Rome wasn’t built in a day, so the saying goes. But can Rome be seen in a day? Well we did, though not everything was covered, we got a bird’s eye view of Rome.
Our plans for visiting a new country in July went down the drain nearly with Prakash being so busy with work. We left everything to the last minute and to find cheap flights, hotels for the dates and timings that we wanted became impossible.
Last weekend when we were at the train station we noticed a poster that said the tickets on the fast train were buy one get one free on Saturdays. It just struck up then, ‘ why not Rome for a day?’ it takes about an hour and a half on the fast train to cover the distance of 290 kms between Florence and Rome.
We could have booked the ticket for the 6 am train, but considering the fact that we were travelling with kids and we had to go to the main station to get the fast train, we decided to take the next train which was around 7: 30 am.
The children have been super excited since we told them and they have been even going to bed early and waking up early so they won’t feel tired on the day.
In all our excitement, we reached the train station early. The train arrived from Venice and left on time. This is a nonstop fast train toRome. All fast trains from Milan and Venice to Rome go through Florence and they all travel non-stop between Florence and Rome.
Though it was an early start for me and I would have loved to sleep through the entire journey , I was sharing my seat with Abhi and he was excitedly talking about what he was seeing outside the window. so I decided just sit there and enjoy the sights and his company rather than doze off.
This is a completely new route for us. The train was passing through many tunnels. When it wasn’t tunnels , it was agricultural land that we could see for miles together in various stages of farming inundated by water bodies – the odd river, pond , or stream.
Though it wasn’t as colourful as Netherlands , our own stretch of sunflower farms were equally beautiful. Every now and then there would be little village or town with a few buildings and church tower visible in the distance, or there would be something like a stone castle or a fort on a hill or hillock.
We made use of the one and a half hours by enjoying the scenery, chatting away and having our breakfast, while the train chugged away at nearly 245 km per hour.
Once off the train we went to the shops to get our Roma 48 hour pass, and off we were on our ‘ mission discovery Rome ‘.
Our first stop was Colosseum. We took the bus to Colosseum. thankfully we had got Roma Pass so we could skip the really long serpentine queues and get in straight through. It is unimaginable that nearly 2000 years ago they had an amphitheater to seat 50000 – 80000 people. The seating capacity of many football stadiums today would be that. Looking at all the technology they had then I wonder if we have actually gone back in time. It is the same feeling that I get when I see pyramids in Egypt or the Big temple in Tanjore. What they have achieved without any of these so called modern technology is amazing. With all the technology we have we are still not able to replicate the pyramids!
Walking around the Colosseum and taking pictures in all different angles possible, took us about a couple of hours. The heat and the crowd had drained us up completely. We took a break to eat something and continued on to see the Arc of Titus, Antiquarium forence (from outside), Temple of Venus and Rome, etc. I think that we could have easily spent half a day or more just in and around Colosseum.
After looking around and taking pictures, it was time to head to destination number three, which was Trevi fountain. This time we took the metro. This was the first metro trip for Anou.
We got off and got out of the station. There was no right of Trevi. Of course there was a little fountain which kept up happy for a few minutes. We threw coins and made wishes and then headed in search of Trevi. Walking in the mid afternoon sun with two tired children is not great. But ‘mission Trevi’ was keeping them busy.
The walk through the narrow roads filled with souvenir shops where you would find anything from ferrari caps to Roma T shirts, fridge magnets, Venetian masks , roman helmets and armour, miniature colosseum and anything else that you can think of. Also there were lovely restaurants with canopies outside which were serving lovely food. The streets were crowded and there was no place to sit, but one thing I should appreciate is the cold drinking water provided all over the place. There were artists too who were selling their paintings. What attracted the kids though was an artist doing spray painting. It was interesting to see how quick he worked!
Trevi was a disappointment as it was closed for renovation. We didn’t even feel like posing for photographs.
The next stop we planned for was pantheon. But because we got hungry, we settled down on the way in Piazza di Pietra (Temple of Hadrian, built in 144 AD) and had our lunch which we had brought and some slushie to cool us down.
Back on foot to the Pantheon. The Pantheon was built in 27 BC -14 AD and rebuilt by the emperor Hadrian about 126 AD. This is one of the well preserved Ancient Roman buildings. The work inside, the paintings, the architecture, and the dome itself and the light passing through was mesmerizing. I still can’t imagine constructing a dome like that 2000 years ago.
Standing outside the Pantheon by the fountain with a obelisk on it, I overheard a guide telling someone how there were a few obelisks that came from Egypt and the rest were made locally. The original obelisk had the Egyptian hieroglyphics the rest that were made locally had just images without any meanings on them.
From there we went to Piazza Navona which was just a walking distance from there. This was a huge square with three fountains. There were many people sitting there with their feet in the ice cold water. We joined the crowd and put our feet in the cold water. We sat there till we were all chased by the police! Heartlessly we stepped out and stepped into the church of St.Agnes of Agony. The outside though looked pretty plain but inside the work of art was just amazing, the dome, the paintings on the dome, the 3D sculptures, every bit of it… Unfortunately they did not allow photography inside.
This was our last stop before we headed to the Vatican. This was the first time and probably the only time in my life where I would cross the border between two countries by foot!
We crossed the river Tiber to go to Vatican. Vatican was just as I imagined sans the crowd. We had a couple of hours and we had decided to skip the Sistine Chapel and other museums and just restrict ourselves to St.Peter’s Basilica and square. There were no queues, probably because of the time of the day. So we just walked through security and wandered into the basilica. I was told that churches in Italy are very strict about dress code, no bare shoulders and no bare knees! I had my stole with me so it was ok. It was interesting to see many women who were in the shortest of the shorts tying a Vatican scarf around their waist just to walk in.
Unfortunately we were late and the gates to see the tomb of St.Peter in the basement of the Basilica was closed. We walked around and even found a Malayali guy among the guys who were working there as security! Oh, I have to mention about the Swiss guards. The Swiss guards are a part of the Papal security.
After spending some more time in the square it was time to walk back to Rome to take the metro back to the Roma Termini. We thought we would try a different mode of transport and checked the old tram (this reminded me of the Calcutta tram), but as the tram didn’t go all the way to the station we took the metro back. We just about managed to grab some food in McD’s before we got on the train. First trip on FrecciaRossa. Train was fairly empty and I should say the experience was good.
Another hour and a half passed real quick and we were back in Florence and we took the bus back home and after a quick hot water bath, we were in our cozy beds dreaming of our next trip…..Rome