When I was eight years old, I wrote to Girl Talk (a comic for like-minded eight year old girls across England), telling them that I had loved learning about the Romans so much at school that it was my ultimate dream to learn even more about the Romans, in my own spare time. The editors at Girl Talk HQ clearly took pity on me and decided to help me realise my dream by taking me to a Roman museum in Dover (of all the places), where they dressed me up in a hessian tunic and gave me a tour which was featured on a full page spread on their ‘Dreams Come True’page. I was pretty disappointed about the hessian tunic if I’m honest as I’d worn my lime green Spice Girls dress and knee high socks specially for the occasion, but the rest of the day really was a dream come true. Good one, Girl Talk! Anyway…the point that I’m getting to is that eight year old me would be so ragingly proud of the fact that I JUST GOT BACK FROM REAL LIFE ROME!! At long last, I actually got to visit my childhood land of dreams, my own personal Disneyland.
When Rome appeared upon my search for ‘flights from Hamburg to: anywhere’ I knew that destiny was finally calling, and swiftly booked the plane plus an airbnb apartment round the corner from the Colosseum. GLORIOUS. Here, in all it’s glory, is the assortment of newly-gained knowledge which I can finally add to my 8-year old experience of the Roman Museum in Dover.
Not all Roman architecture is ancient. Like the Altare Della Patria for example.
Romulus and Remus, two young lads who were raised by wolves (obviously), were the official founders of Rome…but Vittorio Emanuelo was the first King of a united Italy, long after Rome had fallen as a big time world-conquering intellectual force of nature. Not far from the Colosseum is the Altare Della Patria, a monument built in honour of old Vittorio. In a stark contrast to the brown rooftops and higgledy-piggledy topographical layout of the surrounding area, the monument is quite simply a ginormous white marble box which has earned itself the nickname ‘The Wedding Cake.’ I personally quite liked it, and doubley so because you can go up it FOR FREE!! Well…halfway up…to take the lift all the way to the top there is a charge involved, but the view was so awesome from the spot I reached that I didn’t bother going any further.
There are an awful lot of cats in Rome
I feel like there must be almost as many stray cats in Rome as there are tourists, and this makes sense now that I’ve read up about this and discovered that the city’s council has named the cats part of Rome’s ‘bio-heritage.’ They’re a fully protected species round those parts, with an estimated 300,000 resident feral cats…I mean, that’s a lot of cats, you guys! Any time I came across a new excavation site or random collection of ancient ruins, all of a sudden my eyes would refocus and see past the bricks to the posse of feline beasts slinking around the place. I almost felt like I was trespassing on their property to be honest.
The Roman Forum is actually rather ginormous
Sort of. Basically the Roman Forum isn’t just classed as the Forum itself but the whole area of ruins that surround it, and it’s absolutely MASSIVE. I could have spent an entire day there, although maybe that’s just because of my high-history-geek levels. What blows my mind is walking around the ruined streets of the area and thinking too hard about the millions of different people that must have walked over the exact same spot over all these centuries. THE WORLD IS SO AMAZING, YOU GUYS!!!
AirBnb is awesome
I sort of already knew this one to be honest, it’s just that I’ve never rented a whole apartment before, only a room staying with locals. But I really wanted to be fully solo this time so I found the apartment around the corner from the Colosseum a few days before I flew out and it was just full on AWESOME. Way better (and cheaper) than staying in a hotel, with a pretty full on beaut spiral staircase connecting the mezzanine bedroom to the kitchen and living area below. Anywhere that’s got a spiral staircase gets a high rating in my eyes, after all.
The Colosseum wasn’t just a place for gladiator battles
No way Jose, it was also used during Roman times as a place for mock sea battles and animal hunting, as well as in later times being used for a collection of random uses like markets, housing and hospitals. Even a quarry. Mental.
