The one about Those Who Rome Alone

Get it? Roam alone … except I was in Rome …

Ok- never explain your own ‘jokes’. Especially when writing. Got it!

I said goodbye to my sister and my niece and nephew in Den Haag (The Hague), Netherlands and set off on my own to Rome. It had become real. I was truly on my own and had to make it back alive and in one piece!

I navigated through Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport well enough and made it to my gate. But not before I deliberately avoided an argument with the check in person about checking in my bag. Lesson learned about not sweating the small stuff. I was already cutting it close and didn’t want history to repeat itself, especially so soon after the prior ‘incident’. Long story short, I checked in the carry on.

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This mirrored my feelings as I made the long walk to my gate

During my long walk to the gate, I was experiencing so many emotions at the same time and just trying not to cry. Not from sadness but just from exhaustion-one, from the realization of what was before me and not being sure what I would face-two, and also not being sure if I was truly ready (for example, the extent of my Italian was Buongiorno and Grazi)- three, also from missing my amazing travel buddies (sister, niece, and nephew) as we had such a blast in Paris, Belgium, and the Netherlands together.

All around me were smiling groups of people, either friends or families, excited to be going home or to be going on vacation. The last straw was when it was time to board and I saw these words written on the jet bridge. I hastily wiped away the few tears that sneaked out and down to my cheeks. I had to be tough; I wanted this anyway. I asked for it. I had waited for this for a long time and so looked forward to it. So … Heck yeah, I was ready!

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Yes!!! Here she comes- make way! 🙂

We arrived at Rome’s airport and as I feared, it was dark already. However, I had done the smart thing, or so I thought, of booking a hotel very close to the airport- being in a strange city at night time, solo female traveler, barely any Italian and all. However, that meant I was farther away from Rome city center. I convinced myself that by the next morning I would have fully understood the metro system and I would find my way to the city center- wrong. The hotel was very close to the beach, walking distance, according to their website; and beach definitely trumps being close to city center. I love how my brain works :).

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It took me a while but I found where the hotel shuttle was supposed to pick me up. I was the only one there for a long time and getting increasingly worried. But I waited. And waited. I watched others get on buses going directly to the city center and figured they’d probably get to their destination before my shuttle even arrived. So much for getting a hotel closer to the airport. Eventually more people joined me in the wait for the shuttle. And then much later, the shuttle arrived. And of course, it wasn’t a direct shuttle. It felt like we went to all the other hotels in town before getting to mine. You can tell patience is my strongest suit.

When I got to the hotel, it definitely did not look like the pictures online. I mean, it was the same place, but they had a very skilled photographer, I can tell you that! Check in was good, I asked about the beach- I was told it was a few minutes walk but … I had feared there would be a but.  … but it wasn’t beach season so a lot of the attractions and restaurants were closed. Great! I asked about transportation to the city center because I was certain at that point I would not be able to figure it out easily in the amount of time I had before morning (it was past 10 pm local time). Luckily, they had a shuttle – for a fee.

I got to my room, nice enough room. Very tiny- welcome to Europe- but clean. It also had a bidet . I got a nice kick out of that :). The door ahead is the entry to the room, the picture is the entire room, and behind me is the bathroom and a desk. There was a wall mounted TV as well. That’s how small it was; but sufficient though, as all I needed it for was to sleep. The vacation happens outside the hotel room ;).

The next morning, I went down and had a little breakfast- I wasn’t too confident in the choices they had so I had a couple of bread rolls and butter, and a hot chocolate. Didn’t want an upset stomach ruining my only day out in Rome! Yes- only day. This was the time I had that crazy itinerary and only had one full day to spend in Rome (and Vatican City, for that matter. Hey, that’s 2 countries in one day!). I had to make it count- there would be no do-overs.

I walked around for a bit and waited for the shuttle to the city center. The streets were really busy and it was nice to see general parts of Rome that weren’t necessarily touristy. And House of Cards is a thing there too! At this point, I hadn’t even started watching House of Cards, but I knew of it. Next thing, the bus stopped by the side of the street and the driver said he’d be back at 8p. I took a very good look at my surroundings and even took a few pictures of the area, just in case. Then I began my walk.

I had gotten a map of Rome city center at the lobby before leaving the hotel and had made a marking of the path I would walk between where the bus dropped me off and the Vatican. That was going to be my first item of business. I came to find out that it was a seriously long walk when I had walked for over half an hour and was still not anywhere close to the Vatican; but I had no choice. Luckily it was kind of straightforward (as I don’t do well with map reading)- all I had to do was follow River Tiber or Fiume Tevere, which was sometimes unfortunate for me, as it didn’t smell very nice in some parts. I started from Via di Ponte Rotto all the way to St. Peter’s Basilica or Basilica S. Pietro along Lungotevere del Tebaldi.

 

I had to go to the Vatican. Months before my trip, I had researched things to do in Rome, famous sites to visit, and tours and I found some free walking tours. There was a general one and a Vatican one but I knew I would miss the Vatican one because of the time the shuttle would arrive in the city center. So I decided I would do the Vatican one on my own time and join the afternoon general tour. This ended up being a smart choice actually because the Vatican free tour didn’t take you into the Vatican museum, where all the ‘good stuff’ is- surprise surprise!

As I walked north to Vatican City, I saw some interesting things, some of which I managed to grab pictures of and some I just privately enjoyed. I witnessed a lot of rough skillful driving by motorbikers- even female ones! I was actually quite impressed- but of course, they were always too fast for me to capture on camera, or even video. I did record a few videos that day though, one on my walk up. I tell you, it was such a long walk, I had to entertain myself somehow (whilst hiding my map- as I didn’t want people to know I had no clue what I was doing, haha).

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Oh hi there, Marilyn!

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Several bridges along this road, can’t remember which one this was.

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Windy, tiny, side streets and houses on hills. Quite colorful too!

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This dude, just trotting along with his horse in the middle of the street and with other vehicles.

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And another bridge- much closer to the Vatican now. Phew!

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All I had to do was cross this intersection, walk a bit more and I’d be right there! You can see St. Peter’s Basilica in the background

Finally, the end was in sight and as I walked up, I tried to take it all in. It truly is a magnificent sight to behold. I immediately felt a bit holier- haha, not really. And then I got the shock of my life! (see below). That’s the queue for God knows what! I couldn’t even tell where it started and where it ended. To join the queue or not to join the queue? Find out in my next post! (I figured at ~1500 words, this post was probably long enough ;P).

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Cheers!

xoxo

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