...It was a pain to get up at 2:50am, but the bus would not wait. Instead of a longish lie-in, I had to drag my weary bones all the way to Stansted airport to catch some plane. To some - Rome.
Despite the unenthusiastic start, the transfer was perfect. The bus was half-empty, the Starbucks team at Stansted was friendly and the plane nap brought some funky dreams (description some other time), interrupted by an unanticipated realisation of the sight of Swiss Alps below. Wow!
Since plenty of black ink has been devoted to Rome before (and this BlackBerry is as much out of power as myself), may it just be a short narrative, written by a highly incompetent investment banking analyst who was never properly trained in writing (I key reasonably fast, though!!).
To fair wrath of all culturally aware readers, I shamelessly admit not having visited a single museum in Rome or Vatican. Honestly, two days only seemed long enough to wander about in random directions, stare at passers-by (who, often enough, happened to be Italian) and take pictures at an unimaginary rate - all of which I accomplished honourably.
When in Rome, do as Romans do. I broke this rule entirely by ordering a soy cappucino at an aptly named Café Café near Colosseo, at 7pm (cappuccino is a morning drink for Italians - those Romans are probably used to Barbarians already, though). The place had an authentic Italian feel, with its cosy atmosphere, your neighbour's proximity, dim candle light and stacks of wine bottles and olive oil jars by the walls. Interestingly, for some reason, my cappuccino came espresso-sized - either that is some sort of an Italian thing, or I am some sort of a Starbucks chick.
Staying in a hostel reminded me of my student times - co-run by a Sicilian "ragazzo" and a Bangladeshi, Eden was probably the cleanest and best value budget B&B I have ever slept in. It was also reasonably vacant in the low season - I shared a room with a smiley Chinese and a somber-looking black girl from North Carolina. Nobody was into asking questions that night, and I could safely drop off to bed. Which I needed (see beginning of this post).
What other memories have I taken out of Rome? Watching the sunset from Gianicolo Hill - twice, from different spots, the place is uniquely photogenic at dusk. Joining an Italian queue on Via del Corso for at least half an hour - queues in Italy are tricky, some three legs of one line somehow merge into one before the sales person, who then takes a judgement call which customer deserves to be served next - jumping the queue is hopeless and will provoke a chorus of disapproving chants from fellow queuers. Walking into countless churches and discovering more, hidden under arches, rear ends of busy streets and thick layers of scaffolding. Being totally disappointed by the unconvincingly shallow and greenish-looking Tevere (Tiber) during daylight - to reconsider later, when the historic river surrounded itself and its multiple bridges by a serpentine of those amazing orange lanterns. Deciding to give the mile-long St. Pietro queue a skip. Wandering along those narrow streets around Villa Borghese, including a wild (window-)shopping spree on Via Condotti (in my defence, the shops were closed on Sunday). And - of course - standing by the Colosseo at night and not really looking forward to going back to work, er, London.
Next time I will do all the museums, galleries and musical events. Also, next time I will bring a friend - those questioning stares courtesy of Italian males could drive any honest woman mad.
Until next time then! Ciao, Roma.