Hot and Ruinous, Rome makes the scholars fall in love…

Today I was out the bed at 7:00. I would say that was when I woke up, but that would be a lie.  After travelling for so long, I was exhausted and all I wanted to do was sleep.  I got a beer and a free slice of pizza from the bar downstairs and then crawled into bed, quite drunk, I might add. You see, I had not eaten anything since the previous night when Virgin Atlantic fed us an in-flight dinner.  Combining that with the fact that the beers here come in small and XXL (guess which one I had…), I put 2/3 of a liter of beer into an empty stomach, topped it off with a slice of pizza, and staggered upstairs.

The hostel serves continental breakfast in the morning as well as the free pizza at night. I love this place!  Toast and tea is all I need to get going in the morning and it was supplied.  I dressed and headed down to the bar to grab a bite before heading out.  Afterwards, I set out on a mission to find the elusive BNL d’Italia. They have a partnership with Bank of America which means when I withdraw money from their ATMs, I’m not charged. Yay!  I walked for about 20 minutes before I found a branch. However, today was a public holiday in Italy, and the bank was closed.  I was going a bit spare for moment. What was I going to do without money? Then I realized that ATMs do not close. I had a blonde moment… sue me.  Five minutes later, I was happily trotting down the streets of Rome, wondering what mischief I might achieve.

I looked at the map my wonderful hostel had so kindly provided and found the key landmarks that I wanted to see. Then I found the ones closest to me. So I headed off to the Piazza di Spagna and its famous stairs. You see, this staircase, numbering 138 steps, marks the largest baroque staircase in Europe.  They were quite spectacular. So much marble.  At the top of the staircase is the Piazza Trinita dei Monti and the stunning cathedral by the same name.  I walked into the cathedral and my ears were immediately soothed by the sound of voices singing.  The choir was singing hymns for a service (mass?) and they were incredible.  I only stayed for a bit, even though an attendant told me that I was most welcome. My shoes squeak a bit, you see, and walking around during a service felt wrong. So I left.

It was barely 8 a.m. Glancing at the map, I saw that the Trevi fountain was not far, so I thought I’d tackle it before the sun rose too high, drawing the hundreds of tourists out of their cozy hotels.  When I arrived, there were barely thirty people scattered around the fountain. It was perfect. Not yet hot enough to warrant thoughts of diving in, I took lots of photos from every angle, canvassing the sculptures from head to toe (or hoof).  Apparently, the legend states that a young virgin led the soldiers of Rome to the source of the water.  They built an aqueduct to carry the water into the city and the termination point was the Trevi fountain.

By the time I was finished drinking in the sight of such a beautiful fountain, I was getting a bit parched physically.  Luckily, there was a mom-and-pop grocery store a few yards down a side street. I bought a bottle of water and it will be the only one I buy. You see, Rome nifty little aqueduct means there are literally hundreds of fountains throughout the city, most of which have drinkable offshoots located nearby.  It’s fresh, clean, and a bit chilly so it makes the perfect companion on a hot day.

From there I headed to Il Colosseo where I purchased a Roma Pass and a Nutella to Go. Let me tell you just how amazing both of these are.  Sitting under the shade of a tree, I ate Nutella with little cookie sticks that are a mix between pretzels and sugar cookies. It was fantastic. To wash down this wonderful experience, there is a convenient juice box built into the container.  It was filled with a tea that was just sweet enough to complement the Nutella. I was in heaven for about five minutes, until I realized my snack was gone.

What followed this delicious afternoon delight was quite unpleasant. I had bought my Roma Pass and was filling out the information.  It’s a card that gives free entrance to two museums, a severely reduced rate on all the others, and free public transport for three days.  After doing all the paperwork, I read that an attendant may ask to see your documents.  I was fine with this until I realized I didn’t have my passport. I was freaking out. I walked as quickly as I could back to the hostel to see if I had left in in my duffel bag, all the while mentally plotting the route to the US Embassy. After tearing my bag apart, I found my passport and all was right with the world once more.

I spent the remainder of the afternoon walking through the Coliseum and the Roman Forum. Four and a half hours it took me to see it all, but worth every minute. I took the metro back to the Trevi Fountain to sit and eat some of the best gelato in the world. It came from this tiny shop to which I had to ask directions for fifteen minutes until I finally found it tucked safely away down a side street. By the way, it’s easy to ask for directions in Italian, but so much more difficult to understand the answer. I got a small container with stracciatella (cream with dark chocolate shavings) and raspberry: a perfect combination and a great way to cool off. The abundance of gelaterie is explained by the heat and humidity. Combine them with the sun bearing down on you and walking everywhere, it’s no wonder Italians are skinny and brown. I drank more than 3 liters of water today and have had no restroom breaks all day. It all sweats out. Even while you sleep!

After resting my weary feet, I realized it was already 19:30 and I had spent over twelve hours walking around. I have since doctored my feet. I am proud to say that I have acquired three blisters in the span of one day. I dragged myself back to the hostel, had a slice and a beer and rested.  It looks to be another early night and I’m off to the Vatican in the morning (very early in the morning…).



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