Well Rome hit home hard. It was one of the places that I was most excited to see but just ended in a bad experience. The first night we got our expensive DSLR camera stolen and lost 17 days worth of photos. So Rome started off in the pits. The Contiki coach had been used over night to pick up another Contiki crew from a club in town that was serving cheap drinks.. They had spewed all over the seats in the coach and had managed to nick our friends bag with their phones which were found after a full tent search. But we never found our camera. So that morning after trying to settle myself down and keeping my wife from going crazy we missed our Contiki’s tour of the Colosseum and spent the morning aimlessly wondering around the dodgy back streets looking for the police station arguing with each other. Have you ever had to find a place in a strange city with a map in another language, just trying to match street signs? Well it is not easy, especially when you are arguing and you’re both so worked up as it is, it just does not make for a very pleasant way to start a day.
After a few hours of bickering and sweltering in the Roman 40+ degree summer heat, asking for directions at tiny little shops and having to buy a chocolate to get directions we noticed a Polizia car drive past. Then we turned a corner and saw another one and then the sign! The Polizia sign was like a giant neon beacon in the sky. Well not really, it was an almost ancient sign in the same condition as the colosseum. We looked inside and it was this dodgy derelict building, with dirty faded green paint and a very scary looking police officer behind a perspex window which was barley see-through. He started to speak to us in his language to which our bewildered looks must of gave it away that we did not speak Italian. “English” is all I could say to which the response was a shrug of his shoulders and he walked off. I thought that was it, after hours of wondering around we were not going to get service anyway. A few moments later another officer said “Come”. We walked up the stairs and into a decrepit office, he put a piece of paper in front of us, it was in Italian and some English. We figured out what we needed to do. So filled it out, the officer signed it and we were off. The officer really didn’t care one bit, he knew that we just needed it for our insurance. So it was almost as if he just made it easy for us, get us in and out, without much speaking.
So now we were free to roam around Rome. We could see the colosseum, as you can pretty much everywhere in Rome, it is huge. As we got closer we saw the crowds and we started to get the typical tourist hotspot scammers coming at us. Little did they know that we were already not having a good day and they were just in my way. I think they soon got the picture.
We decided to stop for something to eat and drink at this little café that we had passed earlier a few streets back. Lucky we did as we had this amazing fresh juice. It doubled up as a way to de-stress after the excitement of the morning.
When it felt right to move on we made our way to the colosseum. I was not going to let a thieving backpacker ruin my Rome experience. We brought a guided tour and it was pretty bloody awesome. Turns out it was a better tour then the Contiki crew did. We got to go under the stage and right up to the very top. These two spots are only accessible with the official tour. We got to see how they operated the stage floor and even got a close look at how the roof parts were connected.
As you could imagine we were not in the mood for much after our morning so we just wondered around, brought some lunch at a rather expensive café on the hill over looking the colosseum. It was ordinary food but a bloody good view. Later that night we caught up with our crew and had a few drinks and a swim in the pool. A nice way to end a shit day.
The next morning we wondered up to the Vatican City. Another country off the list. Now a little tip: purchase your water before walking into the Vatican City. It is much cheaper in Rome then inside the gates, more then double the price actually. I suppose the pope needs to make money some way? Any way back to the Vatican City, it is huge and it is grand! I am
not religious at all but this place is pretty special. The amount of money here is astronomical. There is gold everywhere, grand statues and huge paintings. My wife and I are always conscious of what we wear when visiting religious areas. However we did see some tourists being asked to cover up and offered cloth, if they didn’t cover up they were not let in. Please, if you are a visitor to any religious site please be respectful.
We wondered around and visited the St Peters Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. We met up with a few of the crew and chilled out on the steps in the summer sun, until we were told to move on by the guards. To which we then found ourselves at a bar down the road. All in all Rome is a place that you must see. I’m happy I did but I won’t be rushing back. It is dirty, it is hectic and it is full of scammers and dodgy people. However it is full of history and magnificent ancient monuments and you can escape the chaos and find your little espresso café in a back street and see how the locals live. Maybe just maybe not have a scammer trying to do you over. Go see Rome but keep all your personnel belongings close by, do not flash your smart phone or cash around and certainly wear your travel bag under your shirt.
What was your Rome experience?
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Thank you Vee for letting us steal some of your photos.
One Life, One Search