Rome – All Roads Lead To Roma

We are up.

We get all our gear together, and have some breakfast.

There is this couple that emerge from the depths of the other room at the place we are staying. The moment they open their mouths, my ears are pricked, “Where are you two from?”
“Mackay”
“Yeah rightio”
“And you?”
“Kalgoorlie”
“Oh yeah. Mining?”, its always good to know that someone actually knows where we’re from.We get chatting with them. Its just cool to hear another Aussie voice again. They’re going the opposite way to us. From what we hear, most people go the way they are going. Top to bottom.

We grab our gear and are headed to Rome.

Amalfi was really a pit stop. Not to say we didn’t want to go to Amalfi, but we knew we weren’t going to spend a lot of time there.

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We reach our bus stop, and the traffic is going gangbusters. I was impressed by the bus drivers from yesterday, but I am equally as impressed with the drivers here. They all seem to know their vehicles so well, and hardly leave enough room for people to stand between the two busses.

We pile onto the bus, and we are pretty impressed.

Its big and green, which is to be expected when Bec books anything, but the seats are big and comfy, it has good internet and power points. We have hit the jackpot. The train we were on, on our way to Amalfi didn’t have power points, but the bus does?

Go figure.

I get cracking back into the blogging while we take the multiple hour journey to Rome. The cool thing with busses is that they will rock up, you chuck your bags in the cargo hold, tell the guy who you are, and about 10 mins later, everyone is one, and you are on your way again. Its so good. I mean, it obviously takes longer to get the places you want to go, but still, I have grown fond of bus travel, surprisingly.

We drive along, and again, the landscape is as gorgeous, as it is dramatic. The terracotta rooftops are like small seas among oceans of greenery, nestled under the shadow of the mountains. Its a truly stunning countryside.

We spend the next few hours on the bus, drifting in and out of sleep, reading, blogging and chatting with each other.

I was expecting Rome to be a lot bigger than it is. Being that its often mentioned, “New York, Paris, Rome”, I expected Rome to be well above the 10 million people mark. Turns out that it is only around 6 million people in Rome. I guess the amount of tourists in the city makes up for the apparent lack of population compared to it’s other world famous counterparts.

We get off the bus, collect our gear and begin our half hour journey to our hostel. Again, we had left our run a little late for Couchsurfing. I either found nudists (as is to be expected with CS), or a sea of hosts who downright refuse to host couples, or men. Pretty much, they’re just looking to get laid.

…Italians…

Cheeky bastards.

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We walk through the streets, getting increasingly quieter until we arrive at our accommodation Its not super quiet, but we are out of the city centre, which kinda works in our favour. The whole feel of the place is brilliant. The apartments tower over you, and the streets are lined with trees (at least in this area of town). It feels alive and fresh, and for a city with a history as rich as Rome’s, it still feels vibrantly youthful, with an underlying sense of wisdom about the city.

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We find out that we arrived in Rome on the first day of spring. Pretty good way to start our ’17 spring. We dump our gear at the hostel and make our way into the city.

We are a half hour walk out of the city, but we have grown accustomed to talking a nice stroll through new suburbs, with the intent of getting the right feel for a place, especially as strangers in a foreign land. We were given a few pointers by the guy manning the desk, so we decide to start at the North-East of the city, and follow one of the iconic roads, closer to the heart of Rome, then head back out to the Spanish Steps. This is where there are the free walking tours at 4 pm, so we have some time to see a bit of Rome, first.

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We’ve now done the free walking tours in Bulgaria, twice, Athens, and now Rome.

I don’t know why we didn’t bother to do any before getting to Europe. Its a brilliant idea, and you get a pretty good broad look at the city. We have been using them to get a good feel for the city, then to heading to the places that we really want to follow up on and see more of. I do rate it, personally.

We reach the top of this winding road, and we decide that it is about time to get a coffee. We spot this one joint which looks pretty good, so we head up to the bar, and ask the guy, “How much for two cappuccinos?”.
“2 euro”
“2 euro?”
“2 euro”
“Can we have 2 cappuccinos, please?”, I wanted to order 5, for that price, but my bowels probably wouldn’t agree with me, and I doubt my sleeping patterns would be much better. He just turns around like it’s nothing and get stuck into it. Bec and I look at each other, and exchange the “Wow. That’s awesome!” look with each other, and begin to take in the beauty of the place around us. The barista finishes up, places the coffees in front of us, and then turns to walk away.

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We have no idea what to do now.

We are holding the money, and not trying to hide the fact, but he doesn’t seem to want it. So, we awkwardly stare at each other, looking for signs from the other person’s eyes, as to hints for what we should do now. Neither of us give the other person anything of value. A slight head twitch and a raise of the eyebrows suggested to Bec that I didn’t know what was happening right now.

Picking up on the confusion, the barista comes back over, “You have to pay over here”, pointing to a guy no less than a meter away from us, hiding on the other side of the pillar.
“Right. Thanks mate”.
Still unsure of whether it really is just 1 euro each, Bec has kept her purse open, as we give the bloke the two toned coin. The guy dropped the coin into the till and closed it promptly.

That was that.

Coffees, in hand for 2 euro.

Thats pretty bloody good.

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We follow the winding road toward the city, dropping into the stores that catch our eye, and sizing up cafes and restaurants along the strip. Well established trees loom over the roads, as people cycle, helmet-less along the street. Its got this calming air about the place, mixed with this hustle, but not in a sense of desperation, like, it doesn’t feel like people aren’t running around in a desperate bid to get further in life, but its not just a laid-back country town vibe either.

