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16 March 2016

travel | forty eight hours in rome, italy

first things first, a disclaimer: i have never been interested in going to italy. i've never been interest in italian history, paid particular attention to the country's art or culture, and never really been a big fan of italian food (except pizza, because: pizza). i went to school with a big italian community of kids whose lives were all very "my big fat italian wedding" with their little house dress-wearing nonnas and tomato-growing uncles and packs of cousins causing havoc in the school yard, and so my initial awareness of the country was ~that. hardly the stuff holiday planning is made of, right? also: very naive, i will give you that. but: australia, so.

but similarly, i grew up in the catholic school system. sunday mass and easter vigil and all that jazz, so i've always had an "interest" in the vatican city and the papal residence and st. peter's basilica and - of course, the sistine chapel. so, while there we minimal interest in the country's capital, there was much interest in the vatican city, and so when i came across a package deal on travel zoo for two nights in rome, two nights in venice, flights and transfers between cities all for the low-low price of £199, i basically decided on a whim to go. and then i basically convinced charley to come with me. and this is what happened next...

the flight was early doors. we jumped on the bus from stratford just after 6:30am (amid a wave of humans who hadn't bought their tickets in advance like us and just ~hoped they'd be able to jump on board. note to all: plan better). the flight was mainly uneventful save for the ~freaken alps which were snowed up to the max and the most gorgeous ~freaken sight i'd ever ~freaken seen! we landed, we got a bus, very blah blah blah after that. a wee power nap on the plane left us ready to get out and see some sights, but we landed about an hour late which meant that by the time we reached our destination - almost another half an hour from the airport, it was about 2pm. 

map in hand we headed to the closest ~thing on the map: the colosseum. except: we suck at reading maps so got pretty waylaid by way of being, uhm well, lost. for about half an hour, where we thought we were on one oranged-buildinged, blossom-lined road but we were on another oranged-buildinged, blossom-lined road. we reached our destination about an hour later (not even kidding), by which point we were a bit exhausted, a lot hungry, and well, not really in the mood for looking at a big pile of rubble that neither of us really knew anything about. we did the very british thing of "joining the queue" and took photos of the thing even though we didn't know why, then realised our own ridiculousness and went in search of food; we hoped feeding the humans might placate the hangriness, and make the ruins seems less...ruined.
unfortunately, i don't think it worked. thanks to wiki though, we learned everything we needed to over our first pizza and pasta (and red peroni) of the trip, which we decided would ~need to become a holiday ritual; the three pees: pizza, pasta, and peroni (or, prosecco, if the mood allowed). stuffed to the brim and totally satisfied with our late-lunch decision, we watched some unwanted grey clouds roll in, the heavens open up, and totally ruin the chance to see some more sights on our first day. instead, we headed to the metro and tried to figure ~that out, so we could get to our hotel before we lost more light.

the ars hotel was ~gorgeous to say the least. it wasn't super central - about 20 mins by metro, a short stroll, and one giant set of colourful steps from the colosseum, but easy enough to find, and in a really pretty and colourful part of the city that wasn't littered with tourists and seemed a lot more "us" than the centre was. we were buzzing! by six, we'd checked in, lay down to rest our weary feet, and managed to spam our friends and family very thoroughly on instagram. our room had its own terrace that came off it that offered absolutely ~incredible views of the city - how lucky were we!

well, except for the fact that the room was directly next to the only elevator in the whole hotel, meaning that whenever any of the guests used it, we were very, very aware. it rattled the walls, and was incredibly loud. i'm a light sleeper as it is, and i instantly panicked that i wouldn't be able to sleep in that room. even if the noise stopped by a certain time, my brain would ~know that it could start up again, and i'd be ridiculously anxious all night. there was no way i was having that. i went to speak to the front desk who were deeply apologetic (but not all that shocked, telling me they get this problem a lot) as there were no other rooms available to move us to, but there would be the next day. it was thursday - could we last one night in the noisy room? we'd have to, there was no other option.

weirdly, i had the best nights sleep of my life. probably the 5am start, the many, many hours of travelling plus the carb coma tipped off with exceptional gelato from nearby domus ice made it happen, but i also have the fan that i ran all night long to thank for it, though waking up in the hottest room i've ever been in was not a great way to start a new day. once we were showered, we popped out to the roof terrace to amaze the locals with our excellent outfit-post photo-taking skills, before hitting the breakfast bar ~hard and loading up on delicious pastries for the big day ahead. the sun was shining and we were expecting zero-to-little rain, so we headed out early to maximise our only full-day in rome.

our first stop was the vatican city (which i will write about separately otherwise this post will never end), where we managed to spend a good few hours wandering through st. peter's and around the city walls, before getting lost inside the maze that is the sistine chapel. honestly, a maze. we had to stop half way through at the cafe as we weren't sure we'd ever make it out and see the light of day - let alone another carb, again. from the vatican museum we headed across ponte san angelo by castel, into piazza navona - it was lunch time, and after the long-ass morning we'd had, we needed a drink.

we wandered around the piazza in the sun, stopping to snap pics of the many, many fountains and st. angese church right in the centre, before settling on the first cute pizzaria we could see with perfectly instagrammable table cloths. our first request: "do you serve prosecco by the glass? we'll take two please". with a quick "salute!" to the sunshine and our poor, knackered feet, we ordered and shared a delicious half-and-half pizza and sat in the sun until we almost burned to death, before hitting the road again... with gelato!

we ambled our way through the narrow alleys past the pantheon (we went in for another sit down, aha), past the piazza venezia, the roman forum and some more ruins we didn't know anything about (nor can we find out anything about them online and there were no signs describing them either. are ruins just such a ~thing in rome that people don't really mind what they are, as long as they look old?), before ending back up at the colosseum. after the sunny day and the teeny tiny amount of rain we'd had, the sky was crazy beautiful and i was starrrrttting to get the hype around this thing.. kinda. 

it was after five and we'd been out since nine - our feet had just about given up on us, and so we called a day on sight-seeing. we headed back to the metro and wearily made the trek back to the hotel, making sure to avoid the stairs so we could check out the local restaurants on the way. we'd decided to stay local for dinner instead of heading back into the city, choosing local joint modo mio because the place we ~wanted to eat at was totally full and this wasn't and sold prosecco by the bottle. and weren't we totally surprised when the carbonara we'd ordered came out as a heaving tower of eggy pasta and crispy pancetta, and was the most incredible thing we'd ever eaten. full to the brim, with a pasta coma threatening to take us down, we headed home - to our new room, for a wonderfully quiet last night in rome. knackered is ~such an understatement.

on our last day in rome we had but one thing left to see: the trevi fountain. it had eluded us for the last two days, proving to be that little bit too-far away from everywhere we were, but my god, it did not disappoint. i guess if you're still reading this that it must seem like i was underwhelmed by rome. well i wasn't, i just wasn't "into it". i ~was into the vatican, and of course the incredible architecture of the city, and certainly i was "into" the food, but my ~goodness, that fountain, i was into. 

it was so big, and looming, and incredibly intricate and bright and blue that it took my breath away. we were on a tight schedule with a train to catch, so we couldn't stay long, but i wish we could have. none of the photos i have taken have done it justice, and that kills me. but, at least i have my own memories... 

from there it was time to hop on a train. we bid arrivederci to the capital and settled in for the almost-four hour trip across country to part two of our adventure: venice baby!