Thanks to the… challenge 2020 has been for all of us, I hadn’t taken a “proper” holiday this year. There had been a few of the usual trips to the Lake District including the monotonous drive up from London, making sure to avoid the M6 toll, saving those vital extra pennies. But like most people, I hadn’t managed to get out of the country. Exploring your homeland is fantastic, and I’d argue an important thing for everyone to do, yet it always surprises me how little so many people have seen of their own country. However, not much beats the excitement of international travel, getting to experience entirely different cultures, managing unfamiliar climates, and encountering celebrated architectural styles so different from our own.
Due to the stresses of this year, my partner and I decided it was about time we treat ourselves to a holiday, so feeling spontaneous we hunted for Gatwick departures for that next evening. After getting excited multiple times over various destinations then immediately discovering (due to our lack of preparation) those countries would require isolation on return, we came across one destination that would fit the bill. Rome.
Fast forward to the next evening, and we were landing at Fiumicino airport. We were excited and ready to explore Rome, yet it was late, we were tired, and still had a train journey to go before arriving at our city centre hotel. Obviously, this chapter of the journey decided it was not going to run as smoothly as we’d hoped. Naturally, I would just assume it was us being British and incompetent in our attempt to use the ticket machine, however from the choice of language coming out of an Italians mouth (whilst ramming his fingers into the machine adjacent to me) I’m assuming it was not. After a quick discussion with a very helpful lady at the information kiosk, we’d managed to buy some tickets. We ended up on a train (still unknowing if it was the correct one) which had a somewhat disappointing interior for our first experience of Italy. We had definitely booked onto the cheaper train as the interior looked more like a bus-cum-soft play with its multicoloured wipe down seat covers, all finished off with the mandatory graffiti (more to come on that later). Around an hour later the train pulled in to Stazione Termini, the main central station in Rome. This didn’t exactly have the grandeur some central stations back at home possess, but I guess I’m pretty spoiled with Victorian marvels like St Pancras. The only thing between our hotel and us was a short walk through the night. It was a Friday, yet the streets were empty. Unfortunately, the litter and mindless vandalism made the area feel a little neglected – not quite the bustling beauty of a city I had been expecting to see from Rome.
The next morning we woke to a glorious sunny day. We immediately opened our patio doors and were greeted by a panoramic view over the sun-baked roofs of Rome, along with the pièce de résistance – the Colosseum! Considering we had booked our flights the night before we obviously didn’t have a great deal of time to choose a hotel. Our time in Rome was limited, so we hadn’t planned on spending much time in our accommodation. We just wanted something cheap and in a central location to explore Rome from the doorstep, minimising our travel time (and cost). The hotel we chose absolutely delivered. When booking the hotel we saw some rooms featured balconies, so we sent the hotel a message politely asking if we could be so lucky. On arrival, we were given our key to room 72, on the top floor. Promising. This had the finest balcony of the entire hotel, complete with patio set and deck chairs. The hotel also features a rooftop bar with almost 360-degree views over Rome for anyone to enjoy. A centrally located hotel, with balcony and rooftop bar, for three nights for less than 200 euros. I was happy with that.
The Colosseum was the top attraction we wanted to experience whilst on our extended weekend in Rome. Therefore, we had decided to do this on the morning of day one. There are several ways of seeing the Colosseum. Have a pleasant stroll around the outside of the elliptical masterpiece – do this early in the morning with the sun glowing amber on the facade, or at night to see the ancient amphitheatre of death illuminated. By doing this, you can avoid the busy periods and best of all – this is free. Alternatively, pay for entry into the Colosseum and join the rest of the tourists bumbling about as you try to read your twenty-seventh information board from over a Germans shoulder. The third option is to book a tour. You’ve probably guessed that I wouldn’t recommend just paying for entry. The absolute best way to experience the Colosseum is to book a tour. We met our tour guide Marcius under the Arch of Constantine (which was a beautiful structure in its own right). He colourfully greeted us in his flamboyant Italian way and handed us our luminous yellow headsets, just to make sure it was painfully obvious that we weren’t locals. Our tour began. Marcius told us the honest history behind the arena (which is apparently a Latin term for sand). It definitely did not host the Chuckle Brothers (RIP) in panto at Christmas. It was more a gigantic crater of slaughter.
Marcius unquestionably brought the Colosseum to life, which as it turns out, mostly featured death. He told us incredible stories ranging from power-mad Roman emperors to Mussolini attempting, very poorly, to enhance the Colosseum to impress Hitler (he was definitely compensating). The tour also featured Palatine Hill, the supposed location where Romulus killed Remus and went on to found Rome. Our three-hour tour came to an end in the Roman Forum as Marcius superbly concluded our morning. He left us with a philosophical message highlighting the importance of historical and cultural education, enabling society to learn and grow. A fantastic introduction to our weekend in Rome.
If you fancy a trip to Rome and like the sound of our Hotel and the Colosseum Tour you can find links below!