Let me just preface this by saying that I hated Rome. Absolutely hated it. You’ll see why. Be warned, I use some strong language. Also be warned that I calmed a lot of it down from what I truly feel.
So we get into Rome in the evening. We get to the Termini station, which is the main station for just about everything in Rome-trains, metro, whatever else they have. So we get there and we’re hungry and just want to find our hostel. We decide to grab a quick bite at McDonald’s since it’s familiar and easy to order from. We walk toward where our hostel is and find it quickly as it is about a block away. The walk there is kind of sketchy but we soon discover that is just how Rome generally looks-sketchy. We get to our hostel and walk up the four flights of stairs with our backpacks on and get there. A very creepy man answers. He has long greasy hair and looks like Lurch and something else just generally sketchy. He was really nice though and we got into our room which is a standard kind of hostel room. We decide that we are too freaked out by the unfamiliar surroundings and the sketchy creepiness we’ve already seen so we stay in, eat, and go to sleep.
Day 2 – Colosseum
We started off the morning with the woman at the hostel (an older woman who only spoke Italian and who also only had like 4 fingers total) making sure Michael held the bag close to his body, either that or to hug himself all day. We also petted a big scary looking but really sweet dog. Apparently that was how everything at the hostel was, scary in appearance but really not bad at all.
We head to the Colosseum, taking the very weird metro where the trains and metro stations are covered in graffiti. There are only two lines in Rome because they have so many underground ruins, so we walked a LOT. We got out at the Colosseum, confidently walked past the Roman Centurion clad con-artists and walked up to the “Pre-Paid” line. We showed them our voucher which says, “This is the voucher you need” three or four times on the paper. They refused us, saying we printed out the wrong thing because it did not have the image at the top. It clearly has our payment information, our validation number, and it repeats itself several times that it is, in fact, the paper we need. We looked for an internet cafe to print out the “correct” one, couldn’t find it, so we got back in line while Michael tried to get them to take it. They said they believed us that we had purchased it but wouldn’t let us in. So we bought our tickets again and walked around the Colosseum angrily.
The Colosseum itself was impressive but since we were too furious to purchase the audio guides we really didn’t get much out of it. Afterwards we walked through the Palatino, which was very pretty. We stopped to rest and Michael and I fed some pigeons from our hands which was kind of cool. After that we walked to the Piazza Venicia and looked at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We ate lunch at a horribly touristy little shop where an angry Italian woman chased these four clueless Chinese teenagers every time they got up from their seats.
After lunch we headed to the Pantheon, which is a church built on top of an ancient pagan temple (like most things in Rome). It was interesting and pretty and we went to a few shops along the way where Michael bought me a cute necklace. I got some gelato and we made our way to the Trevi Fountain. It was massive and lovely and from there we went to another little shop where we saw absynthe. We didn’t buy any but we were tempted. We did buy some limoncello because it is so big there. Afterwards we got to the tube station and got home to take the ELEVATOR OF DOOM!! It was an old fashioned elevator where you had to close three doors to get it to go and it was terrifying. But we were tired so we didn’t really care. For dinner we ate at W.O.K. – World Oriented Kitchen. It was in the Termini station so we didn’t venture far from home. It was really good Chinese food and just what I was in the mood for. We noticed that there were barely any non-Italian restaurants in Rome, other than in the Termini station.
Day 3 – Vatican
Italy is known for its coffee and rightly so. We had seen many locals order an espresso and then down it in three gulps and leave. We decided to try it on the morning of the third day (a little Biblical sounding there) and so we did. It was really really good actually. We ended up downing many more espresso shots throughout the rest of our time in Rome.
