4 – Europe Via Rail – When In Rome, Get Lost And See Old Things

We woke to the tune of A$AP Ferg as Liam’s alarm reminded us to ready ourselves for arrival in Rome bob on 6am. It seemed like an eternity for him to silence said alarm so we were definitely all awake by the second chorus. Luckily the Italian man we had shared the carriage with that night was already awake, his gaze silently appreciating the view from our window. And what a view it was. The sun was beginning to raise its head above the towering mountainous landscape, painting an orange hue atop the lush green of the Italian countryside. It was a beautiful site to be greeted by, an unexpected treat that we would experience waking up in other countries too, making hot bleary eyed early morning train arrivals a little less groggy. You couldn’t start your day off without a smile with such picturesque #views. We promptly packed up as we pulled into our stop, Tibertina station. We probably/definitely ponged a tad having not washed the previous night being on a train an’ all but thats something we would get used to.

Again in typical squab fashion the search for the hostel was not a straightforward endeavour. We were navigating off of printed google map directions provided by admin Liam while keeping our eyes peeled for the optimistically named ‘Funny Palace’ hostel. It wasn’t as obvious as our flag clad joint in Paris, most notably because it was disguised as a launderette/internet cafe on the ground floor. I say disguised…that’s exactly what it was! The actual accommodation was accessed via a huge wooden door that seemed like it should be opened with a giant ancient key rather than a modern card swipe system. The laundrette acted as the reception and we were greeted by the friendly and laid back Johnny. We crashed out around a table still very much asleep while Johnny sorted all the paperwork and intricately mapping the best route to explore all Rome had to offer. Again check-in wasn’t available until the pm, so we changed in a store room upstairs with time for a quick baby wipe wash in all the smelly areas and a tooth brush before bouncing out bound for the colosseum.

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Our initial impression as we weaved around the old Roman roads was hot. Just hot everywhere. Turns out our stay coincided with Rome’s hottest July in the cities history! Thankfully, some genius had installed water

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^ See what I mean? ^

fountains on every other street corner back in the day which spilled out drinking water 24/7. This saved us SO MUCH money which would otherwise have been spent on gallons on bottles of the stuff. Even sans all the ancient ruins et al, the architecture of the shops flats and houses was very tasteful. Elaborate in all the right places.

Everything of tourist interest is helpfully condensed within walking distance of each other, and after a mere ten minute wander we were at the base of the colosseum. No surprises it hadn’t changed much since I’d scaled it a few years back on Assassin Creed Brotherhood. Crazy to think that thousands of years ago people were walking the streets and looking up at the same magnificent feat of structural engineering. Some gladiators were still knocking about although rather than cutting you down with various sharp implements they were flagging you down for a photo and a monetary contribution. There were so many I don’t see how they were possibly making any money individually.

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*syncs eagle vision and leap-of-faiths into hay bale*

There were a couple of tags on a wall next along the street so naturally we immortalised our presence in Rome 2k15 using the medium of sharpie. It wasn’t on anything historic so no dramas. By this point it was 10:30am and scorching hot. As seen below we paused for a hydration pit stop and mused about the softness or hardness of the water (yeah come travelling with us for more boring conversation topics), when from out of nowhere a single middle aged Australian man piped up from behind us with “It’s because of the phosphorous.” This sudden intervention perplexed us but he continued “yeah it’s the phosphorous in the water, its the pipes it travels in.” His accent was hilarious and distracting us from his main point with the pronunciation coming out as “bosphorous” successfully fast tracking himself as the latest meme of the trip.

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^ See what I mean? ^

We passed on the two hundred different walking tours as the queues were already hours long. Tommo had come on a school trip before and reckoned he knew his way around. He didn’t. We arrived at a dead end nearly joining in with a church service, but we saw some good ruins and found some shade.

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A quick sip sip of the drip drip
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Seeing one of Romes’ 900 churches

We decided to grab the metro back to Funny Palace for midday-and-food as we could now

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They didn’t trust us touching the old walls

check in. The hostel was surprisingly grandiose. We caught the elevator to the top floor to be blessed with a shared kitchenette and a generously sized four bed room to ourselves cooled with beautiful air conditioning. Tommo did a Tommo and napped, however we discovered his hidden talent for sleep tweeting! Still waiting on Freud with his verdict on dream-tweet theory.

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^ See what I mean? ^

 

 

 

 

 

 

The supper consensus was pizza cos Italy (and it was the cheapest). We found a cosy al fresco situation along a tidy cobbled street off the station. Me and Liam took this opportunity to sample half a litre of the cheapest white wine on the me&u, which went on to win purchase of the day no competition! We hadn’t eaten all day so you can imagine the psychological affect this had on the both of us. It probably made the pizza taste better than its price suggested. We *wobbled* off toward the rich district of Rome via the Spanish steps – more like the people steps. The pathways were bustling with locals and tourists going about their evening activities under the golden curtain of the setting sun, bringing a warm glow like you were seeing life through an Instagram filter. We wandered, chatted and banted much to the amusement of the sober two and the enjoyment of myself and Liam under the influence of bar.

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Looking pretty on the posh cobbles

We stopped by an ice-cream shop on the perimeter of Pincio Square, where the potential choice of scoop was unlike any assortment I have ever seen before (why oh why did I turn down Kinder Beuno flavour!!?) Ian and Liam were not such a fool as me and copped strawberry  sorbet with lemon and vanilla with chocolate tubs respectively.

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Model material – stick that on the brochure

Our path lead us vertically conquering many steps for the reward of a brilliant view of Roman cityscape at dusk. The sky was a melty blend of purples, pinks and burnt oranges with the white, red and amber of headlights and street lamps below glistening like fireflies in the night. The countless church spires pierced the skyline with a distant backdrop of silhouetted treetops. It was fantastic to simply sit and watch time pass with a view unlike anything I had seen before with my best pals, thousands of miles away from where we called home. It exhumed a peaceful romance, a perfect place to return to with a significant other in the future.

 

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Bene bene

As the light continued to fade we descend back to the square and took a pew on the lip of the fountain. Some street performers began setting up in the centre with what looked like general flame apparatus. They were attracting a small group of other inquisitive humans who we decided to join for this spontaneous attraction. The performers consisted of four women hailing from America, Holland, Istanbul and the front-woman a local from Rome. Their showmanship paired with infectious energy in a combination of fire twirling and a slapstick narrative culminated in a thoroughly enjoyable forty-five minutes. We tipped generously with the euro shrapnel remaining from our evening.

Now I’d like to finish by telling you that we caught the metro making our way home at a respectable time tucking snuggly into bed all content with our evening. Although that was not the case, as there was to be another twist in our evening. The metro route we had taken us to the Spanish Steps was closed so I decided to take the reigns, leading us through a tunnel what I thought would take us to an alternative train. I take full responsibility for ballsing this up. We ended up emerging from the underground very lost in a part of town we didn’t recognise with no cabs or buses to take us home. It was my fault so I was going to get us out of it. We walked down a strip of hotels and bars looking for road signs. It wasn’t a rough area, we just needed pointing in the right direction. My tactic was to pinball from hotel to hotel asking the concierges outside, in my best car crash hybrid of Englitalian, which way we should take to Termini station. Somehow it worked! About an hour into extra time of our evening which reached Funny Palace and hit the hay after another crazy fun day to remember in Europe.

 

 

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