When in Rome…

Rome Travel Blog

 › entry 16 of 45 › view all entries

Ahhh… Venice… You know, they’re right in everything that they say about Italy…

Venice was insanely beautiful. I mean, what more could you ask for in a city… If you could design things to be as perfect as possible, I think that the result would be… Wait for it.. Yep, Venice. In normal cities, you have streets. In Venice, you have canals. Instead of a highway, you get a Grande Canal! The place is everything that you would expect it to be. And more.

Arriving in Venice, we had absolutely no idea where we would stay, or even which direction to head. So, stood at the train station for 10 minutes trying to figure out what to do. I mean, do we get a boat across to a little island where the only hostel that is even close to our budget is located, or do we try the ones on the main straight first (which we very definitely could not afford…) So anyway, eventually we were approached by a guy with cheap hostel accommodation available right down the road, so we were saved from any major decision making for the time being.

Wandering the streets of Venice, you can spend hours, days, just gazing at the surroundings. Mask and glass stores and stands line the streets as far as you can see, separated only by pizzerias and exclusive (expensive!) boutiques. It’s the kind of place where you could most definitely fall in love if you so desired. I could have sat on the water edge for hours just looking at everything, but if that’s not your kind of thing then there’s plenty more to see. Everywhere you turn there’s another bridge crossing another canal, drawing you into the maze that is Venice, the city where it is compulsory that you get lost at least once a day. But that’s not even a minor concern, I mean, really, there’s worse places in the world to be lost, and if you just keep walking eventually you’ll end up where you started (or you could get a gondola to take you home, but at 90 Euro - I don’t think so!!!) So for me, the mode of transport was by foot only. The streets are constantly crowded with people, tourists, locals, vendors, randoms, all kinds! It’s hard to imagine that anyone in the city works at all, it seems that all they do is relax and smoke in doorways if they’re actually working, otherwise they’re wandering around the streets shopping in the fantastic boutiques on every block (ok, so I was left a little envious by the completely relaxed lifestyle that they appear to lead!!!)

Being the most expensive city in Italy, there were some fantastic sights that we couldn’t see, but there were also some amazing things that we got to do, some even for free (woohoo!) The place is full of museums and history, Vivaldi museums and exhibitions seem to be everywhere (unless I just kept walking around in circles, hmmm…) but really, fascinating to see his life in Venice and his tragic end, I know his music but not a lot about his life. Spent absolutely ages just walking around and around, at one point we got so lost that we walked pretty much every square inch of the entire area until we found our way home hours later. Met some fun people, and really had a good time.

St Michael’s Basilica in San Marco Piazza was amazing, the outside was incredible, so many styles fused together… The whole square was beautiful though. There were some sort of policemen carrying swords (???), the only real downside was the millions of pigeons (dirty rats with wings according to Phil… Spot on, I think!) Those birds freak me out, but there’s tourists everywhere that actually pay to feed them and as soon as they throw the seed the vultures attack and attach themselves to hair, clothes, bags, whatever they can get their claws into. There’s endless supplies of fake Gucci, Prada, D&G, you name it, you can buy it shamelessly in the streets of Venice, even outside the genuine stores. After a few days, while it was sad to be leaving such a stunning place, it was nice to get away to somewhere that we still couldn’t afford, but it’s a little cheaper than Venice. Next stop: Rome.

A friend from home, Andrew, had headed to Rome hoping to meet us somewhere along the way, but we couldn’t afford the laughable internet prices in Venice so hadn’t been able to get in touch to let him know we were on our way. Cheapest way there was an overnight train, so booked our tickets and headed there, hoping that Andrew hadn‘t already left for Switzerland where we originally told him we were headed. Didn’t get much sleep on the train, fell asleep maybe an hour or so before arriving at 7am, so Justin and I were both really groggy when we arrived, grabbed our bags and jumped off the train. Took ages to figure out which exit to get out through, then wandered the streets for a few minutes trying to figure out which direction we were supposed to head. Nothing was matching up to the map, started to think that maybe it wasn’t the station that we thought it was. At that point, I turned around and didn’t see my day pack attached to Justin like it usually is, and asked him if he had it…


Once we realised that we were short one bag, we both just turned and bolted in the direction of the station. So, it might sound dumb to leave a bag behind, but we each have massive packs, then I also have a small backpack as well, and a massive handbag, and Justin has a small bag too. So it’s easy to think you have everything, especially at 7am when you’re running on one hour sleep. And I also need to point out that I am absolutely fastidious about checking behind me when I’m leaving anywhere. I already had my pack on, so I asked Justin if there was anything under the seat. He did a little sweep and said no. So we left.

