So Rome was a challenge for us because neither one of us four had been to Rome, or Italy for that matter. But being in a new place is always exciting once you get past the unfamiliarity and psyche yourself up for a new experience and language.
We had a booking for this place called RetRome. We soon found out that it wasn’t really a hostel as much as an apartment. And there wasn’t a reception and there wasn’t anyone around, so we had to wait outside the front door till the guy arrived. But he was real funny and helpful, giving us lots of tips about Rome. The hostel was pretty decent, the decor was kind of retro, though the bathroom was a problem. Imagine eight people in the whole apartment sharing just one bathroom, and apparently the shower drainage got clogged up!
Our first day saw us heading to the Vatican City. The crowds were out in full force and we were queuing up for a bit. In fact, the queue was mostly for a security check, after which, entry was pretty fast. I walked around the square snapping some pictures before we headed into St Peter’s Cathedral. The basilica was huge and we didn’t really know which entrance led to what.
We headed to the Vatican museums thereafter. But I think Gladys and I both agreed that the Vatican City turned out to be less spectacular than we had first imagined. I guess it’s over hyped in some sense. The architecture was grand and historical of course, but to some extent, the religious images were lost on me. What stood out though was the nice octagonal courtyard and Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel.
Piazza del Popolo and Spanish Steps
After we left the Vatican City, we headed towards the Spanish Steps. Along the way, we passed a few monuments and also saw streets lined with Vespas (what is Italy without them, right?) The narrow cobbled-stone streets and colorful shop houses lent an air of Italian charm to our walk.
We took the metro to the Colosseo stop and got out with the the magnificent Colosseum in front of us. We kept that for later in the afternoon though because we wanted to escape the crowds and do Ancient Rome first. We stopped for a bit at the entrance to the Roman Forum to snap some pics before going in.
The ruins were really a sight to behold. Just thinking about the civilization that used to live here lets your imagination run wild with all these ancient bricks, concrete columns and disheveled bits of ruins lying around. Gladiators, men in armor, chariots, Julius Caesar… There was a short drizzle so we stopped to have lunch that we had packed from the supermarket near our hostel. Saw a creepy leaking cave and had a few laughs before we continued up the hill towards the gardens and residences. We had enough of the ruins after a while so we decided to head for the Colosseum.
So once we got in, it didn’t seem as big as it looks from outside. There’s not much to explore because once you get into the arena, you pretty much see everything. And it looks nicer from the outside too. I tried to envision scenes of ancient Rome in front of me, maybe a marketplace here, a gladiator there, perhaps a little too influenced by movies. But all in all, ancient Rome was fascinating, especially if you really enjoy history and a wandering imagination.