Beginning the Whirlwind

Trip Start Nov 29, 2005
Trip End Nov 21, 2006

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Thursday, September 7, 2006

When Adrian and I were planning on meeting up in Rome and traveling together for the two weeks leading up to Oktoberfest, the main goal was to move quickly and spend as little time as possible in each place because we knew Italy and Switzerland would mutilate our wallets (not that we'd cheapen our experience anywhere or anything like that, we just wouldn't linger in places that would be a money drain). Even so, we booked ahead of time three nights in Rome because we (at least I) would be getting in mid-afternoon and we had heard that the city was so big and so spread out that three nights was a bare minimum. As it turned out, all we needed was two.

Rome might not have been built in a day, but it can be seen in half of one. I didn't get into Rome until about 3 and by the time I had checked into Backpackers Hostel (the most disorganized hostel ever, checking in was a mission and paying, we learned, was strictly optional) it was close to 4. I was hungry from spending a whole day on trains not paying €3 for a bag of chips so we decided to just go for a stroll around to kill some time before the hostel would be serving us dinner at 8 (or so...). After chowing down on a ham and cheese toastie disguised as pizza (anyone who claims Italy has the best pizza in the world is wrong, I won't even hear out the opinion) we were walking down a street, Adrian jokingly suggested, 'Why don't we turn left here.' I looked left, and all of a sudden I was staring at the Coliseum. You've got to hand it to any city where you can be walking down an innocent enough street and the next thing you know you're looking at one of the most historically significant buildings in the world. One that even Russel Crowe fought in. It might not be as majestic as it once was and they might not feed Christians to lions there, but it's still damn impressive. We did a lap around it, not bothering to pay the admission fee to get in and continued on our walking tour of the city, trying to find the buildings that had been awarded cool-looking graphics on the map. And that's all we did for the next few hours, meandering endlessly and finding one cool place after another, the highlight being the former Senate (I think) a huge marble building with loads of important-looking war statues. By the time we had made it back up to the hostel we had seen a good chunk of the city.

The next morning we set off for the Vatican with four other Aussies we met the previous night in the hostel(everybody in Europe is Australian, it's out of control -- the two things you're most likely to encounter in Europe are Australians and scaffolding). We got to the walls of the Vatican and the line we encountered was something straight out of EuroTrip. The line wrapped around corner after corner after corner of the city walls. Amazingly, one of the girls, Kristy managed to jump the whole line while asking the guard something and we all followed suit, saving ourselves an hour. It was almost too easy. As it turned out the line was just to get into the Museum and Sistine Chapel. We Spent an hour following the crowds ogling the priceless paintings and maps and all the other amazing stuff on display in the Vatican until finally working our way to the Sistine Chapel. It was breath-taking, but not at all what I expected. For one thing, I thought the painting of Adam touching God would be something that stood out, massive, isolated in the center. It's just another painting on the ceiling in reality. The two things you're not supposed to do in the Chapel is talk or take pictures. We snuck pictures anyway, it was almost too easy, pull out your camera, point it up, snap. Of course, the people making the most noise were the guards shhing people and yelling 'no photo.' If they just allowed photos and got rid of the guards then the silence thing might actually work out.

In between the Sistine Chapel and visiting St. Peter's we stopped for lunch at a streetside cafe outside the walls. And I'll say it now, I don't care, Italian food (and I mean that as in food in Italy) is totally overrated. The food is expensive, the portions are tiny, and what little pricey food you do get isn't all that great. I was expecting to be blown away and I walked away feeling I could've cooked the tortellini better myself and could've gotten a better sauce out of a can. Plus I was still hungry. And for my €6 (which would get you a huge feed and a pint in Eastern Europe) my food was served in what looked to be an upside down frisbee. Shame on you Italy. We then walked to St Peter's Basillica, snapped a photo of the goofy Swiss Guards and walked in. The outside might not be the most impressive, especially compared to some of the duomos around the country (not saying it isn't good...) but the inside, wow. Basically, I never need to walk inside a church again. In a continent where touring is based on AFC (another fucking church) this one still blows you away. Words don't even do it justice.

From there we cruised across the river to the Spanish Steps, which from the outside are just steps and then onto Trevi Fountain to throw a coin in. The Fountain is enormous by fountain standards with huge marble sculptures on the edge. The legend is, throw one coin in and you will return to Rome. Check. Throw two in, get good luck. Check. Throw three in, you'll marry an Italian. I only had two coins on me anyway. And little over 24 hours after arriving in Rome, we'd seen all we could possibly want. And the next morning we were off to blitz another city.
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