My mother’s favorite movie was “Roman Holiday“. She used to keep talking about the debonair Gregory Peck and the effervescent Audrey Hepburn. I could never watch the movie with Ma. I watched it long after she passed away. However, the moment the movie started, I had a “love at first sight” moment with Peck, Hepburn, and Rome. Visiting Rome was a much-cherished dream and I tried to enjoy every nano-second of my stay in Rome. I am sure Ma was with me all through the trip.
Unlike Pisa or Firenze stations, Roma Termini is quite crowded and almost a European version of CST station. It was quite late in the night when we reached but Rome was quite awake. Most places in Europe become deserted in the evening, especially during winter months but Rome felt like an exception.
I covered almost all the major tourist attractions of Rome on foot in a day, except the Vatican. In Italy, every first Sunday of the month most tourist attractions including the Colosseum is free of charge. The last Sunday of the month the entrance to the Vatican is free. Initially, I felt it was going to be a tourist hack but in reality, it turned out some kind of scam.
Expectation: I planned the Rome trip in such a way that I was there on the first Sunday of the month. I reached before 8 am, the official opening time for the Colosseum. I expected there would not be too much of a crowd (it was winter and off-season for tourists) and I would have a cakewalk (The Academy in Florence had raised my expectation, as there we were the only tourists standing in the queue).
Reality: The queue in front of Colosseum would have given the queue in Tirupathi a run for its money. It was 8 am on a cold Sunday morning and thousands of people were already in the queue. Even though it was a Free day, yet most tourists were buying ‘skip the queue‘ tickets from travel agents. Normal tickets to the Colosseum on a weekday cost 10 euros but ironically on a ‘Free Sunday” people were paying ten times more to enter.
The Roman Forum is located right next to the Colosseum and covers a large area. It is a beautiful place and would attract anybody who has an interest in history. As the area is mostly ruined one has to be careful while walking. The area becomes vibrant on a Sunday due to the presence of huge number of talented street performers.
Piazza di Venezia
This place looks way better at night when it gets illuminated, however, it looked beautiful even during the day.
All Roman Holiday Fans remember Trevi Fountain. This is the place where Audrey Hepburn’s character got the famous pixie cut. This is also the place where she dropped the coin to grant wishes.
Expectation: I would walk there like Audrey, stand in front of the fountain, click a nice photo and then roam around and do window shopping like her and perhaps get a haircut.
Reality: Literally had to jostle with the crowd to reach the fountain. The whole place was swarming with people. There were homeless people, beggars, and pickpockets(?) all around. Hardly could wait there for long due to the crowd. There was a Macdonalds and people were standing in a serpentine queue in front of it. The queue was not for a burger but to use the washroom, as public washrooms in Rome are expensive.
This was relatively less crowded and we could get inside easily. The huge round hole in the ceiling of the Pantheon is what makes this structure stand apart.
Rome is full of Piazzas. This was a nice place where we sat down for a while to rest our tired legs. The place is open and has a nice vibe.
A long scene of Roman Holiday was shot on the Spanish steps. However, now the Roman municipality has banned people sitting on the steps. Thankfully when I was there sitting was still allowed. It was overcrowded and hardly had any resemblance to the steps of Roman Holiday.
The narrow lane that leads to the Spanish Steps resembles any overcrowded market area in India during Diwali/Durga Puja. I almost had a deja vu. The only difference was that the lane had designer brands like MK, Gucci, Prada, Versace, and Jimmy Choo and not our Kirorimal stores, Bata, Hussain Tailors or Dhakeswari Bastralaya.
This was our last attraction for the day. We used Google maps and GPS to create our own walking tour. It not only saved us money but we were also able to soak in the local culture and explore Rome like the Romans. The only thing that remained unfulfilled was riding pillion on a Vespa with Gregory Peck.