A word of warning; I went in January when you’d think the crowds would be fairly minimal…but it was chockablock with swathes of people waiting in line for over an hour to enter. I also got asked approximately ten times if I wanted to pay extra money to get in with a tour and skip standing in line for so long, which just got annoying and stressful if I’m honest. I suppose that’s the downside to such a tourist-filled location, but I really desperately wanted to go inside and picture myself as an extra in Gladiator so I waited till later in the day when there was only an hour till closing time to avoid so many people instead. If you go to Rome yourself, it’s good to take note of the fact that one ticket lasts a couple of days and gets you into the Colloseum, the Palantine Hill and the Roman Forum. I mean, that is a great deal if I do say so myself.
How to throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain
The coin should be thrown over the shoulder. One coin is for a safe journey, two if you’re looking for love, and three if you’re well up for hearing wedding bells in the near future. (Presumably yours). It’s also illegal to take the coins from the fountain, and they all (approximately €3000 per day) get scooped up and donated to charity regularly. So there you go. Nice one, Trevi!
SCAM ALERT YOU GUYS. Upon entering the Colloseum I saw out of the corner of my eye an old woman begging for money, and I felt pretty sorry for her. She was dressed in an ankle-length black skirt, with a shawl wrapped over her head and threadbare gloves covering her hands which were outstretched and holding a tin can. Instead of shoes on her feet she had some roughly-tied together scraps of black bin bags, with such a hunched back that it made her half my height and forced her face to be staring consistently at the ground. My heart broke into a thousand tiny pieces when I exited the Colloseum and saw she was still there with a policeman towering over her and urging her to scram on the double.
THEN I was informed. She’s a pro. Every inch of her skin was covered so as not to show her age, save for her heels which she’d forgotten to cover with the bin bags and definitely were not the heels of an 80+ year old woman who’d been walking the streets for an eternity. More like age 25 maximum. The placement of the hunched back was clearly a strategically placed pillow. And the angle she was walking at combined with the shawl meant that it was physically impossible for you to see her face. Well blow me down and pick me up again, SHE WAS GOOD!!! I didn’t give her any money after I realised but I did secretly marvel at the art of deception which she was almost a complete master of.
It’s tricky to tell when you’re actually inside the Vatican.
This is possibly a really dumb thing to say, but I was expecting there to be a full on wall around the Vatican City or at least some kind of mild gatelike thing, but actually you pretty much just stroll on in. It. Is. MASSIVE. And again, very busy and with a giant queuing system in one corner of St Mark’s Square to prevent too many people entering the basilica at one time. I accidentally-on-purpose detoured the giant queue by following a group of lads through a casual gap in the barrier and continuing on my merry way, but maybe that’s something not to be advised, just in case, you know. It’s quite unholy behaviour, dodging queues in the Vatican City of all places.
BUT. Totally worth going, to marvel at the spectacularness of it all. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the Pope in his Pope Mobile, but unfortunately he wasn’t out and about that day. What a shame I tell you.
Selfie Sticks are probably the number one most annoying part of being in a highly touristic location.
I don’t think I really need to explain this one, do I?
- There are two main airports in Rome, both located outside the city but really easy to navigate your way in from. I flew into Leonardo da Vinci Airport, bought a train ticket from a machine in the station (though they can be cheaper if you buy them beforehand online), and was in the city in no time. A couple of stops on the metro meant that from landing at the airport to arriving at the door of my airbnb took under an hour in total. Which is pretty full on awesome if you ask me.
- Once you have your train ticket MAKE SURE YOU VALIDATE IT. There are machines located by station platforms which stamp your ticket for you, and if you don’t do it and get caught, you’ll still be liable for a fine.
- The best way to see the city is DEFINITELY on foot. There are ruins and hidden courtyards everywhere, and if you stick to a tour bus or the Metro, chances are you’ll miss some of the best bits.
- If you’re not such a fan of crowds it’s worth going during the winter months for sure. It was still relatively warm in January and there was less of a chance (in my opinion) of being smacked in the face with a selfie stick.