When in Rome

I arrived in Rimini on a Sunday night to find the famous party hostel pretty much empty except for one other guy in my room. A bit concerned because I’d heard from our Tuscan tour guide it might be quiet, I went to get some lunch at a nearby beach restaurant, at which I also saw the one guy from my room. I then went back to use the computer to update this blog and upload photos. While doing so I was greeted by a friendly UK guy who assured me that there were many people at the hostel, that it was a great party hostel, and that he and his friends would be going out that night if I’d like to join.

Relieved, I finished my computer business, went for a run along the rather uninspiring beach that was weirdly filled with hundreds of tiny little items that could have been little tables and a whole lot of play equipment, went back, showered, got ready, and then promptly realised there was no one around in the hostel – despite it being ‘happy hour’ – except a couple and a kid.

I went for a walk, turned right and soon saw two of the guys who had been hanging with the UK guy eating at a restaurant. The UK guy joined us eventually and we went back to the hostel to play cards and have a drink (by this time it was quite cold).

We eventually took a bus towards a club on a pier via the cold and windy beach, only to eventually discover that it was shut. However, while walking we found one place that was open called the Coconut Club. There were a few locals in there and I enjoyed dancing until a storm rose, blowing cold wind across the whole place (which was basically outside).

The two remaining guys announced they were going back to the hostel so I went with them. However, we could not get a bus, despite them supposed still be running, and no taxis could be found. We therefore had no choice but to walk for over an hour back to the hostel, which was located near the beach but not near the town. After a while the two guys went too far ahead of me and I called for them to slow or stop but they did not, so I had to walk by myself back to the hostel in the storm, in the dark, in the night, by myself. Great.

The next morning I woke up and decided to go to Rome two days early. I realised my Eurail pass enabled me to jump on a train paying only for the reservation, so it didn’t matter that the ticket would have cost 75 euros had I purchased it that day. I had bought a ticket to Rome in advance for about 30 euros, trying to save a day on my Eurail pass, but had miscalculated the number of days I had on my pass by one and so was happily able to use the spare day.

I arrived in Rome in the afternoon to find a busy hostel – as per what I had heard from other travellers whom I had met and who had stayed there – and had a hearty two hour nap. At 7pm I got ready and went down to the bar, choosing two UK guys and a Perth girl to sit with. We were joined by two Melbournian girls.

We had been planning to head out to a club that was good on a Monday night, but by the time we were going to go everyone just decided to stay in the bar and small underground club of the hostel because it had become quite busy with travellers. This turned out to be a good move as the next day the floor of the underground club room was ripped up for rennovation and closed for two weeks, but not before we had a good night dancing.

In The Yellow hostel on the first night
In The Yellow hostel on the first night

The next morning I slept in, grabbed a panini on the way to the metro and met the group for the four hour walking tour called ‘Romeing All Over’. This was the first of three tours I went on in a 50 euro package. They were run by Romeing Tours and were excellent: they, combined with the fascinating ancient history of Rome, significantly helped to make this my favourite city so far.

Our guide Julia took us around various ancient sites of Rome including Palentine Hill, the Forum, the Pantheon, temple ruins, the monument to Vittor Emmanuel and the Colosseum, all the while telling us the fascinating history of the rise and fall of Ancient Rome with all its Emperors in a most engaging way. We would stop for long periods to hear the history but each of us was fully engaged.

Afterwards myself, Sydneysider Vaughn – who was also in my room, Adnan from Dubai and Ecuadorian Ingrid went into the Colosseum. It was already about 4pm so no line did we face. Having just heard the whole history of the place, we were thoroughly intrigued.

Back at the hostel the four of us agreed to meet at 7:30pm to go and get dinner. We were joined by a roommate of Ingrid’s and found a nearby restaurant. Everyone else got pizza, but thoroughly sick of carbohydrates (no kitchens have been at the Italian hostels meaning little choice but takeaway pizza and sandwiches constantly!), I had a veal stew with vegetables and a plate of spinach (the only real ‘vegetable’ option!).

Back at the hostel bar we waited for Ingrid to get ready so we could head out to an area of clubs about which the tour guide had told us. By the time she was ready it was about 11:20, however, and growing tired and conscious that we were getting up at 8am to go on the second main walking tour, we all agreed to get an early night.

The next day’s walking tour was just as good as the first. Justin energetically took us through the history of Catholicism in Rome, taking us past various religious monuments and churches, as well as the market square Campo del Fiori, which became a nightlife area at night.

