Thursday, 21 October 2010

When in Rome...

I re-read a few of my blogs and i should probably start to use spell check. Sorry for my ridiculous spelling and grammar mistakes. But to be honest... i'm too lazy to proof read and i'm just hoping that everyone gets what i'm trying to say. That is my disclaimer...

So far Rome has been an adventure.
My first impressions were shady because everyone kept warning me to watch my purse at all times, don't let cab drivers rip you off, don't hop into the wrong kind of cab, don't let people help you with directions because they'll ask you for money, and pretty much don't let anyone help you do anything or they'll try to rip you off. I was told that a cab from the airport to anywhere inside of Rome was a set value of 40 euros by law and that if anyone tried to say it's more to just find another cab. We had to ask 3 drivers before we got the correct amount quoted to us. We ended up meeting this American couple at the baggage carousel and decided to split a cab between all 4 of us because we were staying by the same main train station. I found it really funny because besides solid lines there aren't really any lines on the road. The cars all swerve and drive staggered down the street and when they come to a traffic light they form kind of crooked lines. I haven't seen any accidents yet so i guess it must work alright for them! It was dark by the time we got to Rome because our flight was delayed almost 4 hours. However, it was really neat because as we were driving all of a sudden we saw the Colosseum to our left. Very impressive even in the dark! Then i got really excited and it hit me that we were really here.

Our hostel is much more expensive than we wanted to spend but it offers free breakfast and free pizza every night. The only things i've eaten so far since being here has been pasta, pizza and gelato. I'm kind of sick of pizza but thankfully i'm constantly craving pasta so i think that will last for a little while yet.

Apparently the Italians have a reputation for being extremely unorganized. I think i get it because so far... all 5 nights we have booked at this hostel we've had to change rooms. I like all of the rooms and so far we've been extremely lucky with roommates but it's just annoying to have to stay packed when i know i'll be in once place for 5 days. At least it's all been on the same floor because all the steps we have to climb to get to the 4th floor is a bit of a mission. Dragging bags up and down everyday would be a nightmare. I should hopefully have some nice legs by the end of this.

The second room we stayed in was actually quite nice. Only 4 beds and a nice big bathroom. However, Virginia took a shower one night before bed and i guess while she was in the shower the toilet water was overflowing and she didn't notice. By the time she was finished she said it was almost up to her knees. It wasn't draining and she didn't know what to do so when she opened the door all the water poured out into the room and flooded it. There was a good coat of toilet water all over the place. The bottom of my bag got soaked and she said my shoes were floating. She tried not to wake me and the other 2 people in the room but eventually had to because she had to grab the guy from reception to come help us clean up. I was sort of mad but the guy said it's never happened before. In the morning i went down to reception and told them about it and how my bag was wet and they offered us 50 percent off our next night and free laundry service. I didn't complain because at least it was only the bottom on my bag and not where all my clothes are... so at least i got a cheaper night and hopefully i don't walk around smelling like a toilet.

The first day we decided to be the most touristy tourists alive and get on one of those city sightseeing buses. We got an ok deal because we paid the regular price and the lady agreed to let us use the pass for 2 days. It was a hop on and hop off kind of deal. So it was good to get some history of Rome while driving around and some explanations as to what we were actually looking at. We hopped off at the Colosseum and waiting in line for about an hour to get inside. We opted to do the audio guide and i'm very glad that we did. It took us another hour to walk around and look at everything while the guide explained exactly what we were looking at. It painted a very interesting picture of what it would have been like when the Colosseum was up and running in full force. The guide said on average it would fit from 40 to 70 thousand people and they were all organized by class. They would have gladiators fight animals or each other in competitions. Othen they were slaves fighting for freedom and if they won 10 battles they were set free. In other words, they would have to kill 10 people in order to gain freedom while everyone sat there and watched for entertainment. Some men would join to fight in order to gain fame and win alot of money. Other fights they would compete against animals... mostly common would be lions but they would bring in other animals as well, even hippos.

After that we went to the Trevi fountain which looked exactly how i pictured it to be from the movies. I was holding onto my purse like an old lady because everyone had made me so afraid of pick pocketers. I've actually heard so many horror stories since being here of many other travellers who have had their purses or passports stolen. I guess i don't mind looking paranoid if it saves me from being targeted by theives. I tossed a few coins in the fountain over my back and made a couple wishes. The first time i tossed a coin, i was basically just doing it for a picture and actually forgot to make a wish so i had to do it again.

From there we went to the Pantheon which was a very different but beautiful church. I always feel disrespectful taking pictures in churches or cathedrals but there were so many tourists in there that i felt it was just expected. That's one thing that i've found so different about Italy... i'm for sure reminded that i'm a tourist because everyone else is too. I was quite happy when i knew i was coming to Europe outside of the busy season and thus far i've seemed to miss most of the lines and avoided packs of tourists. Rome is a bit of a different story, there seems to be huge groups of people everywhere i go. So far, i've only done the big sights so i guess that's probably a given but i know for sure that i prefer fewer people... i take better pictures that way.

Today we woke up early and took the metro to Vatican City. We went to the square and waited to get in through airport type security so we would watch the Pope give a Wednesday mass. We were there at a good time so were able to seats in a small area where they offered them for free. After we grabbed our seats we had just less than 2 hours to wait for the Pope to make his appearance. He stood as his car drove through the crowds and he made his way to the stage. We didn't know when we picked our seats but we were only 2 rows from where he drove by. It was very cool to get so close and grab some good pictures. I think we made eye contact but i can't be completely sure. The service was very impressive and formal... priests would read passages from the Bible in all different languages in between him giving his sermon in latin, italian, french, english, german, and spanish. They read a passage from II Corinthians and we were able to watch him read his message from on the big screen. I was so surprised by how many people showed up. I figured alot of them weren't even tourists... maybe just people that come over Wednesday to see and hear the Pope speak. I was so so glad that i was able to be a part of it. Definitely something that i may never get the chance to do again and it was fully worth it!

Next is a full trip to the Vatican and Sistine Chapel and the next day we plan on seeing Pompeii. There's so much to do in Italy that i may need to take a days break after just to catch up with myself.

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