We arrived in the Italian capital still on a high from our wonderful experience in the Veneto Region, to a lovely B&B in the heart of Manzoni (Roma Rondo’, Viale A.Manzoni 39) . We were warmly greeted by our host, Guilia who is – in my opinion – the nicest lady in Rome. After dropping off our bags we made the short walk to the Colosseum as the city was cooling off from a steamy 30 degree day. One of the many things I love about the European summer is with the sun setting so late, you can really accomplish a lot in one afternoon.
We tackled the Colosseum by first walking around the perimeter to truly appreciate the shear size of this ancient monument. And, despite previously seeing many photos of the structure, I found it breathtaking in real life. We headed inside, dodging all the scammers at the entrance trying to sell everything from a guided tour to a picture with a dressed up gladiator. While we found many tourists outside, inside we were surprised to find minimal queues. We quickly purchased tickets and made our way through the incredible structure, eavesdropping on English guided tours along the way.
We exited as the sun was setting to a rather entertaining (verbal) altercation between a police officer and one of the dressed up gladiators. Judging from all the hand gestures and a few choice words in Italian, I gathered the ‘gladiator’ overstepped his territory, getting too close to the monument. He was eventually, very reluctantly, escorted back to the perimeter of the Colosseum to join his other friends in costume. This is one of the downsides of Rome, the main attractions are always swarming with people trying to take money off you. We have been travelling for a while now and we have luckily not fallen victim of any of these scams.
The busy afternoon came to an end in the close by Via San Giovanni in Laterano, affectionately known as “Gay Street”. A friendly bar, Coming Out, provided a great, comfortable atmosphere that carried us into the night.
Our only full day in Rome was a sunny, hot, 30 degree day and we set our sights on exploring the world’s smallest sovereign state, the Vatican. Much to our surprise, we entered St Peter’s square to none other than the Pope making a speech to the crowds of people gathered. Whilst we could not understand a word being said, it was interesting to witness the vast collection of people from all corners of the globe converging for a common belief. I said this to Ben on our departure, to which he responded “Do you feel the same when we go to H&M?”
After taking in the atmosphere of the square and realising there was no way we were getting into the museum or church, we headed to the Pantheon. After eating our pre-packed lunch (something I would certainly recommend in Rome whether gluten free or not), we ran the usual tourist gauntlet ticking off the Spanish Steps (which is literally a stair case littered with rose scammers) and the Trevi fountain. The fountain was actually under restorations but we were allowed to walk over the empty fountain on a temporary bridge. I had to laugh, a small pool of water was still left aside where people could throw in a coin.
We finished the day with a trek up to the Santa Sabina Monastery, which is home to the nuns that founded the school I attended in Sydney. The monastery and accompanying Basilica were truly beautiful. Whether you are religious or not, walking into the empty church was a serene and peaceful experience; a welcome relief from the chaos of the Roman streets.
Wondering a little further up Via Di S. Sabina we came to a small square and found a nondescript blue door. Through the keyhole we were treated to an incredible view of St Peter’s Basilica framed by corridor of nearly manicured hedges.
I would have liked to include a suggestion on somewhere to eat in Rome, however, we were not successful in this department. I largely stuck to eating salads, especially given the heat, and it is difficult to go wrong with a caprese salad (gorgeous Italian tomatoes, luscious mozzarella and fresh basil). A simple combination of good quality ingredients is after all the Italian way.