I’m a nervous flyer, but I don’t think I’ll ever stop being impressed by the distance you can travel in the time it takes to watch a film.
This is the first trip where we’ve organised it ourselves and we’ve not gone through a travel agent.
We bought flight + hotel from British Airways (they were cheaper than Easyjet and better flight times), and are organising our own transport before and after the plane lands.
All went fine.
There were some noisy kids on our flight (some sort of school trip from Canada), but they quietened down once we took off, and clapped when the plane landed. Which is nice isn’t it.
There had been no option to choose food for the flight, so I had assumed no food/drink included. But they came round and gave every passenger a wrap (Duck, or vegetarian available), and your choice of drinks – or multiple drinks. Tea and water for my girlfriend, tea for me. Some people appeared to have non-alcoholic cocktails. All included in the price, seemingly.
Also we got free newspapers. I (from The Independent), The Mail, or the Financial Times. Not bad, really.
So – Rome.
I’m amazed that Italy is in as bad financial shape as the news portrays. The place is constant hustle and bustle here.
It’s February, but everywhere seems to be open.
We had dinner at 8:30 – a nice pizza each in a cafe opposite our hotel. Nicest ham pizza I’ve had probably ever. My girlfriend had something vegetarian with aubergine, green beans and asparagus. Quite unusual for a pizza. She wasn’t sure it really worked as a flavour combination, due to the water from all these making it all quite wet.
We took a walk after leaving and everyone is still working. Street vendors from 3 hours ago still vending. We went to look at a little local fountain (the enormous Trevi Fountain) and three separate people asked if we wanted our picture taken next to it. There were people selling gimmicky flashing toys, the typical fake handbags, a plethora of ice cream shops, and even one old lady manning a fruit and vegetable stall, at gone 9pm.
Every restaurant we passed, we got invited in. Can you imagine even attempting to go and eat in a restaurant at 9:30, in the UK, never mind them standing outside inviting you in?!
Apparently people in Europe eat dinner later than the UK, but the fact is you can eat whatever time you like. They must employ a lot of staff or work incredibly long hours.
After struggling to sit on the toilet (they’ve not left enough room for your legs in front of the bowl really), and nearly injuring myself getting into the shower (there’s a sudden slope/step half way along the bath), we went for breakfast.
It is continental only, but adequate. Odd choices though. Pre-packed tiny toast, bread but no way to warm/toast it. Will blog more about this in the next post, with pictures.
Next, a walk. We took in so many statues and grand buildings, that I couldn’t list them all here if I wanted to. They’re everywhere.
There are frescos seemingly at random, tall statues round every other corner, newer buildings next to ancient monuments.
My view of Rome so far is that everything is either teeny tiny, or absolutely enormous.
I can’t really quantify how big the Pantheon is. There is nowhere inside, where you can get a picture of even half the roof. You can’t stand back far enough.
And then we went for a walk to the Vatican City. The Basilica is pretty big, to say the least. Normally when I take pictures on holiday, I try and not have people in my shots. However, it seems fun in Rome to leave them in, just so you can see how absolutely humongous everything is.
But remember: you cannot enter the Vatican in either your pyjamas or your Victorian bathing suits.
Never let it be said that the Vatican does not move with the times though. Look at the disregard for this ancient statue, just so the pope could fit his flatscreen tv in.
One tip for you. The Vatican bookshop sells postcards cheaper than a lot of other places. 40 cents. They don’t all have pictures of the pope or religious stuff on – there’s a few of Rome monuments, general pictures, etc.
We got pestered by some people to book tours today. We’re not interested. Actually some of the tourist pestering is starting to irritate slightly.
When we got off the train from the airport, a guy wanted us to sign a petition against drugs. We didn’t really get the point of this (what would be the point in non-Italian citizens signing it, and who the hell is pro drugs anyway?), so declined (my girlfriend did it very firmly but nicely), and we walked off. It seems from googling it, this is some kind of game where they get you to sign and either pick your pocket while you do, or start begging for money to support their anti-drugs campaign (which almost certainly just goes in their pocket). Either way, we got asked again today about this anti-drugs campaign. We’ve yet to be pestered by the fake-gold-ring thing, that is apparently common, according to Internet forums.
