Rome facing backwards

Sunday and we were off on a golf buggy tour of Rome to drive by all the major sights… or were we?!

It turned out the entire centre of Rome was closed for a breast cancer run and our tour turned into a spontaneous itinerary slightly different from our booking.

We were in a group of ten and taking the backward, outward facing seats behind a couple of Irish ladies, we knew we were in for a laugh.

Travelling backwards through Rome

We stopped to pick up Barbara from Florida, a lady who appeared to be on her last legs and off we went with our witty Italian guide, Martino whose grasp of English humour was very good indeed.

After about fifteen minutes (the tour was three hours) it seemed we were going nowhere fast and so we spontaneously rescheduled to go to Roman Catacombs just outside the walled city.

Backwards past a city gate
Backwards along the Via Appio Antiqua

We bumped along the original road from Rome to Sicily, cobbled and flagstoned before arriving at the ancient burial grounds, the underground tombs of half a million Romans.

Green fields of Rome

Just outside Rome, the scenery turned green and hid the secrets below. The catacombs date back to 200AD and were excavated from the top down putting the oldest tombs closest to the surface. No bones remained as the tombs had been emptied to protect them from robbers as artefacts, marble and items of value had been removed over the centuries.

Barbara from Florida was feeling quite unwell by this time and decided not to attempt the catacombs, a good decision as the steps were steep and the temperature cool.

Emerging forty minutes later it seemed Barbara may have either fallen asleep, fainted or died. An ambulance was called but apparently she’d eaten something which had disagreed with her (we had heard an indication of this earlier) and she felt much better after going to the loo. Why we knew this I have no idea but we were soon back on the road complete with Barbara, other Floridians, hilarious Irish ladies and a large lesbian Australian couple. A motley crew indeed.

Eventually we threaded our way back through the traffic still navigating street closures and ended up at the pantheon.

The piazza was heaving with tourists, the sun was beating down and it all seemed quite chaotic after the morning fiasco.

The Pantheon walls
Heaving with tourists

At this stage, almost four hours later, we were a little hot and tired so our tour guide bought us all a gelato and we jumped off the golf buggy into the throngs of Roman tourists to find our way to some small streets off the tourist trail where we could chill out before browsing a few independent boutiques.

Rooftops at Sunset

What better way to see Rome than at sunset from a rooftop bar and so that’s exactly what we did.

My old schoolfriend’s cousin has lived in Rome for almost thirty years and so with her Italian husband, we were lucky enough to snag a table on a tiny terrace for an aperitif while the sun set, surrounded by the domes and spires of the city as multitudes of bells sounded the hour. If only I liked Aperol Spritz, the moment would have been complete but I’ve always found it a bit bitter and watery.

Hanging with the Romans

Ah well, I forced down a French 75 (when in Rome and all that) and enjoyed some hilarious storytelling from the cousin about a train journey from Siberia to Beijing one January as she travelled to Australia very slowly, hard to explain but there’s definitely a book to come (she’s a writer) and I dare say, a film.

The evening continued with dinner at one of their favourite restaurants. It was a charming evening in Rome. Great company mixed with good and bad food (as I seem to find in Italy) with lots of laughs all round.

Sunset over Rome

Italian food

I have had the best of food and the worst of food in my various Italian adventures and Rome was no exception.

From tourist-level carbonara, thick and gluggy, average pizza (how is that even possible?) tough, leathery mozzarella and fairly inedible fettuccini, the bad stuff was definitely available. Ah, the joys of being a tourist.

As always, local knowledge can’t be beaten as we enjoyed an aperitif on a fabulous rooftop terrace listening to church bells before dining at a family-owned local restaurant in the Campo del Fiori where there was melting buratta, warm chicory with fried Roman cheese, soft delicate Roman artichoke (a huge step up from Jerusalem as a variety) fresh bruschetta with ripe Italian tomatoes and finally a carbonara worthy of being called Italian.

It was worth it in the end!

Off to the Coliseum

Saturday morning and after an early start to try and see the Trevi Fountain without people (impossible) we went to the Coliseum.

Proposals, wedding photos and more
Inside the coliseum
Detail of the underfloor tunnels
The upper levels
To the coliseum
The forum

It was spectacular and immense. We spent several hours exploring the coliseum and the surrounding Palentine Hill and Roman Forum.

Impressive doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Rome Day One

From the Spanish Steps to the Sistine Chapel and the Trevi Fountain by night, we’ve seen a lot so far.

Everyone posing at the Spanish Steps
Trevi fountain by night
The reality, it was packed with people
Spiralling at the Vatican
Stunning ceiling at the Vatican
Colour and detail

Roman Holiday

This weekend I’m off to Rome… not for work, for fun! I’m meeting an old friend from Australia, I’ve never been to Rome and I can avoid all things coronation. Mission accomplished!

As I’m a first time tourist I suspect my inaugural trip to Rome could be quite exhausting, so much to see and only three days to see it. I’m wearing trainers as I think I’ll be walking a lot.

For now, I’m landing shortly and then the adventures begin!