My first night in the eternal city Rome: walking down Via Del Corso at sunset and visiting the Trevi Fountain.
I arrived in Rome at 4:30 in the afternoon for a three day mini-trip to this city. It worked out with flights and fares and my tax refund that I could do this on the relatively cheap. The patients pants I’d put at the Marrakesh airport remained on through my Alitalia flight delay in Casablanca and painful security check upon entry at the Rome airport. About 150 passengers were filtered through one metal detector and scanner. I was a little proud that I think I was the only one that the thing didn’t beep for. After getting my passport stamped for a country I’ve never been to and clearing customs, I stopped at the tourist office for a map and the cash machine for some expensive Euros.
I’d seen a sign for a shuttle bus to Termini train station, which was a little cheaper than the train. I figured that’d be a good way to get a sense of the city on my way in and my hotel was near the train station. It was a good move, I boarded the shuttle bus at Terminal three just before departure. I saw the city go from modern and cheap (I actually saw a home depot like shopping center on the outskirts) to classical and sophisticated as we got closer to the center. The bus ride was long because of crazy traffic jams of many tiny cars, but thankfully for my now very tired body, the Hotel Alessandero Palace (really a Youth Hostel) was only 5 minutes walk in a nice neighborhood of hotels.
It’s a good place to stay for 30 bucks a night. I have a bunk in a four bed female dorm but as of 10:30 p.m. when I’m writing this, I’m the only one, so I have my own room. When I arrived, I couldn’t figure out how to turn on the lights, so I showered in the dark and changed for my own little orientation walk through Rome. I walked towards the train station and metro stop, accidentally bought 6 tickets that expire in 75 minutes (doh!) and got off at the stop for Piazza di Popolo (the map from the tourist office is so necessary).
B told me that this was a good walk to get introduced to the city so I was going to do that and get some dinner, then head back to the hostel. I crossed the street after getting off the metro, but that didn’t feel right. I turned around and saw the square through ancient, ornate gates. The sun was setting so everything had a golden glow and it looked amazing. At that moment, I was very happy to be in Rome. I walked towards the plaza and then down Via Del Corso towards the Coliseum. I didn’t expect to make it to the Coliseum, but that gave me direction. Many tourists were out and the city felt a little like Barcelona’s Las Ramblas – busy with tourists and not too many locals. The sun had no turned the buildings pink and the evening settled in.
B had warned me that there were a lot of crap restaurants around the area and some good ones. I’d hoped to find one of the good ones and avoided those with hawkers and outdoor tables filled with Americans. There was a blue sign called “Othello” that called to me. I looked at the menu – all Italian – a good sign and went in. The host seated me immediately at a table for one – right next to some Americans – and handed me a menu in Italian and one in English. Damn.
I looked around and listened. There were well dressed foreigners and, thankfully, I heard some Italian. The waiter came and set down bread – I knew they charged for that so I didn’t have any – and I looked at the Italian menu, which was much more extensive than the English one. I ordered a Roman speciality – Cacio e Pepe – homemade noodles in cream sauce with pepper. It was good, not the greatest thing but good. I liked the spice of the pepper and the hearty sauce. The noodles felt a little underdone, so I give it about a B minus.
While sitting there, I realized that this was it, my last week of my Big Trip. And I smiled, what a great way to end it, in this city, somewhere I’d never been and with a little adventure. This finality felt different than the others, easier, not so desperate. I am ready to go home, but I like it here and am going to enjoy my last days as a traveler.
I was very tired from my long travel day but checked the map and saw that I was near the Trevi Fountain. I found it just off the Via Del Corso and it took my breath away. It really is that pretty. There’re too many tourists taking pictures, but it’s worth it. The sculptures rise to the sky and frame this big fountain in a small square. It’s lit up perfectly and looks organic and romantic. A young couple stopped me and asked if I could take there picture. I did and then they returned the favor. Seeing this wonderful sculpture reaffirmed my choice to be here, in Rome.
It was getting near 10 and thankfully Rome was still crowded. I took the metro back to the train station (one of my tix worked!) and got off at Termini, still a five minute walk to the hotel. I got a little afraid when I climbed stairs out of one station to another and saw a young man in sunglasses steal the wallet of an older man sitting on the stairs. A taxi driver directed me to a safe route back to my hotel and once out of the train station area, there were a lot of tourists and well-lit streets.
I write this entry very excited to sight see the city tomorrow. I am going to Ancient Rome – the Coliseum, the Pantheon, and the Forum. Then, tomorrow night I’ll find a great place for dinner and then Wednesday I’ll see the Spanish Steps at sunrise (IshnAllah) and the Vatican City after that. If I have energy on the last day, I’ll go to the Borghese Gallery (the only museum I plan to see). I have some articles to read on Rome too before I leave tomorrow so I may add as I go. Viva la Roma!