When in Rome…

St. Peters Basilica, The Vatican

St. Peters Basilica, The Vatican

A couple of weeks ago, in a rare break away from my computer monitor, I spent a week in Rome with Nancy (a friend from Ning) and her sister. It has only taken me 25 years to set foot on the continent, and boy was it an eye-opening experience.

This was my first trip to another country whose primary language isn’t English. In the UK, I think we are brought up with a sense of supremacy, and belief that wherever you travel, everyone will speak our language. This totally put pay to that myth, and I felt like such an idiot, knowing just hello, yes, no, please and thank-you. It really put me on the back foot, and made being conned by some dodgy Italians by the Spanish Steps far easier - they got away with €90 the bastards! It has inspired me to, at least think about, learning another language. Not only useful, but it’s a pretty cool skill to have too don’t you think?

Graffiti near where we were staying in Rome

Graffiti near where we were staying in Rome

Most striking was the shear amount of graffiti throughout the city. It seemed everything was up for grabs - except for cars. Everything else, from walls, monuments, vans, bins, subway trains - you name it, it was vandalised. There was a general ‘dirty’ feel to the subway too (or Metro as it is called), and made the London Underground feel much cleaner on my return.

Italian fans celebrate a win over Australia in the 2006 FIFA World Cup

Italian fans celebrate a win over Australia in the 2006 FIFA World Cup

Whilst we were in Rome, the Italian football team beat Australia in their second round World Cup match, and Ukraine in their quarter final. Each time the team progressed onto the next stage, the streets would become full of supporters, chanting and singing their national anthem, flying their flags, and continually beeping their horns - a real sight to behold. “I dread to think what they would be like if they won the World Cup” we said…

Freco depicting the Last Judgement, on the ceiling of the Dome of Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence

Freco depicting the Last Judgement, on the ceiling of the Dome of Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence

The highlight of this trip for me however, was visiting Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, and climbing up the inside and standing on the top of Brunellechi’s Dome. It was one hell of a climb, but worth every cent of the 6 euro admission price. Having read up about this Renaissance landmark during my ‘A’ Levels, never in a million years did I think I would see it, let alone climb upon it. Inside the cathedral, the fresco on the underside depicting the last judgement, was an amazing sight also.

I wish the same could have been said for my visit to the Vatican, and in particular the Sistine Chapel. Whilst it was one of those moments you have to rub your eyes several times (as you realise you are standing directly below Michelangelo’s most celebrated work, the chapel’s ceiling and his famous scene from the Book of Genesis - The Creation of Adam), the fact that this chapel was full to the brim of tourists, flashing their cameras, chatting and generally showing no respect - guards shouting every so often ‘No Flash!’ and ‘Sssssh!’ - really took the magic out of what should have been a fantastic experience.

Castel Sant'Angelo as the night draws in

Castel Sant’Angelo as the night draws in

Overall, I’m glad I made the short 2 hour flight over to Rome. There are so many sights, attractions and experiences I haven’t touched on (there were many early morning’s and late nights). The city is just crammed full of ancient ruins, monuments and breathtaking cathedrals - the Colosseum too - again something you see and need to pinch yourself to believe you are right there inside it.

Would I return however? I doubt it. There is something about the city and it’s people that just didn’t sit right with me, and the heat was just unbearable. I also think there is just so many of these ruins, and landmarks, that you start to become a bit used to it all. This was a great little trip, but it was hard work, and certainly not something I would do again given I was looking to relax - I’m shattered just thinking about it all!

Photos from Rome »
Photos from Florence »
Photos from Vatican City »


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» That was 2006 from LloydyBlog, on January 1, 2007 1:07 AM...

Unsurprisingly, I feel compelled to write a review of this last year, which I think I can say with some confidence has been very different from previous years. Having said that it seems like I've spent the last five or... [Read More]


5 responses so far. Go on, add yours!

 Gravatar#1 On July 15, 2006 4:04 AM, krystyn said...

Been wondering where you'd run off to! I am envious. What amazing pictures from your journey.

I can completely relate to your desire to learn another language... I have always wanted to get one of those CDs that I could listen to during my commute or maybe even learn subliminally while I sleep. (But I suppose if that were really that easy, everyone would know several languages, right?) I think I'd like to learn Italian first. I used to share a studio with artists from Sardinia and even when they were screaming curses at one another it was sexy. :-)

 Gravatar#2 On July 17, 2006 10:47 AM, Jon Roobottom said...

Nice post, and I love the photographs. I strongly feel the best way to learn another language is go and immerse yourself in it for a month. I bet you'd learn such a lot if you were forced to speak Italian non-stop for a few weeks.

 Gravatar#3 On July 18, 2006 1:37 PM, Lewis Burden said...

I can see why you would not want to return - I heard that the Metro was grubby and the place was quite dirty. Although fantastic scenery and a great historical place of interest, I can see how one visit of exhaustive travelling in uneasy surroundings can make that experience one never to repeat again!!!

As for the language, go for it! But which one?!?

 Gravatar#4 On July 18, 2006 3:20 PM, Paul said...

Given that I will be in the States soon, and probably 50% of the population (and I'm counting illegal aliens from across the border here) speak Spanish, if I was to choose a foreign language to learn, this would probably be the one to get my teeth into!

 Gravatar#5 On July 24, 2006 12:44 PM, Mark said...

Be really sexy and learn a dead language..... or fortran.

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This entry was written on 15 Jul 2006, 2:41 AM and is filled under .