Hello everyone! This week’s post is very late, almost two months! I decided to postpone a week’s upload in January so I could post a sort-of travel journal instead, but unfortunately I am very lazy and after falling out of the habit of blogging, I just couldn’t seem to get myself back into the swing again. Fast forward to today and I decided enough was enough, I am not prepared to let this slip – so here I am with an account of my weekend visit to Rome as part of my Classical Civilisation studies. I hope you enjoy, and I’ll be back soon with more content. 🙂
Day 1 – Friday 25th January:
Thankfully my very sensible classics teacher booked no early morning flights or activities that require ridiculous wake up times, so I arrived at our meeting point not exactly awake, but no less tired than any other usual school day. Our journey began with twenty minutes of walking up and down the hill as we tried to hail our coach which seemed always to be travelling in the opposite direction to us, unable to find a suitable place to stop. My pessimistic classmate decided that the trip was doomed from this point on and in order to prepare for inevitable failure changed his phone lock screen to a sheep proclaiming ‘you will fail’. Well we’ve made it to Rome, so we haven’t failed yet, although I shan’t speak too soon – there are still 3 days left. I love our quirks.
Security and the wait in the airport was reasonably uneventful despite my constant fear that something illegal will be found in my bag even though I packed it with nothing illegal. Logic. We played ‘who am I’ and card games for a few hours, before realising our gate was about to close because we’d completely lost any sense of time. We ran – a challenge for some – and made it.
Our coach to the hotel dropped us about a kilometre away which meant we had to walk through central Rome for a bit, which I didn’t mind because it allowed me go get used to the layout and suss the city out. We landed during a most stunning sunset, but by the time we left the airport it was already dark so I haven’t really been able to get a feel for the city yet. What I can say from walking the streets and side streets getting to the hotel and restaurant is that I love how the little shops are all set into the walls, like doorways to some other world slotted into the side of a building. They look so ordinary from the outside, but inside each has a unique character.
Several people have already approached us selling various items. At dinner a man burst into the restaurant playing the accordion. He was asked to leave of course. Nonetheless, we enjoyed his unexpected music for the short time it was there. The atmosphere here does not feel at all threatening or dangerous (unlike parts of London once the sun has set). I will not pretend I have an opinion on the city yet; I’m excited to explore tomorrow and experience Rome in all it’s glory. Not only that, but experience Rome with my friends: travelling has always been a marker in my life and friendships.
Day 2 – Saturday 26th January:
Without recounting each visit in its entirety, here’s a list of all the sites that I can recall we’ve seen today: the Mouth of Truth, the Colosseum, the Arch of Constantine, the Roman Forum, the pantheon, the Piazza Navona, the Trevi fountain, the forum of Augustus, and the Circus Maximus. We really have seen a lot and yet I did not feel rushed at all; in fact we even had a few hours of free time and lazing around. I always find that when I’m abroad/ discovering a new place time doesn’t follow the same rules. All these sites are amazing, they really are. The Trevi fountain was the most busy – perhaps overwhelmingly so – yet I still enjoyed it. I’m in love with the fact that you can be walking along a street, a normal, functioning street, and then suddenly – BAM: Roman ruin! They fit perfectly into the city, but I almost feel like they shouldn’t. In my head they should be apart; kept separate. They’re not, of course, and it’s just amazing.
In other news I have discovered the joy of gelato and I don’t think my life will ever be the same. I’m seriously considering living entirely on gelato for the remainder of this trip and have made it my mission to try as many flavours as possible. Today I have tried strawberry, Nutella, hazelnut, banana, vanilla, mint choc chip, pistachio, caramel, and coconut. You may be thinking that that is quite a lot of gelato and you would be absolutely correct – I feel quite sick. It’s worth it though!
The trees in Rome have caught my attention. For one, there’s quite a lot of them, and not just in parks like in London. Beyond that they are incredibly tall and take captivating shapes with their leaves/ pines forming the perfect cone or sitting neatly in only the very top branches in the shape of an umbrella. I’m wondering if they are native to Rome – perhaps they were imported to allow you to see the impressive architecture unobstructed? I will have to look into it.