After fueling ourselves with an unhealthy amount of caffeine, we headed out on the metro to the Spanish steps. We climbed them. They’re just steps. We then went to the nearby Keats-Shelly Memorial house. It is the house where Keats died of tuberculosis. It was cool, nice for the literary connections it offered between Rome and America and the UK. It’s important to point out that we were at this moment in the nicest part of Rome, where Gucci and Prada have their stores, and it still looked dirty and sketchy. We ate some really great pizza for pretty cheap at this little place and then headed to the meeting point to go to the Vatican. We were the youngest there and while waiting for forever we got a cappuccino, which was another amazing product of Italy. Afterwards we stood in line for over an hour to get into the Vatican. We got in and had a really great tour guide. She talked to us about the courtyard of the Pinecone, the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Museums, and St. Peter’s Basilica. We walked for about three hours through these things. The Vatican Museums were fascinating but were, ultimately, museums, a collection of their stolen loot from the many crusades and abuses fostered by the church. After the museums we headed to the Sistine Chapel. I personally felt like it has been overblown. It was fascinating and really detailed and you could look at it for years and never see every detail, but it is also just the work of a man who was forced to paint something he didn’t want to by the church. It was gorgeous and intricate, but also reeked of religious pressure. Don’t think me too cynical, it was amazing, but when you walk through these beautiful places and you hear about some of the ways and reasons they commissioned it, you can’t help but feel you’re looking at little more than the spoils of war and slavery.
Saint Peter’s Basilica gave me much the same impression. It was beautiful and overpowering. It is so tall you can’t fathom it and there are letters high up on the wall that look tiny but are actually six feet tall. Every picture in there is actually a mosaic, an intricate and gorgeous mosaic. We were sitting in a pew looking at a mosaic above some tomb to an important religious figure and there was this Vatican official who was soooo rude. He was an “asshat” as Michael called him. He would tell people to shush loudly, people who were not even close to the tomb. He would push people out of the way if they weren’t going in the right direction to see the tomb or if they were taking too long. He was so incredibly pompous and rude, and he wasn’t the only one of the lot.
After seeing the Basilica (as much as was allowed), we went out to get our bag. Our bag that held our passports, iPods, identification, etc. They couldn’t find it, wouldn’t help us get it, wouldn’t allow us to go back to the museum. They were completely rude and unhelpful. I was near tears I was so frustrated and finally we found out that they would allow us to have it at 6 pm. It was 4:45 at this point and we had planned on going to see a few other churches before 6 pm. That obviously wasn’t going to happen so we just sat in the Vatican until six and got our bag, cursing the Vatican as we left. I cannot even explain to you how frustratingly unhelpful and useless the Vatican staff were. I also cannot explain to you how many people we spoke to who were horribly uninterested in being of ANY use. This makes two of the biggest monuments in Rome with completely useless and frustrating staff members and procedures. Blech.
Afterwards we were so frustrated and so annoyed with Rome we just wanted food and alcohol. So we made our way to a little restaurant, sat outside and ordered food. We started with bread and olive cream. Michael had gnocchi with Gorgonzola and I had veal with ham and sage. We shared 1/2 a liter of white wine and had a mixed cheese with swiss, soft, spicy, and Gorgonzola cheese. We finished up with tiramisu. It was great, one of my favorite meals in Europe so far. It was not too expensive either so we were happy as we made our way back to our hostel.
Day 4 – Grope and Castle
So as my title might suggest, on day 4 I got groped. We were getting on the metro to visit the Castel St. Angelo before our flight left. It was really crowded and Michael and I got separated and some mother fucker decided rubbing up against me would be a good idea. I elbowed him hard and managed to get away. At this point my feelings for Italians had worsened into sincere hatred, not helped by a woman shouting at us because we improperly pronounced “nociola” (hazelnut). Anyway, we got to the castle. It was alright. Had some really beautiful frescoes but I was so annoyed with everything in Rome that I didn’t really enjoy myself much. I did soak myself in a water fountain quite unintentionally though, which didn’t help much. In Rome their water is all really fresh and so you can drink out of like giant water fountains without it being a big deal at all.
After the castle we headed back to our hostel, got our belongings, said good bye to the nice but somewhat creepy hostel keepers, went down the elevator of doom one last time, and happily got on our bus to leave fucking Rome behind.
You know, I’m not normally an angry person who is willing to believe that everything must be like my first impression, so on the way to airport I really tried to rationalize that maybe we had had just had bad luck. That was until I heard an American couple talking about how awful Rome was. We were actually stuck in the bus, waiting to get onto the plane and he was saying how inefficient the entire city had been and how bad his experience was. We told him some of our experiences and he said, “Even if they gave me a free ticket back, I’d never accept it.” The funny thing about this was that they raffled off a free ticket back to Rome on our flight to Paris. He didn’t win it but we all felt a little better to realize that Rome really had been as bad as we’d believed.