Italy Travelogue (Part 1)
I haven't written a travelogue for quite some time now and have been making up for that with photo travelogues. I've resolved to write one now for Italy though. I am going to write it in the form of an itinerary interspersed with details about travel, accommodation, attractions, costs etc. I will try to insert the local Italian names for places and things in Italics.
The Italian names for the Rome, Florence and Venice are Roma, Firenze and Venezia respectively. Please note that the bookings that I made from the UK are in £ (Pounds Sterling) whereas the amounts that I paid in Italy are in € (Euros).
19th March (Rome):
I took an early morning 06:00 flight from Leeds Bradford Airport to Rome with a connection in Amsterdam. I arrived in Rome at around 13:30. Italy is on Central European Time (CET) which is GMT + 1.00.
The Rome Fiumicino Aiport (Airport Code: FCO, Distance from city centre: 26 KM/ 16 miles) is used by most major airlines and is the most easily accessible. There is another airport in Rome called the Rome Ciampino Airport which is generally used by the smaller or budget airlines. There is a direct train called the Leonardo Da Vinci Express every half an hour from the Rome Fiumicino airport to the main railway station in the city centre known as the Rome Termini Railway Station (Stazione Termini). It costs €11 one way and takes about half an hour. The process to get to the city centre from the Ciampino airport is only slightly more complicated.
The second flight was slightly late so I reached my hotel around 14:00 local time. I had booked an airport pick-up service which dropped me off at my hostel in the city centre for £12. I barely missed a walking tour that started from my hotel so I thought I lost an entire day. I got a map and decided to wing it to the Colosseum (Colosseo) anyway. Surprisingly, the metro only took about five minutes to get to the Colosseum and so I managed to be in time to get in and spend a good two hours inside. Its remarkable how well a large structure like the Colosseum has managed to stand the ravages of time and natural erosion for almost 2000 years. If you didn't know how old it really was and were asked to take a guess, I am sure you would not be able to guess anywhere close to its actual age. It is magnificent.
You can get a bus or a metro to the Colosseum. There is a metro stop of the same name right outside the Colosseum. The tickets cost 1€ for 75 minutes and can be used for unlimited travel on buses or a single metro trip within the 75 minutes. Tickets (biglietto or biglietti plural) are available at all train stations, metro stops or at most tobacco shops (tabacchi). All train and bus tickets must be validated at validating machines before commencement of the journey. Validating machines for train tickets are available at the start of each platform, for metros before entering the metro platforms and inside the buses near the entrance. A ticket office or ticket window for any kind of tickets (bus, train, museums etc.) in Italy is called a Biglietteria. You can read more about tickets at this link.
On my way back, I stopped at a nice restaurant to have the original Italian Margherita pizza. It is the traditional pizza which has a thin crust with and tomato and mozzarella cheese toppings. Everything else is just a polluted form of the original "pizza". I must say it was the best Margherita pizza I've ever had. There is somehow that thing about food tasting the best in its original place. The only logical explanation I can find is that probably the small, seemingly inconspicuous ingredients are actually very different in different parts of the world. You may have the same chef making pizza with the same mozzarella cheese and tomatoes in India or the UK but maybe the taste of tomatoes is slightly different depending on where they are grown or when they are plucked etc.
I came back to my hostel around 18:00. I had booked a bed in a 4-bed en-suite dormitory but I was the only one in that dorm so I had it all to myself. It was good for me so I could throw my towel around! Unfortunately I did get quite bored in the evening so I went to the bar in the hostel to see if I could somehow amuse myself. I studied my map for a while, watched nonsense on TV and finished a drink while I was there. There was supposed to be a "pub-crawl" at 20:00 which I was wondering whether I should go on. The pub crawl basically meant a night tour of a few good pubs in the city with one hour of drink-as-much-as-you-can in one of the pubs. I don't drink so I would obviously be bugged while others got drunk but the prospect of a tour of the night-life did sound exciting. I decided to take a nap and then go on the tour. I slept at 19:00 and could only get up at 8:00 next morning. Whoops! That was a long nap...
20th March (Rome, Vatican City):
I looked up a three to four hour long walking tour of the Vatican City organised by the hostel and booked on to it. The tour guide was an American from Iowa who had decided to settle in Rome and make a living as a tour guide. Almost everyone except me in the group was American. I must admit I didn't quite get the American humour (or humor, as the Americans spell it) every time but it was a fun tour nonetheless.
The Vatican City is an independent country and the smallest in the world. It is a short bus or metro ride from the city centre of Rome or a pleasant long walk through the city.
We saw the Sistine Chapel (Capella Sistina) which has the famous roof painted by Michelangelo Buonarroti (yes, he has a last name). The famous painting of "God Creates Adam" is a part of this large roof painting. It is actually awe-inspiring and the brilliant three-dimensional effect created by Michelangelo on the curved roof is proof of his genius. Oh, just in case you didn't know - Michelangelo wasn't even a painter - he was a sculptor!
We also went to the St. Peter's Basilica which is one of the holiest places in the world for Catholic Christians. Most Papal ceremonies and addresses from the pope happen at this basilica.
I came back from the tour and had a late lunch with two guys I met on the tour - John, an American and Leah, a Canadian. They were both travelling alone like me but had been in Rome for about two weeks already. We had a debate about whether a penny is an official synonym for a cent or just a slang. Leah and I said that the penny is an official name for a hundredth of a Pound Sterling whereas the one cent coin in America is popularly and unofficially known as a penny. John disagreed. He announced "Guys, I'm American. I know my currency" and I told Leah that he had a point. We both pretended to agree.
I had something called Gnocci Al Pomodoro. Cookery fans can find the recipe for Gnocci Al Pomodoro right here.
Another nap and another miss for the pub-crawl! I decided to go on a walkabout anyway. I roamed around alone for about an hour on the empty streets around the city centre and realised that all those who told me that Rome is full of thieves and muggers had probably run into a bad area and some worse luck.
Off to Florence on the 21st...