Rome – One More Time

We’ve got brekky in our bellies, but now we need coffee in our bellies too.

No better way to do it, than to ask a local.

I head to the counter, and ask the bloke where good coffee can be found, who looks at me funny, almost as if to suggest the notion that Italians don’t make a bad coffee, then points me in the right direction. I mean, he wasn’t wrong, we haven’t had an utterly terrible coffee since being in Italy, but we have had a few sub-par. On the whole though, Italians know their coffees.

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The coffees come to a mere 2 euro, and are served with al-foil as lids. We tend not to be too fond of lids on our coffees anyway, so its a win-win situation. We wanna catch the bus into the city, so we can see some more of the things that we pass, but due to 3 different people giving us completely different directions, all within the one roundabout, we decided it was best to use the metro again.

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We head in the general direction of the Pantheon, doing our usual checking out of everything the city has to offer. We were walking past this one mens wear shop, and this jacket caught my eye. We walked another hundred meters, or so, all the while thinking about it. “Babe. I really wanna go have another look at the jacket”
“Ok. Lets go have a look”, we walked back to the store, and this jacket was almost like a black, white and smokey grey knitted jacket, but in a suit style, and it had this look of effortless class to it. The kinda thing you would wear to an event, but an event that wasn’t in need to a lot of dressing up.

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The hitch was that the jacket was 200 euro, down from 300. As was typical, the one that caught my eye was the most expensive in the shop. Again, on the budget that we have, that is a good wad of cash to throw around. Not the kind to do lightly, but I was sitting on the fence, totally unsure of what we should do about it.

Despite the shop assistant’s offers of extra scarves, and even another jacket that I really couldn’t care about, we left it behind. It ended up coming down to “How often am I actually going to wear this?”, and I couldn’t justify that much money, on the budget we have. Admittedly, it was the first article of clothing that I’d seen since we left in November, that actually caught my eye, but still, I couldn’t do it.

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We walked throughout the whole city, and admired the leather craftsmanship at every turn. Everywhere you go, there is another leather store, and all top quality too. Even in the markets, you’re looking at a good 200+ euro for a decent sized leather bag. We came across this one shop, though, which was a leather and paper store. They had all the most stunning photo albums, leather goods, and even a paper embosser, which you could use on envelopes and anything, really.

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Everything was quality, and nothing was lacking.

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We made our way through the streets, stopping to take photos of the locals and the fresh goods that were spread in front of us, on market tables. Upon spotting the loquats, Bec dove, bagged up a handful, and we started tucking in to the fruits. Before even sinking her teeth into on of the fruits, she turns to me, “They remind me of Jodie”
“Jodie?”
“Yeah, cos they’re orange”
“Oh right. That makes more sense”

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We pass a plethora of street performers, but the headless man was the one that caught our eye. At least it was something original(ish). We pass cafe and restaurant, one after another, each of them spilling into the street, all resonating with the orchestra of cutlery clanging, glasses ching-ing, conversation flowing and music humming. There is no hint of an awkward time being had.

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We find ourselves walking along, and then all of a sudden, we are shoulder to shoulder with this monstrous structure. A few more paces, and we realise that we are at the foot of the Pantheon. Being that it is free entry, we take advantage of that, and head in for a gander. Micky & Damo had told us it was pretty impressive, so now we had to see for ourselves. We head in, and there is no mistaking that it just that.

If my memory serves me correctly, the roof of the pantheon is the largest domed cement roof in the world. If that isn’t its claim to fame, it is something of that nature. Regardless, it is an absolute behemoth of a structure, and something to admire. You feel like a goldfish in a swimming pool. If there is one thing I can credit to the Romans, it is that they sure know how to create an amazingly grand and impressive structure.

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The truth is “the bigger, the better”. There is no doubting that. The Romans certainly proved it to be true. We zig zag through the streets of Rome, darting into any store that caught our attention. One such store, caught Bec’s eye with this bright yellow skirt in the window. The Italians are bloody clever when it comes to fashion stores.

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She tries on the skirt, and the store clerk was johnny-on-the-spot with a matching top. Bec puts everything on, and he’s right back with a pair of shoes, a scarf and a belt to go with it.
“They’re not bad ay?”, I say to Bec in a fleeting moment of unsupervised shopping.
“Yeah. I rekon…”
But, to his credit, the top sure looked the part, and also to his credit, when the accessories didn’t cut the mustard, he admitted defeat. I was impressed by his professionalism. Not the kind we are used to, generally, in Australian retail. For those who may know her, in this outfit, Bec reminded me of Ellenmary from Kalgoorlie. Ellenmary is known for having a really suave sense of fashion, and this fit thi bill perfectly.

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We make our way back to the Roman Forum, following the river, covered by the canopy of the trees. The Roman Forum isn’t where we are headed, though. We venture a little further, ’til we reach the spot where they used to do the chariot races back in the Roman glory days. Now, it is just a huge big dirt track. Come to think of it, thats probably what it would have been back then too…

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We find a reasonably priced gelato place, and get our ice creams while we sit and watch this gypsy chick continually walk up to her hand-pick targets, probably volunteering to teach them something, in a trade off for a guilt trip if they didn’t give her a tip. We’re not the sharpest tools in the shed, but we have experienced this kinda thing while we were in Athens, so we’re a touch more clued on nowadays.

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Oh, and turns out that we got a fake waffle cone with our gelato. Hence, why it was so cheap.

Italians…

I should have known better than to assume they’d be that willing to forsake a few euro.

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We sit and munch our gelato till we decide that we have had enough of watching our gypsy friend harass other travellers, and we make our way to the Colosseum. We get to enjoy the afternoon light radiating off the mammoth sides of this Ancient structure. We take it in one last time, and make our way to find something for dinner.

