Run the equator: Ciao Roma!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Ciao Roma!

In November, temperatures in Rome are close to the freezing point; every other day the rain washes the streets while gusts of wind threaten to sweep the flimsy umbrella - which you just bought for 4 euro at the subway exit - out of your hand. Yet being in Rome will redeem the frightful weather and your uninspired decision to visit Italy in this ugly time of the year.

Inside the Coliseum
Click on pic to see slideshow
or here for the Rome set

There is something about Rome that puts it ahead of all other famous cities that I have seen. I tried to define that quality so I can understand the fascination better, but it still eludes a precise explanation. It has something to do with the incredible mix of history that permeates every stone and every street. It is certainly about the great food and red wine. And no doubt, the friendly and boisterous Romans are part of the mix that makes the city so special. But no great words or hard work are needed to sell Rome to visitors – even in the midst of this harsh winter, the city was full with tourists and the cheap hotels were booked solid.

The forum

For us, the 5 days we spent in town were hardly enough: from taking a stroll through the ruins of the Roman forum after working out a bit while climbing the stairs to the upper levels of the Coliseum, to staying in line in the rain waiting to get into the Vatican museum, from shopping along the Via del Corso to having a cheap delicious dinner at an osteria in Trastevere, from visiting the Pantheon, the most striking example of surviving ancient Roman architecture, to cruising along the walls of the narrow streets around the Campo dei Fiori – there was no shortage of things to do and see in Rome. Prospective guide-book itineraries are entitled “Rome in 1 day” or “Rome in 2 days”, but in such short time you can only skim the surface of things and collect some unforgettable but superficial first impressions.

Gallery at the Coliseum

Rome is demanding, but easy to discover. The metro, while quite underdeveloped for a city this size, gets to a few essential spots, like the Termini railway station (best neighborhood for cheap hotels and easy access) the Coliseum and the Vatican. There are plenty of buses going where the metro won’t, and with a small map of the bus network you can easily figure out how to get between any two points in town for just one Euro. Taxis are not expensive if you stick to the area within the old city walls, where most places seen by tourists are anyway. Finally, walking across town is not such a bad deal - if you aren’t in a rush and the rain has stopped.

We left Rome again with a desire to return as soon as we can... If only for the fact that shortly after getting into the famous Vatican Museum and paying for the ticket, we were gently ushered out because the museum was closing early in winter… at 12:30pm, no kidding. I feel like I’ve been ripped off by the Catholic Church!

Posted from Madrid.

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