Rome

After a brutal 4am wake up, sleeping our way through another bumpy Ryanair flight, and attempting to negotiate airport transfers in a language we don’t speak, we arrived in Rome around midday on a hot, sunny, Autumn day and it was all worth it.

Our first stop after being up for 9 hours was of course some food. After checking in to our B&B and picking up some delicious pizza and arrancini (when in Rome…) we started wandering in the general direction of the Colosseum. Trusting our general sense of direction and with no real plan, we quickly realised that just walking through Rome means stumbling across some incredible buildings on pretty much every street corner. Basilicas, fountains, and monuments are scattered around as generously as the pizzerias, and it’s impossible to walk down a street without stopping to gaze in wonder at any of these things juxtaposed against the everyday homes and shops.

Colosseum

Rather than heading straight into the Colosseum, we first went to the Roman Forum. Tickets admit you to both, and the queues for the Forum are much shorter as for some reason most people don’t bother with it. Personally, I thought it was fantastic. We spent around two hours walking around admiring the ruins of the ancient city and climbing Palatine Hill, though when we finally decided to leave we discovered that this is easier said than done, with only one exit to the Forum which is not very easy to find!

Roman Forum

Roman Forum

Next stop was the Colosseum, and we both admitted that after everything there is to see in the Forum, it just seemed slightly disappointing. Of course it is impressive, but out of all of the things which we saw in Rome it was by no means the highlight.

Colosseum

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By this time we were needing a wee break from looking at ruins and wanted to get away from the touristy areas, so we stopped by a little cafe for a bottle of wine to celebrate being on holiday. Nothing like sitting in the sun on the streets of Rome enjoying a nice bottle of Italian red… Until it started raining. Not that we let that ruin anything, and luckily it was only a light shower.

Rome in the rain

We decided to skip dinner as we weren’t all that hungry and went straight for dessert at Gelateria Corona, apparently one of the best in Rome which we both agreed on! En route we stumbled across the Trevi Fountain. Despite the mass of tourists and people constantly trying to sell you stuff, it really is amazing. We also popped into the Pantheon before meandering back to our B&B for an early night after a long day.

Trevi Fountain

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Rome

The next morning we were up early again to visit St Peter’s Square and climb up the cupula of the Basillica before it got too busy. We had a nice 5k walk over there in the early Autumn sunshine, again getting distracted by all the sights along the way. Even though it was early, there were already crowds of people gathering. Eventually we made our way in to the Basilica and just, wow. I’m not a religious person in the slightest, but it’s hard not to feel that there is something special about the place.

Rome

St Peter's Basillica

St Peter's Basillica

St Peter's Basillica

It took us a while to find out where to go (a recurring theme in Rome seems to be a lack of clear signage) but we found our way to get up to the cupula and of course opted to climb the 551 steps rather than take the lift. I can say that it is definitely not designed for anyone at all overweight, with tiny twisting and slanting corridors and staircases, but the view from the top is so worth it.

St Peter's

Unfortunately when we made our way down and back out into St Peter’s Square, a torrential rainstorm had started. As if that wasn’t enough to put a downer on the day, Cat’s purse then got stolen. So feeling pretty shite about life and completely drenched, we went for some more pizza and gelato to cheer ourselves up. For pizza we decided to try the famous Forno Campo de’ Fiori, apparently one of the best places to grab a slice in Rome. And one was so good that we went back for seconds. It was then onto another well-known gelateria, the Gelateria del Teatro. Slightly fancier and pricier than last night’s one, it was equally as good and easily the best pistachio ice cream I’ve ever had.

We started walking North towards the Villa Borghese and luckily the rain started to clear up, and the sun came out as we reached the Piazza del Popolo. We took a stroll around the gardens to get a break from the hustle and bustle of the city and to escape all the incredibly annoying people trying to sell us umbrellas in the streets. I have to say, this was one thing that neither of us could stand – every touristy city has people trying to sell you things in the street, but I have never seen it on this level. On top of that, many of them were rude and aggressive when you said you weren’t interested. Anyway, the gardens seemed a bit deserted and abandoned, but it made a nice change of scenery. Afterwards we headed back to dry off, getting caught in another downpour on our way. Once we had recovered and changed, we went to Cafe Momart for aperitivo, where you buy a drink and get unlimited access to a delicious buffet of Italian food. It was exactly what we needed after a bit of a rough day, and even though the rain kept up it was quite nice sitting outside with the rain pounding down on the canopy above us and lovely warm heaters keeping us cosy.

The storm kept on all night with some of the loudest thunder I’ve ever heard. Seeing as it wasn’t due to clear up until late morning, we had a lie in and a chilled out morning. Luckily it cleared up a bit sooner than expected and we decided to spend the day exploring Trastevere, a lovely neighbourhood just to the South-West of the city. We had a lovely, leisurely walk over there, taking a few detours and back streets to see some more parts of the city we hadn’t already before crossing the river into Trastevere.