The Colosseum was my favourite building we saw today. Basic, I know. We had a really knowledgeable guide who gave us a great tour of all the sites. You can see real parallels between how and where Romans organised their entertainment and how we do nowadays. I also learnt that Mussolini had once planned to build a church inside the colloseum. I’m glad he didn’t. Within the arches of the colloseum you can see clearly the effects of pollution between the contrast in the areas of the arches that have been cleaned and those that have not, showing how a building can tell you unexpected things and knowledge can be found in unexpected places. The detail which has been upheld in this building makes me wonder if any of our modern buildings will hold up in years to come.
In the Piazza Navona we had the joy of experiencing a gorgeous sunset – a perfect end to our daytime. And now, to do in Rome as the Romans do, I am going to sleep because I’m pretty sure the Romans sleep.
Day 3 – Sunday 27th January:
Today, on our trip to Rome, we went to Spain. Well, the Spanish steps at least which were once used in order to enlist unwitting visitors into the Spanish army (a hilarious but ingenious trickery). In addition we explored the Ara Pacis and it’s history along with a few other sites we came across on our travels.
From the top of the Spanish steps it certainly struck me how much flatter Rome was than London, just as it was in Paris, but even more so here. It seems that in New York and London we decided that the sky was the only place left to build. As a lover of a good view I was very happy that I could still see into the distance from the height of the steps.
In further comparison to London, Rome feels much safer – particularly at night, as I mentioned earlier – and the metro here is a much more pleasant experience than the tube. I’m glad to have used the metro because I never feel like I’ve truly visited a city until I’ve utilised their public transport. What I’m not mad about is the huge presence of armed police, having never been a fan of guns; they are deeply unsettling, although I guess that’s the point. To look on the bright side, their funny tasselled hats add a touch of personality to their uniform.
From observing the ruins we have visited, I have come to appreciate better the patience and skill that archaeologists must posses in order to not only excavate, but also work out how to reconstruct and fill in the gaps of Roman architecture. This stands out particularly at the Ara Pacis, where much of the original altar is missing, but the original designs have been carefully replicated; they are exquisite! Speaking of the Ara Pacis, both it and the Colosseum were used (or almost used) as propaganda tools for Mussolini, which I didn’t know.
Later in the day, we decided to venture back to the Circus Maximus to relax and run around a bit. With the UN flag flying high overheard I could not help but smile and take a moment to consider how connected the world is, both globally and across centuries. Thousands of years ago citizens gathered in the very spot I was standing to watch chariot races – a marvel known to us only in cinema – and thousands of miles away is the UN headquarters (where I was just a few months ago). I’m not sure what that says exactly, but being in a foreign country always changes my mood and my thinking patterns, and I end up contemplating everything on a deeper level. To be honest I welcome the change.
Day 4 – Monday 28th January:
Today was our final day in Rome, and we spent most of it in the airport. The atmosphere among the group was melancholy – we had become much closer friends on this trip, being around each other all day and most of the night, and none of us particularly love the normal routine of school. Hopefully it won’t be too difficult to find our footing again once we return to our classes.
Since I am gluten intolerant, I had been avoiding gluten throughout the duration of the trip, but this morning, at the urging of my peers, I decided to deal with the consequences later – it’s a problem for future me – and eat some pastries. Wow. They are amazing. The croissants are way better than any I tasted in France. They’re covered in some sort of heavenly honey glaze and they are so soft and fluffy. Of course, my trip would not have been complete without trying just a few more flavours of gelato, and so it came to be that, at seven thirty on a Sunday morning, a group of six British students wandered around the base of the colosseum looking for an open gelato bar. We found one. I have now tried over twenty flavours including coffee and melon (this morning’s choice). I regret nothing.
After having been in Rome, I have finally been able to pick up the sounds of the Italian language which I have always had trouble with in the past, despite my mum’s flair for it. This has been a truly incredible sojourn, with some incredible people. I will never forget what I have seen and the memories I have made here. Hopefully I will be able to return one day and see even more! Disappointingly we didn’t get to visit the Vatican or many art centres, but I’m not complaining – it just gives me an excuse to come again. As my final comment, I just want to say that although this city is wonderful and has of course been instrumental in my enjoyment of this trip, what has been even more important is the company I have travelled with. Without my friends it just wouldn’t have been the same, so when travelling make sure you pick somewhere you want to go, but also make sure you choose the right company for you.
Thank you for reading and I hope this has inspired you to travel and learn! Comment below if you have any experiences from Rome, and where you would like to visit next.
Keep Smiling! X