends of ours arrived in the countryside of Siena the day before and we’d hoped – though knowing it unlikely – we’d be able to meet up with them on Sunday morning but it was not to be. Instead we packed up our stuff, checked out and walked through the gradually filling streets of Siena towards the train station.

A quick stop at a bar for breakfast – my croissant had so much nutella in it – and then we picked up a few supplies at the supermarket before getting to the station early and waiting to head to Florence.

I’d prebooked these tickets so I could be sure we could get seats – the route between Firenze and Roma can get busy – but unfortunately this meant that we couldn’t leave any earlier without forfeiting our tickets. Next time, I think I’ll do it differently.

Our train to Firenze took about an hour and a half with a 20 minute change over to catch the high speed train to Roma. It was nice to sit back in the comfy seats, well worth the slightly higher price point.

In a State of Constant Anxiety

As we got off the train at Termini, I started to get worried about pickpockets. When I was in Italy on a high school trip, we were on a packed subway train and the teachers wallet was stolen out of her bag (and this was on the first day of the trip). When I came to Rome a few years later by myself and stayed at a hotel near the station, my aunt nearly had a conniption when I told her as the area was ‘not safe’. That fear and apprehension was alive and well on Sunday, however, it was thankfully unnecessary.

Glen and I maintained a death-like grip on our luggage and positioned our bags – and ourselves – so we were well clear of everyone. We managed to arrive at Flaminio station unscathed and still in possession of all our belongings.

I thought one of my zips had been opened a bit in the jostling to get out of the train but that might have just been me (yet it still added plenty of fuel to the paranoia). Turns out though that soon after checking in at the hotel, the guy at the desk warned us about pickpockets, ‘especially at the Termini’ and the ‘gypsy girls are a lot better dressed these days.’ Benvenuto a Roma.

We stayed at Vico Rooms, a hotel that has about four or five rooms and is built in an old converted apartment inside an apartment building. The lift up is a rickety contraption that has two doors and a floor that doesn’t feel like it’s going to last the next year. It beat climbing four flights of stairs with our luggage (and me with blisters on both feet).

The rooms were nicely decorated, modern and the booking came with breakfast. It was also close to the train station so it was a good choice (even if I do say so myself).

Whistle-stop Tour of Roman Sites

With Glen at a conference for the next two days, that didn’t leave him much time to see some of the classic Roman sights so we caught the train to the Colosseo and arrived at 6pm. The sun was getting close to setting so that cast a lovely orange glow on the outside of the building – as well as over the crowds in the area. Luckily the queue to get in wasn’t too long (it closed at 7) so we hurried inside.

Unfortunately we couldn’t hire an audioguide so we were left to navigate our way around, backtracking thanks to inadequate directional signage. I’d been to the Colosseo before (a couple of times in fact) so I didn’t feel much of a burning need to see it but I was sad that Glen didn’t enjoy it.

The crowds inside (even though there weren’t many people really – especially not compared to how many people I saw there the next morning trying to get in. Holy mother of God, I wouldn’t have even bothered.) made it difficult to enjoy, the light was dying and Glen didn’t like the ‘restored’ look of it.

Still, I think it’s an impressive structure and considering the ancient Romans could flood the floor and stage ship battles on it, it’s a staggering testament to human achievement at the time (even if it was just for shits and giggles – and death). We were done in less than an hour.

We walked up towards the Wedding Cake, the monument to the unification of Italy, and took some photos of this recently restored (i.e. cleaned) building. It’s impressive in its size and I was glad that on this trip I was able to get more of a look at it (though we didn’t go in or climb the tower).

From the monument, we headed towards the Trevi Fountain, stopping on the way to eat Chinese food at a restaurant tucked away in a little piazza. Glen had had enough of pasta and pizza for a day so we attempted this Italian-style Chinese food. It was adequate. They had noodles and some green vegetables.

The Trevi fountain was next. Absolutely packed. Hard to enjoy the recently renovated fountain with the hordes around and street sellers trying to get you to buy selfie-sticks of blue-light things that you throw into the air.

We forewent the coin throw (this time) and then hurried through the streets up to the Spanish Steps, again covered with people, before heading home. We went through Piazza del Popolo, which was playing host to an Animal Aid music event. There were fewer people here than on the Spanish Steps.

Considering the crowds and the feeling that it ‘wasn’t like Lucca’, Glen didn’t feel too bad that he’d be in a conference for the next couple of days. Meanwhile, I was considering what I could do that would involve seeing as few people as possible.

What do you say, eh?

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