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We realise that we are only a few blocks from the Spanish Steps, so Bec assumes the role as chief navigator, and leads us toward the obelisk at the end of the road. We get there, and every step is utterly loaded with people. Literally one of the most busy tourist spots I have ever seen. We head over to the balcony, and peer down the steps at all the people gathered below.

We go to start walking down, and we spot this painter, showcasing his work to the passersby. We wouldn’t mind taking home an oil painting for ourselves. Something to remember the trip by, and something that is largely timeless. He is more than prompt in his effort to help us find a suitable piece that we like, and he even gets his son to act as his human easel, loading him with painting after painting that we stared at for anything longer than 2 seconds.

Before we knew it, the kid was holding 3 canvasses, nearly as big as he was, totally unfazed. You can tell this isn’t his first day at the rodeo.

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We narrow it down to two paintings that we like. Bec has her heart set on this tuscan scene of an old stone cottage, but I’m not quite sold. We deliberate on the issue for a while, and you can see this merchant mate of ours, fretting at the thought of not making a sale, the longer we deliberated between each other.
“Listen, I do like it, but I also think to myself, ‘Are you going to love it in 5 or 10 years time?’”, I ask Bec.
“Hmmm… That is a good question to ask hey…”
I didn’t mind if Bec wanted to get it. This painting would be more her purchase, than mine, but for 150 euros on a budget like ours, it had to be something that she’d look back at and love for years and years later. Regardless of whether I really was in love with it, or not, I know I’d get satisfaction out of knowing that she loves it and the memories that it conjures up, every time she sees it.
“I don’t think so hey…” she said without shifting her gaze from the canvas.
“Do you wanna just thinking about it?”, I ask her.
“Yeah. Lets do that”
“Alright mate. We’re gonna leave the paintings for now”
“But why?”, he asks as he begins to list a plethora of reasons as to why we shouldn’t be leaving the purchase behind, telling us that he is a painting professor, shows us the certificate of authenticity on the back of the canvas, and his degree behind him.

I have no doubt that he was a good painter, but the simple fact is that his style wasn’t going to be the painting that had us hooked for years to come.

We thanked him for his time, and made our way over to the balcony, to peer over the steps again. We wander across to the other artists to see if anything catches our eye. I turn around to see if our denial has the painter on the other side of the steps watching us.

…and he is.

…like a hawk.

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I have a chuckle and point it out to Bec, as we make our way down to the steps. Its beginning to come onto 4pm, so we head down to the fountain at the foot of the Spanish Steps. We hang around, and nothing seems to happen. We ask a few groups, but none of them are the groups we are after. All the website said was to meet at the Spanish Steps. Nothing else, but it was apparent that nothing was here either. We hang around till past 4:30, and then we decide that we’ll just do our own tour.

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We spent the remainder of the afternoon and evening wandering the streets of Rome, taking in everything that it’s over-rich history has to offer. Buskers slowly hum away to the sounds of passing shoes clopping on the surface of the cobble stones with the still stiff afternoon sun casting a slightly more golden light through the street.

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Stalls you should expect to see at the likes of markets, are perched at the end of pedestrian thoroughfares, roasting nuts on hot coals which look more like a home made barbecue than anything else.

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Kids run around, playing with dog of people they don’t seem to know, but the dogs know the shrills of joy all too well, and play along like it’s second nature.

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Cafe’s set their tables in front of the store front, giving a clear view to the patrons of the square that the cafe faces, and all the life and atmosphere it creates.

Rome has got it’s own thing going on, and its infectious. I do have to say, that I really have loved being in Rome so far. Usually crowds really put me off certain places, but the inconvenience of rubbing shoulders with more people than you could imagine as been shrouded in the awe and atmosphere that Rome embodies.

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All of my yes.

We wander and wander until we find a little bookshop, which specifically stated that they have english titles.

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This is a huge blessing. We have both finished our books, and are in need of new reading material. We head in, and are followed by this lady and her dog. I am astounded that everywhere you go in Italy, dogs are a part of life, and are not just welcomed, but accommodated by all the businesses, everywhere you go. Its really awesome to see.

We flick through title after title in the sections that grab each of our attentions.

I am looking for a book by Gary Vaynerchuck. He’s a social media guru, and I wanna get my head around SM a lot more. But, in my quest to find a book on Social Media, I ended up stumbling across a book called “Never Split The Difference”. Its a book on negotiation, written by Chris Voss, the FBI’s top hostage negotiator for well over a decade. This was going to be my pick, plus they didn’t have the book I was after anyway.

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We dip into the supermarket, and pick up some ingredients for dinner. Bec is all over it, and does this whole chilli, basil, prosciutto and parmesan pasta. I am a huge fan of a good pasta, so I in no way object. We get back to the hostel, and decide that we are going to watch Brooklyn 99, while we have dinner.

I set up the laptop, Bec starts on dinner and we have this whole little dinner party-thing in the middle of the hostel dining room.

100% don’t even feel bad.

The pasta is super fricken hot, though. Bec didn’t want to waste the chilli we got, so she decided to use it all. This meant that it was a bloody hot pasta.

We enjoy, and then endure dinner, and head to bed for another attempt at this tour tomorrow.

Come back for the next story,

Billy

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