The Baths of Diocletian
My principal destination was Italy and I decided not to go reinventing the wheel but stick to the standard itinerary of Rome-Florence-Venice. I can say I never regretted the choice! Beautiful places, each special in its own way..
No pictures or descriptions can explain why I fell in love with Rome - but I did. Maybe Cupid chooses our sweethearts for us sometimes.. Anyway I have never felt so fascinated by any place before! Truly Eternal City and now I can see why it was once the capital of the world. I spent four days there and it definitely wasn't enough - so much to fit in, so much to see and at some point you get so full that your mind stops noticing how outstanding the surroundings are.
I suspect that residents of other great cities like Barcelona or Paris don't get as excited but for me Rome was quite a rare opportunity to enjoy the beauty of human artwork in abundance. But also, apart from all the numerous works by Michelangelo, Bernini, Caravaggio and other great artists whose names I'm too ignorant to know, apart from the impressive ancient heart of the city, and even apart from St. Peter's Cathedral that made me feel an inexplicable unity with all the people who believe in something - apart from all the things you can describe to your friends when you come back, there was something else, some special Roman air that make me miss the place so much now. I want to come back and sit on the Spanish Stairs, to see the leaf fall in Villa Borghese, to have a calm relaxed walk in the Forum, to wander around the night city and drink wine on a river parapet by the Castel Sant'Angelo, to kiss on Piazza Navona and, and… and then take a train from Termini and go somewhere else! :D
Santa Maria Maggiore in the evening
If talking about the practicalities it all went absolutely fine for me.
Honestly I start to wonder if most travel complexities and misfortunes people complain about are caused by their own negligence. Everything planned plus common sense = your trip will go smoothly. Or maybe some luck is the third essential ingredient. So I think I had all three and I can't think of any serious hotel or transport problems when I am looking back on my travel now. My hotel in Rome was virtually at the Termini station entrance and it was a small clean place with 2 great bonuses - a Russian-speaking person among the staff (ok, don't think this would matter for many here) and complimentary Internet with a laptop available in every room (was soo nice to be able to write home one single time I did :)).
Guess what :D
I went to the station to settle my tickets (I had an Interrail pass but some of my connections required reservations) shortly after arrival and was surprised and a little amused to deal with a very unfriendly man in the ticket office.
Based on my previous trip to Germany I expected everyone in the service industry in Europe to be extremely polite and helpful but instead it seemed like I hadn't left Russia! He didn't smile at all and looked as if I was such a hassle interfering with his real work. That was my first disappointment, the second came when many people turned out not to speak any English. You will say that it is ridiculous to expect everyone to speak English but it really is the international means of communication now, and not to speak English when you live in EU and work in a café at the central train station - isn't this ridiculous?
A hint on what overcrowding looks like :)
My company was rather unusual for me as I've never traveled with strangers before. It was made of two girls from Moscow I hardly knew and a Swedish travel buddy who was visiting his Italian dad.
I shared the room with the girls and the guy occasionally joined us in our sightseeing. The greatest fun he is responsible for was going to a real Italian disco. Hard to remember how many Margaritas I've had that night but dancing was just incredible!! I have no idea what a place he and his mate brought us to but it seemed that we were the only ladies there and I can still see all those ardent eyes around while we were dancing dangerously and nothing really mattered. The first half of the next day was wasted, and when Natasha and me finally managed to drag ourselves to Borghese Gallery and I received a text suggesting another party tonight the reply was justifiably negative :).
My favorite spot - Spanish Stairs
A big disappointment was Italian food but I know I have only myself to blame for that.
I couldn't allow fancy restaurants, had no one to recommend a good reasonable place and didn't want to lose time on hunting for something worthy on my own so mostly ate in cafes along the main tourist streams - and they just can't be good. Food was overpriced and often poor in taste and I can't remember anything I really enjoyed. Even pizza is better in Vladivostok than in Rome, but I will repeat - I think I just wasn't lucky about this. I am sure next time I will able to pay full tribute to the Italian cuisine.
St. Peter's Square
One of the brightest impressions was my accidental joining a vesper service in Santa Maria Maggiore. It was on my first evening when the girls hadn't arrived yet and I was wandering alone in the nearest surroundings. There was a group of people at the entrance who couldn't get in because of their 'inappropriate' attire and a very strict doorman, and I went up to them to see what was going on when he pointed to me and said “You.
Go in.” I felt that the gods were well-disposed to me and entered 8-). And it was a beautiful church, dusky and mysterious in the twilight; organ was playing and the congregation was signing Italian hymns. I sat down on a bench and felt so free and relaxed - all my troubles leaving far away and 18 days of traveling ahead!
Where the Romans once ruled the world
I haven't come across any aggression or ill intents towards me on my trip which was great. I have to confess though that I became a victim of fraud once but it was so silly of me that it made me only laugh when I realized I was being fooled. I was stopped by a young girl on the street in Rome and asked to sign for an ex-addict rehabilitation center which I agreed easily to do. I came up to their table and was asked to simply put my name, my employer's name (still wonder why they should ask for it), my country of residence and my signature on the list.
But also there was the last column stating amounts of money donated! :-O In fact I could just leave at that point but my Russian nature didn't allow me to refuse to give money and look mean (sounds quite strange but hard to fight it sometimes). So I looked at the line just above mine (it was filled in by a man from Saint Petersburg :)) and saw 10 euro written there and went for my purse to give the same amount to them still in hope that my money could really go to some worthy purpose. But then the girl said that I could donate 20 if I wanted to and at that point I had no more doubts left. After I had given them a banknote and left I suddenly realized they could easily have stolen my purse while I was talking to the girl! Feeling relieved that they didn't, I told myself that was a kind of tax for me to be allowed into this incredible city and went on my way. But certainly after that I started to mind my safety more :).
View from the Park
What else comes to my mind when I think back on my Roman adventure?. My time in Rome went by too quickly and I had to move to my next destination - Florence.
.. Many things of course but since I have promised not to come too wordy and as I have already broken my word I will only mention one more. I was very worried about long queues before I came but those fears had proved to be groundless - in spite of tourist crowds everywhere I never had to wait longer than 20 minutes at the entrance. St. Peter's, Vatican Museums, Colosseum - everything went quite smoothly. Either I chose the right time of the day or ticketing was just well organized - but it really wasn't problematic at all. And also I feel completely fine when being surrounded by many people so the crowds didn't bother me.
He doesn't look like a man of humour, does he..
I was sure there would be many other amazing things awaiting me there but still was a little blue boarding the train and waving an inward good-bye to this fantastic city. But wait, it wasn't good-bye - it was see-you-soon!! :)
Castel Sant' Angelo in the night
Rome Hotels & Accommodations review
A clean small hotel right at Termini Station
It seems that there is at least a thousand of hotels, hostels and B&Bs in Rome so I am sure Viennese Hotel is nothing special of its kind. But for tho… read entire review