On the second day, I woke up having had less sleep than desired due to our incompetence navigating the air-con unit’s controls the night before. Thankfully I didn’t feel too tired. I assume it was due to my excitement for exploring the City for the second day. Today we had planned to explore the central area of the City using a walking tour we had concocted the night before. It included many of the main attractions including the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and of course, a quick stop off at the official Ferrari store. The first location of the day was the Pantheon, which obviously was closed when we arrived… luckily it reopened in around an hour. So we spent the time exploring the local piazzas and basilicas until we could return and enter the Pantheon (which is free, so make sure you don’t miss out on the opportunity). Purely from an engineering perspective, the Pantheon is breathtaking. At two thousand years old, it’s Rome’s most well-preserved building. The 43-metre dome is an astonishing achievement when you consider its extraordinary age.
The Pantheon was undoubtedly the most memorable landmark of the day, mainly due to its colossal size. If you were short on time, the Spanish steps would be the landmark I’d miss out (however they are located within an 8-minute walk of the Trevi Fountain). This might be due to my ignorance, but fountains are generally more interesting than stairs. As stairs go, the Spanish steps are very pretty, but there’s not really anything at the top worth using them for. It’s a far nicer area to visit in the evening when the crowds have died down, and you can appreciate the area aesthetically without the hordes of tourists. The Trevi Fountain, located just south of the Spanish Steps, is Rome’s most famous fountain and for good reason. The baroque marble architecture pouring with turquoise water was simply stunning. Definitely worth visiting. I did expect the surrounding area to be as grand as the ornate facade of the fountain, yet it was more like the distressed building fronts we had become used to in Rome. In some ways, this was a little disappointing; however, the tired framing did make the fountain look magnificent.
That evening, we had a table reserved in a friend’s newly opened restaurant. Franky’s is located just south of the Testaccio region of the City, which was a 45 min walk from our hotel. After already walking 14km that day around the centre of Rome, we didn’t particularly fancy an extra 7km to get there and back. However, with the Covid-19 situation, we wanted to be as responsible as possible; therefore, we didn’t want to use public transport. Rome had a solution. Throughout our time in the City, we had been continuously seeing electric scooters whizzing around the cobbled streets. The child in me really wanted to have a go. They work in a similar way to the “Boris bikes” back home in London, yet do not have to be returned to a bike station. This is a far more convenient system for the rider yet it does mean the City was littered with the things. We found some scooters near our hotel, quickly set up our online accounts, and were off to the restaurant. When the Romans built Rome (and the rest of Europe), I don’t think they had 5-inch wheels in mind whilst building their infrastructure. For horses, I’m sure cobbles are great, and aesthetically they’re far prettier than tarmac, but as my eyeballs were being rattled around in their sockets, I wasn’t such a fan. It’s always best to stick to the road to avoid pedestrians, but it was quiet, and there’s only so long you can withstand your scooter registering on the Richter scale before you’ve had enough.
As I mentioned in part 2 of the Rome blog, eating like a local is an essential element of travelling and tonight we had planned to do just that. Obviously, when thinking of Italian food, the go-to’s are pizza and pasta. Being completely honest with you, that’s all we knew about Italian cuisine, and we needed to expand our knowledge. Therefore, we were delighted when we discovered that Franky’s only serves Chicken and Egg-based dishes and to make the whole experience even more authentic, the menu was in Italian only. We were utterly hopeless with that, but thankfully Andrea, the owner, explained the menu and chose for us at our request. It was marvellous! I had an egg-based dish with a delicious asparagus sauce, and Ed had a chicken dish which featured a grape sorbet! Two foods I would have never have put together. The dishes’ presentation exceeded the price tag by a mile, and I finished the meal off with the most delicious tiramisu I have ever had. Overall, it was one of our favourite experiences of the trip. It was a truly authentic Italian experience, eating Italian food surrounded by Italian people. If you’re ever in Rome, make sure to check Franky’s out.
Our final day…
The Vatican was a place I knew very little about, and we didn’t have too much time to spend there as our flight was departing that evening. We were up early so we could fit as much of Rome into our final day as possible. We hired bikes (which very handily use the same system as the scooters) and set off down the picturesque cycle track that runs along the Tiber. Any James Bond fans will recognise this from the car chase in Spectre, featuring Bond’s Aston Martin DB10. Our experience was a little more peaceful as we were joined only by a handful of Italian commuters as apposed to a six-foot-five bond villain.
Ed had booked our access to the Vatican, which enabled us to skip the queues. However, as we had arrived early in the morning, there were no queues, rendering our booking pointless. Climbing Michelangelo’s masterpiece, all 551 steps to the very top of St Peters Basilica, was the main attraction for me. This can be done using a lift (for an extra two euros) which reduces the step count to 320; however, we fancied the challenge. One small issue we faced was it was 34 degrees; furthermore, the Vatican does not allow shorts… our legs could be described as moist. However, after viewing the mosaics on the 42-metre wide dome’s interior level, we climbed on. The view from the top was well worth the eight euros it had cost us both. I highly recommend pencilling this into your itinerary if you ever visit. We didn’t have time to experience the Vatican museums, but I had achieved the climb, and we wanted to have one last stroll through the City before we had to make our way to the airport. So with our trousers sticking to our legs, we left the Vatican behind.
That evening, lounging around at the airport, we had a chance to reflect on the past few days. I had created the itinerary on the flight over to Rome, having had no prior knowledge of the City, and we had achieved everything we had desired. We’d been transported to the age of the Romans touring the Colosseum, wandered the bustling cobbled streets, climbed hills and Domes to reach stunning vistas, dined like locals and been wholly engrossed by the Eternal City. Planning a trip months in advance obviously has its advantages. However, we spontaneously embraced an opportunity, which in its own right gives you buckets full of excitement and we’d successfully taken on Rome.