The start, or how it all came to be
Rome Travel Blog› entry 1 of 8 › view all entries
Why Rome? Well, why not? My plans for a trip to Rome started when my friends of the Norwegian art rock group Gazpacho announced their first full-fledged European tour. I wanted to visit several gigs on the tour, and the two gigs in The Netherlands and the one in Cologne were obvious choices. However, I figured it would be nice to also visit them farther afield. Not just to give them moral support (as if they need any) but also to visit a European city I had never been to before.
Looking at the schedule, Paris, Barcelona, Milan, Rome..
Next came the search for cheap flights. My last trip to Norway had been slightly dampened by the fact that after I’d booked my 180 euro flight I came across an ad on the Ryanair website saying that flights to Oslo for the exact same weekend of my visit were only 15 euros, all in.
Determined not to miss out on such a sale again, I kept eyeing the Ryanair website for weeks, but alas, no overly cheap flights available. But then they did it again, a special one-day sale on which you could buy tickets for the astronomical fee of... 0 euros!
One way of course, and the return fare was considerable more expensive (though still a bargain) and the point of departure would be Frankfurt Hahn airport.
Now for someone living in Holland the 4 hr drive to Frankfurt Hahn is simply too much, even for a bargain flight. However, as it were, Gazpacho would be playing several gigs in Germany after Italy, one of them being in Stuttgart, which is an acceptable distance away from Frankfurt. So in the end I managed to nab myself a cheap flight to Rome, have a 6-day holiday there, and see my friends perform three gigs in places I’d never been before. I love it when a plan comes together.
And so I found myself driving my trusty ol’ Tweety mobile down the German autobahn towards Frankfurt Hahn airport. The weather was gorgeous and the traffic light, so I arrived well on schedule. The moment I had parked my car and swung my backpack on my back all of a sudden it felt as if I was going travelling again.
Check in went smooth, and the flight even smoother. My first experience flying Ryanair and I was pleasantly surprised. The no-frills approach introduced by Easyjet has been perfected by Ryanair and unlike many people I know I don’t mind at all that you have to pay for a meal or a drink if you want one. I mean, when flying KLM or another overpriced airline I am usually disappointed by what passes for ‘food’ during the flight, not to mention the often horrible in-flight entertainment. So I’m perfectly happy with the budget airline approach.
In the plane they already sold tickets for the shuttle bus to the city centre, and as the price matched that which was written in my guidebook, I took the opportunity to buy one. A little mistake as it turned out, because not only was the bigger, shinier bus next to mine 40% cheaper, it also left 15 minutes earlier.
As I wasn’t sure whether or not I would be going to the Gazpacho gig in Milan, I had only booked a hotel for one night. I had chosen one close to the main train station, Termini. Upon arrival I could not understand why it had been so difficult to find a hotel on the internet, as there are literally hundreds of hotels in the area around the station.
My hotel, Hotel Seiler, was a short walk from the station and when seeing so many other hotels closer to the train station I feared I had made a mistake by booking a hotel so far away. However, after check-in I went for a short stroll in the area, and realised that the hotel’s location, just off Piazza Republica is just perfect to use as a base to explore Rome from.
As I walked to the hotel I marvelled at all the buildings in the centre. I had already read that pretty much the whole city of Rome consists of old buildings (whether they be from the Roman era, the Renaissance period, or the late 19th, early 20th century) but I was not prepared for the sheer majesty of it all. Forget Amsterdam, forget Paris, forget Barcelona. If you want to see a city still looking as it did in its golden age heydey, Rome is the place to go.
Take my hotel for example. The rooms are located on the third and fourth floor of an old 19th century mansion, entered through a huge gate. The stairway is a wide, stately affair, with bronze rails, marble steps and frescoes on the walls. The corridors more marble and recognisable Italian design... It all makes the basic interior of the rooms a bit of a disappointment really.
After check-in I went out again to explore the area a little bit and find a bite to eat. And even though the only place still serving a light snack at midnight was McDonald’s, my first impression was really really good!
Apart from the obvious (wonderful buildings, rich history, great atmosphere) there were three things that struck me immediately: graffiti, Smart cars and school kids. Somehow these are the things you don’t see anywhere in a guidebook.
The graffiti was shocking. Now I know that Rome boasts a lot of great artists, Michelangelo, Cavallini, Da Cortona... So I can imagine all this renowned art around the city is somewhat intimidating for present day artists. But why they seek to express their frustration by writing their names or slogans on monuments that were neither built, nor originally decorated by them is beyond me. There is not a single mansion, church or historical monument in the city that does not have some form of desecration.
The Smart cars are cool. Sure, we have them in Holland too, but they are a bit of a laughing stock. Mainly driven by people trying to be hip, but seemingly oblivious to the fact that a Smart car is anything but. In my personal opinion a Smart is a lot of money for not a lot of car. However, here in Rome driving such a small car really is a necessity as the 2nd century street layout and cobblestone streets simply aren’t designed for SUVs and the like.
As for the school kids, well they just seem to be everywhere. Groups of young teenagers from every nationality on a field trip to Rome. And they are just everywhere. On every street corner I bumped into another class of Germans, or French, or Spanish, or English, or Tunisian, or even Italian. I bloody never got any further than Maastricht when I was in high school! It’s not fair.