Our first day hitting Roman soil was exhilarating, overwhelming and just so wonderfully amazing. We hit the ground running and basically didn’t stop until we’d done about 40km, gotten sufficiently lost, ticked off a lot of unexpected sights and clocked in a few arguments. We were stinky, exhausted and one of us had managed to bust their knee already. (I’ll give you a hint – it was me.) But it was still easily one of the top 10 days of my whole life.
OK, I’m getting ahead of myself. Where did I end last time? Oh yes…
The Second Flight
So we’d grabbed our backpacks, jumped in a taxi and headed for the airport. We left our kids in Cape Town, survived our first flight into Ethiopia and the subsequent wait at the Addis Abbaba airport. We then boarded our second flight from Addis to Rome. The plane boarded at about 12am. Which meant that because we’d been up since 6 that morning, we were starting to feel the tired despite the excitement. The plan was to sleep so that we would arrive fresh as daisys and ready to go.
Obvs that didn’t happen because of a few factors. One – I felt flight sick. Air sick. Whatever you want to call it. I couldn’t eat. I was terrified of vomiting on the plane. Because I’m not a subtle vomiter. Oh no. If I’m puking my guts out then you’ll know about it. Two – Falling asleep when you’re so excited you could pop is really hard. Three – They keep making announcements and bringing food and things. Four – Sleeping on a plane is just really difficult if you don’t have a window seat to cosy up onto.
Basically we arrived at sunrise with about 3 hours of very broken sleep to tide us over.
But we were in Rome so who even cares about sleep. When in Rome and all that. Because I’m just going to assume they don’t sleep in Rome. Also, I bet you can’t guess how many times we said, “When in Rome” while we were in Rome. It’s somewhere in the billions 😉
Anyway, the airport there is so flipping big and we landed so far away that you have to hop on a fast train thingy that takes you to main airport area. It was awesome!
The airport and buying train tickets
The airport was totally and completely deserted – there was no one there. It was kind of weird actually. Anyway, we passed through our passport checks and made a bit of small talk with the police people that do the checking. Cue the first of many people to be surprised that we were from South Africa.
We didn’t have to wait for any suitcases, so we headed out and tried to find the exit. Then the dear, sweet man that we had gotten to know showed us how to find the place where the trains were. We thanked him and headed off in search of train tickets.
Then it was a case of buying the actual things. We brought out our Google translate on our phones and it was easy! As it turns out, if we wanted the express train (that takes 30 minutes) we would have wait half an hour for it to board and pay about 16Euro. However if we took the slower train, it left in 5 minutes, took an hour and only cost 8Euro each. Which meant we obvs went for that option.
Getting on the actual train!
We found the trains and after a bit of a debate back and forth, we decided that this was indeed the right train and we got on. Then the guy that had been helping us rushed over, opened the doors and was really worried that we’d taken the wrong train. Turns out that we were on the right train, but it was a good thing he stopped us because we needed to validate our tickets.
Which we did, just in time for the train to leave. We waved goodbye to our new friend again and headed out on the train towards the Roma Termini (the main station in Rome).
We’re in ROMA
Gosh we were nervous about somehow landing up in the wrong place, or having the wrong tickets, or you know – those kinds of things. But we did it! We totally nailed getting there and so we high fived and felt like we could take on the World.
When we got to Roma, the idea was to buy some kind of data/sim card to use. However all the shops were closed and so we decided that we’d do it a bit later. Which, as you’ll see later, was a bit of a bone of contention for the rest of the trip. Seth was all like – yes let’s get it. I was like – no we’ll be OK. Google maps works, what else do we need?
Now. I had gotten the details of our AirBnB saved on phone so, after stopping for a quick Caffé we kept walking in the direction we thought our AirBnB was in. As we were walking a few things hit me. The first of which was the smell. I don’t know if it’s really there but Rome just smells incredible. Like Jasmine, pizza and adventure. It’s a magical combination that I have never smelled before and probably won’t again. Then the next thing that hit us, is that when we looked up again to take stock of where we were – the Colosseum was right there!! Bam. Just like that. It was breathtaking.
Finding our AirBnb
It also meant that our AirBnB was close. Again we were chuffed at our newly found travel skills and basically ran to the general area that we thought the flat was. We walked up, then down, then round, then back up, then down again and then once more for luck. We could not find the stupid flat. As it turns out this was totally my fault because although I had the address, I didn’t take down which button to press when we got there – there were a million names and none of them the name of the AirBnB.
We took it as a sign to find a place to stop for another Caffe (because when in Rome right?!), a quick bite to eat and some wifi. Turns out that they were right there and so after downing our coffee and chocolate croissant, we headed to our new home away from home.
It was on the fifth floor and so you had to take these old little lifts to get up – we struggled to fit both of us in there with our backpacks but we made it. Our hosts were awesome. They spoke very little English, but enough for us to communicate. We left our packs, changed and headed out to start the day.
All before 8am.
The Colosseum was the most important thing that we wanted to see so we headed there first. There was hardly a line and we basically waltzed right through. In your face prebooking. Anyway. We decided to drop 5.50Euro on an audio guide – but if you are more organised than us you could totes download free versions off the internet. Those would probs be even better actually.
