“Si fueris Romae, Romano vivito more; si fueris alibi, vivito sicut ibi” — St. Ambrose
The “Have Passport, Will Travel” Club heeded St. Ambrose’s direction and on July 12, 2016, we set out to enjoy all that Roma had to offer, or least as much as we could. So I put on my DuckTales t-shirt, grabbed my travel pack and mentally prepared myself for fun.
Soriano nel Cimino, were our hotel was located, was about 90 minutes by train to the heart of Rome. However, public transportation in the rural area is quite … well … unreliable. Part of me wanted to take a taxi to the train station, but we didn’t. Had I done so, I wouldn’t have a funny story to tell about my exciting bus ride through the countryside.
The bus ride to the train station was about an hour-long, (a taxi would have been 20 minutes, but forget that). During that hour-long ride, we met so many friendly people, including a lovely elderly couple that were staying at our hotel as well. This was their first trip to Italy and they were excited to see Rome. Oh, and they hated the steep hills and steps just as much as I did, haha. We also met a few locals who spoke English and gave us insider information about more places to visit in Soriano and the surrounding area.
I don’t mind saying this now, but choosing the bus over a taxi was the right choice, and I’m glad my heart overruled my brain in this instance. The ride wasn’t without incident, however.
It seems our bus driver wasn’t going fast enough for a Fiat driver’s liking, so he decided to cut in front of the bus. The bus driver hit the brakes hard and no accident occurred, but it was a little scary. The bus driver seemed to take the near miss in stride (happens every day apparently), but the passengers didn’t hold back.
I don’t speak much Italian, but I’ve watched quite a few Italian gangster movies, as well as my fair share of The Golden Girls (love Sophia, but Rose was my favorite), so I knew “Coglione” and “Figlio di puttana” were not terms of endearment.
We arrived at the train station and boarded our train. Roma, here we come! Before boarding the train, we took the appropriate safety precautions including keeping our wallets in our front pockets and zipped up, our purses in front of us at all times, and being vigilant and observant of our surroundings.
Our first stop was the Flavian Amphitheatre, better known as The Colosseum. Visiting this ancient wonder has been on my bucket list since elementary school. It took more than 30 years, but finally getting the chance to see it up close and personal was just …
What could’ve been a very horrendous visit with the large crowds and the Roman heat, was made better by our exceptional tour guide, Barbara. The first thing she told us was not to be scared of drinking the water from the fountains. She’d been drinking it all her life and she’s still alive. That got a laugh from everyone on the tour.
This tour one of the best I’ve had in all my travels. Barbara was knowledgeable and made sure the tour was fun for all, even the young children who were on the tour. I still hear her amusing explanation on the differences between actual history and the Gladiator movie:
Barbara: Remember how in the movie Gladiator Russell Crowe battled with the tigers around him?
Everyone on the tour: Yeah?
Barbara: That’s all fake, never happened. Whole movie — insult to Roman history.
Yeah, you kinda had to see her reactions in person to get why this was funny. Barbara made this tour extra special and I was so happy I was able to immerse myself in the Colosseum history and aura. For a brief moment in time, I was a gladiator entertaining the massive crowds, revelling in the glory. Okay, so the scorching Roman heat might have cause some delusions, but it was still fun.
Following the Colosseum tour, we toured the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Though not on my bucket list, the tour was still amazing, despite the heat.
Afterwards, we took Barbara’s advice for combating the heat — “forget water, get gelato.” We grabbed some gelato and headed to the Trevi Fountain.
What a feeling! To sit at the Trevi Fountain, eating delicious gelato and marvel at something I’d only seen in books and movies. Does it get any better than this?
Since our Colosseum and Roman Forum tours had only been half-day tours, we decided to do our own self-guided Angels & Demons tour.
Okay, it was really Laura’s idea and it wasn’t really a tour, more like us taking pictures of places and items mentioned in the book and movie. Haha
Now you can’t come to Rome and not sample the food, and Rome had a lot of choices. However, due to time constraints, we had to settle for Burger King, a place most definitely not on either of our bucket lists. Ugggh!
Just kidding! Had you there for a moment didn’t I? Haha. No we found a nice little pasta place next to the Trevi Fountain. Laura had Pasta Carbonara and I had Pasta Bolognese. The food was heavenly, mouthwatering and scrumptious. I’m sad now that I can’t remember the name of the restaurant, but it had great customer service and really capped off a exciting visit to the Italian capital.
We headed back to the hotel for much needed rest and relaxation.
Oh, almost forgot. Remember how Laura and I took appropriate safety precautions while riding the train?
While we were relaxing at the hotel, we saw the couple we met on the bus and asked them about their day in Rome. It wasn’t good.
During the train ride, the gentleman was pickpocketed and all his cash, credit cards and ID were taken. Seemed he hadn’t heeded the warnings from the hotel staff (or the U.S. State Department and the Italian Tourism Bureau) about pickpockets in Rome. He kept his wallet in his back pocket onboard a very crowed train and never safeguarded it in anyway. Neither he nor his wife realized his wallet was gone until they went to pay for a meal and couldn’t. Luckily, they did have some loose cash on them to pay their bill and get train tickets back to the hotel.
The hotel staff was sympathetic and helped the couple contact the US embassy, their credit card companies and their daughter back in US to wire some funds. The couple had travel insurance, so they weren’t completely without resources, but nevertheless, we all learn a lesson about safety and vigilance.
All-in-all, after my exciting adventure to The Eternal City, I know now why …
All roads lead to Roma!
The next day we visited Vatican City
In case you missed Part One, fear not! You can read it here.
As always …
HAVE PASSPORT, WILL TRAVEL!