day by day, train by train: the story of our European adventure
Eagerly launching an early morning, I organised our bookings for the Vatican and nibbled on a cracker based breakfast.
Once the technological deal was sealed, we set off swiftly and said goodbye to Kaila who was going to meet Serena. We arrived at the Vatican, and our meticulously planned schedule allowed us to hop, skip and then jump the queue of the museums, silently celebrating the surrounding atmosphere of air conditioning in contrast with the mid morning sunny suffocation of voucher sellers hotly breathing down our necks.
We took a slow but steady walk through the meandering museums, documented by Flo and Maddy’s photo taking and meme making of ancient statues.
The art galleries were eclectic, exhibiting slices of Matisse, Dahli and the featured Vatican artists, Raphael and Michael Angelo.
But the closer we came to the Sistine chapel, the further I seemed to feel from either holy or spiritual or sacred, as the number of of tourists trebled and the atmosphere was saturated with sweat.
But what else could I expect from a July day?
Upon finally reaching the Sistine chapel, I was left feeling a little deflated. Not necessarily because of the design of the chapel; it was fulfilling to witness The Last Judgement. It was not even the fact that the chapel was bursting with busyness, chatting, and photo taking. It was the security guards who were shouting over a megaphone demanding silence which fully prevented any faith in a sacred atmosphere for me.
As the Pope’s renowned residence, such religious exploitation through intense tourism certainly doesn’t help the controversial perception of the executives Catholic Church, especially when in direct eyesight of beggars lining the walls of the holiest city in the world.
(I thought it was meant to be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of heaven?)
Yet failing to do anything to help or hinder this moral dilemma, we channelled our thoughts into aesthetic concerns as we had a few photos taken in the main Piazza of the city, having to miss out on St Peter’s basilica due to queues and midday heat. This was followed by some surprisingly cheap Pizza to revitalise.
Then, moving on to the Colosseum for which we were too cheap to purchase tickets, we lay on the pavement outside, staring up at its enormity. As our eyes drooped heavier and heavier, we ran into Kaila in the termini metro station, overwhelmed by the serendipity of existence, and headed back to the hostel.
Just down the road, we found the ‘Casa del Gelato’ and I bought the greatest cranberry and peach ice cream with FREE EXTRA CREAM and cone, all for TWO EUROS, as well as a lovely man serving us. I promised myself that I would enjoy my last breakfast in Rome there the next day as I merrily limped to the pharmacy to purchase relief spray for my ever-itching bites.
We siesta-ed (genuinely) for a few hours until 8pm, and drowsily got ready for another relaxing evening wondering Rome. We bought some pizza/supplis/fruit from the shops next door and travelled out to Republicca, home to the Teatro dell’Opera and a large fountain in the middle of a roundabout overlooking several dazzling Roman hotels.
We munched on our food and took some phone-background worthy pictures by the fountain where a group of ‘lads’ asked us to be in a photo with them, probably because we couldn’t have looked more touristy and less Italian if we tried.
Ironically, the photo they took was really very nice of us all, but we had to part with it from fear of otherwise giving them Larissa’s whatsapp details.
Kaila then prepared one of her ‘surprises’ and we trekked across Rome (which is smaller than I had expected), round the back streets to the Piazza del Popolo. Although we were initially hesitant about this Amelie-esque surprise, Kaila reassured us that what she wanted to show us was up a lot of sweat-inducing steps.
The view was absolutely worth it though, with each main monument punctuating Rome’s geography shining in its own personal spotlight. I particularly appreciated the view of Mussolini’s building, appearing accidentally fascist as I honestly believed it was Hadrian’s temple at first glance.
Deeming ourselves infrastructural experts, we found a bus which took us straight through Manzoni. I bought an apple for the morning, facetimed my mother and went to sleep with the chemical scent of bite relief gel caressing my nostrils.
*Other people also asked for photos with us, Flo being Emma Watson and Larissa a Bollywood actress