It must’ve been a sight, the 2 of us sprinting through the train station with massive packs on our backs, I was literally throwing people out of the way (politely of course… “Mi scuzzi, mi scuzzi”) and we finally made it back to the platforms. Now, we all know what a great sense of direction I have (NOT) and I knew it wasn’t the first platform so I ran up to the second one. Then the third one. Then the fourth one. It’s a long way up, and all of the escalators were switched off. At some point I looked across and realised that there were no trains on any of the platforms anywhere near me. Which is when I broke down and started sobbing. I crawled back down to the tunnel that connects all of the platforms, and realised that in all of the running up and down I had done, I hadn’t seen Justin at all. I looked around and he was nowhere to be seen. I went back up to the platform so I could look across and find him. But he was still nowhere. I wandered around for another 5 minutes, utterly hysterically sobbing by this point and close to hyperventilation. Every possible scenario ran through my head. What if Justin had jumped on a train to search for my bag and the train had left, he could have ended up anywhere. Without a ticket or any identification. We had each others luggage, I had both passports for safekeeping and his wallet too. So, if he got pulled up somewhere without a ticket and they asked for ID he wouldn’t have any. If he ended up in jail somewhere he had no way of contacting me cos he doesn’t have a phone, and he doesn’t have my number. Even if he didn’t get arrested he still could be in another city with no way to contact me, and neither of us had any of our own belongings. People were coming up to me to see if I was ok, I mean I was clearly distressed, but was howling so hard that I couldn’t say anything. Then, out of nowhere I see Justin appear right at the end of the tunnel coming towards me. I wasn’t even game to be optimistic that the big bulge under his arm was my bag, I was just so happy to see him. I think he found it a little amusing that I was so distressed about everything. His side of the story is a little different to mine from when we reached the platforms. He saw me run onto platform 2, figured that I had no idea where I was going so he kept going to platform 15 where we had come from, found the train, found the carriage and the cabin, found the bag and then walked back. But all that took long enough for my whole saga to unfold. He was laughing at me still crying so hard I couldn’t speak, and calmed me down so we could get outta the station for good. Thank God he was there, what would I have done without him to be my knight in shining armour.

Our second exit was a little smoother, although it turned out we definitely were at the wrong station so had to go back into the station again and get the metro to the OTHER Rome station. When we got there I was still insanely wired from the morning’s massive adrenaline rush (oh yeah, did I mention that the bag that was left on the train wasn’t full of clothes and other menial possessions, it contained my laptop with all of the photos from the last 3 months, and a few other important things that I kept separately so that I could easily lock them up, hence the massive stress… Ugh.) so we found our hostel and I think that all that we both wanted was to have a shower and crawl into a dodgy bunk bed and sleep. Couldn’t check in until 1:30pm (4 hours away) so planted ourselves in the common room/bar, spammed Andrew to let him know not to leave Rome, and drank coffee until it was time for bed. After a quick nap I was finally back to being a human being again, my blood pressure was almost normal and I stopping thinking that I might have a heart attack. Intended on spending 3 nights in Rome, so wanted to check out the city that afternoon so that we could go and see some big sights the next day. After wandering around the streets lazily, got a phone call and went to meet up with Andrew. Yay, he didn’t leave!!! So, whisky, whisky, and more whisky before moving onto beer and then finally bed. Next day we set out to try to see it all. First stop, of course, was Vatican City. I have been longing to see the city walls for the longest time, and was determined to find The Pope. Needless to say it didn’t happen, although I did make it into the Papal Tomb to see John Paul II’s tomb. Vatican City was smaller than I had imagined, (yes, I know it’s the world’s smallest sovereign nation, but I was still expecting it to be a little bigger…) and absolutely immaculate. Got there early enough to miss the tourist rush for the first part, and lined up to see St Peter’s Basilica. You can pay to go up to the top, you have to climb 320 stairs if you take the lift, stupid me chose to take the extra stairs, and to run all the way up. But the view at the top were amazing, and you could walk around the inside of the Church and look down at everything. It was colossal, I think that it was the biggest Church that I have ever seen. Pope Benidict held his 10am public audience that day, but I couldn’t get in, so watched it on a screen at the top of the Basilica. Wandered around the whole place, sent postcards just for the sake of sending them with the Vatican City stamp on them (Yes Leni, it’s in the mail!!!) Walked around the streets of Rome, found the Pantheon which is as beautiful as they say it is, saw some other amazing Churches around (there’s loads of em…) and visited the infamous Trevi Fountain. It’s huuuuuge, and crowded with tourists and locals alike. Tossed in a couple of coins each (the first is to wish to return there again, and the second you get to make your own wish!) and heaps of other things, the Roman Forum, Piazza di San Marco, The Tom of the Unknown Soldier, a war museum with no English translations, Piazza di Santa Maria Nova, and lots more. Spent the night in the bar at the hostel, it’s a really cool hostel, the common room is actually a public bar so it’s always packed, and there’s another room downstairs where you play beer pong. I think that it might be the most fun game I’ve ever played. Met so many people at the hostel, it’s a really social environment. Next day we checked out the Colosseum, Arch of Constantine, and Palatine Hill. The Colosseum was enormous, it’s breathtaking to stand and picture the history of the place, while it’s falling apart in a lot of places, you can still imagine what it would have looked like in it’s heyday, packed with people. Spent a long time there, just walking around and around the levels before finally moving on to the other sites.

The rest of our time in Rome was spent drinking, recovering and wandering. Was supposed to head out to Pompeii for a day trip, but was far too hungover to even consider waking up at 4am with the others. When we were ready to leave Rome we figured we’d just head to the train station and find a bus or train to somewhere in Switzerland in search of my perfect white Christmas… There’s only one train daily to Zurich or Bern, so we headed back to the hostel and checked back in for another beer fuelled night. Next day was the same routine, check out, head to the station, find the cheapest way there (105 euros, UGH!) and waited around for the overnight train. Am so excruciatingly excited about the concept of a White Christmas that I can hardly contain myself, so hopefully it will happen or I’ll be crushed. Still a lot to say, but am out of internet time so will fill in the gaps later. Will let you know how it goes, until then have a safe and merry Christmas, love you and miss you all.



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photo by: vulindlela