On the 16th December, 2008, we, my family and my uncle and auntie (from Melbourne), headed off for Italy. We were all on the same flight from Melbourne to Hong Kong. We arrived at the airport separately. My Uncle and Auntie, Clancy and Julie, cued up for check in at the regular check-in's, which had a HUGE line. Luckily my mother is a frequent flyer and a member of the Quantas club so we were able to check in at a Quantas Club designated check-in.
Once we'd checked our luggage in we headed off to security and customs. Now, in my backpack, carry-on luggage, I had some supplements, fish oil and alpha-lipolic acid, which I was a little worried about but I got through security fine. Not so for my uncle. Clancy had been pulled up for a random bomb residue test, the scary part was, he works as a sort of weapons tester/ballistics for the army so there was a chance of him having gun powder residue on him. Luckily, there wasn't anything detected.
We got to our gate with time to spare. My parent's had been upgraded to business class, so they were happy about that. It turned out my brother and I were at the front of the behind-the-wing set of seats, so, we had some decent foot room which was appreciated on the nine hour flight. Being that our parents were in business class we couldn't see them and Clancy and Julie were much further back on the opposite side of the plane. It was a plane trip so there isn't much to report, I didn't have the window-side seat so I couldn't look out at the clouds and marvel at them or see endless ocean. Eventually we got to Honk Kong. I was worried about my supplements here, especially when I saw the guards with MP5's walk past security when we were waiting in line! We had to wait 5 hours for our connecting flight to Rome in Hong Kong. What a shit time. Having been up for something like 14 hours already, nine of those being on a plane, and then having to wait around for five hours. It was, or at least seemed, really hot and stuffy in there and they had the same bloody Christmas carol playing the whole time as well as the same announcement playing every 5 minutes. But eventually it was over and we boarded our next plane. This leg was 14 hours. The only thing that was a plus about this flight compared to the last was the fact my brother and I had four seats between the two of us. Finally, after almost 24 hours of combined air travel and probably 5 hours of broken up sleep over the last 29 hours, we had arrived in Rome.
Arriving in Rome was a natural stimulant for me, it got the adrenaline going. As, this was my first time overseas I was pretty bloody excited. We made our way through customs which was a quick wave through! Then we found our cab driver, who my other auntie, Pam, had booked for us. Luckily, we didn't have to walk far to the cab, which took all six of us (it was a van). Now I know other countries have different road rules and driving styles, like I knew big European cities would be more busy and the driver's would be more aggressive than in Melbourne . What I didn't know, is that, Romans are fucking crazy driver's, and I don't say that lightly. On the drive to the apartments the first show of reckless, to say the least, driving was scooter rider's riding down the emergency lane of the freeway. Not just one or two but heaps. The whole car ride home was an experience in and of itself. I will some it up with this in Rome where there is three lanes marked there were at least five lanes of cars, no exaggeration. Despite running yellow lights when a car was about to turn, speeding, not indicating and a host of other near misses we made it to our apartments safely. Where Pam was waiting for us.
It was morning when we arrived so we couldn't waste the day. We had two apartments between the 10 of us, there were three more to come. I got to sleep on a fold out couch which wasn't too flash but it was only for three nights, so, can't complain. After putting our bags away we had a coffee down at the nearest cafe which was nice and cosy, as well as being in a backstreet along with our apartment so it wasn't too busy. My first Italian coffee, an americano (I like caffé's [espresso's] but I prefer some volume to my coffee and it has to be black or with only a shot of milk), was.......awesome, it's just so much crisper than homemade french press or Australian cafe coffee. After everyone had had some coffee we went back to the apartments, a very short walk. Once back at the apartment everyone, except Pam and I, took some time to freshen up. Meanwhile Pam and I headed to the local piazza (square) where we meeting her daughter, Nina, and her daughter's husband, Dominic. They had been over in England visiting Dominic's family and had just arrived. They caught a train to the closest station to our apartments, which was nice and close. We greeted them and took them back to the apartments, along the way they told us of their bad experience with their airline, Swiss air. Once everyone had freshened up, we all came to the one apartment and discussed some our plans for Rome, particularly today's agenda. We ended up just walking around for the day and buying some food at the supermarket, supermarkets in Italy are very small compared to Australia, for breakfasts and dinners. We saw the Trevi Fountain that night, it is in a much smaller area than I thought. I liked it, mainly due to the masculinity of the statues. I love old Roman statues for that reason they show what men can be, what men should be!
The next day, Thursday the 18th, started with mum and I heading down to the cafe. As I've learnt Italian every year I've been at school and I know a little, and she didn't, I ordered our coffee's a cappuccino, for her, and a macchiato for me. We were shortly accompanied by Casey, my father. Being as I was finished my coffee by this time and he hadn't had one I ordered him a cappuccino and myself a second coffee this time an espresso. After we had all finished our coffee's mum and dad wanted a second round so I ordered two more cappuccino's. In Italy cafes, most, have a little counter separate to were you are served and drink your coffee/beverage were you pay for your drinks and you receive a receipt which you give to one of the men making the coffee's and tell him (or her) what you want. So when I went back to the counter for a third time the girl there must of thought I was some sort of coffee addict. Afterwards we headed back to Pam's apartment for breakfast.
