Travel Tips Part 20: Rome, Italy

Your personal ideas of Rome have all unfortunately been stemmed from watching too many cheesy, Hollywood movies: you picture streets lined with cafes inhabiting smoking Italians, couples kissing in front of pretty monuments, and a whole heap of history you’re yet to look into. These expectations are instantly fulfilled as you walk the streets to meet up with the gorgeous Alessia – a bubbly Italian girl you met in Norway who has graciously allowed you to stay in her flat. After almost getting scammed out of change at the manky subway station, you find Alessia’s flat is on the doorstep to the Vatican – convenient! You meet Alessia on the street and walk to her gorgeous apartment: each part of the flat is covered in books, sculptures and paintings instantly making you feel at home – or rather the home you’d like to have when you eventually move out.

After a quick shower, you step outside and have a walk around the Vatican. The buildings are beautiful yet completely dominating which, of course, makes perfect sense. While walking around you notice a small protest in the centre of the square, which you assume is in regards to the crimes against humanity the Pope has insisted to make, but instead it’s another 1% protest that is occurring presently in capital cities around the world. You find all this out from a French bystander who explained to you what was going on – in French! You make a mental note to start practising your French, so one day you can pick up more than the odd word in a conversation. After your walk you find a quite restaurant near Alessia’s flat, where you order an entrée garden salad, followed by a bowl of gnocchi sorentina: cheesy, tomatoey and indulgent. After a post-lunch ciggie you walk around the streets a bit, stopping only once for Nutella gelato. Eventually you head back to Alessia’s flat where you have another shower and a much-needed lie down: these nanna naps have become all the more frequent as your trip draws to a close.

A couple of hours later, Alessia comes home with 4 bags of booze and Fedy – your first official friend all the way back from Oslo. After a brief catch-up you watch as the girls make Spritz – the Romanian cocktail everyone around here has. You have no idea what is in the glowing, orange concoction, but it is mighty strong. After 2 glasses Alessia already seems more talkative, and you’re feeling an odd, familiar warmth. As always, drinking alcohol leads to a quick bout of chain-smoking leaving you feeling dizzy and relaxed as more Italians come in for a Uni party. You spend the next few hours sitting back listening to Italian babble while complaining to Mik about how exceedingly hungry you are: it’s 9pm and no-one has mentioned dinner. An hour and a half later the boy’s rock up with stacks of pizza, making you feel horribly full and bloated to be eating so late in the evening – this is the Italian way! You stay up for another 30 minutes, but it’s futile: you’re both tired and in dire need of sleep. Eventually you steal yourselves away to bed, but are constantly interrupted by drunken dickheads bursting in the room and finding it hilarious to turn on the hoover. Stupidity isn’t something confined to Australia; boys are just retarded. (i)

(i)                  Slight overstatement? Talk to me when I’ve had proper sleep.

The next morning you wake up late and begin the day by having pizza for breakfast – at this point it’s fair to point out that you’ve given up any hope of returning to Perth as thin as you left. With a belly full of greasy goodness, you walk down shopping streets where you are bombarded by men trying to sell you plastic, stolen shit, and others giving you sleazy stares. Big cities are starting to grate on you despite the beautiful buildings and alternative cafes they may offer. You come to yet another square, before walking through the busy shopping streets. You light another cigarette and decide that you’re sick of paying for something that is slowly killing you, so you bravely give Mikayla your cigarettes to throw away. Feeling very proud of yourself, you frantically find a pharmacy in search for nicotine patches – there’s not a chance you’re trying this cold-turkey again. While you’re in the pharmacy you have a super-awkward conversation with the pharmacist over a bottle of soap for “lady problems”. (ii)

(ii)                Me: “Do I use this in the shower?”

Italian pharmacist: “Uh is for…” –makes a rubbing gesture over the space above his crotch-

Me: “UMOKAYNEVERMINDGRAZIE.”

You swiftly exit and find the famous fountain surrounded by about 1000 Japanese tourists. With two monuments checked off the list, you walk down the road in search for the iconic colosseum. As you walk down the road you notice to your left and right old ancient ruins, something no other city you’ve seen yet has had to offer. The ruins are of old buildings and towns from Ancient Rome, so you’re surprised by how well preserved they’re kept: crumbling columns holding up moulding bridges, lined with broken paths showing the remnants of a history you’ve read about  in novels and watched on cheesy movies. At the end of the road stands the majestic colosseum standing tall as one of the most amazing relics from a bloody history. You feel the same as when you saw the Eiffel Tower in Paris: a landmark that truly confirms that you are indeed in Rome – no need to pinch yourself any longer. You’re now going to become one of those smug people who say, “BEEN THERE” every time a picture or a movie is shown of a foreign country. You sit down and look up at the momentous structure standing before, and with a sudden cigarette craving, you decide to try out these nicotine patches. You regret this decision, when half an hour later you been to feel dizzy, nauseous and tired. You sit down for a cup of over-priced tea and find yourself having hot-flushes even though it’s barely 10 degrees outside, when your hands start going numb your confused vulnerability turns into sheer grumpiness as the full weight of quitting smoking dawns on you.

You start slowly walking back to the flat, stopping only for decent buskers on the street who are already collecting crowds. You make noodles for dinner and crawl into bed re-watching episodes of Community before you fall asleep nice and early for once.

You wake up late the next morning and skip the pizza and opt instead for pastry goods at the local café. This morning starts out different to most others, and you don’t have your first-thing-in-the-morning cigarette: you’re surprised to find how delicious everything tastes and how fresh the air seems. After breakie you go to the Sistine chapel and spend the morning walking around the beautiful museum taking in all the marvellous paintings and sculptures, and sneaking photos of the famous roof by Michelangelo. Later on you walk along the streets until you find the famous Spanish plaza, where couples and groups alike sit along the steps watching the magnificent sunset. As the sky grows dark, you walk around the designer shops trying on clothes even though you don’t have 700 Euros to spend on a pair of bathers. (iii)

(iii)               Dolce and Gabbana was the only shop where they didn’t look at us like we were parasites so props to them.

That night you fall asleep early and await the next day of trains and new beds to sleep in.

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