The next stop on my OE adventure is Rome! It’s already got off to a bit of a disruptive start though. I forgot to buy a train ticket to get to Gatwick, thinking I could just use pay as you go. And then after getting through customs (in which I set the beeper off and required a full pat down) I went to buy a water bottle and the attendant required my boarding pass. At that point I realised I didn’t have it and I must have left it at customs. I went back up all the stairs to ask them and they said they didn’t. I then proceeded to start downloading the EasyJet app to use that. But then I remembered to ask at the actual conveyor belt I had been at and fortunately it was there.
After a pleasant flight I went to find my name on one of the signs that were being held up. Fortunately I remembered my own name and spotted it at the end of the walkway.
The taxi driver was a friendly chap who had sent me a WhatsApp message to let me know where he was. His profile picture was a picture of his cat. He explained as we drove that it would have been funny if I thought a cat was going to be my driver. “Yes that would be very funny” I affirmed.
With the combination of my Nu Zilund accent and my mumbling way of speaking we had a very confusing conversation throughout the drive. At one point I tried explaining that I chose the B&B because of TripAdvisor and he explained that he couldn’t be my advisor of Rome. After some Google Translate on my phone we eventually got there.
I got to my room and then decided to pop out for dins. There was a burger joint next door offering takeaway and the temptation to haul a burger back to my bed was too great. I did that and it was possibly the best burger I’ve ever had.
I woke up 30 mins before breakfast was due and just lay there in excited anticipation. I don’t know if you’re meant to be dressed before opening the door for breakfast but PJs had to suffice in this instance.
It was a nice tray of yoghurt, eggs, toast and decaf coffee to start the day with. But it was still early so I went back to bed. After the extended sleep in (and shower etc!) I was on my way to the Spanish Steps.
These are the Spanish Steps.
And then I carried onward to the Colosseum. The closer you get to the Colosseum, the more selfie stick selling men appear before you, thus conveniently getting in the way when you’re navigating through a particularly busy Easter weekend crowd.
One man persisted in trying to sell me one so much that I even had to do the international ‘talk to the hand’ gesture. He seemed offended. I was offended for clearly coming across as a vain selfie-obsessed tourist! I later saw three people, who had bought the sticks, drop and crack the screens of their phones so I think I made the right choice.
Then it was time to attempt to get into the Colosseum… There were two signs: one saying ‘ticket holders’ and one saying ‘buy tickets’. The only problem was that they didn’t put a queue barrier up for the ‘ticket holders’ queue. On less busy days I imagine you can go straight in to the queue inside. Today, however, there was just a mob of people all trying to get to this entrance. I stood in the mob for a few mins not moving. Then, frustrated, I left the mob and asked the attendant where to queue. She said “make your way to this entrance but I don’t know where the queue begins “. Well that was helpful.
Angry about the lack of organisation, I left the area and walked around the outside of the Colosseum and peered in through the holes. That was good enough without going in i decided.
I got back to the entrance and miraculously the patrons had formed a queue! Hallelujah! I went to the back as it didn’t look too long. Two loud American women behind me decided to gab about the latest episode of Oprah they had just watched, so i put my headphones in and my audio book on full volume and tuned out. All was going well after twenty minutes as we shuffled forward towards the entrance. But then, to my horror, a second queue started to form to our left. This much shorter queue created a bottleneck to the entrance and grew quickly as people behind me left our patient, law abiding line for the promise of a shorter wait. I thought these people were Catholics. What happened to ‘Thou shalt not jump the queue’.
Three minutes later and there was no more queue, just a mess of tangled bodies all pushing forward to get past the elusive barrier. Still, it could have been worse. I could have been one of those American women who got the front of the mob after a cool 60 minute wait only to discover this was the line for those who had already pre booked a ticket (and they had not). I’d call it a day if that were me!
Fortunately, I booked the night before on my phone! So through the barrier I went into the Colosseum! I immediately took a few photos, messaged my mum and then… I spotted Queue number 2. Slow breath in, slow breath out… You can do this Holly!
It was shorter than the first. Ten minutes later I was at the front, except that everyone in front of me was scanning little tickets.
I didn’t have a little ticket.
I showed my phone screen ticket to the attendant.
“You have to wait in that line there.” He said while pointing over my shoulder. I turned around and my heart sunk.