As a group we headed to the train station, the metro, to catch a train to the 'Musei Vaticani', the Vatican Museum. Once we'd reached our stop and we walked to the Vatican. It is surronded by an impressive wall. When we reached the entrance to the museum, there was a class of kids waiting outside, they looked to be around my age, walking in one of the boys asked me 'where are you from'. I said Australia, to which his response is something I am still not able to determine the meaning. He answer was something like "whew, Australia, haha" I couldn't tell if it was in good fun or he was mocking me, who knows, who cares. Now, the museum was truly amazing, with exhibits including Roman statues, paintings, Egyptian artifacts, Etruscan artifacts and much more. It was just mind boggling how much art there was, and it really puts the Guggenheim exhibition in perspective (it's crap). The majority of the roofs were beautifully painted or were exquisitely decorated. Of course the Sistine Chapel was beautifully painted but I didn't find it as moving or inspirational as I did some of the other art. One of the things I most loved about the Vatican was you can make it as religious as you want, I'm technically Catholic but I'm not very religious in a traditional Catholic sense, or as spiritual as you want, I consider myself very spiritual, or as historical as you want. And for me seeing such beauty and talent was very inspiring. We left the Vatican. Pam had to leave us to pick up Gi, her husband. The rest of us went and found a nice pizzeria, where we had lunch.
After lunch we proceeded to Piazza San Pietro, Saint Peter's Square. When we arrived at the piazza I was gobsmacked by the size of the pillars surroundings the square, they were huge! Then once I made it past the pillars I saw the piazza and St. Peter's Basilica and I saw how big they were. We headed inside the Basilica, and when we got in there I was blown away. The Basilica looks like a big building from the outside, but from the inside it is colossal. Not only is it huge it is extensively and beautifully built and decorated with detail. We split off a bit and did our own thing. I couldn't help but bask in the gloriousness of the place. It's like the place was built for giants as the statues, the altars and all the decorations are big! But not only was it beautiful for all its decorative features but also from an architectural point of view, at least for me. Before we left I went into the small shrine and prayed. It was very serene and allowed me to clear my head.
After leaving St. Peter's we jumped on a tour bus and toured around Rome for a little while before heading back to the apartments.
I started friday with one of my very few workouts on the trip, followed by a contrast shower. A good invigorating start to the day. After that I headed down to the cafe and got myself an americano, on finishing my coffee I returned to Pam's apartment for breakfast. When we were all fed and ready we headed off, we went to the metro again but this time we didn't catch any trains. We just walked through the metro as a short cut to Villa Borghese.
It didn't take long to get to the Villa. We had to check our bags and cameras in, looking back on it I really wish we could have gotten photos there. Heading into Villa Borghese it seemed to be just like Musei Vatacani covered in paintings wall-to-wall (and the ceilings). The Villa started with Roman statues, many of which were mythological character's unlike at the Vatican. Now, like I stated before I love the masculinity of the statues and many of these were especially impressive in the artists skill in the capturing of motion (things like rippled skin where hands were touching, contraction of muscles in running figures, etc) and musculaculture of them. The Villa continued on with paintings, the majority of which were truly exceptional. Gi, my uncle, a Venetian, guided me through the whole place, giving me information on anything I asked and had no idea of.
After going through the Villa we proceeded to a restaurant, which Pam had suggested to some of her friends a while back, and, when they went there one of them died! I had 'free-range hen under a brick' and a side of raw and cooked veggies. It was a very nice lunch.
Once we had finished lunch we walked to the bus stop to catch the tour bus. Gi, Nina and Dominic left us at that point, to go shopping. We hopped on the bus and toured around Rome once again, except, this time we got off at the Colosseum. The Colosseum was very impressive when put into perspective (when it was built), but it didn't live up to my expectations. So, we walked around it a bit and somehow we got to discussing movies. After completing a full lap of the Colosseum we headed to the Roman Forum to have a look at it, unfortunately by the time we got there it was too late and it was being locked up. So we jumped back on the tour bus.
On the bus ride home I saw an extraordinary sight, at least it was to me. There was a pack of birds, and I mean a huge pack of birds, swooping and flying around in somewhat of a formation. It looked at times like a ball of birds expanding and contracting, it just looked amazing. By this time it was dusk which gave it a nice feel, but made it quite chilly.
There is a whole lot to love about Rome. It obviously has its many famous landmarks, but there's so much more even at first look. It is not a skyscraper city, they have a building height restriction on the city so what you have is a modern European city with the beauty and architecture of yesteryear. The next day we would be heading off for Venice so I was quite excited of course but I was quietly sad to be going so quickly. I'm sure Rome has a lot of amazing things to offer when you get more intimate with it!