At risk of stating the bloody obvious, Rome is hot. Like, disgustingly hot. Walk two minutes and have to stop to get water kind of hot. Well, I say water. I prefer lemon drinks. In hindsight, looking to go at the peak of summer for our honeymoon probably made sense when we booked it on a rainy Winter Scottish afternoon, but going in May or June would have been endlessly smarter. Ah well, at least this way I get to post pictures of blue skies in August to noise up people back home, even if the reality is that the rocks are melting into puddles all around us.
Forgive the imperfections in these posts, as well as the pictures. There’s nothing like shooting at f22 to make you realise how dirty your camera sensor is, or using a tablet to make you realise how much you take your laptop for granted.
At first glance, Rome seems awfully similar to Athens: lots of old shit, with a city built around it. After a couple of days though, the differences are more stark than the similarities. The main distinction being that Rome is far more set up for tourists than their neighbours across the Mediterranean.
The first day, we spent hours walking about, drinking in the ancient splendour of the buildings. Rome is most impressive when you take a few minutes to stop and imagine what life must of been like for Romans during the height of their Empire. In many other places, doing such a thing would be impossible, but here, so much has been preserved it’s almost impossible not to. Every street you pass has an opening to a beautiful courtyard that looks like it’s been lifted straight out of a movie set. Even the more bog standard houses have decayed in a way that has created the most decadent colours and patterns. I’m cursing the lack of time we have to do it justice on film.
The other thing I’m cursing is the number of tourists. I’m aware of the irony given that we too, are visitors. However, the more I travel, the more the endless onslaught of tour groups gets to me. Not even sightseers, but those that are obnoxious, ignorant, and rude. With no attempt to enjoy or actually experience the local culture, the sheer mass of these kind of travellers – who hop from one giant queue to the next – end up ruining the places that they go to. There’s a lot of truth to be found in the quote that says: ‘the problem of being a travel writer is that you end up destroying the places that you love.’ The travel economy is a great thing, but in some places it leaves you wondering whether there’s really anything authentic left in a place worth experiencing any more. How do you know if you’re a ‘tourist’? If you think that the best way to explore a neighbourhood is by Segway, that’s probably a reliable starting indicator.
One of the places that I’ve always had a bit of a fascination with is the Vatican. Firstly, because the concept of a city state existing in contemporary times seems crazy, but also because of the unique historical relationship with Scotland. When Scottish independence was challenged by the English crown on the basis of a lack of traditional Diocesan structure, the Pope declared Scotland as a ‘special daughter of Rome’, that answered directly to the Vatican – and not England. That, as one might imagine, is a part of history that I find particularly pleasing.
As it is, the queues were unbelievably long to get in, so we made do with admiring the outside. The next day we stumbled upon a genuine functioning convent where some nuns began to sing in the ornate interior. Holy See it may not have been, but it felt like a special thing to get to witness.
You can’t come to Rome and not see at least some of the heavy hitting sights though. To that end, we braved the idiots brandishing selfie sticks and visited the Colosseum.
It was pretty damn impressive.
The sign outside said that it was ‘forbidden to introduce animals’. Can’t help but wonder if that was incase somebody tried to reenact its historical purpose. Standing there at the bottom, you could almost get the tiniest insight into what it must have been like for those who were thrown to the lions for the braying amusement of the Romans. Terrifying.
So Rome, it’s been fun. I wish we had more time to explore your more hidden corners… where people gaze out of their windows all day.
But alas it has come time to leave.
Ciao for now.