A week in Rome for a mother and two children.
by Fiver29 on August 22, 2012
The Colosseum was the first attraction we visited on our trip to Rome. When I booked the holiday with Expedia, I booked tickets for the Colosseum at the same time, and I'm so glad I did. The queue for entry was approximately an hour and a half long, much of the queue being out in the heat of the sun. Anyone who has bought tickets in advance can bypass the queue, go straight to the reservations window and go straight inside. Even though we were a bit early (12 noon rather than 12:30) there was no problem with going in early.For those who haven't bought tickets in advance there are plenty of people trying to sell you tours on the premise that they will get you in without waiting. This maybe true, but they are an awful lot more expensive than the normal price. I found out afterwards that children under 18 are free if they are EU citizens, but that was too late for us.Once in the Colosseum you are free to wander, presuming you haven't booked at guided tour. However, there are signs for 'Visitor Route', which I would recommend following in order to ensure you see all the parts of the Colosseum.For anyone who doesn't know, the Colosseum was a 'games' arena, where animals would be pitted against each other, gladiators fought to the death, or it was used for the persecution of Christians. The hypoguem is clear to see, this is the area under the Colosseum floor which was used to house the animals and the prisoners and gladiators. Not so clear to see is the seating area where patrons of the Colosseum would sit. Most of this area has been destroyed, and only the uprights from the sides of the concrete steps (seats) is visible, the wooden area at the top was completely destroyed by fire. Much of the stonework is missing, a lot of it tumbled during an earthquake and was used elsewhere in the city.Walking around the Colosseum is hot, there are only a few shaded areas, and these are generally quite full. There is a water fountain for filling bottles or drinking water, but there was a long queue here. However, this served to make the water taste even better when we got there.There were toilets, although pitifully few for the amount of tourists visiting, and directions weren't really necessary as you can find them by following your nose. I recommend mouth breathing when you get close though.Up the first set of steps is a small gallery showing fallen decorative masonry, such as stone heads, mosaics and bird frescos.Just outside the Colosseum is the Arch of Constantine, which fits in with the architecture in the area, but seems a bit of an odd structure just to be there by itself. Also you'll find a few souvenir stalls and ice-cream/drink stalls. At night there are a few street hawkers who can be quite persistent if you accidentally make eye contact. I really enjoyed the visit, despite the large number of people there, it was easy to imagine how the Colosseum would have looked and to imagine the baying crowds chanting during the fights.Definitely a must see if you are in Rome.
by Fiver29 on August 21, 2012
Overall I found the public transport system in Rome was extremely good. Our accommodation was just outside of the city centre, so it was necessary to get a bus and then the metro into the centre. The buses ran reasonably regularly, approximately one every 20 minutes (as there were two routes we could choose from), and the bus stopped at the metro station. Again the metro was a regular service, approximately every 5 minutes.Paying for the bus was somewhat different to England. Here we buy a ticket from the driver as we get on, and I was expecting something similar. However, when the first bus we used arrived, everyone crowded on, and there was no way to get to the driver. I did panic somewhat that we would find ourselves fined at the other end for travelling without a ticket, but when I finally spoke to the driver he was unconcerned, and just pointed to the metro and said to buy a ticket there. Tickets were either by the hour, daily, 3 daily or weekly.As the holiday wore on I noticed that only rarely did people put their tickets in the validation machine on the buses, and most people just jumped on and off without even getting tickets out of their wallets.The metro was slightly more payment conscious, there were turnstiles at every station. Although I did see a few people jumping the stiles. There were two types of metro trains, some clearly old trains which were covered in graffiti and had no air conditioning, just opening windows. And new trains which were clean and air conditioned. Begging was rife on the metro, either by pregnant women or children playing accordions. However, they weren't persistent beggars, they put their hand out and walked on at the shake of a head.WORD OF WARNING: I was almost pick pocketed at one of the stations, a boy of around 12/13 kept getting in my way as we were trying to board the train, I thought at first he was trying to get back to his parents as it was busy and people were pushing everywhere. However, as I looked downward he snatched his hand away, and I noticed my bag had been unzipped. Luckily my purse was still there, a few seconds later and it would have been gone. The boy jumped off the train just as the doors closed, and I saw him meeting up with a group of other boys his age.At the moment, part of the metro A line is under refurbishment, so when we went on our trip to the Vatican we had to leave the metro and use the buses which had been put on. This wasn't as easy as it sounds as only one bus was being used at any given time, so the queue was huge and as soon as the bus doors opened the world and his wife charged to get on. This meant we were packed like sardines for the first part of the journey, eventually as people got off it was possible to breathe again. The second problem was deciding where to get off, on the metro it was clear which station we needed to get off at, but I had no idea which bus stop to use. Eventually I decided that a lot of people would be visiting the Vatican, so decided to alight when the most people got off. Luckily that worked.
