Wednesday, September 22, 2010

No place like Rome, part 1

Leaving Sorrento, Bob and I took a Circumvesuviana train (fare was 4 ) to Naples, where we got off at Napoli Centrale to get another train to Rome. Our original plan was to have a quick visit of the historic center of this major Italian city before proceeding to the Eternal City.


On the train to Naples. Bye Sorrento!


But fatigue had set in. We wanted to focus our remaining energy, time and money--all diminished by this time--on the final leg of our trip. So out of a list of must-dos in Naples that I got from the Internet, we got to do only two: 1) Eat pizza. 2) Eat sfogliatella.

Naples is considered the birthplace of pizza. We had to eat pizza where it originated, and not just any kind but pizza Margherita, first made in Naples in 1889. We already did this at the airport upon our arrival from France going to Sorrento. Now headed to Rome, we wanted sfogliatella, a kind of pastry made from phyllo-like dough and shaped into a cone with some yummy sweet filling. Bob went outside the train terminal to search for it.


Yummy!! (Image from buzznet.com)

As soon as he came back with sfogliatella and a MacDonald's combo meal, we hopped onto an Intercity (IC) train to Rome. Compared to Eurostar, IC trains offer a cheaper form of traveling between major destinations. They are slower and less comfortable, but cheaper. For me, that was an easy choice. Or rather, the only choice. We were not in a hurry anyway.

The train trip from Naples to Rome cost about 21  per person and took more than 2 hours. We got off at the Roma Termini Station past 4 pm. According to our hotel information, we could reach it from Roma Termini by taking the Metro Line A train and getting off at Vittorio Emanuelle, the next station about 5 minutes away. We could also take the bus, or walk 15 minutes. We chose the Metro subway train. Wrong choice!

We didn't realize that Roma Termini, located in the heart of the city and serving almost half a million people daily, was HUGE! Just following the signs to the correct Line A platform underground took us, I’d say, 30 minutes. Up, down, around and around…

What a relief when we finally found our hotel on Via Giusti. It was actually a convent called Albergo Giusti operated by Suore di Sant’ Anna, but they accepted paying guests. From the street, the place was unimpressive, just one in a row of buildings that stood closely side by side. But inside, it was very neat and quiet. The nuns were friendly and helpful. I felt safe in Rome already.

At 90 € a night for a double bedroom, including breakfast and a private bathroom, this was our priciest accommodation on this vacation. But compared to other hotels in Rome, it was still cheaper or at par. Hostels cost less, but our primary concern, based on several articles we had read on visiting Rome, was safety. Hostels give you less privacy. Besides, I thought we deserved a comfortable last two nights after two weeks of non-stop traveling.

That same afternoon, we went out to see the Colosseum, just a few blocks away. It was awesome to see for the very first time this iconic symbol of the Roman Empire and one of the greatest Roman architecture.


The Colosseum is located near a busy intersection.

I wondered how it looked like like in its heyday. It seemed so far removed from the time of gladiatorial games and other barbaric events that took place in the arena leaving thousands upon thousands of men and beasts bleeding to death.

Uri, vinciri, verberari, ferroque necari (“I will endure to be burned, to be bound, to be beaten, and to be killed by the sword”), gladiators made a solemn oath those days. The "gladiators" at the Colosseum today might probably swear, "I will endure to wear this costume, to be be photographed and to pose with suckers for an exorbitant fee."




It was near closing time at the Colosseum but there was still a lineup of people wanting to go in. Tour organizers were giving their last call. We decided to come back early next morning to beat the crowd.


The Colosseum from another angle


Meanwhile, the sky grew dark and within minutes there was a thunderstorm like we don't experience in British Columbia. We sought shelter behind one of the stone pillars together with a "Roman gladiator" until the rains died down.

Back at the hotel, I went to bed early. Bob went out again to see the Colosseum and surrounding areas at night. I needed to recharge.


The Colosseum at night


(To be continued)

Next, No place like Rome, part 2
Previous, Amalfi Coast in three days, part 2

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