The Pantheon

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We wiled away the afternoon sitting in the sun drinking £2 glasses of wine from a cafe bustling with locals, meandering through the twisty little streets, and eating more gelato. For dinner we picked up a bottle of cava and some pizza (of course) and sat down by the Tiber while the sun set.

Trastevere

Santa Maria in Trastevere

Castle of Angels

Afterwards we made our way to Vatican City, as we had booked tickets to the night opening of the Vatican Museums. We had them for the first slot at 7pm, and without a doubt this is the best way to see the Museum. At times we were the only people in certain rooms, there were no crowds, it was quiet, and we could enjoy everything at our own pace. By the time we left at 9 the place was so busy you could barely move, and from what I’ve heard that’s how it is during the day as well.

Vatican Museums

Sistine Chapel

We almost didn’t make it home after, as by this point we had walked around 40 miles over the past 3 days, including those damned 551 steps in St Peter’s, and our legs and feet were at breaking point. It probably didn’t help that we took a detour past the Trevi Fountain to catch a glimpse of it at night and to throw in our coins, but eventually we got back, collapsed onto our beds and polished off the rest of our magnum of red wine. I think it’s safe to say that we made the most out of our 3 days, managing to see most of the main sights, some of the more obscure ones, explore, relax, and enjoy some amazing food and wine. My legs certainly suffered for a few days when we came back, but it was so worth it.

Venice

Venice

So with no travel plans currently on the horizon I’d been a bit loathe to finish this, even if it was nearly 3 months ago that I got back, but I can only put if off for so long.

Our Croatia adventure culminated in a short stay in Italy. Leaving behind Pula and all the other wonderful places we’d been, the plan was to hop on a bus for a couple of hours to get us over the border to Trieste, and then take a train from there to Venice. It should have taken about 3 or 4 hours tops. But of course nothing ever seems to go as planned for us. It should have been a simple matter of getting on the bus from right outside our apartment, taking it to the bus station, and getting on the express coach to Italy. But due to relying on a very out of proportion map, we got off the bus early and found ourselves stranded in the middle of nowhere. With no taxis in sight we then had to walk all the way back into town, where we finally managed to flag one down. Unfortunately this meant that we missed the fast bus and had to wait a couple of hours for the next one.

As we were sitting in the sun and eating some utterly delicious food from the bakery across the road, a minibus pulled up in the space our bus was supposedly leaving from. Slightly confused, we wandered over to the driver and asked if this was the bus for Trieste, which he confirmed. And so we got into what seemed like some random man’s car and were on our way. After four hours, detours to some extremely out of the way towns, a near fight between the driver and one of our fellow passengers, and a brief glimpse at the Slovenian countryside, we arrived. Sadly by this time it was too late for us to spend any time in Trieste, which looked like a really lovely place, and so we bought our train tickets for Venice and boarded the train: only to be told that it was delayed by an hour.

Eventually we did make it though, and the B&B we were staying at was exactly what we needed. I had spent hours trawling the web before this trip to try and find somewhere reasonably cheap to stay in Venice. I quickly realised that this was impossible, as even the nastiest hostels were in the region of £80 a night, and so we had opted to stay in Mestre. We probably couldn’t have been closer to the train station, from which Venice was just a 10 minute journey away, and we got somewhere a lot nicer for our money. The woman who owned the B&B was lovely, and although neither of us speaks Italian we somehow managed to have full conversations with her.

The next morning she made us breakfast and we headed into Venice. As it was still early on a mid-October morning she kept warning me that I was going to freeze in my little Summer dress, but pretty soon the sun came out and it turned into a lovely hot day, perfect for exploring Venice’s windy streets and canals.

Stepping off the train in Santa Lucia station, we felt a whole world away from the past few weeks in Croatia. Luckily the first thing we noticed wasn’t the stench from the canals which I’ve heard normally assaults your senses in the middle of Summer, but the striking green roof of the church of San Simeone Piccolo and the Ponte Degli Scalzi spanning the Grand Canal. From there we essentially spent three days wandering, exploring, and getting completely lost in the different sestiere. Of course we visited the Piazzo San Marco, the Basilica, the Doge’s Palace, the Rialto Bridge and a few other notable places, as well as some of the lesser known gems as well. Really Venice just struck me as the perfect place to get lost in – there was always something interesting or stunning down every alley or side canal, and getting off the beaten path and away from the hoards of tourists made a nice break.

Venice
San Giorgio Maggiore

Venice
My favourite in St Mark’s Square, the Torre dell’Orologio

Eventually though, it came to the end of our trip. As the sky clouded over and a storm quickly approached, we got out of there just in time. But our relief at having narrowly avoided getting stuck on a flooded island quickly disappeared as the realisation sunk in that this was the end of our little adventure and that it was time to head back to reality.

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Getting off the beaten path – wandering in Santa Croce and the Scala Contarini del Bovolo