Originally I only planned to stay in Rome three days. But when I did my Rome research the travel guides said to allot as many days as possible to see all there is to see. Also thinking that too much moving around on this trip might wear me out and it would be nice to have another home base for awhile, I upped my time from three days to 10. I should have stuck with the original plan.
I love big cities. Charming big cities. In my opinion, Rome doesn't hold much charm. The people aren't particularly nice (where's a friendly Parisian when you need one?), the buildings aren't beautiful (impressive, yes; beautiful, no), the Tiber River is not a good (or clean) place to go sit by the water for the afternoon, there weren't any art museums I particularly wanted to see and I didn't stumble upon a really good park. Rome reminds me a lot of the way that I felt about Athens, Greece when I was there last May - probably the first big city I'd ever been to that I didn't really like and while I appreciated it for what it was, it just wasn't my thing.
My saving grace while I have been in Rome was the book Angels & Demons. I was told to read it before I got to Rome, and I finished it while I was in Venice. (Very entertaining and a fast read by the way.) For those of you who haven't read the book or seen the movie (I'm waiting to see the movie until I get back to the States), it takes place in roughly a 24 hour period of time across Rome. There is a map in the front of the book that shows all the major landmarks that the main characters visit. I spent a few days going to the sites in the book, which are broken down as Earth, Air, Fire and Water.
Earth is inside the Chigi Chapel of the Santa Maria del Popolo. Unfortunately the church was closed the day I visited, so I walked around the Piazza del Popolo.
Air is at the base of the obelisk in Saint Peter's Square.
Fire is Bernini's statue of Saint Teresa in Ecstasy inside the Santa Maria Della Vittoria.
Water is Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers on Piazza Navona.
In addition to the Angels & Demons sites, I also saw the other must-see sites in Rome: the Pantheon and Piazza del Pantheon, the Colosseum, the Arch of Constantine, the Forum, the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel (though I did go to Saint Peter's Square, I did not go in Saint Peter's Basilica - the line was so long and didn't appear to be moving, and it was out in the sun on one of the 90+ degree days), the Spanish Steps and Piazza de Spagna (and the designer boutiques nearby).
I'm one of those strange people that doesn't love ice cream. Well, there is one exception... Anyway, ice cream, or gelato is huge in Italy. Gelaterias are everywhere. Forget 32 flavors. Some Italian gelaterias boast as many as 100. (Yesterday I saw a flavor called "English Soup" - this couldn't have been good.) It would be odd to walk down the street and not pass several people eating gelato. So despite my aforesaid thoughts on ice cream, I was intrigued and tried kiwi, mango and coconut, which I liked in that order. I also discovered icees (as you will know from my previous blog, I've been craving ice), specifically lemon icees, which I found to be better than any gelato I've had.
I rented an apartment in an area of Rome called Trastevere, which is located south of Vatican City on the west bank of the Tiber river. It is a very nice area that is known to have maintained its original character, especially with its narrow, cobblestone streets (apparently much of the cobblestone streets elsewhere in Rome are being paved because the vibration from cars driving over them have been leading to cracks in the foundation of historic sites in the city). The apartment itself I am renting is huge - three times the size of the other places I've stayed - and very nicely decorated except... The guy that owns the place is obviously highly eccentric and narcissistic, and he has pictures of himself, by himself, hanging up all over the apartment. One in particular is hanging in the bathroom, and as you will see why below, it disturbs me every time I take a shower.
Maneuvering around Rome is harder than most cities I've visited. As opposed to, for example, Paris' Metro where there are 16 lines (so virtually a Metro stop anywhere you turn), in Rome there are only two lines - A and B. Apparently the reason there are so few lines is because as they have attempted to dig additional lines under the city they run into archaeological finds, which obviously slows down the process. In order for me to get to a Metro stop from my apartment, it was about a 30 minute process of walking plus a bus ride. Once to the Metro, though, most of the sites I wanted to see were easy to get to and just a brief walk from a Metro stop.
I knew there would be places on this trip that I loved and places I didn't particularly care for, and unfortunately I have to place Rome in the latter category. A large part of it is my disinterest in the history of the Roman Empire, and because I knew that going in, I should have ignored the travel guides and stuck with my gut to stay only three days. Regardless, I'm still glad I saw what I did but will be very happy to move on to Prague tomorrow!