The road trip through Italy gets to the 2017 phase. Since the New Year’s Eve was over, I was expecting to see a lot less people. Oh my, how I was wrong! There’s an old saying that all the roads lead to Rome. And it is true, or else I can’t explain the hordes of people in the streets of this eternal city.
Arriving to Roma Termini
I took a train from Arezzo to Roma Termini, which took roughly 2 hours. As my accommodation was in a walking distance from the train station, I decided to walk. The immediate surroundings looked like it was a wild party the night before. Also the people were a bit grumpy and hung over. I was surprised to see so much broken glass, vomit, cigarette butts and trash everywhere. It is a big city, I know! But, the overall cleanliness of a city does not depend on the quality of the cleaning services, but on the people living there. And apparently Romans are not the tidiest. I have to admit one point, there have not been many trash cans out there. But still! If I ever complain that Budapest is dirty, tell me to go to Rome instead!
Sightseeing in Rome – missing pieces of the puzzle
The plan for the rest of the day was pretty straight forward – do some sightseeing that I didn’t manage to do in my trip to Rome in 2015. During my last visit there, I saw pretty much all the important sights with the exception of the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish steps. So, I set afoot to explore them.
Navigating around Rome
I cherish the person who invented navigation. It is so much easier to get around unknown neighbourhoods. I invested 70 EUR back in 2009 in the Navigon app for iPhone, and it has saved me multiple times. Besides, it is really practical also for finding closest shops, points of interests and many more. Do you use navigation in your phone? Which one? Let me know in comments below!
Pokémon Go in Rome
The weather in Rome was really nice, sunny, 12 degrees, so I walked to the city centre. I arrived to the Trevi fountain without any complications. I spent most of the walk catching Pokémons and discovering the details of buildings. Like Pokémon Go or not, it is really useful in discovering things you would not have noticed as a pedestrian. Besides, Rome is the perfect catching place. I have never seen so many Pokémons around. Like Charmanders, on almost every corner. As a result, I ran out of pokeballs, and am hardly catching up on getting more.
When you arrive to the Trevi Fountain, you will notice first the sounds of gargling water, then the crowds, and only after you will get to see this special fountain. I was really surprised to see so many people out there! It was impossible at first to get down to the water level. I had to give it a try, and when I was about to make this lovely photo, I got pushed by a guy with a selfie stick (or as I called it deadly stick), and almost fell down onto a couple taking a picture just few steps below me.
As if this crowd would not be enough, there was a bunch of guys with Instax on their necks, offering to make a picture of you and the Trevi fountain. This is yet another tourist trap. I know that the Instax paper is quite expensive, so would guess the resulting instant paper memory would be too. They also didn’t seem as the most talented photographers, but it is all about the lovely memory of this one time, by the Trevi fountain in Rome…
After being pushed around, I set off in the direction of the Spanish steps. I really enjoy the Christmas lights during this road trip through Italy, and Rome was the icing on the cake for festive decoration. In general, I would say that Italy is really putting a huge emphasis on this. I was passing by the Plague Column that sadly didn’t attract people attention because in front of it was a house totally covered by blinking lights. After a short walk, I arrived to the Spanish steps that are usually crowded, and that day was not an exception. It had lovely LED light decoration, as any important place in Rome. I climbed up all the stairs and enjoyed the view of the crowds under me.
Avoiding the crowds in Rome
I decided to still go to Piazza del Popolo, my most favorite square in Rome. I took it through Vila Borghese because I just couldn’t stand all the crowds anymore. All of the sudden, I was surrounded by people speaking only Italian. It seemed that it is their secret getaway from the invaders that fence with selfie sticks down there. Also, the air was much fresher and cleaner up the hill. I was a bit sad to see that one of the two churches on the Piazza del Popolo is being reconstructed. However, being on that square and walking around brought the good memories from my last visit, and that is what counts!
Eating in Rome on New Year – Central Market
I was expecting that majority of the places will be closed on the New Year, but as my host said, Rome is a circus that never closes. I had a dinner in il Mercato Centrale. Yes, you already know this place from my post about Florence. I was really surprised to see that they opened a place in Rome Termini.
Just proves my theory that running a fast food business in Italy is a bad idea. This is basically a fast food, but with real food that is prepared in front of you from the finest ingredients. Thumbs up! If you happen to be around Rome Termini train station, go grab some food there!
Staying in Rome – shared living space
I was staying in an Airbnb apartment with a convenient name Cohome. I like shared living spaces because you can get in touch with the locals, and the guests at the same time. This one had an amazing vibe, beautiful interior design and friendly inhabitants. On the other hand, I believe more attention could be paid to the cleanliness of the place. Plus, I was surprised to need to make my own bed. That felt like home too, as nobody makes my bed there either.
City tax in Italy
This place was categorized as a bed and breakfast for official purposes, which besides others meant that I had to pay 3.5 EUR/night to the city of Rome for having me. You have to pay a city tax in most of the tourist destinations in Italy. Rome is no exception. Based on the category of your accommodation, you can pay from 2 EUR/night/person (camping) to 7 EUR/night/person (4-5 star hotels). You pay this in cash on spot. I am not sure why this cannot be a part of the rate. Anyway, be ready to have some spare money if you travel to Italy. And don’t expect any kind of receipt for this, as you will hardly ever get one.
Although the Cohome was located right by the railway tracks, I had a great sleep and was not woken up by the passing by trains at all. I allowed myself to sleep in and had a breakfast with coffee (oh I am so bad in making the coffee the traditional Italian way, I always get just two sips out of the whole batch). I spent some time talking to Elisabeth who lives in the Cohome too. She gave me great tips for Naples and the neighbourhood. Then, I went to explore San Lorenzo, the upcoming Montmartre of Rome.
Exploring Rome like a local
San Lorenzo is one of the few neighbourhoods that are central, but are not touristic. It is the university students who mostly live in this hood. So, I didn’t choose particularly good part of the year to discover it. If you come to Rome, check this quarter out or even book your stay there. I believe you will experience Rome in a different way. There are a few things you can explore too: old chocolate factory, street art (everywhere!), and a cemetery. Those of you who follow me for a longer time know that I am a big lover of cemeteries.
Parks in Rome
I sadly didn’t have so much time to explore more of San Lorenzo, because I was meeting a friend of mine, and we were going for a walk to a park. I passed the university of Rome (amazing architecture, place that breathes with wisdom) and polyclinic. I passed through an embassy quarter, and spent some time chilling in a park Villa Torlonia. Doesn’t it look surreal? Totally different from all the orderly parks I know in Paris, Prague or Budapest. And even Mussolini had his villa here. It was nice watching the locals play football in their T-shirts on the green lawns. A truly chillaxing experience!
Travel tip: Rome and water
I adore Rome for having water fountains on any corner. They are surely needed during summer when the city is a hot pan. A little tip: if you cover the outlet with your thumb, the water starts going through a small opening on the pipe, which instantly turns it into a water fountain. Don’t be scared to drink the water, it is perfectly potable.
After the park, I headed back to San Lorenzo to pick up my luggage and rushed off to the train station. It was the high time to catch the train to Naples! Travel advice: Roma Termini is a huge train station, make sure you have enough time to reach the platform as the walk to it can be quite long.
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