We need to get up to the road above us, but there is a big set of stairs, all blocked off, which usually means that you can’t get up that way, except that we just saw a couple come down it, so now we know that it is an actual way to get to our destination. An older couple have the same idea and beat us to the entrance, so we just follow. There is safety in numbers, right? We begin the climb, and as the turn the corner, we see that the top is also barricaded significantly better than the bottom is.

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Its going to be too much of a headache to walk down and find another route, so we just decide to partially deconstruct the barrier and slip past the stone wall and the temp fence. This kid begins to tell us off in Italian, but he is literally only 10, so I just give him a funny look and encourage him to move out the way. Only moments later, this african bloke comes over to us to help, and pulls the barrier out the way. At first, I think that it is an act of generosity, but then, I see that he has the same bands in Athens that the bloke tried to load us up with.

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I accept his help to get onto the road we want, but the moment he starts trying to strap these wrist bands on us, Bec and I are all like,
“Ohhhhh, Nah mate.”
“Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaah mate.”
“No Mate! We don’t want your stuff.”

We’ve copped that one before, and once was once too many times. We have been suggested by Liz, a mate of ours to find this place near the Colosseum. She assures us that it looks dero, but tastes great.

The truth is, that I have actually got no idea how dero it looks, or how great it tastes because we could not for the life of us find where it was, even after walking around for a good 30-40 minutes. She told us it was near the Colosseum, but the only thing we could find on google was a place about 45 mins away.

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Not happening.

We decide to just wander the city, since we cant find the place we were suggested, and end up just buying a heap of groceries to make dinner with instead. Bec has been telling me that we need to check out the McDonald’s at the Spanish Steps. When she came out of there yesterday, she straight away said to me “Billy…. You have to go see that McDonalds. Its HUUUUGE”
“Really?”
“Oh yeah…”
So, that is where we are headed. From there, we are just going to head home and chill. But being that we have been walking a lot today, I am keen to just stop and rest, so that is what we do. We spot this church, where usually, you’re find to just kick back and hang out with your mates on the steps of the church. I have been devouring the book I got the other day on negotiating, and even Bec has taken a liking to my book.

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I was intending on having a nap on the steps, but we just settle for reading the book instead. So that Bec isn’t dead bored while we chill, she volunteers to read the book to me. Win-Win in my opinion. We sit and read and laugh and the sun begins to set pretty rapidly, so we figure that it is time to head home and call it a day.

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We repack the bag, and make our way toward the iconic set of stairs. We are walking along, and I spot this leather shop, so I swing in and see what this one particular bag is worth. I ask the lady “Do you post to Australia?”
“Mmmmm. Yes.”
“Ok. How much?”
“Let me ask manager”

She runs down the stairs and gets the manager. What I didn’t expect, or was prepared for was for him to come up, already on the phone to the shipping company, with a tape measure in hand, and a box ready to go.

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I already know that I am out of my depth here.

Like, I am doing recon, so that maybe in 5-10 years time, when I wanna buy a crazy stupidly priced Italian leather bag, I can call these guys up and get something shipped over here, and now here, I am, balls deep, and this manager bloke has dropped whatever it was that he was doing, to come and measure up a bag for me.

I am standing at the counter with these two dudes, thinking “How the hell am I going to get out of this?”
“180 euro”, the manager says to me, with a wince on his face. At least he didn’t just assume that it would be cool, and I know that this is my way out.
“Oh. Really?…”, I say.
“Yes. I know. Very expensive, post to Australia”
“Mmmmmmmm…”
“Maybe you buy in Australia?”
“Mmmmm. I think I might have to”
“Yes. Sorry”, the tables turned in my favour faster than the flip of a coin. I went from just asking whether they ship to Australia, to having a staff member and the manager out measuring a bag up, on the phone to their shipping company, for them to then offer me the golden ticket out of the whole debacle. The last thing I wanted to do was to have to do the awkward “Well, Thanks for that! Catchya later”, on the way out.

Dignity – Intact.

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Bec is waiting out the front, and I try to explain to her that I didn’t mean to spend all that time in there, and told her how it unfolded. Even she was surprised.

We keep moving to the Maccas, and she wasn’t wrong. This thing is an absolute behemoth. Its a complete dark horse. You don’t think its going to be big, but then it just goes, and goes and goes, but it is an absolute hole too. The toilets are utterly disgusting. Nothing is working, and nobody cares to change it.

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We are heading to the train station, and we pass one of the squares, where there is the restaurant with all the tables and chairs set out the front, with people all sitting there watching the life evolve in the square in front of them. This is pretty much Bec’s dream of Rome. Like, when she shuts her eyes and dreams her perfect chef dreams at night, this is what she sees. So, she decides before we go any further, this is what we are going to do.

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Being that the food is about 10x too dear for us, we settle for a glass of wine each, and enjoy the free chips and olives (which I cant stand).

Its funny how it is the little times like this which usually stick the most.

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We head back to the hostel, and literally everyone is in the dining room.

What is the correct way to enter such a gathering? “Everyone! Welcome!”

You will be please to know that I used the proper welcome, with arms spread wide. Was it worth the weird looks? Don’t know. Did I get the weird looks? All kinds of yes.

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We ate and chatted with the other backpackers, and even found out that two guys who were on the tour with us yesterday, we didn’t recognise. So that got awkward really quick. We also met another aussie guy, which when we started talking, we were inundated with statements from this american chick about how she couldn’t understand us.

Just another night at the hostel

We slept like the gods.

Come back for the next story,

Billy

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