It was at this point I considered having a tantrum but that would only get me kicked out and back to square one. I begrudgingly shuffled to the back of this new winding line that went around a corner to an unknown end.
The last one, I told myself. This is the last one and then there will be no more queues. You can do this!
I waited and waited. Finally I made it around the corner to a glowing sight – the ticket office!
As the email confirmation for the ticket never came through last night I had luckily thought to screen grab the booking reference. Fortunately, this worked! I was handed a slip of paper and sent back on my way to queue 2 – take 2.
I scanned the ticket and pushed the wheel forward but it didn’t budge. I wonder if everyone else here was praying to God to get in, maybe that’s what they gave them the strength to wait. Alas, as an atheist I didn’t hold the super power of prayer so I just had to cross my fingers.
I put the slip under the scanner one more time and the wheel turned. I was in.
I expected a ceremony to congratulate me at that point – an acknowledgement of the difficult quest I’d achieved. I decided to tell Facebook instead.
And now without further ado I present ‘Photos of the Colosseum on a slightly cloudier day to other photos of the Colosseum that you have seen!’
After an hour in there I was getting a tad hangry and made my way to the exit. ‘Do I need the toilet?’ I contemplated as I rounded the next corner. ‘No. No i do not need the toilet. Ever.’ (I’m sure you can guess why).
I left at a good time because it started to rain. This meant I could hit the shops without feeling guilty of being uncultured. A few drops of rain hit my head and I looked down to grab my umbrella. When I looked up, all the selfie stick salesmen had turned into umbrella salesmen! Now that’s supply and demand!
I made my way up Via del Corso and as I put my umbrella away to pop into a store, an umbrella man would appear out of nowhere offering one to me. I was tempted to hire one of these dudes to follow me around in London. I’m not sure he would be loyal to me though. There are a lot of umbrella-less people in rainy London.
I managed to escape and went to see the Trevi Fountain! But then I got there and saw this:
It was not quite as spectacular as Google Images implied… Fortunately when I turned around I did see a spectacular Gelato shop!
Since I hadn’t had any Gelato yet I bought a coconut and tiramasu one. Now as my friends know, I’m a slow eater. But the combination of melting Gelato, the next onset of cold raindrops and the taste of coconut Gelato was enough to propel me to inhale the thing in under ten minutes. At least the rain washed my sticky hands.
By 4.30pm I was ready for a nap and I got to the b&b front door. I put my umbrella away, pulled out my keys and within seconds “whoosh!” out popped one more umbrella man. I actually smiled at this one and showed my umbrella. He looked disappointed as he strolled away.
Rome, you are crazy. But you try. You do try.
I woke up to the sound of pouring rain. It was very relaxing but not the most conducive weather to a solo traveller intending to spend her precious four days off work exploring Rome.
I waited for the rain subside and headed to the main street. The shops were so crowded!
I started out by heading to the Vatican to see what was going down on Easter Sunday. This, it turns out.
I think they’re about to charge at me…
The rest of the day was actually spent in my room reading as I needed a break from crowds, queues, rain and umbrella men.
However I did have a pizza at a restaurant! Good times! Since I chose the mini pizza option I decided I could have dessert.
It said it came with ‘warm sauce’. Not sure what that was but sounds ok.
It turns out…
It was hot fudge sauce!!!
I WhatsApped a photo to my friend who admitted he wanted to bathe in it. It was rather big I realised.
Next to me the couple asked for one Apple Strudel “to share”. I looked back at my dessert for one.
I had no regrets.
On my final day the sun shone brightly and I was full of energy to take on Rome. “Come at me Rome!” I thought. I pulled my boarding pass out to work out when I would need to head to the airport. 1pm. Ah.
So i just walked. I walked down past the Colosseum and tried out different ways to say no to selfie stick sellers.
I shook my head. That move only encouraged them more.
I said “no”. That move only encouraged them more.
I put my sunglasses on and ignored them. It worked! It’s kind of liberating being a bitch!
At 1pm I got the taxi to the airport and the driver and I quickly realised communicating was going to be a huge struggle. This was a blessing for us both as we got to drive along to 90s pop music with the warm sun sauntering in. As we drove I looked around the city and saw how beautiful it really was.
Finally, I got to look around at Rome in peace.
Next up is Copenhagen! Stay tuned to find out whether I get lost cycling in Denmark. I would imagine it’s a given!