Tuesday, 15 April 2014

7 Days of Italy: The Eternal City

A week in Italy is the reason for my long absence for blogging, aside from dissertation deadlines and exams. One of my high school friend is on her graduation trip in Europe and part of her trip was a week in Italy with me.

Our journey began from London to Rome via Ryanair and we landed in Rome Ciampino Airport. This trip definitely did not start of on the right note. At Rome Ciampino, there were 3 shuttle buses options to Roma Termini (the main railway station of Rome) and the online advice we found was to buy tickets from whichever bus company that is departing first. The earliest bus to leave was the Ryanair shuttle bus but we were mistakenly directed to queue in the local public bus queue instead. Assured that we could get tickets from the conductor, we stayed in line for more then 30 minutes only to be told that the conductor would not be selling any tickets because the bus is full.

So, we headed back to the arrivals and bought the bus tickets and head back into the queue. Being in the front of queue with only a couple few others in front of us, we were certain we are hopping on the next bus. A bus came and parked right in front stating ROMA TERMINI on it’s LED screen and the next second, everyone literally flocked the bus to get on it. A minute later, the conductor said his bus was not in service and left. But, it was definitely a great preview of the chaos to come when the next shuttle bus arrive and we noticed we had to turn down a little of our courtesy or we would be stuck for another few hours. When the next shuttle arrived, the same crowd flocked the bus, pushing through their way into the front of the queue. Definitely a different side of Europe. Seriously, what happened to civilisation?!

Arriving at Roma Termini and taking the local bus to our hostel and the metro to other places, we realised that nobody in this city make way for anyone alighting the public transport. It was either we put the effort to get off or get stuck and miss the stop. Excuse me or even the local ‘scusi’ don’t work! Oh boy, Day 1 and I already miss London.

St. Peter's Basilica

On a brighter side, the rest of our journey was more pleasant. Our first stop was the St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican city. It took about half an hour to get through security and all the queues but all the waiting was worth it. The interior of St. Peter’s Basilica was the most majestic I’ve seen thus far in Europe. Unfortunately, we were a few minutes late to climb the cupola (dome) of the church.

Gelato Stop 1: Nocciola and Berries
Gelato Stop 2: Melon and Berries and Cream

Our day continued with the visit to the Spanish steps which I find to be very much similar t o Montmartre in Paris. There are touts shoving roses into your hands, trying to tie charms on your wrist and knock offs selling imitation bags.

Piazza di Spagna

Ending Day 1 with Fontana di Trevi lifted the spirit of the holiday. The fountain was a majestic piece of work and being there before sunset; watching the fountain lit up was a beautiful experience.

Fontana di Trevi in the day
Spaghetti Vongole in Ristorante Sora Lucia
Day 2 begun with the Colosseo, the largest amphitheatre ever built. On a guided tour, we had a great insight of its history. Grabbing a quick lunch, we continued with the Roman Forum and Palatino hill which really is just ruins of marble columns in a vast area.

The tourist shot of Colosseo

Ruins in Roman Forum

Disappointed that we were not able to climb the cupola on the first day, we headed back to the Vatican city trying to make it on time before it closes. We reached 15 minutes before the closing time, only to be told that Queen Elizabeth II was on a visit and the cupola is closed to visitors. What a bummer.

Altare della Patria in Piazza Venezia

With nothing much we could visit in the evening, we headed to Piazza Navona. The Italian open air piazza is such a great place to just sit and relax; best accompanied by gelato. Being a shutter bug, I dragged my travel companion to capture the sunset over the Vatican from Tiber river. 

Piazza Navona
Gelato Stop 3: Pistachio, Nocciola, Cream Caramel, Tiramisu and Chocolate Chip

Sunset over Vatican City
View of the Vatican from Tiber River at twilight

Our final hours of Day 3, I spent my early morning completing my dissertation and the rest of the time was spent on walking along the Tiber river.
Riverside of Tiber River

Dubbed as the eternal city, Rome is filled with Roman history and a popular destination for tourist. So every tourist attraction meant hours of queuing. With the limited time in Rome, we didn’t manage to visit the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican and Pantheon, Piazza del Popolo etc. A great city full of history but not a very friendly place to be in.

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