Andrew Abbott's Blog

Friday, 1 May 2015

Arrivederci Roma.

Well that’s another one off the bucket list, our trip to Rome is over and we did everything we wanted to do.
We decided not to book a city centre hotel, having checked the prices and realising we could have a full week in the Rome area for the same price as two or three nights in a hotel, by booking through Eurocamp who are our main holiday providers. They gave us a substantial discount on a second holiday. We duly found ourselves at Gatwick Airport, a three hour trip in the early hours and flew to Rome.

We’d booked a car transfer from Rome Airport and this proved very grand with a suited and booted driver holding up a card with our name on it in arrivals, we’ve always wanted to do that. We sat back in the luxury of our big black Mercedes getting the holiday off to a fine start.
We stayed at Camping Fabulous, just outside the Eternal City and whilst not entirely living up to its billing it was a very restful and comfortable alternative to city centre accommodation. The pool was closed until our last day but that didn’t matter and there was a decent if understated restaurant. There was a shop on site, bar and all the usual amenities of a continental camp site. The mobile home was top of the range and all in all it was a good choice.

Travel in to Rome was by way of bus, stop right outside the camp, followed by the Metro, the camp site were able to sell us tickets that provided for all our travel needs, for less than a bus ticket in Lincoln. We also visited the coast and a shopping centre.

The first gobsmacking feature of our holiday was exit from the Metro stop for the Coliseum, the huge monument was right outside, towering above us in a memorable and spectacular setting. We were immediately set upon by selfie stick sellers, sunglasses and scarves, followed by touts for tours around the Coliseum. We resisted all of them and settled for a stroll round the monument and a look at the Forum and Palatine Hill.

Next day we visited Ostia, on the coast and the site of the ancient port serving Rome. Like most of the Italian coast this was occupied by private beaches, bars and sports clubs and there is very little access to public beach but in any event the sand didn’t hold a candle to Mablethorpe even if it was a lot warmer.

Next it was back to the city for a look at the Spanish Steps and the adjacent Keates/Shelley house, Trevi Fountain, which unfortunately was scaffolded up, Pantheon and another wander during which we discovered a lovely deli and
gelateria which we visited later on too.
By way of light relief (I must have been in a really good mood) we then visited a shopping centre which kept us occupied for the day given that we were generally at the point of collapse come 5 o’clock. That evening we visited the Roma Tourist Office on site to buy tickets for the Vatican. We got a bit of instruction what to do which, if we’d stuck to the brief next day might have saved us quite a bit of time.

One thing about Rome is you are absolutely besieged by people who insist they are official guides and who can save lots of money and time. Well they may be guides and they may be official in some sort of fashion but their role is to relieve the tourist of money. So it was that we were led quite a merry dance by a very talkative man who almost persuaded us that a tour guide, on top of the money we paid for entry, was essential. It was only the fact that our tickets were not tickets or at least needed to be stamped and a sticker attached to us to gain access to the Vatican had to be sorted out first. We were thus released and told to return but we didn’t.

We were directed to the ticket office in St Peters Square (see instructions from the Roma Tourism Office on camp) were we were informed that they would be taking us past all the queues and we could arrange a tour guide or hand held guide device, once in. So that’s what we did.
Words can’t describe the sheer wealth of artistic embellishment on the walls, ceilings, paintings and frescoes unfolding before your eyes as you pass through not to mention the views of the inner workings of the Vatican. There’s far too much to take in at one go. The tour reaches a crescendo in the magnificent Sistine Chapel with its ceiling by Michelangelo. To be honest I was suffering with sensory overload at this point and felt ever so slightly underwhelmed. As an art lover I’d expected almost to be in tears at the experience but some of the earlier rooms impressed me more although the thought of this great artist on his back week after week, month after month painting away was mind blowing.

As if the Vatican was not enough on the Friday we returned to the Coliseum, armed with our recently acquired experience we swept past the ticket touts and presented ourselves at the queue where we were approached by a young man who really was an official guide and he told us that if we wanted to book a tour or rent an audio guide we could go straight to a separate desk which we did and once again we were straight in. The Coliseum reminds me a little of the old Wembley but bear in mind this structure was erected 2000 years ago. It’s lasted a lot longer although the only excruciating experience Wembley offered was watching England fail to perform. The Coliseum’s purpose was much more grisly. The ticket also allowed entrance to the Forum and Palatine Hill, the most ancient part of the city. Up there looking down I could imagine Lincoln in its time as a Roman Colonia

Once again I can’t begin to describe the sights that awaits the intrepid tourist, I hope I may have put the idea in your mind to visit this wonderful city. Like Italy itself it’s chaotic fervent frantic restful manic and civilized. Put it on your bucket list.