There is a lot of homeless people. I’ve seen so many people begging on the streets. There are a few street artist types giving something for their money, but there are a lot of people just begging. There was a woman kneeling, with face down, arms outstretched. She was so covered up, I joked it might just be a dummy under there. Someone comes back twice a day to empty the cup. Who knows – maybe it was. I saw her later in an identical position somewhere else. Maybe I should have gone back to the original spot to see if she was still there too, thus proving my dummy theory.
I had to laugh that someone on an Internet forum said that when they got pestered in Rome, they would say (in English) – “sorry – I only speak Cornish”. This apparently confused the scammers/beggars, and they got left alone.
I had some of these cute chocolate bars earlier. It’s a bit like a chilled wagon wheel, crossed with a chocolate teacake.
I did also resolve one thing. Our hotel room appears to have at least two different types of plug sockets. Our two prong adapters didn’t seem right for either, and by the middle of day 2, my mobile was getting low, and my camera was nearly flat.
We spent €2 on a 3pin->2pin converter, but while fiddling around with it, I realised our existing 2pin adapters will fit the three pin sockets. They look like they won’t – like the pins are too big – but they will. Just keep pushing until you think it’ll break, and then push some more.
Google search suggests Italy has at least two different sorts of plug sockets depending on amp rating. British plugs are fantastic really. So smooth fitting in our standardised sockets, and secure.
Lunch was a thing we made ourselves from bread/cheese etc. from a supermarket. The only cafes we’ve seen selling lunch stuff were either pizza or salad. Isn’t Italy quite famous for breads? Where’s their equivalent of a bakery selling Focaccia? Not found that yet.
Isn’t there any Italian equivalent of a Danish pastry or a Cornish pasty?
Dinner tonight was a bit awkward too. I was determined not to have pizza again. We wandered around but evening meals seem a bit confusing. They have a starter, first course, second course, then dessert. Starters are as normal, then first courses are all soup or pasta from the looks of it, and second courses all meat-based.
But they’re not cheap. €15-20 a course, each. Service is not included anywhere – it seems to be an extra €1-2 per person. If we only have one course each, that’s still over €40 a meal for me and my girlfriend if we only have one drink each and no dessert. And I don’t want to slag off Italy’s national cuisine, but we all know pasta costs about 8 pence to make. I mean how much mark-up can you add to flour and water?
We wandered around for ages, disappointed at how expensive everything was. We passed a McDonald’s and I joked that is probably where the minimum wage workers of these establishments go to eat, as they presumably can’t afford to eat where they work.
I couldn’t hide the irritation I felt at discovering a cafe selling English cream teas for two, for JUST €33. For scones and tea, for fuck’s sake!
“We might come back another day”, says my girlfriend.
“Or not at all”, my reply.
We eventually found a little restaurant called Allegro Pachino Osteria (or maybe those words in a different order). Prices looked reasonable-ish.
A welcoming man outside invited us in. And it went downhill from there really.
We got bought some incredibly stale bread. We didn’t order it, but we were both quite hungry by this point. It’s basically a baguette that the French threw away 3 days ago, sliced. Really really dry/tough.
I thought you got oil or something with it in Italian restaurants, but none came.
I ordered grilled chicken, and have a guess what I got? Yep. Two small pieces of grilled chicken and some salad leaves. No “and would you like any vegetables to go with that?” or anything. I assumed it came with *something* else, but that’ll teach me. My girlfriend ordered something that was spaghetti with basil. It was spaghetti (child-sized portion) with about two sprinkles of basil, somewhere in it. Mine was dry (no sauce or anything – just two dry pieces of chicken) and hers tasted of mostly salt apparently. “I’ve had better Italian food in England”, she said.
We didn’t appear to be charged for service, which is good as there wasn’t really any. That above and a drink each came to €29.
Last night’s two pizzas, a Sprite and a Fanta came to €27. The search for anywhere reasonably priced, continues.
A few nice things after this, though. We got ice cream from a nice shop. Friendly staff, and they gave out business cards and asked if we’d review them on Tripadvisor. A quick look finds they are the #2nd most popular cafe in Rome on there. They’ve done well.
My hazelnut and pistachio ice cream was delicious. My girlfriend also enjoyed her cherry and chocolate. And only €2 each.
On the way back, we passed a shoe shop. Shoes are cheaper than dinner.
And two police and what appeared to be an Italian version of a PCSO were cracking down on street traders, so we had a pleasant walk back to the hotel without getting hassled to buy laser pens or cheap children’s toys.