Rome wasn't visited in one day: Day 1

July 02, 2014

The ceiling of Santa Maria della Vittoria church which I thought was grand enough until I visited St Peter's Basilica.

Rome wasn't visited in one day. Henry and I valiantly attempted four. They say the test of a relationship is to travel together with your significant other and if by the end of it neither have tried to rip out the other's throats then maybe, just maybe, the relationship will work. (The true test however is whether a couple can survive a trip to IKEA together) Anyway, true to form I planned this short trip down to every last detail, itinerary and all (the only exception was Cuba, that was Luxy's pièce de résistance). All Henry had to do to was to say 'yes dear' which as every smart man knows is the key to a happy union. Boyfriends and husbands take note!


His and hers luggage. Him: army issue luggage, her: Longchamp Pliage and Le Boy.

Tuesday, 24th June 2014.

The first thing that was beyond my control was the air strike, apparently a thing in Europe. That and the seats on Ryanair do not recline. Nobody is more surprised than I am that I flew Ryanair but I thought I'd try to save some money and 'It's just a two hour flight, how bad can it be?' The answer is 'Maybe I should start flying with Virgin instead of hoping for (and being disappointed) Malaysia Airlines to fly everywhere in the world from London'. 

After a two hour delay we finally checked into our apartment, a charming little studio flat in Monti.


It was perfect for a short stay for two people. We had a tiny little kitchen (really a counter with an electric hob) where we made breakfast everyday with ingredients from the rather grand grocery store across the street (more on that in the next post), it was right beside the Metro which we never used but was very handy for instructing our Uber drivers where to drop us off at, it was on Via Cavour which was a little busy and noisy but great for people watching, and only a seven minute walk from the Colosseum. 



A Rome with a view.

Monti district has been described as Rome's cool quarter, hipster district, up and coming etc. Buzzing with a mix of traditional trattorias and restaurants with interesting concepts alike, vintage shops, and bars Monti is very much the Shoreditch of Rome and so I felt right at home.

Our first port of call was Santa Susanna church which was closed, but nevermind, we were only there to pick up our tickets for the papal audience with Pope Francis from the parish office next door.


I carefully tucked the tickets into my purse and looked forward to getting up close and personal with the Pope at Pope-chella the next day. 

With the most pressing matter of the day sorted Henry and I strolled around Rome, me in new espadrilles that gave me such painful blisters that we had to Uber it back to the flat to change into flats. These blisters would relentless haunt me through the trip and I powered through the agony by thinking of myself as some sort of Christian martyr, you know the sort that the Romans fed to the lions in the Colosseum. 

We chanced upon a gelataria on Via Cavour where we had our first of many gelatos to come, a chocolate and nut coated cone with melon and pear gelato (my new favourites!) and also a shop that sold military and army uniforms but only to those in service. I had to pull a drooling Henry away from the weapons. Both places remain undocumented by myself because I was in too much pain to take photos at the time. 


What I love about Rome is all the historical relics and ruins scattered throughout the city. London may have beautiful Victorian and Georgian architecture but do we have ancient and medieval ruins casually dotted across the urban landscape? No. And the best thing is the locals' nonchalance, these Romans walking past the Colosseum like "Oh, we live alongside one of the new seven wonders of the world, no big deal." 

*stares out of window at Boxpark on Shoreditch High Street and curses*




We visited the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria to see in person the famously racy sculpture Ecstasy of Saint Teresa.


That Asian lady posing with her arms wide upon as if to receive the glory of God was told off by a devout Catholic, probably for what he perceived as her irreverence. Henry dipped his finger in Holy Water to make the sign of the cross. He shook his head when I did it wrong and did it for me, refusing to let me cross into the church until I was blessed.




Bernini's sculpture of Saint Teresa experience of religious ecstasy in her encounter with an angel has been deemed by some as lustful, orgiastic, and sensual.

I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron's point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God. The pain is not bodily, but spiritual; though the body has its share in it. It is a caressing of love so sweet which now takes place between the soul and God, that I pray God of His goodness to make him experience it who may think that I am lying.


Saucy or spiritual? Incidentally this is the face I make the blissful moment I take my bra off after a long day. All women will understand what I'm talking about.



Dazzled by the gilded splendour of Santa Maria della Vittoria, we headed to a less ornate but no less famous church.


The Pantheon.








