I recently went on a short trip to Rome with one of my best friends, who I will call “Brontë”. Brontë is someone I have known for years but as she now lives over in Spain, we came up with the spontaneous and romantic idea to meet up in Rome for a fun weekend away.
Travel – Ryanair
Accommodation – Hotel Impero
Currency – Euros
Day one can’t even really be called a day. We both got on flights from our respective countries after work and met in Rome around 8pm. Once we had been told off for munching on smarties on the transfer coach, we arrived at the Hotel Impero, just a short walk from Termini train station. Hotel Impero is a 4* hotel, with a roof terrace, spacious and comfortable rooms and a lovely continental breakfast.
After freshening up we decided that with less than 48 hours in Rome, we really had to make the most of our time. Luckily Brontë is a convert to Fungenda-ism and we had thoroughly planned during a raucous night of fried chicken and ‘The Princess Bride’.
The first places we visited were the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain. These were both a short walk from our hotel and brought us to a nice central area with lots of restaurants and gelato shops. However, upon arriving at the Trevi Fountain we realised that it was under heavy renovation and therefore impossible to even see *crying emoji*. I was quite disappointed by this, as I have wonderful memories of going to see the Trevi Fountain with my parents during a family holiday in the late nineties (when I was still rocking those platform sneakers).
Sadness was soon overwhelmed by hunger and so we headed for a restaurant called ‘Taberna Patricii et Plebei’.This place was actually super cool. We were led down some stairs into a cellar, which had a harpist on one side of the room, and a projector beaming Charlie Chaplin movies onto a wall on the other. Unusual to say the least! We ordered pizza, caprese and bread to share, as a weekend of carb loading and binging began.
After this we headed over to the Spanish Steps, where we perched and enjoyed some delicious gelato from ‘Venchi’.
As this was our only full day in the eternal city, we decided we had to jam pack as many fun times and lols as possible. Prior to arriving in Italy, we had booked Colosseum and Roman Forum tickets online (7.50 Euros each) and had fully researched tours. We were therefore able to skip the queue and for an extra fee of a few Euros, we were also able to get a guided tour around the arena.
This tour is brilliant for those who really like to learn. It lasted about 2 hours and took us deep underneath the Colosseum, into areas otherwise banned from entry. Our guide explained the history and background of the Colosseum, teaching us about everything from the construction of the amphitheatre to the life of the gladiators. She also helped to dispel some of the very common myths surrounding the history of the Colosseum (possibly exacerbated by Russell Crowe), such as the fact that gladiators did not actually fight lions.
After lots of learning and walking around, we decided to grab some lunch at a nearby restaurant. It felt really special to be sitting with my friend of 13 years, eating lovely food and looking out at the Colosseum. It’s the kind of thing we could never have imagined being able to do together even 5 years ago and I will always treasure the memory!
The next item on the fungenda was the Roman Forum. This was more relaxed, as we strolled around the forum reading various signs and talking about vestal virgins. We eventually made our way to Via dei Fiori Imperiali, the road that was famously built by Mussolini to make a direct line towards the Colosseum. With the sunshine, the trees and the view, this road was truly stunning.
Although by this stage we were fairly shattered, we pushed on towards Piazza Navona. This was a great place to relax, take photos and grab an Italian hot chocolate; a concoction so gloopy and custardy and delicious that it takes ages to drink even though it comes in the tiniest cup! This was the perfect tonic for the chilly January air. Just around the corner was the Pantheon, a temple built by Emperor Hadrian in 118AD and dedicated to the worship of all Gods.
As evening swiftly approached, we decided to make the long walk back to Hotel Impero via the River Tiber. We managed to catch the sunset dipping over the river which made for one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever witnessed.
The day ended with dinner at ’Ristorante del Giglio’, a restaurant which was just a stone’s throw from our hotel and highly rated on Tripadvisor.
What better day to visit the Vatican than a Sunday? We had read online that queuing can start as early as 7:30am, and so with a flight to catch at 2pm, we made sure to get there within plenty of time.
Everything was going swimmingly until we realised that in order to get into the Sistine chapel and associated museum, the queue would be about 3 hours long. We thought we had been smart by going to the Vatican on the last Sunday of the month (as this meant there was no entry fee to pay), however we had instead decided to arrive on a day when the whole of Rome had lined up a visit.
While we were quietly displaying British anger (aka tutting and joining a queue), a sly fox of a man approached us and asked whether we wanted to skip the queue. “Of course…” we said, but being discerning, modern women we asked, “…but what’s the catch?” He assured us that there was no catch, we would simply have to pay 25 Euros and we would be able to skip the queue and get a guide included. This guy had us pegged, he knew we loved a tour and he knew we couldn’t refuse the suggestion of a flamboyant gay man from Essex. We ignored all the signs that this was a bad idea. Why had he singled us out? Why was he dressed like Justin Timberlake from the early 2000’s? What was a man from Essex doing working at the Vatican? Why had he argued with his Brazilian boyfriend this morning? The questions were endless and yet we ignored them.
After paying the fee at a very unofficial table in the middle of the street, we waited around for a guide to take us off. They confirmed that we would be finished by 11.30am, in time to head back to the airport. The minutes ticked on and we were left waiting. By the time we approached someone about what was happening, we were told (very rudely) to take our money back and leave because there was no one free to take us and we definitely would not be finished by the time that had been suggested to us. It only then dawned on us… WE HAD BEEN SWINDLED BY A MAN FROM ESSEX WEARING A TRILBY.
All in all, this didn’t end as badly as it could have done; we managed to get our money back and had time to grab some food and souvenirs before heading back to the airport. It was a fantastic trip and I, for one, will definitely be visiting Rome again soon!
Thanks for reading!
~ Plane Emoji