Dave the motorhome has done nothing today, he’s not moved an inch and doesn’t plan to for the foreseeable future as he’s happy in his pitch at Flaminio Village Campsite.
Last night we celebrated being on a campsite by doing two loads of laundry (there are still plenty more to go) and Skyping people as we haven’t had wifi for ages. It was great to see both sets of our parents looking so good and wrapped up so warm. Another laundry disaster – the dryer didn’t quite dry everything and had eaten all my change – required Dave to step in as makeshift washing line. With the rain hammering down outside we hung up both loads around the van and cranked up our electric air heater to full, it got so hot that I had to cook tea in a vest top, still this morning everything was dry.
With the sun shining in through Dave’s skylight I was woken by the dulcet tones of Moria Stewart reading the news, another wifi winner, Radio 2 in the morning – perfect. Breakfast, showers, frantic camera charging and bag packing as we were off on a short walk along the dual carriageway to the train station to get the train to Rome.
After a little bit of research last night our first stop was right next to the train station and a climb up Pincio hill for a view over the city. Looking out over the view it was amazing just how low rise the entire city is, and how many domes you can see – it looks like every third building is a church (in fact it probably is or was!).
Our walk around the hill was short as our train ticket was good for 100 minutes, so we could get the metro across the city to the Vatican if we were quick enough. As we exited the metro station we entered tout alley – not exactly an alley, but it was like running the gauntlet on Gladiators with touts coming at you from every angle, waving clipboards with ‘Vatican Tour – Beat The Queues’ written on them. They kept trying to sell us tours in spite of me clearly being accompanied by an increasingly furry Charlie, we don’t believe he’s allowed into the Vatican museum, or any of the other buildings, but we didn’t stop to ask, instead we ploughed on to St Peter’s Square.
Arriving in the square it was quiet and the queue for the Basilica was about 30 people long, so Jay waited outside with Charlie while I went in. It’s an impressive building, like a very, very decorated church that’s been blown up in size so that he cherubs you’re greeted by (holding shells of holy water) are bigger than an adult. Once inside I realised that if the queues are this short, we could both see it tomorrow when we return to the city without Charlie, so I just had a quick nosey about. Having read up a little about the place last night I struggled to remember the big sights, but I did see; the mosaic above the supposed site of St Peter’s bones, the bricked up door only opened in Holy Years (I think I overheard a tour guide saying 2025 was the next time it would be opened) and Michaelangleo’s Pieta – forever behind a glass case after someone tried to vandalise it.
Crossing from Vatican City back into Rome there were no borders in place and luckily we didn’t have to show our passports, but we did have to cross a bridge once again lined with Lookie Lookie men – it’s a very good job I’m not into handbags or this could have been a very expensive day!
In Piazza Navona the Christmas stalls were all set up, but our goal was a Gelateria which our rough guide told us sold Black Truffle ice cream. Being December and lunch time the place was shut, but in Italy you’re never more than a short stroll from another ice cream store so all was not lost.
We aimed for the Colosseum and got distracted by ruins, the Vittorio Emanuele Monument, the tomb of the unknown solider, part of the Roman Forum, and more ruins.
We had planned to visit the Colosseum tomorrow, but the weather forecast is for rain, so we went today. The iconic structure is enormous and has survived almost 2000 years of earthquakes, fires, riots, wars, plundering, pollution and more recently movement from car and metro vibrations – it’s a good job Italy has an inexhaustible supply of ready-cut tavertine blocks!
We walked around the outside and decided not to go in, suspecting the commentary and information to be the same as we’d seen in other amphitheatres instead we stood and touched it – a strange thing maybe, but it’s not often you get the opportunity to touch something someone else might have touched a couple of thousand years ago.
The sun was setting and the air getting chilly. We looked out over yet more to the ancient Roman Forum (the bit we could see looked like someone had a huge bag of Roman bits and had liberally scattered them around a field) but spent more time trying to work out how two street artists were managing to do this…
As day turned to night we headed back towards our train station, stopping off for some roasted chestnuts to warm our hand and stomachs, then at the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain where ingenious scammers asked if we wanted our photo taking together, we declined but others who weren’t so wary accepted and instead of taking a photo with your camera (as any normal person would do) they take one with a polaroid camera and charge you for it!
Finally as we made our way along the main shopping street we spotted our first lit up Christmas tree (sponsored by Mercedes Benz for some reason!).
After a bit of a false start, getting on the wrong train, we made it back to the campsite. Charlie instantly fell asleep. Jay and I have drunk some mulled wine and now both have very red faces – could be the wine or tiredness, either way we’ll sleep very well tonight.