It’s Saturday so it must be Rome! We had a long day planned in the city so although we hadn’t intended to get up early, we were breakfasted and ready to go at 9.30. We had no definite idea of what we wanted to see, but we knew we couldn’t see everything, so we got off the Metro in the centre and aimed for the shops. As we emerged from the metro the storm cloud was waiting for us, hovering at the top of the steps. This time he meant business and this time we were not to escape his devious plan. The rain started gently enough, gradually gaining momentum over half an hour, until the moment of the deluge. And then did it pour. For about an hour it tipped down mercilessly and although we tried to keep out of it, it was a fruitless task. I have to say it did dampen our enthusiasm considerably. As it eased off we found the Trevi Fountain, surrounded by a sea of umbrellas and sought refuge in a cafe, waiting to view it in the dry. Without doubt the best time to see the fountain is at 5.30 in the morning as at any other time it is just awash with tourists. Still we got our photos and we threw our coins in for good measure.
If we were not to waste our day we had to just get on with it, so we then decided to explore the main shopping area, finding the touristy stuff as we went. We ended up at the tomb of the Unknown Warrior which is a most impressive place, but we still had found only one decent watch shop. The day wasn’t going well for Beastie. We walked back down the Via del Corso and in an act of wanton rebellion against the Italians for hiding their watch shops, we grabbed a MacDonalds for lunch and thought we would then explore Isola Tiberina, which was ok but wouldn’t blow you away, so we sat and enjoyed a drink in the emerging sunshine and considered what to do.
The decision was made, so off to the Vatican we went, which was about 30 minutes walk from where we were. The sun by now was streaming down and everyone but us was out in t-shirts and the like. The front of the Vatican is very impressive, but not so much in a religious way, more of an authoritarian and powerful way. A few years ago we paid a flying visit to Lourdes and frankly found it very disturbing, a sort of Disneyland for the Catholic Church but here the religious overtones were quite hard to spot. The Vatican is a seat of power, the architecture reflects this, it is where decisions are made, while Lourdes is more religious being a place of pilgrimage, where miracles are made to happen. The Vatican is probably where they decide how much to charge for the miracles! The queue for St Peters Basilica was so long I cannot believe anyone would join the end of it – we certainly didn’t, we had an ice cream instead. Then off again over Ponte San Angelo and into more of a tourist bit (still no watch shops mind).
Soon after this Beastie flaked on me – I will not dwell on it, but he was knackered, as was I, but he needed leading to a chair and a cup of tea to recharge himself, and regain his charm and equanimity, I merely served. Once refreshed he asked the waiter where there was a good watch shop, one of which we had already seen and the other turned out to be closed!
It is a well known piece of Beastie wisdom that a town/city can be graded according to the number and type of watch shops it has. This puts Rome in a very bad light, and this is born out by the other shops which to be honest, are pretty ordinary. We were left with the idea that all the money in Italy is in the northern cities, leaving Rome as an historical and administrative centre. There didn’t seem to be that many decent clothes shops for a capital city, or if there were they kept them well hidden from us and we ended up with the feeling that it is not a city we would think of for good shopping. Quite strange really. Rome itself could be improved by slowing down the volume and speed of traffic in the centre, as there are very few places where you are away from the roar of it, and you seem to be constantly crossing very wide roads, that demand acts of great courage to do so, even on a crossing.
However, realising that we were totally floored by a day of walking, and we must have walked 4/5 miles, we decided we would go back to the hotel earlier than we had originally intended, and to have a snackette in front of the Colosseum just before we left. The last shower hit as we were coming home on the train, so it missed us and I will say nothing as we paid a high price for gloating yesterday about avoiding the rain in Assisi! I hope we have seen the last of this rain now.
Finally, as I sit here writing this there is one hell of a row going on in Reception, which is close to our room and I am not sure I want to poke my head out and see what is going on, or stay out of the way. I can’t believe the desk clerk would be ranting at a guest like that, but this Italy – I am intrigued, but not quite enough and in truth I think that sums up Rome for us. Tomorrow is another day and another city – Siena.