This Roman temple dedicated to all the gods of pagan Rome is supposedly the most preserved and influential building of ancient Rome. I more or less paraphrased that sentence because I wasn't particular awed nor inspired by the Pantheon to come up with my own original description. Mostly from the lack of information and explanation offered there, but also it paled in comparison to the splendour of the church before. 

For dinner we wandered less than two hundred meters away to a rarity, a restaurant in a touristy part of Rome that wasn't terrible. In fact Armanda Al Pantheon came highly recommended by food blogs as one of the best trattorias in Rome. Personally I found the food too salty for my liking and didn't enjoy the meal, but Henry was pleased that I kept pushing my food onto his plate. So no photos of the artichoke hearts stuffed with anchovies and the sliced beef salad.

We had an after dinner coffee at nearby Sant' Eustachio, a marvellous little cafe that frequently pops up on local coffee lovers as one of their favourite places to go for an espresso.



Of course I had to have a very creamy, rich chocolate something or other to make up for my disappointing dinner.



Coffee, tea, or me? I learnt the hard way not to ask Henry that question.

"I like my coffee like I like my men: big, strong, and black." Henry's words, not mine!


Fueled by caffeine we took a leisurely (I say leisurely but every step of mine was punctuated with pain, thank you new shoes) stroll through the Eternal City.




Fun fact, the 'fontanelle' (drinking fountains) throughout Rome are not only safe to drink but the water is cool (ice cold!) and sweet because they come from springs. Save yourself the €2 per bottle of drinking water that the vendors try to flog you and do what we did, we brought our own bottle and refilled it ourselves at the fountains. I even downloaded an app for finding water fountains 'I Nasoni di Roma' (nasoni or nose is the nickname for these fountains because of the shape of their spouts) but we never had to use it because the fountains were everywhere. Everybody nose that (haha).

We wanted to see the famously romantic Trevi Fountain but as luck would have it it was 'closed'!


How do you 'close a fountain'? You drain it (!!), put a huge barricade of plastic around it with an apologetic sign saying it's been 'closed for refurbishment' or something to that effect.

Henry has this theory that the Trevi Fountain being closed is a balance of sorts. We were lucky enough to see the Pope and by the law of the universe you can't have it all. So to redress that balance of luck, the Trevi Fountain was 'closed' when we went. I think it's fair and am happy to pay that balance. Henry just "thinks it's the Illuminati, maaaan, open your eyes, they're evury-whuurrr".

We nipped into the popular Il Gelato di San Crispino for an ice-cream night cap. It's just a few steps from the Trevi Fountain and very famous for their thick, sweet, exotic flavours. And like every gelataria in Rome it opens till half past midnight! I was more impressed that they have an outlet in Fiumicino airport. You buy all the gelato you want and it is packed in a box that keeps it cold for up to six hours, so if you're flying from Rome to anywhere in Europe it will last. So annoyed that we flew from Ciampiano airport and missed out on a chance to bring a slice of Rome back to London! Another reason not to fly budget airlines.

*takes out violin and starts playing an ode to melon and pear gelato*

Our final stop on our first night in Rome was a random one.

We ran into a Spar supermarket that looked deceptively minuscule from the outside. Inside was a different story, with a deli, expansive selection, at least 20 types of peach flavoured juice, and a whole section dedicated to ready made pasta.


I suspect no self-respecting Roman would actually admit to buying these but get over yourselves, how stupidly convenient is this? We bought the equivalent of a weekly shop so we could make breakfast at home...and then ate it all that night and the next morning.


Pastas, Yakult (I take it very seriously, like a religion, don't mess with the Ya-kult), prosecco, juices, yogurts, and meats.


Look at this animal, eating a whole slab of salami off the end of a knife. Yup, he belongs in ancient Rome.


We ended our first night with a rousing speech by Marcus Antonious.


Friends, Romans, countrymen, thank you for sticking around to read this first instalment of my Rome blog posts. More to come, after all Rome wasn't blogged about in a day.

x

4 comments:

  1. Eek, ryanair is just as bad as easyjet, do not recommend. Makes me think about FlyLo every time (BBC?)
    If you do end up going to Prague, try Czech Airlines! They're usually very good (or at least certainly better than the mentioned others!!) I also love their silly safety video, always makes me feel cozy, the dude is like the father of the airline mimicking a Brit voiceover. :-D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Czech Airlines, eh? I'll have to C-c-Czech it out! ;) x

      Delete
  2. What camera do you use to capture all the shots? They're beautiful!

    ReplyDelete