When I bought a map of Rome centre this basilica was barely visible on the edge of the map, however there was a stop on the metro of the same name, so I decided it must be of some importance, so we popped off the metro at the station and went looking.It turned out to be a two or three minute walk from the station, and it's clear to see why it has it's own stop.Whilst in no way as big as St.Peter's Basilica, it is a large church, one of the four biggest in the city I am led to believe.As with many of the churches in Rome, shorts and skimpy t-shirts are not acceptable dress, however, unlike at St.Peter's, the guard on the door didn't seem as concerned about it.The church has a huge nave, highly decorated as you can imagine, with an amazingly ornate ceiling, a mosaic approximately 25 meters high, marble, malachite and lapis lazuli galore.The central feature inside is the tomb of St Paul (one of the Apostles). You can walk down a few stairs (oddly named the Altars of Confession) and kneel in front of the sarcophagus. You can only see one of the narrow ends of the marble sarcophagus. Being non religious I presumed at first, that due to the name it was where the faithful made their confessions, it was only after reading the information that I realised it was a tomb.The interior of the church is beautiful, but the exterior is also lovely. There is a lush green area at the front, which might not seem like much, but it was the most greenery we saw during our entire week in Rome. In the centre is a statue of St Paul, and around the atrium there are the marble columns generally associated with all things Roman.Looking straight up from the the statue is an amazing mosaic which is difficult to describe in words, but I have added a photograph for you to see the beauty of it.Away from the religious aspects there is a small cafe and a gift shop. The cafe sells drinks and sandwiches, baguettes and pizza slices, as well as a selection of cakes. It is air conditioned, so a nice break from the heat. The gift shop sells a fairly standard range, ranging from fridge magnets to liqueurs.Entry of course is free, and visiting is highly recommended.
by Fiver29 on August 20, 2012
We visited the Vatican, or more specifically St Peter's Basilica, because it's expected, I mean who goes to Rome and doesn't see the Vatican? I'm not the religious type at all, so it wasn't Catholicism which took me there. When we eventually found it (you might think that's easy, but that's a tale for a story review) and walked though into St. Peter's Square, I almost turned back. The queue looked horrendous, and I thought we'd be there for hours. But after a minute or two I noticed that people were continually walking in the queue, so we decided to join the end. And sure enough, the queue which looked to be a least an hour long moved up quickly, and within 10 minutes we were at the scanners.Here you have to walk through an airport style scanner, and your bag has to be scanned by an x-ray machine. While were were walking through this queue system, the big screens came on and the pope was displayed, presumably giving a sermon. I thought it must have been recorded, but since then other people have mentioned that the pope is at the Vatican on a Wednesday, which was the day we went, and there were an awful lot of people in the square who stopped to watch.After security you can then move onto the basilica, but first there is another stop with guards refusing entry to people dressed in shorts, or women with shoulders on display. Luckily we knew about this and my daughter had a long dress in her bag, and we both took chiffon shawls which had been used for a wedding. Other people weren't so lucky and had to go back out and buy shawls/wraps from vendors near the Vatican.Next comes the wow factor. I defy anyone to be unimpressed by the interior of the basilica, lavish paintings and carvings cover just about every inch of the inside, and that is a vast area. There are tombs of several popes on display. Not being religious I cannot say why these particular popes were chosen for this honour, however I know at least one was a saint, Pius X, because there is a school named after him close to me.For some the extravagance with all the gold, marble and expensive woods will be somewhat of a travesty, I am one of those people, however I cannot help but be amazed at the detailed work of the artists.For those with faith, there was an area for prayer, and there was a mass being held during the time we were there.
Firstly the good things; the site as a whole was nice, the staff were friendly and couldn't do enough to help, their grasp of the English language was far superior than my grasp of Italian! The site consisted of bungalows (one of which we had hired), tented accommodation to hire and plots for people to pitch their own tents and caravans. There was also a restaurant, a bar and a supermarket all in the same area, a bar beside the pools and an ice-cream bar. For campers there was a toilet and shower block and laundry room in the centre of the park. Entertainment consisted of two pools; one just calf high at the deepest points, used by the kids for playing games and adults for sitting around the edges keeping cool. The second pool was approximately 5' deep and didn't allow inflatables, so ideal for swimming. There was a beach volleyball court, table tennis tables and games in the bar.The food from the restaurant (and the bar, which doubled as a breakfast area) was good, and the service was excellent. It was also possible to order takeaways from the bar during the evening, which were mainly pizzas cooked by the restaurant staff.Now to the bad bit, the accommodation. I knew it was a caravan (rather than a bungalow as it was called) so I wasn't expecting palatial accommodation, but I was taken aback at the smallness of it. It wasn't actually a full caravan, they were halved by a partition wall, meaning there was a bedroom and a bathroom and nothing else. It also meant that every movement from the neighbours rocked the caravan on our side too. Floor space was about as large as a reasonable sized coffee table, so dressing (especially since I went with teens of both genders) and moving around was like a military operation. The third bed was a bunk with a very wobbly ladder, thankfully my daughter was just young enough not to worry about it, because if I'd ever managed to get up there, I would have been terrified of getting down again.The shower was powerful, but ran from cold to burning hot, with about 15 seconds of reasonable temperature between changes, so showers took a long time, with the timing of rinsing hair, etc having to be very precise.All in all, I'd recommend it for students on their first holiday, or a couple, but for 3 it was just too cramped.
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