Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. So I was excited, to say the least, that my four-day excursion in Rome would span until the 31st. Before leaving to catch my bus to the airport, I stopped at one of the many corner tiendas in Granada to buy a cropped crimson wig, black nail polish, and a sharp pair of fangs. I was going to Rome as a vampire.
Exploring and Venders
As normal, we were lost within a few hours of arriving. Knowing that our hostel was only a few blocks away from the Termini Train Station, we decided to take an informal walking tour. We followed the outline of interesting buildings in the distance and went down random streets that “felt” good.
During that walk we also got to experience Roman traffic. Seeing as how one of our first views of the city was a crushed bike wedged underneath a city bus, we knew we were in for a challenge. The basic rule of thumb appeared to be push the gas and go. Even if pedestrians were crossing, cars and motorcycles sped ahead until coming to a stretching halt mere inches away or swerving into another lane at the last-minute. We survived, however, and by the end of the trip we were weaving through intersections like the locals.
After checking in at Hostel Des Artistens, we headed off to see what Rome had to offer. The streets in Rome were sporadic; think narrow and twisting alleyways that lead out to four car highways. The walk was scenic however, with numerous shop windows to peer into and interesting manholes and street markings. Later, we traced our way back to the hostel by way of the life-sized advertisements and strange window displays.
The first stop was the Spanish Steps. We took a break to sit and snap some pictures. It was here that we were first confronted with Rome’s infamous bootleggers. After living in NYC, I know you’re supposed to make eye contact, say a firm no, and then continue on your way. In Rome, things were done a bit differently. Looking in the general direction of a vender would ensure they would follow you for blocks with armfuls of merchandise. Posing for a picture would bring dozens of arms and smiles offering to take the picture for you. I was warned beforehand that people lost cameras this way so we declined as politely as we could. Despite this, we took tons of pictures of the steps, the Keats Shelly Museum next door, the upscale shops nearby and the colossal Baraccia Fountain that sits at the bottom of the Spanish Steps like a well-earned treat. The fountain features a half sunken boat underneath twisting streams of water. I just recently found out that this fountain is over four centuries old.
Picture taking at the Spanish Steps turned into picture taking at The Trevi Fountain. It was only a short walk away from Piazza di Spanga, where the Spanish Steps are located, and once you’re in the vicinity you can hear the running water before seeing it. We followed the sound of lapping water until we rounded one final corner and found ourselves face- to- face with one of the best-known monuments in the world.
There are few things to say about The Trevi Fountain that haven’t been said. It’s beautiful and truly captivating; I found myself staring at it in sections; trying to absorb what each image was doing separately before viewing it as a whole. If you’re lucky enough to find an open seat on one of the oversized rocks that line the fountain, you can get fixated staring at the different coins reflecting off the blue water.
We eventually wandered down a narrow street full of shops and restaurants. We found a cheap place, settled in for some authentic Italian pizza, wine, and Tiramisu before heading back to the hostel to prepare for the next day.
The Pantheon, Roman Forum, and Colosseum
We hit up the big three in one day while still managing to fit in a gelato stop and a visit to the National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II. Needless to say, it was a very long, albeit fun, day.
We started off at the Pantheon and then while walking to the Colosseum, saw the National Monument and decided to stop in. We asked about the eternal flame and found out that it was homage to a fallen WWI soldier whose remains were never recovered. For the sake of time, we passed over the artwork on display inside. We did take a minute to view the balconies and enjoy a panoramic view of the city.
The uneven walls of the Colosseum can be seen from a distance. I was so excited to see it peeking over a row of trees that I barely noticed the mass of performers and souvenir booths that lined the walk. Knowing I was strolling ancient ground was remarkable but nothing compared to actually being inside. Every novel and movie I had seen depicting brutal lion battles and executions did nothing to prepare me for that moment. The place is more huge than huge! It was even big enough to play a few rounds of hide-and-seek. Although, judging by the looks we received, it’s not something I would recommend.
The Roman Forums were up next. This expenditure was much more relaxing than others. With miles and miles of open land and ruins to explore, it was easy to break away from the crowds. My friends and I even had a 20-mintue conversation in front of Julius Ceaser’s grave before turning around and realizing. The sun was setting just as we were preparing to leave and I’m sure I’ll never again get to experience the sun setting over Roman Ruins.
Ah, we had such high hopes for this day. The morning of Halloween I woke up nauseous, clammy, and with a serious backache. I’d like to think it was a combination of all the walking and waiting in line and not a manifestation of my increasing age, thank you very much. We revisited the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain this day and did some shopping.
At night we abandoned our clubbing plans for a table at Highlander’s Bar. They were having a party that night and there were lots of other American students there as well. From there we tried to go to the Hard Rock Café but my back gave out. We ended up crashing the party at the small bar across the street from our hostel. It seemed to be a family affair; the Italian family who owned the bar introduced us to cousins, children, and in-laws in between dancing and trying to scare each other. There was a very cute kid in a skeleton costume who made it his mission to yell “Boo!” at us as many times as possible. The night wasn’t nearly exciting as we thought it would be but it is forever burned in my memory. It was one of the many unexpected moments I experienced during my trip; I was in a foreign place, surrounded by strangers and a language I didn’t understand. Yet, I was having the time of my life.
My visit to Vatican City & The Funniest Things Overheard While Traveling will be up soon.