As the second day of my Roman Holiday was split between the Vatican and Rome, it meant less time for the latter. In my head, though, it was fine because we still had the whole Saturday the next day anyway. On my very touristy list of priorities, only the Fontana di Trevi and the Coliseum were left to cross out. And so after dragging my Roman friend to Burger King and her reacting with a grimace and a groan (Italians, they love their cibo don’t they?), we hopped on the Metropolitano en route to the Colosseo.
We got off at Flaminio and she toured me around what they call Piazza del Popolo. Pizza. Piazza. Lest we forget that we are in Italia! This one gave off a different vibe somehow, maybe because of the Egyptian motif? There was an obelisk at the center and I think I saw a mini sphinx or two as we hiked up the steps leading to the hill. That hill offers a good panoramic view of the square and the horizon behind it which features the dome of the Vatican to the far left. I bet that scene is jaw dropping during sunset.
As we camwhored atop that hill, I noticed two policemen on horseback and chasing some illegal vendors. The three guys dressed up as Roman soldiers also disappeared, probably changing to civilian clothes to avoid being caught and fined. I’m not sure how city ordinances here work, but I guess it’s safe to assume that no hawking is allowed. Friend also chimed in saying that playing music is also forbidden because of copyright issues. If you are a legit tourist, these matters shouldn’t really concern you.
Going back down to the piazza, you will see twin churches, except that it wasn’t that obvious when we were there because the one to the right was under construction. We followed a cobblestoned street which was supposed to be exclusive for pedestrians, but Friend bemoaned the occasional taxi that would pass us by. She also hates the giant billboards obscuring the grandeur of many old buildings at the center. I guess you’ll share the same sentiment if you live in a city with such a grand history. Manila? Not quite.
I knew we were approaching another tourist hotbed as the overall feel changed from chill and relaxed to crowded and evacuation center-ish. It was when my eyes read Piazza di Spagna on one of the buildings that I understood where we were exactly. How could I forget to add the Spanish Steps on my tourist hit list? I guess it’s because I already expected the place to be as it turned out to be. Overrun by tourists, navigating the steps is tricky. You just don’t know when you might step on another human being.
Some tourists there felt as if they were lounging in their own living room, half unconscious and sprawled on the floor like the sun wasn’t baking them. Or perhaps sunbathing in an urban area is just part of their itinerary. As we observed the crowd around us, I saw two policemen again, this time asking those laying down the steps to sit down and behave appropriately. After taking some selfies, we decided to move on because the sunlight was just too much for us to bear. Bring your sunglasses with you!
We walked some more and sought refuge in a church. It didn’t seem famous. It was half empty inside. Walking around Rome for hours, I found this church to be a blessing, really. The ceilings are intricately decorated, as always, and it was quiet inside. And so we just sat down, inhaled and exhaled. In short, we chilled, before going back to the tourist battleground waiting outside. Rome is said to have more than 800 churches. I’m sure you’ll find one that will offer you some shelter from the touristpocalypse.
We passed by that huge white monument in honor of an unnamed soldier. Across the street is yet another church as well as the ruins of Old Rome. You will see a statue of Caesar there along with the inscription: SPQR, which translates to Sono Pazzi Questi Romani (These Romans are Crazy). Nah, I plagiarized that joke from Wikitravel. It’s an abbreviation for the Latin, “Senatus Populusque Romanus” which translates to the “Senate and People of Rome”. You’ll see this abbreviation emblazoned everywhere you go, seriously.
We were both tired from walking and I wasn’t in the mood for ruins so we just opted to go straight to the main attraction which is the Coliseum. There was an ongoing construction for an extra Metropolitano stop there when we went, so that was a bit of an eyesore but the structure itself makes up for every hassle along the way. Isn’t it awesome that this piece of ancient history has been preserved for all of us to see? It’s almost 2000 years old, for crying out loud! It must have been unimaginable back then.
But what I loved about the area were the chill picnic spots. You will see a lot of tourists there just lazing around with the Coliseum as their backdrop. Again, thanks to the sun’s cooperation, the earth tones of the amphitheater played well with the blue and white palette of the sky. There is a hill not far from here where you can snap a panoramic photo, but that’s what professional photographers are for. As for us, just seeing that thing in all its glory was enough to serve as a good closure for my Roman tour.
We passed by Circo Massimo on the way to Trastevere, where you’ll find a lot of bars and restos considered to be hip and frequented by locals and tourists alike. After getting lost in two or three more piazzas, we settled for a pizza and a carbonara at some random pizzeria. Taking the tram and train combo back to Monte Mario was pretty much straightforward, and how I love how your EUR1.50 (~PHP80) can be valid for all forms of transpo for 100 minutes or so, which is way cheaper than Berlin. Heard that, BVG?
The third day was spent waking up late and catching up with another Roman friend. We just hung out at San Lorenzo, which they said was a university area one of them frequented way back when. I totally forgot all about the Trevi Fountain, only realizing that we missed it when I was already on the S-Bahn back in Berlin. Overall, Rome has been really exhausting. Che stanchezza indeed! Do yourself a favor and stay for at least a week, and take everything slow. Rome is not something that you just can rush.