My European trip was going very well. After about 10 days in Spain and another week in Austria I was embarking on the last leg of my trip: 4 days in Rome. Last night at 7:30 pm I had boarded the overnight sleeper train in Vienna and had paid a little extra to be in a 3-person compartment with two other ladies. One of the ladies was 85 years old and traveling to Rome for a pilgrimage. I could not help but admire her stamina and determination. I had looked forward to lying in my bunk and watching the towns go by in the middle of the night in my train to Rome. Train trips are always fabulous because they really give you this feeling of moving from place to place.
Roma Termini – a real nut-house
Unfortunately my co-travellers had pulled the shades so there was not going to be any night-time sightseeing, so I stayed in the train’s hallway until almost midnight to chat with a senior government official who was heading to Rome for an important meeting. After maybe five hours of sleep in my bunk I woke up to a beautiful day in Italy as we were chugging past Florence through the regions of Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio. We slowly started rolling into the suburbs of Rome, and I was amazed was the huge amount of graffiti that decorated various concrete structures, buildings and train cars. I had not known that graffiti was such a huge issue in Rome.
Graffiti is almost everywhere in Rome
Right on time, at 9:05 in the morning, we arrived at Roma Termini, Rome’s main railway station and an absolute nuthouse. More than 25 platforms service long-distance and local trains and people were buzzing about, arriving or looking for their train connections. I helped the 85-year old lady wheel her heavy suitcase down the long walkway to the main terminal, and then we said goodbye and wished each other good luck for our respective holidays in Rome.
Making my way from the train station to the hotel
There was no doubt I had to do Rome on a budget, so weeks ago I had booked my hotel in Rome on the Internet for only 35 Euros a night. Guesthouse Fanti was just minutes away from the Roma Termini train station, and I wheeled my suitcase past a number of shops and restaurants with outdoor patios. Unfortunately, when I got to my destination, the receptionist said that all the rooms were fully booked. This meant that all of a sudden I was without a hotel room in Rome!
First impressions of Rome
Thank God he volunteered to help me find an alternate room and sure enough, he placed me five minutes away into a place called 1st Bed and Breakfast, which was actually a private apartment on the fifth floor of a Roman apartment building. But low and behold, this bed and breakfast in Rome came with a higher price: 50 Euros a night! I figured beggars can’t be choosers, so I accepted the room and settled in for the next four days. I had a spacious room with a private bathroom. The owner offered a simple breakfast with prepackaged pastries, yoghurt and bottled orange juice that I could eat in my room since there was no common sitting room. But I figured it was convenient and affordable enough for me to stay put in this location.
My first view of the Colosseum from the sightseeing bus
Close to noon time I was ready for my first tour of Rome: I went into the local office of a sightseeing company and for 20 Euros I bought a 24-hour ticket for one of the hop-on hop-off double-decker sightseeing buses. Sitting on the upper deck, I got my first introduction to Rome’s major sights: the opulent church Santa Maria Maggiore, Piazza Venezia, the Colosseum, the Circus Maximus, Isola Tiberina – the island in the middle of the Tiber River, Saint Peter’s Basilica, Castel Santangelo, the Trevi Fountain, the Piazza Barberini and the Piazza della Repubblica.
The monument to Vittorio Emmanuele
The narration gave me an overview of all the major sights and one thing struck me right away: Rome’s truly unique mixture of antiquity and modernity. I had never been in a destination before where there are so many ancient monuments mixed in with more recent buildings. Rome’s antique monuments are truly impressive and downright overwhelming.
The 2000 year old Castel Sant’ Angelo