When in Rome

9th – 11th August

Arriving:
We got a short train from Naples, only taking 1hr 10mins.

Staying:
We stayed at Nika Hostel which cost £21.96 per person per night for four beds (it is a small hostel so Emily, Hayley and Becky shared a three bed room and I went in a two bed room with another girl). It is about a 25min walk from the main station or 15mins away if you take a train to Manzoni and walk the last 5mins.

There were no lockers, so we left any valuables in the room that was ours. There was air con again, which was a godsend given how hot Rome is in August. The view looked out over a busy square, with nice buildings. There was a small kitchen and the bathrooms were along the corridor (there were problems with the hot water while we were there, but they appeared to be working very late to fix them).

Day 1:
We arrived in Rome in the blistering heat and then walked to our hostel. We had to wait a while to get in because the hostel clerk guy (what is the right name for those people?) had gone out to help some other guests. We called him and he came back quickly to let us in. We couldn’t check in as it was too early so we dropped off our bags and after a quick chat about what we should see, we left and headed for the sights of Rome.On the way we stopped at a restaurant called Luzzi, which served simple Italian staples. It was a bit too hot to eat, but the food was tasty.

We then carried on to the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. All three sights can be visited on the same ticket which cost us 7.50 euros. We went in through the Palatine Hill entrance, which has the shortest queues, but also has a path to the forum. We decided to do the forum first as we didn’t feel like climbing the hill in the heat.

The forum was a valley of extreme heat, but has some very interesting things in it – more than I remembered from my last visit. We strolled around, looking at everything, until the heat became too much and we hid in the shade – during this time I went on a mission to find water – thank God Rome has lots of drinking fountains!

After the forum, we headed to the Colosseum. We were able to skip most of the very long queue as we already had tickets. The Colosseum is a very impressive space and it isn’t all that hard to imagine the things that would have gone on there. Last time I visited, it rained when we were in the Colosseum and I got some photos free of tourists – no such luck this time!

We then headed to Palatine Hill, which I had not fully explored previously. It had a strange modern art exhibition in it. Some of it was really odd. There was a stolen piece of fence with cans covering the spikes. My favourite was a chicken house in the shape of a rocket, complete with live chickens living there – no idea what it was supposed to mean!

By this time our feet were very dusty and we were hot and tired, so we headed back to the hostel via the supermarket where we picked up some food for dinner and went back to the hostel for a lazy night in watching a film.

Day 2:
We decided to try to see as many of the famous sights of Rome as possible today, so we headed to Flamino Station to see the panorama above Piazza Del Popolo. There is a park above the square which is lovely and has a small lake you can row a boat on (which I did three years ago). There is a terrace that looks out onto the square and across Rome, which is well worth a look. After looking down onto the square, we climbed down to walk through it and on to the Spanish steps – last time I was in Rome they were covered in scaffolding – this time there was no scaffolding, but the steps were fenced off for restoration, which meant they were completely empty.

After this we continued on to the Trevi Fountain, which was empty last time I came, now restored to its beautiful self – clean and clear and heaving with tourists! I threw in an obligatory one cent. We then had lunch sat in an interesting building around the corner from the Trevi fountain – Galleria Sciarra.

We then headed on to my favourite building in Rome – the Pantheon! The construction of this building is fascinating and I also love the hole in the roof, showing the vibrant blue sky. Around the corner from the Pantheon is Piazza Navona, where I had ice cream on my last visit. We continued on and found the river, crossing at St Angelo Bridge – across the river from Castello Sant’Angelo.

We had reached the Vatican and decided to get in the queue for St Peter’s. The queue wasn’t too bad considering it was the high season, but it is free so tickets don’t need to be purchased, so the queue moves quickly. We had to go through some security to get in. Becky and I wanted to climb the dome and Hayley wanted to have a very quick look round then head to the Vatican Museum as we wouldn’t have time for both and she really wanted to see the Sistine Chapel. Emily then decided to join Becky and I in climbing the dome. We decided to just climb the steps as it is only around 200 more than getting the lift (which isn’t too big a percentage given how many steps there are!).

We climbed up and came out on the roof, where a few more steps led to the inside of the dome, where you could see some of the mosaics up close and look down into the Basilica. Emily was proud of herself at this point as she was coping well, despite being afraid of heights. We then pressed on up some more stairs, which I thought brought you out on another large piece of roof. Turns out no. We climbed on and on up many many more stairs – it soon became apparent that we were climbing the dome itself – but we had to go forwards to go back. The corridor became very narrow and the steps twisted and turned their way up, finally ending with a tiny tight staircase which let you out onto the top of the dome! The views were incredible. Emily was not pleased – she hid behind a pillar until we left. We didn’t stay long before heading back down to the roof.

After some time on the roof, where there is a cafe, so we got some drinks, we headed down into the Basilica itself and looked around. We also visited the Popes’ tomb (which involved going out of the Basilica and sneaking back in, as our knees were suddenly a problem!). We then went to meet back up with Hayley and headed back to the hostel for dinner and completely cold showers (the boiler was having issues)! Brisk!

After a while, we decided to go out and get ice cream – this was at maybe 10-11 at night. It took us a while to find as we had been given slightly wrong directions by the hostel guy. It was worth it though – the ice cream was very tasty – the place was called RivaReno.

Tips for Rome:
– Go for at least three full days.
– Get recommendations for food – a lot of places sell crap to tourists, so just walking into somewhere (especially near the Colosseum etc) is very risky.
– Unless you LOVE museums, don’t bother with the Vatican museum, it is massive and overwhelming.
– Unless you are incredibly afraid of heights or small spaces, climb the dome at St Peter’s – the views are amazing.
– Row a boat in the park by Piazza Del Popolo – it is so much fun!
– Get ice cream at RivaReno (by the way, the Romans call the proper stuff Gelato and the shop bought stuff ice cream – to me they are all ice cream, just some is far superior!)
– When seeing the Colosseum, Forum and Palatine Hill, go in the Palatine Hill entrance to avoid long queues.

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