“Every one soon or late comes round by Rome.” -Robert Browning
Our first mission upon arriving in Rome was: find the bed & breakfast. Second: find food. The first was easy enough, though the bed & breakfast wasn’t really a bed & breakfast. It had a bed & some snacks, coffee & juice there that were very breakfast-like. To be more accurate, it was a 2-bedroom apartment, right there in the city & with a pretty nice view. Which is okay.
As we checked in, the owner informed us that a French couple was staying in the other room & that we’d likely see them during our 3-night stay. Whatever. No big deal.
He & Olivier chatted for a moment while I went to the window to check out the view again. Only… I couldn’t see a damn thing, aside from an enormous cloud of stinking smoke that had suddenly blocked out the sunlight. I made an announcement about Rome burning because, you know… it’s not something I get to do everyday. Everyone rushed to the windows, quickly closing any that were open. We were up on the 8th floor, unable to see exactly what was on fire. We could smell burning plastic. We heard cracking & snapping. Somewhere behind the smoke, we could see the flicker of huge flames.
“This is not normal,” our host said. “There is a little market below. They sell fruit, vegetables… things like that. So, don’t worry. Fire is not a usual thing.”
He shook our hands. He wished us a pleasant stay, then left us to enjoy the wafting toxic smoke. We didn’t know what else to do, so we said, “Eh. Fuck it.” We brought our luggage up from the car. We freshened up, then headed down to the street to join the onlookers & fire trucks.
We took a gander at the damage, which looked to be mostly just one little vendor booth, not the entire market. No one was hurt, aside from some poor salesman’s business. Deciding gawking really isn’t much fun, we embarked on our quest for pizza & wine.
Bottle of red in hand, we found a pizzeria & went inside. We gazed at all of the pizzas behind the glass, all available by the slice. We asked for two of everything. Evidently, this is not normal. The girl behind the counter gave us some weird looks & asked us if we were sure. “TWO? Of EVERYTHING?”
We took our two of everything & our bottle of wine back up to the room, which still reeked of burning plastic. Toward the end of our gluttony, the roommates arrived. Luckily, another couple around our age who didn’t seem to be annoying or too insane.
In the morning, we went straight to the Colosseum because you know, that’s the shit you have to see in Rome. When you step out of the métro & look up at it, it knocks your jaw right open & leaves you feeling very small & very new because compared to something so enormous & old, you are.
The girl at the entrance couldn’t be bothered to use words or eye contact to communicate with us. Instead, she relied on eye rolling & pointing. What she pointed at, we couldn’t say. We walked in the direction she pointed us toward. We found only more tourists, bumbling around, wondering how to get inside.
After a few moments, we were approached by an Italian woman who said she was a tour guide. For 25 Euros each, we could get tickets, plus a guided tour of the Colosseum, Forum & Palatine Hill. Okay… sure. Why the hell not.
She handed us over to another lady & we thought we’d be able to go in, but we didn’t. We had to wait for them to sucker at least 6 more people. So we stood around with another couple, waiting. We waited for over half an hour before we threatened to try to find tickets & go inside on our own. Tour guide relented & said we’d start the tour, but what she actually did was stall for time while her partner frantically cornered tourists to make her sales pitch.
A few minutes later, we were handed over to yet another person, an American girl, who gave us a brief & unremarkable tour of the Colosseum. Not to say that it isn’t impressive – it really is. The guided tour just sucked.
Afterward, we ran amok on our own, making our way all the way around, before meeting the rest of the group outside for our tour of the Forum.
Of course, we were handed off to yet another tour guide, a British guy who at least had the decency to use sarcasm & humor during the tour. However, his tour through the Forum & up the Palatine Hill was rather half-assed. After it ended, Olivier & I spent another 2 or 3 hours wandering among the ruins, taking pictures & eating shit repeatedly from stumbling along all of the worn & uneven stones along what used to be streets.
It was around 3 or 4pm when we realized we’d been geeking out so hard that we’d forgotten to eat. We quickly made our way to the Hard Rock Cafe because we just happen to really, really like their food.
After we’d stuffed ourselves like fat bastards, we went on a bit of a walking tour & encountered the horrific & chaotic crowd at the Trevi Fountain. The clusterfuck made it nigh impossible to get near the fountain & my disdain of crowds made the thought of any attempt unbearable.
The legend is that one must leave a coin in the fountain to guarantee they’ll return to Rome again one day. I didn’t leave a coin, so perhaps I won’t be back.
If you believe in that kind of thing.