By midday we got to St Peter’s Square to see the pope, who made his speech every Wednesday morning. We would not have made it in to see his speech unless we got there at 7am, but Justin assured us if we got there when the pope finished speaking we could get straight in and see him leave. Unfortunately on that day he must have finished early – perhaps there were fewer languages for him to speak in than usual (this depends on the nationalities of his audience) – so we couldn’t get all the way in and very close. We nonetheless saw him in the distance as a white blob who drove away in his car.

We then waited, first outside the barricade and then at the front of the queue, to get into St Peter’s Basilica. However, we eventually found out that for some random reason, this day of all days, the Pope had decided to only let in people who were on expensive tours. Our tour guide was quite irate and apologetic, claiming this had never happened before. He promised us two free drinks back at the hostel, where most of us were staying.

We continued the tour and had for lunch that which Justin considered the best sandwich in Rome while he explained to us the history of the Sistine Chapel. Vaughn, Adnan and I then decided not to go straight to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel as we were still pretty tired, so we grabbed that which many consider to be the best gelati, which was nearby (in my opinion no better than any others, including Australia), and headed to the Forum, as our Colosseum tickets enabled us to enter this too within two days.

At the Forum I realised I had a half hour walking tour downloaded onto my iPhone, so all three of us listened to it through my phone’s speaker as we walked around the ancient ruins, learning what they were through the audioguide. The place would have been fairly uninteresting without this, but with the addition of the audioguide coupled with what we had already heard on our two walking tours, it was actually very interesting.

Back at the hostel I took another excellent two hour nap before getting ready. I then grabbed some nearby pizza before being tempted by the plate of traditional Spanish apperitivo (food they eat before dinner) the hostel bar offered for 3 euros. Eventually Adnan and I were joined by many others from the day’s walking tour. Many wearily describes described the over 1.5 hour, jostling queue they had waited in to get into the Vatican museums and how they were swept through on a tide of people.

Miraculously we managed to coordinate all 20 or so of us to get on a bus to the Campo del Fiori, the nightlife area we had walked through that day when it had been a marketplace. We found the recommended ‘Sloppy Sam’s’, which included karaoke and was consequently well-suited to the group of University of Kentucky choral singers with us.

Seeking dancing we followed a promoter to Mood, a nearby club. However, it was fairly quiet, so we left at about 12:30 seeking somewhere busier. It might have got going later as more people did arrive, but we took taxis to a place Google said was good on a Wednesday: it was closed. We went back to the hostel where a few of us hung around and talked. It was no longer very busy here due to the club being closed.

The next day I got up and hoisted myself off to the Vatican Museum, wearily ignoring the many guys trying to get me to buy their tour (‘Miss!’). Expecting a long queue, I was astounded to find none. Instead, I walked straight in (while those with reserved tickets and in groups waited longer), bought my ticket and audio guide and was in! I also ran into Adnan and Ingrid in the open courtyard museum, but lost them before long as I took my time listening to audio guide segments and as the crowd grew in the afternoon.

As it wasn’t too busy I was able to wander around and take my time looking at things. The audio guide was highly necessary and I spent a long time admiring the various magnificent statues and paintings of the MANY museums and rooms, listening to the many sections of audio information on them. I can’t see how people could have found any of it that interesting without such a guide. And I noticed that the many actual tour guides seemed to sort of rush people through a few things quickly but skip some of the interesting things on the audio guide.

Then again, by the time I got to the Sistine Chapel at the end, I hadn’t realised how huge the museum was, so I was pretty over walking, listening, and observing beautiful religious paintings. I did not think the chapel was significantly more beautiful than many of the other things in the museums – although Justin’s detailed explanation of the work that went Uni it had been impressive. Nonetheless the chapel was so relatively roomy compared to what I understand it usually is and was the day before, so that I was able to sit down on the floor, and could have laid down if I had not feared being stood on.

After this I dropped back into the same sandwich shop we’d eaten at on the tour the previous day. However, I was a bit disappointed that ‘roast pig’ was just ham. Still missing that suckling pig from Lisbon!

I then made my way to St Peter’s Basilica and enjoyed its grandeur courtesy of my Rick Steve’s audio tour. Again, there was not a long line – nor was the place as busy as the audio tour made it sound like it normally is. By the end of the 45 or so minutes, however, I was quite tired. I figured I’d been on my feet for about 7 hours that day! An accidental detour the wrong way on the metro later (no thanks, Google maps) I made it back to the hostel in time for a quick nap.

That evening was the evening tour, the third in the series of ROMEing tours. I met the others at the meeting point – many had been on either of the other tours – and we explored Rome at night. We passed famous statues and piazzas, as well as the Spanish steps and finally the famous Trevi fountain. Three coins later and my husband is on the way!

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