Day 1 (Thursday)
Charlie and I had a flight to Rome via Paris that left London at 14:00. We got to Heathrow at 12:00 and walked around the airport to kill time. We climbed up to the observation deck and watched the planes for a while and spent some time looking at the various stores at the terminal. One store (House of Whiskey) had a bottle of scotch for £800! The flight was pretty standard, we had a great meal, lots of wine (viva Air France) and there was a spectacular view of the Alps.
Customs in Italy was a joke. As we were walking off the plane, a guy came up to us and demanded to see our passport. As he started to open my passport, a cute Italian girl appeared and the officer stared as she walked past. While he was watching, he opened and closed the passport and handed it back! He then commented about the bird and let us go. We found the train to Termini (the main station in Rome) and got to it with no difficulty. After a brief period of orientation we found our hostel and dropped off our bags. We wandered around and stumbled upon Trevi Fountain. The fountain looks great at night all lit up. We then walked around and came up to Il Vittoriano. This monument was finished in 1911, so we were amazed that this piece of architecture wasn’t even that important (compared to the other Roman ruins.) We continued to walk around and we found a little Trattoria for supper. The food in Italy is astonishing! In fact the food was one of the highlights for the whole trip. The pasta, pizza, antipasto, wine, cheeses and sausages are worth the trip alone!
Day 2 (Good Friday)
This was the “see everything except for the Vatican” day. We walked around to almost every site. We passed by numerous fountains, obelisks and churches. We saw the Pantheon (which it much smaller than I thought.)
Our next stop was Piazza Navona. Since it was still pretty early (about 8:00) it was fairly dead. I got Charlie to take a picture of me in front of one of the fountains, but just before he took it, a guy came up to Charlie and offered to take our picture together. The guy was obviously gay, and when we hesitated (you know, take picture and then run off with the camera act) he asked us if we didn’t want a picture together because we weren’t supposed to be in Rome “together!” He had an American accent, so I agreed to the picture and turned out great.
After that, We wondered into a market in Campo de’ Fiori. The produce didn’t look very good, but there were spice merchants with pails of all kinds of spices, which was really cool. We then walked down along the Tiber and we saw a Homeless guy over the ledge by the river with his little cardboard house. He had a table and on it was a handgun, right in plain sight! Next came the Forum, the Colosseum (it is huge) and a few more churches.
After walking around, eating at a nice little place, we got back to the Hostel and got to sleep around midnight. Around 01:00, we were woken up by someone telling us to get up because the hostel was on fire! The fire was at the front door, which at the time we didn’t know, was the only exit. It wasn’t very bad, and it was put out after we were outside. The firemen came and after 5 minutes told us that it was safe to return. I knew that that wasn’t the case since there was still a lot of smoke in the building and the fumes could be very harmful (they were probably still using lead-based paint.) Charlie, Charles (an American we met at the hostel) and I went for a walk for about half an hour and then returned. We went up to our room and found out that some people were not even woken up for the fire! With this in mind, and the fact that the place was still smoky, and that there was only one exit from the building (the place where the fire was!) we decided to get a refund and try and find another place the next day.
We thought of sleeping in a park by the Colosseum so we trekked over and found it closed. Next we decided to backtrack to Termini Station and crash there. The station was closed so we slept outside for a few hours on the sidewalk. It was very cold since we were fairly ill prepared for these kind accommodations.
Day 3 (Saturday)
We tried to sleep from about 03:00 to 05:00, but the cold and the excitement of that night’s events hindered our attempts. When the station opened, we went inside and lounged around till 07:00, and took a train to the Vatican. The line to the museum was already big so I stood in line while Charlie checked for a place to stay at a convent nearby. They had space, and it was only slightly more expensive than the hostel. The room was really nice, and it was like a hotel, except it had a 23:00 curfew. At this point we were not very picky. The museum was spectacular. I don’t think there is a wall or roof in the Vatican that isn’t painted; and finished with the Sistine Chapel! This is a must see if you are ever in Rome, it is some of Michelangelo’s best work. Next we went to St. Peter’s. Another brilliant building! The place is huge and the artwork is second to none. The Pieta is a sight to see. We found out that the pope was doing a mass at 20:00 that night and the main mass at 10:30 the next day, so we decided to try and get some tickets. They had seats for 22,000 people and our tickets were in the 21,000’s. After this we ate and returned to our room.
When we got to the convent, we ran into a nun and we talked about the Pope and the mass he was doing in the morning. It was a short conversation since she did not speak or understand much English.
Day 4 (Easter Sunday)
We got up fairly early in order to get to St. Peters before the crowd was too intense. While Charlie was taking a shower, the nun that we talked to the night before came to the room and gave us tickets to the mass that were in a much closer section. We ended up being less than 20 yards from the Pope! Mass was quite an experience, it was over three hours long in the blistering sun. A guard said that there were over 150,000 people in the square for the service!
After the service we walked around the Vatican area, and stopped off at a restaurant. The waiter said that they had a special for the day, but he wouldn’t tell us how much it would cost, so we had some wine and a little pasta. This was probably a good idea since the place was probably very expensive. One group of four left 100 Euros for their food (they had the special.) There were also signed pictures of movie stars on the walls including Julia Roberts. Next we stopped off at Castel Saint ‘Angelo. This place it close to St. Peters and it has been a castle for an Emperor, a Papal residence and a prison. The view from the top is great!
Day 5 (Easter Monday)
For Monday, we decided to go on a day trip to Pompei. It took two hours to get from Rome to Naples, and there we decided to have a look around. Nothing was open, so we hopped on the local Metro to Pompei. That journey took almost an hour in itself. The line-up for the site was really big, and there was only one ticket booth! It was like they didn’t want people to go in. Once we got inside we realized how big the site is. One could spend days in the ruins and never see the same place twice! It was cool to see a Roman town in good condition and the bodies of the people that were killed in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius were interesting. We ended back up in Naples and had dinner, which was great as usual.
On the train ride back, Charlie passed out and I started to talk to a woman and her daughter from Cicely. They both now lived in Rome and they were heading back after the long weekend. The girl was finishing off her dentistry degree and she was pretty cute. The conversations was interesting because there grasp of English was as good as my grasp of Italian. Another passenger in the compartment roused himself from his slumber to help occasionally when we hit an impasse. We arrived in Rome and made it back to the Convent just in time to meet the curfew.
Day 6 (Tuesday)
After we got up we decided to check out St. Peter’s again before we left. After the visit, we returned to the convent, packed up and headed to Termini. Once we were there we had a about half an hour before the train to the airport was leaving, so we went to one of the churches nearby that had a sculpture that I really wanted to see. It was the Ecstasy of St Teresa by Bernini, and it is phenomenal! After that we went to the airport, flew to France, had to wait on the plane for 45 minutes for Declaration Forms, after rushing to make the transfer, and arrived in London an hour late.