A lot has happened since I last wrote a few lines. As you may remember from the last instalment of walkacrossitall we were waiting to taxi on to the runway at Luton airport bound for the eternal city.
So here I lie in our blacked out hotel room in Prague recounting what has been a jam packed 48 hours. In an attempt to give all things justice I will back up to our arrival in Roma and the Dolce’ Vita. With speedy boarding comes speeding unloading. We were out to the front doors of Fumancino Airport in seconds and running for a bus that would take us to the station in central Rome.
Our swarthy ticket seller was a card and seemed to like us as he slighly sold us two tickets and got us to the front of the line in the blink of an eye. We boarded the bus first which gave us the opportunity to take the first row of seats and therefore a “pole position” in this year’s Italian grande prix.
Our driver was Vincenzo. I truly have no idea what his name was but for the purpose of our 45 minute journey he needed a name and I like Vince. This man made me look like a loving caring human being with abundance of concern for all. Vincenzo hates everyone. Let’s just say I can not begin to fathom where he stores it all. He was a slightly built man who had the face of hybrid. If you put the DNA of a serial killer, an arsonist and a senior leader of Hamas in the same Petri dish, Vincenzo would be born 9 months later.
The lady to my left was the first one to feel Vince’s wrath when she made the fatal decision to eat a cookie from her bag. Vincenzo was standing outside as the passengers were still loading but never the less spotted this infraction and boarded the bus like a shot to yell a bit and point to the sign above our heads that said no mangiare on autobus. Suffice to say this lady survived beheading but not by much.
Soon after we were travelling the Autostrata in to Roma. Vincenzo clearly resented any driver that prevented him from travelling at anything less than 120 kph in his huge Mercedes coach. The death grip on the wheel and the incessant flashing of high beams at the drivers impeding our travels were signs of a no nonsense approach to mass transit.
We made it to the central station sooner than advertised. To my surprise, this completely renovated facility that has long lost the stench of urine and the abundance of pick pockets to become the most trendy, clean, modern, euro cool shopping centre and cafe cultured public transit hub I have ever been to. I rushed to the bar and ordered due’ espresso and we shot them back in a need to stay awake for several hours of night time sight seeing. We hopped in a cab and headed to the Orange Hotel just half a stones throw from the Vatican and several minutes later we were there. I could not begin to recount for you how many 2000 year old buildings we saw on the way but suffice to say none of them were the biggies.
Upon arrival at the Orange it was easy to see this was a hip boutique place that would be fine for the few hours of sleep we would use it for. We stored our bags and went right out to grab a bite to eat. 2 minutes from the hotel we were seated in the shadow of the walls of the Vatican City enjoying Moretti beer and ordering napolitano pizza. Our waitress was from Turin and very chatty. She was full of information concerning travel plans for the rest of her life and suggestions for us to see the real Rome during our 30 hours here.
Our pizza soon arrived and with that done we paid, said our goodbyes and left on foot towards St. Peter’s Basilica. Less than two minutes from our table we are met by the Swiss Guard who were standing 6 at the security gate to the residential area of the Vatican. They seemed very curious and aware for this time in the early morning.
We walked a little further and there it was, St. Peter’s in all its grander. At night even more than during the day. St. Peter’s really stops you in your tracks and literally takes your breath away. We stood there for ages. I stared and stared long before I even thought about raising my camera to eye. Truly amazing does not do it justice. We walked around it from every angle. Even though we had not tired of staring we had to move on so we set course for Castel Sant’ Angelo, not far from where we were but on the banks of the Tiber. One again an awe inspiring place and so photogenic. Walking over every Pont (bridge) to the north and south of there gave us more opportunity to see history at every turn.
Our feet and legs grew weary and at 0315 we made it back to the Orange. Four hours later we were up and sitting on the roof of Orange having a euro breakfast. A nice touch as we sat surrounded by Orange and lime trees looking directly at the dome of St. Peter’s.
