Rome – To Tour, Or Not To Tour

So the tour for yesterday was a flop.

We rocked up at 4pm, and nothing was there. We thought that we would make the most of a spare afternoon and get a broad look at the city, instead of doing nothing at the hostel. Buuuuuuuut, that plan fell through because when we rocked up, there was nobody there to lead the tour, so we just chilled and killed, and you can read yesterday’s story if you wanna read about that.

There is another tour at 9:30 am, so that is our goal.

Tour De Roma-1

We are up and on the metro, and this joint is absolutely packed. So much so, that it literally took us 3 trains before we were able to board. There simply was not enough room on the trains, and it was more of a lottery as to where the door would open, and who would be boarding first. I was actually standing there, taking a photo, and I didn’t realise that I was so close to the yellow line, so when the train passed us, I had the camera right up to my eye, taking a photo, so I didn’t see the mirror on the back of the train, headed straight for me.

It smacked me in the face with the train gaining speed.

It hurt less than I expected it to, but I was straight away met with a big “Oooooooo” from the rest of the bystanders at the station, and there was a lot of them. Not the way I was expecting to start the day.

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We bail off the bus, and we make our way to the Spanish Steps, with a good 10 mins to spare. Its certainly not as busy as it was yesterday, but there is still enough people there to have to play a bit of ‘Wheres Wally’ with the tour guide. We begin the look around, and wait, and wait, and wait, and we get nothing…

…again…

That includes running to the top of the stairs to see if there is our group up there and asking at least 3 groups of Italian high schoolers, if they are part of our walking tour. If I had a penny for every time one of those groups looked at me blank, I’d have 4 cents.

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We decide, you know what? As much as we want a tour, we don’t need a tour, so we say poohey to the tour and walk on our own accord. We’ve got our big boy pants on. We do the thing we usually do, and just start wandering, tasting, trying, touching and looking at what the city has to offer. We wander and talk and we reach this square after about 15 minutes of strolling through the cobbled streets of Rome.

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Its massive and there are these incredibly intricate statues atop the end of the walls. I mean, the detail and intricacy of these statues is utterly unreal. The level of craftsmanship in artists from centuries ago truly does baffle me. I don’t know how these guys really achieve what they achieve. Its actually amazing. Again, as with most of my Italian commentaries, there is a lot of life happening in one spot. Kids running amok, people having intense conversation, people making light conversation, dogs walking, both free and on a leash.

Tour De Roma-4

There is so much happening, and everyone just rolls with it.

As Bec and I do, we get talking about our futures and the things we admire in other couples that we want to emulate, and the way we want our lives to look. One thing that has been on our minds recently is the fact that we really don’t own anything. Either it is going to break or fall apart over time, or it is going to be inherited by our kids or family. The truth is, that either way, we really don’t own anything, so then what is the point of realising certain dreams?

This is where we began to talk about our desire to be able to have businesses where the profits largely go toward genuinely helping those who need it most. Like, there is this friend of Bec’s, who she has known since she was in high school, who has two kids. Both young, a boy and a girl. This lady’s little daughter has been admitted to hospital, and the family has now moved to Perth so that they can access the necessary treatment.

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This is a seriously scary thing at the moment for their family, and I honestly don’t know whether their daughter is going to actually make it or not. I can honestly say that I couldn’t even begin to imagine how utterly gut wrenching it would be for the parents to be in a position where they might have to come to grips with the fact that their daughter may not see the better half of her teens.

You see, rather than wealth accumulation, we often talk about ways that we can establish and set ourselves up as a couple so that we minimise our living costs (without living 3rd world), so that we can actually save money from our businesses to give freely to the people who are in real need. And yes, this does include those in need abroad. We talk a lot about that too.

So this is how our conversation goes in this casual square in Rome.

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We sit on the big iron links of this chain, and dream of how we can change people’s lives. It seems a world away, but its theses topics of conversation that bring me alive, and I am ever so grateful that Bec’s heart is in the same place.

We continue to wander the streets of Rome, and we figure that we might as well go see the Vatican since we didn’t find the tour. We got to see some pretty funny things though. There was a group of guys playing an obscure form of basketball, with one wearing the net on his head, the other lobbing the little balls into the net, and the last one filming the epic clip for their youtube channel or something.

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I also wrecked one of Bec’s panos in pursuit of a shot of the last member of the beetles on a zebra crossing.**

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Another busker smoothly plays the saxophone with his case propped open by his recorder, as the donation collection box.

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We manoeuvre our way through the Roman roads, getting progressively closer and closer until we reach the walls of the Vatican. You can tell that you are getting closer, because the amount of people selling you “discounted tours” and a cheaper means of entry increases by 17% every 22.345 meters.

We have people selling sunnies, hats, bracelets, selfie sticks, shirts and genuine/intentionally defective Louis Vuitton handbags. We even have guys selling collapsable baskets. Like, who in their right mind is on their way to the Vatican, and thinks, “Yeah… Actually, you know what? I’ve been thinking that I might need a collapsable basket. Thanks, reputable sales person”

I have actually been away since November, last year without sunnies, so I have been on the hunt for a pair that is cheap, but most of the bad knock offs are usually nearly 10 euro, and if I am going to buy cheap sunnies, I am only going to buy cheap sunnies. We finally found our cheap sunnies guy outside the Vatican. These sunnies only cost us a cool 5 euro. This is what I am about. The best thing, was that the bloke was happy for us to just chill and look at our own leisure, instead of hounding us about all the things that he could offer us in addition to the only thing we wanted to buy from him.

