InterRail #7: From Rome with Love
I visited Rome for the very first three years ago just after I had finished my A-Levels and instantly fell in love with the vibrant, busy and rather chaotic Italian capital city. The crazy drivers, melting-hot sunshine and the fact that orange trees (yes, with actual oranges) lined a number of the main streets all added to the mosaic that conjured up this ancient city. When my Dad informed me we would be returning again on our up and coming Easter InterRail trip I was super excited and couldn’t wait to further explore this wonderful city, full of culture and remarkable history.
A new morning heralded the start of another days train travel and, after a filling breakfast, we said our farewells to Pisa (InterRail #5: A Piece of Pisa) and hopped aboard the 0913 train to Rome. We enjoyed another picturesque journey as the intercity meandered down Italy’s west coast, though the port-town of Livorno, all the while being teased by the presence of the sparkling blue Mediterranean sea, in the near distance. All in all, our journey took the best part of three hours, so by the time we reached Rome’s main station, Termini, it was lunchtime! Our hotel was again only a short walk away and in no time we at all we had our the keys to our room. We were very thankful for this after another long train journey!
However, after a short break we set off again ready to persue our plan of action. First stop : Vatican City. From Termini station we hitched a ride on a very crowded underground to Ottaviano. It seemed that everyone had the same idea as when we got off we were joined by many of the other travellers and as we emerged into the sunshine above the streets were heaving. Thankfully once above ground we veered off from the main tourist path and within five minutes were skirting the walls of Vatican itself. We followed the walls until we reached the entrance to St Peter’s Square, and gazed upon the magnificent buildings of the Vatican itself. The area, much like last time, was absolutely packed – both with tourists, snaking their way around the square’s perimeter in the hope of gaining access, but also with workmen completing all the preparations for the Easter festivities. Thankfully the hoards of tourists separated for a few short moments, providing me with a few photo opportunities.
Having surveyed the scene and absorbed a little of the atmosphere we set off a few minutes later down the Via della Condiliazone in the direction of Castel Sant’Angelo and the river.
The river was, in comparison to our last visit, looking rather nice and showed itself in a completely differently light. It also gave an impression of how variable the different seasons are, as during our last trip (in high summer) the river was extremely low, neglected and dirty looking. So sincere apologies to the River Tibus for any preconceived judgements that might have been made!!
By the time we had crossed the river, the effects of our previous days’ activities, and a fair amount of walking since arriving in Rome, were beginning to tell and this could mean only one thing.. it was time for a Pizza! We found ourselves a cosy but rather strange cafe near the Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II, which boasted an enormous Snow White mural from floor to ceiling. A potential ‘must-see’ for all Disney fans.. or maybe not?
Once our stomachs were content it was time to (rather reluctantly) make a move. Leaving the cafe behind us we made our way to the bus stop hoping we would be able to find a bus that could return us to Termini, whilst also providing us with the opportunity to see the sights out of the window. And so began the fun. Confusion reigned as we tried one bus stop after another, all being used to go in the ‘wrong’ direction. Eventually, after walking around the block a number of times we finally found one heading in the right direction (the No 62) and got on. The route took us through the heart of the city, passing many places of interest which we had visited on our previous trip, in particular the Largo di Torre Argentina (fondly referred to by the Dovastons as the cat sanctuary – this my friends is another story), the Piazza Venezia with its grand Victor Emmanuelle II monument, the Forum and the Colosseum (in the distance) and the huge Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.
The excitement did not stop there. On arrival at Termini we found ourselves in the middle of the riot police and the civil guard kitted out and standing ready. We soon discovered that a rather large demonstration was going on, which we later found out to be a anti-austerity march (news coverage). We stood for a while watching the procession (from a distance) and once the rear, indicated by half a dozen police vans and water-cannon, came into view decided that we would wait a while before following them in the direction of our hotel and stop for an ice cream just off the grand Piazza della Republica.
The evening soon was drawing to a close, and so we walked back past the Piazza della Republica and the church of Santa Maria degli Angelii, and from there on to the Piazza Indipendenzia back to the hotel.
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