I suppose that, seeing as we missed out on the Vatican Museums and walked in similar areas two days in a row, some people may consider my weekend trip to Rome with Luke somewhat of a mis-shaped and ill-planned venture. While we certainly didn’t intend for things to go that way, I still felt that this was actually well rounded visit, and I the time we spent wandering, sometimes aimlessly, and often trapped by men attempting to sell us goods or tours, was very worthwhile. What went wrong and why didn’t it matter?
Everything was partially related to the weather. We only had two days (and the evening running) to spend in Rome, he had to get back to work, and I back to Moscow. The weekend was looking gloomy for our expectations of Italian weather, and so, when we woke up (late) on Saturday to a brilliant blue sky without a cloud, with the chance of spending time outside, that is exactly what we wanted to do. We returned to the significantly quieter Spanish stairs, found the Tiber River, strolled along its banks, and ogled at the size of the Vatican. The queue for St. Peter’s put us off, and with the guidebook telling us that the Vatican is open every day of the week, we decided to postpone it all until the next day. For future reference, the Vatican Museums are closed on Sundays, while most others are closed Mondays. Leaving the Vatican Museums till Sunday on a weekend trip thus means that you will not be seeing the Museums at all. (Oops)
After buying a packed lunch in a supermarket in between tight rows of houses with ornate window frames, painted in the warm Mediterranean colours, we headed to ‘Ancient Rome’. A good hour was spent, soaking up the sun with one of the best views of the Roman forum, munching our sandwiches, teasing seagulls and pigeons, watching people wander, point, and take photographs. We observed the artists, painting the scenes while waiting for people to buy some of their finished work, clearly painting half from memory as they added brilliant colours, and removed the crowds in their versions of the scene. We watched the ‘floating man’ arrive, prepare his magic stunt while covered in a large black cloth, and reveal the ruse to surprised, bemused and confused passers-by. It was the slow life, and it was exactly what I wanted to do.
After lunch we joined the crowds walking along inside the Roman forum, which we entered feeling like criminals- as we smuggled in a backpack. For anyone visiting, it apparently is a new safety regulation (we came to very much dislike this phrase), that visitors to the forum and Palatine hill are not permitted to be wearing backpacks, no matter what the size or how empty. And there are no places to store the bags available. After discussions with the man who had just sold us tickets and an audio-guide, we pulled the straps tight around the bag, waited until the security man was facing the other direction, and then rushed in, holding it like a handbag and hoping we’d get away with it.
We did get away with it; only to find out that the audio-guide was in German, as I had handed him my German ID as insurance, thus rendering it practically useless to 50% of our party.
In any case we then took our time wandering through the ruins, occasionally translating fun facts from the audio-guide, and hiding the bag whenever we came near a security post or entrance. After I snapped many, many pictures of the marble and brick buildings and a spectacular view of the Colosseum from a former vineyard on the Palatine Hill, we decided to round off ‘Ancient Rome’ and tick that off our to-see list as well. We arrived at the gate at 15.30 and learned that the site shuts at 15.30 – Have I said ‘oops’?
At this point we were exhausted and somewhat demotivated to continue playing tourist, and strolled home, rewarding ourselves for our efforts with gelato on the way. We discovered new fountains and that the building on the end of our road had a marble inlay with intricate carvings of a scene that I couldn’t place. Snacking on fruit from a street vendor, we tried to find a place for dinner, summed up the diverse impressions from the day, giggled at our mistakes, and set out a plan for the next day- St. Peters, the Pantheon, the Colosseum and finally, the Borghese Gallery.
Never mind the Vatican Museums, we had a glorious slow day in the sun- a feeling that was reinforced the next day when it was grey and gloomy.