Rome has always been one of those places hovering on the edge of my list…My parents went about 10 years ago and got robbed twice in a weekend, which never really shouted dream destination to me. It’s also one of those places that’s easy to get to and not likely to change, putting it in the ‘go to other places first’ pile.
But this year I’m running the London Marathon for charity, and knew that training might become a slog unless I spiced it up a bit. So I decided to look abroad for some half marathons. It was actually quite surprising given the plethora of half marathon options in the UK how few I could find abroad in the March/April timeframe (admittedly in places I wanted to go to)- but Rome delivered and I decided to make it into a long weekend and see the sights.
I arrived Thursday night at 23.30 and took a terravision bus to the centre for 4 Euros. The Brit in me found the bus queuing system very stressful. A man in a high viz with a clipboard was hiding round a corner, gleefully allowing carnage to ensue. However despite the lack of order I was somehow able to get on the bus (admittedly this may have involved some very anti-British queue jumping…when in Rome??).
The Friday morning I headed over to the Vatican City. I decided to pay and get a tour which I’d booked before I left through Dark Rome. I’m pleased I did – sometimes it’s nice to explore at your own pace, but despite being the smallest state in the world the Vatican has a hell of a lot to see and at least a tour guide makes sure you see all of the best bits (while skipping the queues along the way).
I was seriously impressed with the whole place (if not slightly bemused by the fact you have to cover your shoulders and knees in the Sistine Chapel despite the walls being covered with pictures of penises…but hey ho). My favourite bit was actually this blinging gold corridor:
After the Vatican I wandered back to my hostel via the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain. The Pantheon was a proper turn the corner wow moment. The Trevi fountain was more ‘try not to get taken out by a selfie stick’. But very beautiful all the same.
Saturday morning was a reminder of one of the nice things about travelling alone – if you do something stupid no one needs to ever know about it. Having showered I went to get my clothes out of my padlocked locker – only to find I’d misplaced the tiny key (still unfound). Oops.
Thankfully I was able to borrow a pair of bolt cutters from reception (feel I might not have been the first in this situation) so there was no need to visit the Colosseum in my towel…
Alas, my dim-witted morning continued. Given the success of my tour the day before I thought I’d hire an audio guide for the Palatino and Roma Forum. Unfortunately I then neglected to listen to any of the instructions from the helpful man about where to pick it up. After wandering round for half an hour I gave up and accepted the loss of the seven Euros and no audio guide…not one of my most travel savvy moments.Thankfully the signage was pretty good and with a little subtle tailing of English speaking tour groups I was able to get the gist of the super impressive place.
The Palatino museum was a particular highlight as it included a very well produced film that helps you visualise how the area would have looked all those years ago and pretend you’re an emperor.
After this I popped back over to the Colosseum, which is seriously WOW. Somebody once said to me ‘what’s the point in travelling you can see these places in pictures’ (I know I know, ridiculous but I am from Norfolk…). But you just can’t get a sense of a place from pictures – the colossus size, the buzz and the woah moment when you see it for the first time. And the Colosseum is truly epic from outside and in. I joined the throngs and got myself a selfie to prove I was there:
The rest of my afternoon I spent tootling about taking in the atmosphere and other cool buildings. Rome is dominated by the five or six must see monuments, but outside of these are beautiful churches, architecture and statues that in any other city would be the star attraction!
In fact, what I loved about Rome was something I similarly love about London – there is simply so much awesome stuff. In both cities you’ll be wandering around and turn the corner and there’s ridiculously cool history just there between the MacDonald’s and metros.
The RomaOstia Half Marathon
On Sunday morning I donned my trainers and took a tube to the start of the RomaOstia Half Marathon. I was feeling good, despite having been put in the category just above ‘fast walkers’ which I wasn’t sure how to take. I had my new race tshirt on – which I’d picked up following a #awks exchange on the Friday. “Size?” The man had asked. I said “urm small/medium I’m not sure can I try one on?”. He cocked his head and was like, “medium definitely medium”. And I thought Italians were meant to be charming??!
When I signed up to the half I didn’t really look at the details – I sort of assumed I’d be running round the Colosseum and taking selfies with the pope. Turns out the RomaOstia marathon starts way out of the tourist district and then is a basically straight 21k along a closed motorway to the coast.
I will admit this wasn’t the scenic jaunt around Rome I was expecting. But it was still really good fun – it’s quite nice to see how other countries organise these kind of events. And it was actually spectacularly well organised – really good bag drop, clear signage and km posts (which actually matched my sports watch!) and efficient race number collection.
My journey back to Rome was hampered by a bad case of runners belly. There was an awkward moment on the tube that very nearly turned into THAT scene from bridesmaids, but thankfully I was able to escape (sorry overshare!). I got back to the hostel and slept for a couple of hours, eventually being woken by a group of Argentinian girls who came in and started spraying deodorant everywhere. I took that as my cue to get up and take a shower!
I spent the rest of the afternoon in the gardens of the museum Borghese. This was a very lovely way to spend a Sunday – the gardens were beautiful, a bit Hyde park esque – with cool statues, people taking walks and a big impressive building in the middle. It was fairly relaxing once I worked out a path that avoided the cyclo-buggies, cyclists, segwayers, and go karters..
And then after a lovely meal and an even lovelier chocolate tart it was time to go back to the hostel, pack up and go home.
A few final thoughts
I must have heard the words ‘selfie stick, selfie stick lady’ 100 times this weekend. Rome is full of peddlars trying to sell their cheap plastic sticks to a seemingly willing tourist market. I scoffed and scorned at this all weekend, however now reviewing my hideous ability to take a selfie I maybe should be a convert to the selfie stick world for my next solo adventure??!