In response to our last minute request, A.C.L.E. granted Sarah and me a night in Rome between our Roccafranca and Lanuvio destinations. We had from 4pm Saturday until 1:30pm Sunday to experience one of the most culture-rich cities of both the ancient and modern worlds.
I quickly began to feel like part of a rapid motion film montage. The trip began with a warm welcome from a “Free Tourist Assistant,” who approached us in Roma Termini station and recommended an 18 euro/night hostel. The trip ended with Sarah and me literally running through the Sistene Chapel.
Our visit included Sarah and my very first stay in a hostel. It was cheap and situated conveniently between the train station and the Colosseum. Some of the drawbacks were fairly predictable: we were bunking with five other roommates, two of which were snoring heavily at 4:30pm. “Siesta,” we thought. No problem.
It was a little off-putting, though, that these ladies remained preternaturally passed out, in the same positions, until we checked out the next morning. Don’t worry, they didn’t miss any meals. The woman whose bed was directly adjacent to mine ate pastries as she slept. I am not kidding. The man sleeping at the foot of Sarah’s bunk had a special talent too. All night, he drowned out the blaring street noise with his own spot-on rendition of a truck backing up. The Cadillac of a man emitted HONK-HONK-HONK air horn noises with such persistence and verve, Harpo Marx would have been proud.
Needless to stay, Sarah and I avoided our room. We headed to the Colosseum. It began to rain as soon as we set foot inside the ruins. I enjoyed this – it added an appropriate sense of murkiness to the historically bloodbath-friendly arena of lions, tigers and gladiators. It also cleared the crowds out beautifully.
Next was a viewing of a modern bloodbath, the USA-Ghana World Cup game. This we watched from a gelateria. Yes, the gelateria (ice cream shop/bar combination) was the rowdiest place to watch sports. This is not actually surprising once you realize that there are few places in this country that don’t sell gelato. Since arriving, we have found all sorts of shops that contain everything from gelato to fertilizer to slot machines.
After the game, Sarah and I were unable to find a rowdy party, but we did join the crowds at the Trevi fountain and made wishes. (We both wished to find a party soon.)
The next morning, we went straight to the Sistene Chapel, were we learned (via trial and error) two tourist tips:
The museum and building are FREE on Sundays!
Do not underestimate the size of the church. Literally.
After moving somewhat rapidly through about an acre of painting, statues and barrel-vaulted ceilings, Sarah and I noted that our train to Lanuvio would soon be departing.
Thirty minutes later Sarah and I were still following the endless signs pointing toward the elusive Exit. We felt like Alice in Wonderland in her maze of regal figurines and shapely hedges – was there an exit, or had we been swallowed into the Last Judgment for eternity? It seemed inappropriate to run in this church of churches…but we did it anyway.
We made it back to Roma Termini with eight minutes to spare! A big thanks goes out to the A.C.L.E. campers who have been running us around for the past two weeks, training us for the physical demands of our Roman marathon.