The Colosseum, Spanish Steps and the Fountain of Trevi, La Bocca della Verità (the Mouth of Truth) are just some of the well-known landmarks of this ancient city. All of these have gained more attention all thanks to Hollywood movies.
It wouldn’t be surprising to note that there were lots of American tourists in Rome. I think the land of the free has this obsession with Italy. Italian food serves as a good ambassador to the US. Pasta and pizza are food staples in America. How many American novels have Italy as their setting? The latest I could remember is Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love which also has a movie adaptation. And then as mentioned, the several movies that take place in Italy. The latest I know of is Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love.
22 June. Rome.
From Siena I arrived in Rome by bus. This was the second time I took a bus instead of a train. The travel took about 3.5 hours. I arrived at around 6 pm. It may have been faster by train but since I arrived in Siena by bus, I already know where the bus station is. And I was just looking for extra comfort in the seats. In the bus I could at least recline my seat. 🙂
I stayed in a four-bed mixed dorm at a hostel very near the Termini station, Legends hostel. They have an all-Pinoy reception. I was quietly inching my way to them waiting to see if they could recognize a fellow pinoy (from experience even my countrymen mistake me as Chinese, as do a lot of foreigners). Not until they asked for my passport did they know I was pinoy. Of course I bombarded them with questions on directions and recommendations. 🙂
Entering the dorm, there was one person occupying the lower part of a bed. She was Mexican and her name is María Jóse. I said hi, got to talk to her more and she asked me if I want to come with her to Trevi fountain and on the way, pass by Tritone’s fountain. Of course I accepted the invitation. At least she could help me orient myself in my new surroundings.
Too bad that the Fountain of Tritone was being restored. It was completely covered. We then headed to the main event which is the Trevi and found myself with an instant liking for it. Just like the custom, I tossed a coin over my right shoulder ensuring my return to Rome.
23 June. Rome.
The following day, my Mexican dorm-mate was leaving for Barcelona already so I’m back to exploring solo. I went to the Piazza di Venezia.
I learned from that afternoon’s free walking tour that this piazza was built as a sign of unified Italy.
Back to that morning’s itinerary my next stop would be the Colosseum. But when I got there there were lots of tourists, the queue was impossible I did not even know where the tail of the line was. And there was loud Colombian music being played right in front of the Colosseum. It wasn’t the best time for a visit so I decided to go back to the hostel, get some siesta and then join the free walking tour at 5:30 by the Spanish Steps.
The good thing about joining these free walking tours is you get to know more facts about the city. For instance, why is the Spanish Steps called such? Did the Spanish government have something to do with its construction?
It was, in fact, built with the funds of a French diplomat so it could have been named after him. Our guide, a guy named Andrea (because Andrea in Italy is a guy’s name), commented that the official name is just too long (Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti) and since the Spanish embassy was located in the same square just a stone’s throw away, it came to be known as the Spanish Steps.
A fountain in the shape of a half-sunken boat is situated at the base of the Spanish Steps. The square experienced heavy flooding back in the day and when the waters receded, a boat was left in that area so when time came that they wanted to build a fountain there, the boat became the winning idea.
The tour ended at 8 pm by the Trevi fountain. Andrea told us that the tossing of the coin is by the left shoulder. I did it over my right.
Left or right, the future holds the answer.
I decided to go back to the Colosseum. It was at last more peaceful. The crowds have significantly thinned because the Colosseum’s already closed. I could finally have my photo op in front of it!
Since I did a lot of walking that afternoon I was really hungry. I didn’t want to eat pasta or pizza so I opted for risotto. 🙂
24 June. Vatican.
I went to the Vatican on a Monday. Sundays there is a noon mass held by the pope and well I don’t like crowds. Crowds in Italy can be pretty insane.
I dressed in a shirt with sleeves and a black skirt with length running two inches below my knees. My dress code is perfect to go inside the Basilica. There’s a long queue of course and you have to pass through security with x-ray scans of your belongings before you are let in.
The guard by the entrance asked if we are going up the dome. I saw a sign that says it’s 7€ if you will be taking the elevator up and 5€ if you will be using the stairs. I didn’t want to pay for both and when the people in front of me turned back, I did the same and left. Apparently that entrance is for the going-up-the-dome only. I was thinking I could go back later but I will need to go in the Vatican museums soon since I would be spending more time there.
Read online that the best time to go there was during lunch break when the queue dies down. I grabbed lunch at a nearby McDonald’s (cos I didn’t want to think over where I could eat good pizza or pasta) and went to the museum’s entrance at 1 pm. True enough the long snake line I saw before going for lunch at past 12 has thinned.
I spent about 3.5 hours gazing at sculptures and paintings. I know the Catholic Church is rich but when you see their vast collection of treasures tucked in the Vatican, you’d have a bigger picture of that wealthiness. In my audio guide, it mentions of popes who even commission certain paintings/sculptures to be bought saving no expense and even organizing lotteries and other fund-raising activities in order to acquire them. They were certainly on a roll and that amounted to all these works of art housed in the Vatican.
The Sistine Chapel is part of the Vatican Museums. Security was tight inside and no picture-taking is allowed. I’ve a new-found appreciation for Michelangelo. The guy’s truly a creative genius. Apparently he was hesitant at first to paint the ceiling of the Sistine because he wasn’t feeling confident of his skills as a painter. But more than that, he was an intelligent man and his understanding of the bible is shown in his masterpiece The Last Judgment displayed on the altar wall of the Sistine.
I didn’t even try to sneak in a photo inside, my camera was out of battery anyway. I decided to go back to the hostel and re-charge the battery for at least 30 minutes before heading to Piazza Navona.
It’s a rectangular square (i know, ironic right) which has two fountains on each end and a bigger one at the middle. Paintings are being sold here and a good way to spend a sunset for the ambience. Restaurants line up the sides.
25 June. Rome (in the morning).
Time to check-out of the hostel. I still have the whole morning to kill until lunchtime since my train for Venice won’t be leaving till 14:50.
It’s a must that I go to the Bocca della Verità. I don’t know but when I saw it in a scene of the movie Only You, I was enchanted by it.
If your hand happens to be inside its mouth and you are telling a lie, legend says it will bite off your hand. I don’t know it’s a good lie detector though, I wasn’t telling any lie while my hand was touching the rim of the mouth. I just wanted my photo taken. 🙂
As I still have time to roam about, I went back in the direction of the Spanish Steps going by Via Condotti, that tiny street leading to the Spanish Steps lined up with Italian powerhouse designer brands Prada, Ferragamo, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci along with other high-fashion labels.
Came back to the hostel to pick up my luggage and said bye to the pinoy staff on duty. One of them asked where I was going next. To Venice. Exchanging Rome’s ruins for Venice’s canals. Arrivederci Roma!