We had originally thought given our short visit that we would break with my vision of travel and purchase tickets on a hop on hop off bus. I read a few reviews all condemning them so thankfully we didn’t. We did chose however to tour the Vatican Museum and see the Sistine Chapel. We booked our tickets through the hotel and walked right by the thousands waiting in line 4-6 hours to get in.
If you were expecting an eloquent recounting of our time inside the walls of the Vatican you have unfortunately come to the wrong blog. You could spend hours talking About art, both painting and sculpture but no literary justice can be done. Do yourself a favour. If you have a bucket list, fill it with Rome. We spent several hours inside the Vatican and then decided to find our way to the Forum, Piazza San Marco and of course the Colosseum. We had thought by reading a map that cab, bus or metro would be needed. We promised ourselves the real Rome not just the tourist bits so we walked and walked and walked through back streets and side streets and there we found what is most importanto! Romans. They are like no other people you will meet. The style, the attitude, the expression, it’s all there and in your face.
I could live here tomorrow. It is absolutely fantastic and it catches you staring at it. We stopped and peered into alleys and doorways some of which were non descript but lead you into churches that were 100’s of year old and empty other than for those praying. We eventually reached Piazza San Marco and stood in front once again for what seemed like ages. Then a quick stroll past the Forum and on to the Colosseum and tickets to enter. Photographs and gladiator movies hadn’t done it justice. Wow, go there!
We wandered back to the Forum and took shade on a bleacher. We then booked dinner and a string quartet performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons at a 500 year old church not far from the Trevi Fountain. Dinner was three courses and good. The main event was wonderful. There was 70 or so people sitting in this church and the acoustics were outstanding. Two hours later I was soothed and entertained. A more excellent thing to have done after a busy day I could not think of.
Back to our feet and we set off once again. Soon after more back street investigation we found the Trevi Fountain. Unfortunately they were not flowing as it was under renovation for cleaning. No problem. Very glad to have seen them regardless. Two limone gelato in a cone curiously takes away the pain of sore feet. More walking and we decided to take a load off at Tony’s Osteria. Open to the alley and typically Roman. Filled with Romans we were warmly greeted and sat in a great location for people watching. A plate of cured meats, cheeses and two Glasses of wine. Two hours later and now we were friends with Tony.
We said arivaderci at 0200 and wandered on. A left and right and by chance we come face to face with the Pantheon. A set of iron 60′ foot doors set back from the columns were overwhelming. This building is something to behold. For gods sake, they all are. I sound like a broken record but I’m tapped out for adjectives.
We soon after (0330) grabbed a cab back to Fumancino Airport and dozed until our flight was called at 0600. Back onto Easyjet with “speedy boarding” and we were off to Prague. It’s nice. Its a land of fairytale castles. It’s what you expect. It just came after perfection so it was always gonna have a hard time competing with Rome. Even with its great beer and perfectly cooked pigs knuckle it falls behind Roma in many ways to me. Upon arrival in the heart of Prague I was overcome with fatigue. So with no sleep I took the opportunity to get some in our room in the Hotel Grandior. Blood sugars were low as I had not eaten in 24 hours when I eventually woke. My stomach screemed it was go time. Breakfast at Flecku! The only way to find Flecku was to find a policeman and ask him to send us to a non touristy beer and pigs knuckle joint. He did and we soon accomplished both, but surprisingly not in excess. Flecku’s best beer is the best I have ever had. The restaurant – brewery has been in operation for over 500 years and they have perfected it all. Holy cow (pig) what a meal. All those TV travel guys did an OK job of describing the food and beer in Prague but you have to try it for yourself.
The people of Prague are surly. We have rarely been treat nicely or in a warm manner. I can only put it down to the way they may have been treat by their keepers during the old days. It’s ok. I’m fine with it. I may be considered the same way to some. Breakfast was awesome this morning and we are now waiting for our cab back to the airport. We are scheduled to leave at 1300 for CDG in Paris. Bon voyage!