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In an instant, we are surrounded by the throngs of tourists, and we aren’t even in the height of tourist season. Not even kidding, we are literally walking around, shoulder to shoulder with the masses of tourists. It is absolutely hectic. We get bombarded with people quite literally every 20 meters, asking us whether we have got tickets for the Vatican.

Then it happens… Bec just blurts out ”we’ve already been”.

Just like that, the bloke who was eyeballing us since we hit the tarmac, disregards us, and starts hunting for his next victim. I keep walking like its nothing, then slowly turn to face Bec, and I cannot believe it. Just like that. Who woulda thunk it?

I thought that my system was good…

People would ask to sell me something, and I would just blurt out the most incoherent jumble of Russian-sounds syllables that I could conjure up in an epic bid to halt the punter’s ambitions to flog me their goods. It worked really well, until someone looked at me funny, and I told them “Igh ehm frahgm Russian”, in my best attempt at the accent. This guy then looks at me, squints his eyes, and (from what I could gather) asks me in Russian if I am from Moscow. This when I give him a cheeky look and shake my head, as I have already used all the spare ammo I had for this conversation in the first two pretend words. I am given an understanding nod and grin as we part ways.

It goes without saying that Bec’s method is foolproof.

Mine just invites awkward conversation in languages I don’t understand at all.

We head toward St. Peter’s Cathedral, and meet this guard who’s family is from Perth, of all places, who gives us the low-down on how to get through doors you shouldn’t, to get to places you usually can’t. This is the kinda info I need to know. But, his advice is that we shouldn’t go today cos we have left the run a little late already, and the queue to get into the St. Peters is a good couple hours at least.

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So, with that in mind, we settle for admiring the insanity of the architecture inside the vatican city. It is absolutely mind blowing. I have to say, that so far, Rome has been the most impressive capital city for us. Most of the other world landmarks are usually underwhelming, but the things we have seen in Rome have been just as grand as you would think that they should be.

We wander around in the square, and stand on an international border. Yep. Vatican City even it’s own embassy in Rome. WTF, right? I mean, if you are in Rome, and you need to run to the Vatican embassy, you might as well just right to the actual country, but thats cool. We gawk at the impressiveness of the monumental size of the Basilica. Absolutely monstrous, and all the roman pillars running around the edge of the square… It really is a monster of a sight to see.

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We are getting a touch hungry, so we decide that we should find somewhere to munch. Being that we haven’t really eaten a really decent Italian meal, we decide that it is worth us making a date of it. We follow the banks of the river, back along our way, closer to the heart of Rome. We have decided that we will give this tour shenanigans another crack this arvo before we give up entirely, so as long as we are heading that direction, we are good.

I wanna grab a shot of these dudes on the other side of the river, and once I am done, I look back, and I figure I’ll play with some slower shutter speeds & get a photo of Bec with a car or something passing by. This is the only decent shot. It took me about 8 attempts.

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I leave Bec in charge of the choosing of a lunch location, and it isn’t long before she lands the ideal spot. Its on the corner, in the middle of an intersection of 5 roads. The perfect spot for me to snap a few photos of unsuspecting passer-bys. Bec runs inside and just tells the guy to bring us food and drinks. In my opinion, this is the best way to order food. Unless, the people running the show are useless, in which case, resort to pasta or caesar salad or something fool proof.

In this case, the guy knew exactly what we wanted to eat, and nailed it.

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We sit out the front and watch the world pass us by while we sip on our glasses of some sort of delicious Italian grape variety. Its the best. We nibble, and devour, and savour, and demolish, and its the best meal we have had in ages. Not bulk food, by any means, but my LAWD! It was tasty.

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We sit and chat and wrap up our lunch session with a wander through the markets, not far from where we ate, and the produce is as delicious as your tastebuds can imagine that they should be. You cant quite explain it. You can smell the freshness of the produce. You can feel that it’s the real deal. I’ve always had (what I now realise) is pretty much b-grade produce back home, and when you eat and smell and feel all the produce here, you can physically feel the difference in the vegetables and fruit. It looks, feels and smells healthy and real, and you can’t beat that.

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It’s get close to 4pm, so we make our way to the Spanish Steps for the 3rd time with a little more haste now. Not to say that we didn’t swing into our fair share of shops along the way. In fact, there was one store that caught our eye, so Bec jumped in there to try a few items on. These guys are masters at the art of up-selling. Like, you try one thing on, and that is it. They’re bringing you belts, hats, shoes, literally anything that is going to improve your outfit. I mean, its great, you walk out looking a million bucks, but at the same time, you just wanna get what you wanna get.

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If you got money to burn, and wanna have a shopping experience, go to Rome.

They’ll make sure you get it.

…all of it.

Were not that far from the Spanish Steps now.

Read the next story for the tour tho,

Billy

**He wasn’t really the last beetle.

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