If you have been reading my website at endlessroaming.com you would be aware that I have been blogging about previous adventures across the USA, specifically 2012. Ill also write further about other experiences in the USA and other countries I have been to. I am now in Lagos, Portugal blogging about Rome. I’m not sure I can give much of a new perspective on one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world but have a read and let me know what you think?
It had been 20 years since Id visited the city of Rome, last time it was in 1999 when I was on what is called a Contiki tour. If you are not familiar with this its essentially a party bus with a group of drunken tourists in their teens and early 20s not necessarily taking in much history at all let alone fully appreciating the wonders of Rome. In 2019 I figured it would be a good idea to visit the city again with an older and possibly wiser head though if you continue to read maybe you can judge for yourself whether I seem any wiser. First of all onto the tours and amazing spectacles that adorn the city.
I was booked into my accommodation nearby the Colosseum so the first of my tours was obviously this attraction. Built between 70 and 80 AD it is the largest amphitheatre ever constructed and could hold anywhere up to 80000 people. It is one of the 7 wonders of the world and now days attracts tourists from everywhere and TIP I would advise purchasing a ticket prior to arriving at the Colosseum or you could possibly be waiting around for a long time prior to entry. Id arranged a time to enter the attraction and sure enough was not allowed to enter till my allocated time was reached. I spent an hour or so walking around the ancient attraction, climbing up the two stories I was allowed access to and getting a feel for the decaying ancient structure and view the arena below, now you can see mostly catacombs and a small surface where tourists that paid extra could walk upon a part of the surface. I had an interest in Rome as a teenager at high school so it was quite a thrill to be at the attraction imagining the gladiatorial shows that used to go on their approximately 2000 years ago.
Next to the Colosseum is the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, after approximately another hour of queuing, regardless of the pre-arranged ticket, I entered the ancient site. I immediately turned left and headed up the Hill. The hill contains various ancient temples and stands 40 metres above the Roman Forum so it makes a great viewing spot. The area is quite large and there are plenty of open spaces to sit down, take in the area and even have a nap if you like (I do like naps so I did). I walked to the other end of the hill and looked down at Circus Maximus, the ancient chariot race arena that could hold 150,000 people, not so interesting now as it’s a flattened car park. I then headed down into the Forum, the ancient heart of the Roman Empire. Today what remains are plenty of upstanding and collapsed columns, pathways and remnants of temples which is excellent to take pictures and selfies of course.
After exiting the forum I headed into the downtown Rome area via the Alter of the Fatherland, built in 1885 its relatively comparing to the ancient wonders, has a series of stairs that can be climbed and makes for an excellent place to view the city. After that I headed into downtown Rome which is made up of square spaces known as piazzas and contain various ancient and modern-day wonders / structures. This includes walking past the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, Trajan’s Column… the list goes on and on. There were thousands of people walking almost aimlessly from site to site, its quite an intoxicating experience and fortunately minutes turn into hours which is great considering all the queuing going on for tours. Fortunately if you start running out of energy their area plenty of cafes and bars in the area where you can stop to have some pasta or a pizza, beer and wine and carb load. After a day of sensory overload, I headed back to the hotel the way I came to take some night photos and get some rest.
In the morning it was off to Vatican City, a 110 acre in area with a population of 1,000 making it the smallest country in the world. I assume the reader is aware but Ill point out it’s the centre of the Catholic church and is another reason as to why this city is so popular for tourists. My first stop were the Vatican Museums, one of the largest and most visited museums in the world. Its full of Roman sculptures and Renaissance art and its very easy to get lost walking around taking everything in. The halls themselves are also art pieces, its hard to describe the sensation of visiting the place and it could take months if not years to pick up on all the nuances of the place, let alone the two to three hours it is generally suggested to view the museum. There is also a constant movement of people taking in everything especially when you reach the end at the Sistine Chapel, this is a series of fresco’s including the most famous Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam. Some tourists rush through to get to the chapel and it can be quite crowded don’t rush, try to take in as much as possible including a collection of Pope mobiles,
After exiting its onto St Peters Basilica with yet another hourly enormous queue TIP be patient because you won’t have a choice. Its well worth the wait however, as far as an active religious structure, I don’t think there is anything finer to see, perhaps some cathedrals but I’m writing this so its not open to debate. The highlight is the dome with Bernini’s alter sitting below it. There are also many sculptures and over 100 tombs some of which can be viewed in the catacomb below the floors surface. There is also a lot of gift shops where religious merchandise can be purchased. It must cost the Catholic church a lot of money to maintain all this history and selling post cards, rings, crosses and all other religious nick-knacks must go some way in funding this, St Peters is free to enter.
Another reason I was visiting Rome was social and to catch up with an old friend of mine who is studying to be a priest. The first evening we caught up involved doing a small tour of some of the sites and getting some incite to Rome that other tourists possibly would not get. My experience became more unique when I was invited to dinner at the English College of Rome. First my friend took me on guided tour of the college itself, founded originally in 1362 it’s the oldest English institution outside of England in the world and is used for training of English and Welsh Catholic priests (and a few Aussies). After the tour I was invited to mass where 14 priests dressed in purple gave readings and there was some singing. After that we went to the kitchen area and sat down for some tasty Indian curry and glasses of wine. I was starting to warm up to this religious lifestyle but mind you after some quality curry and wine I can find a lot of things fascinating.
When dinner was finished, we then headed to the College bar for some after dinner refreshments. This essentially involved a lot of pints beer, some 14-year-old Scotch and inhaling Snuff. Id vaguely heard of snuff which was quite popular in the 16th to 19th century, its the inhaling of incensed tobacco, but I had no idea it was still in use today, well snuff is live and well in the Catholic church. Whilst outside one of the Aussie priests asked me if I was a Catholic to which I answered I’m Agnostic, he started at me briefly and said “Aren’t we all” and laughed, he was kidding I think. After many drinks, conversations with English and Aussie priests about the cricket and other important sports topics I said goodbye to my mate and new friends and stumbled back to my hotel for the evening, a thoroughly pleasant and to my surprise quite the drunken night.
Well that was Rome for me, like I say being the most visited place in the world for tourists, religious followers, history buffs and romantics, I’m not sure there was much I can add regarding new experiences. However, my night at the English College was an absolutely fantastic, insightful, interesting and most of all fun. Rome has it all from history to architecture to archaeology to snuff, ….