Wow guys. I’m not often overcome by history but there is something in touching those walls and knowing that they have been around for thousands of years. I mean in Cape Town our recorded history only really started in what? The 1600’s? No really. I have no idea when our history starts. It’s embarrassing. But this building had seen it all. Countless deaths of humans and animals and all just to satisfy the need to entertain the people. It’s nuts.
At this point I was also starting to feel some heavy vertigo. I think that’s what you call it. When you’re standing still but it seems like everything is moving. It was super weird. But we soldiered through.
The ticket that you buy to get into the Colosseum also gets you into Palantine Hills. Once we were satisfied that we had totally seen everything there was to see at the Colosseum we hit up the hills. We paid 2Euro per bottle of water because I was a chop and misheard the oke and was too scared to argue. Anyway. The Palantine Hills are so big you could easily spend an entire day with an audio guide figuring out the importance of all the places.
We spent about 3 hours just walking. Walking. Walking. And seeing. Seeing. Seeing. There was so much to see and take in. So many buildings that held meaning, statues that were certain people. Most of it was lost on us though because we didn’t have a guide. Well, not totally lost on us, but you know what I mean right? We still saw basically 70% of it before we called it a day and headed “home” for Seth to change and for us to have a quick snack which consisted of all the plane food we’d stuffed in our bags before getting off.
Seeing ALL the things
Having really only had “Seeing the Colosseum” as the goal of our itinerary for that day and having already checked that off by 12pm we decided to hit up the rest of the sites. And not just some of them. We saw all of them.
First up we saw the Wedding Cake thing. I still have no idea what the real name of it is. There are so many St Mary’s, St Marias, St Pauls, St John’s, St somethings that I totally lost track. I can’t with that stuff. After that we stumbled on the Pantheon which was pretty incredible. The things these buildings have been through and how they were designed. It’s incredible. The Pantheon has an actual hole in the roof on purpose. And the rain water gets drained through the floor. It’s incredible. Also we stopped for more coffee and some cannolenis
Then we found the Trevi Fountain and basically all the tourists in Rome. We stopped for our first gelato. Seth got chocolate and some other flavour. I got coffee. Then I had order envy because his chocolate one was delicious and my coffee one was meh.
We kept turning corners and landing up in front of new places to see and buildings that meant something. The amount of huge, ornate churches that we went into is actually insane. Eventually we got to the Spanish Steps where we were accosted with a million more tourists and people trying to sell roses.
Time to eat
By this point we were starving and so we headed back to the roads close to the Trevi Fountain which we kept passing a million times by accident.
We mistakenly went into a restaurant offering the Aperitivo with a person calling in people from the street. We were those suckers. Anyway, YOLO right. So we went in and ordered our drink which meant that you got food for free. I got an Aperol Spritz and Seth got a beer I think. It was served with toasted bruschetta with tomatoes and olive oil. Not bad for 9Euro each.
Getting lost and that flipping fountain
We still wanted real food so we headed out in search of a restaurant that was not too close to big sights but also in the area we were sort of in. You know. Past that fountain again.
Guys. We walked in a total circle. Not once. Not even twice. But three whole times. We passed that fountain another 3 times. Oh and we passed the same wax museum over and over too. There was a terrible version of Brad Pitt in there but we didn’t go in because by the third time we saw it, we hated it out of principle.
Anyway, we found ourselves back near the Fountain (go figure) and so we headed to a little restaurant that was opposite the one that we’d gone into by accident. The one that we should have gone to in the first place but didn’t. That one. Wow. Just wow. The food was insane! We ordered a margerita pizza that was served on a thin roman crust and then some meat pasta dish that was actually just so mouthwateringly good that I still think about it. Really. It was divine. We ended up chatting to the elderly couple next to us from the UK and had a pretty sweet time all in all.
This time I thought I’d try a Campari though. But yoh. It was strong. And bitter. And bitter and strong. And I like both of those things, but just not like this. I think it’s the Aperol. It tastes like mixie drink but without the sweetness to disguise how disgusting it actually is. But I persevered. And got Seth to drink half of it. Haha
Believe it or not, we still had energy and so we wanted to head back to the Spanish Steps to watch the sunset.
But it moved.
It was totally not where it was the last time. Somehow it had totally disappeared. It wasn’t even on Google maps anymore. The arguments we had then. We should just go home. No, no, let’s find it. No let’s go back. No I want to see it. You get the picture.
Eventually we ended up here. After passing that bloody fountain again.
I still don’t even know where this is.
Which settled the argument once and for all. We were heading home. Which was coincidentally, on the complete opposite side of town to where we now were. Hilarious! And guess what we passed on the way to get home? The freaking fountain! LOL
By the time we’d gotten back to our AirBnB we were starving again. So obvs as we arrive there we decide that we need to go and find some pizza. Which we did – along with some hot chips. Both we shoved into our faces at the AirBnB and both were mediocre at best. Anyway, eventually we showered and crawled into bed and it was 11pm. According to Seth’s phone tracker we’d done something crazy in steps that totalled 40km! FORTY! Insane in the membrane. But there you have it. Seth passed out sweetly into the good night, snoring peacefully as the heavens opened up in a massive thunder and lightening shower. It was wonderful and scary all at the same time.
But eventually I passed out, only to wake up bright and early at 5am for our next adventure – Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii.