Thursday, 10 November 2011

Rome and Running

01/11/2011 - Finally after 8 weeks of zero exercise I did my first run Saturday 22nd October - a massive 1.89 miles. Rubbish. The hardest, slowest, shortest run I've completed in about two years. Oh well at least I'm back running and hopefully now I can start to drop the additional weight I've gained in the last two months.

Anyway before I can do another run I'm off to Rome for a week with my loving family - so at least I could expect plenty of walking. We flew out on the Sunday, nice smooth flight, and a couple of hours after take off we're landing in Rome. A short taxi ride later and we're settled into our, small, but perfectly formed hotel bedroom.

Small but nice.
Next morning and and after a lovely breakfast we're off for a day trotting around central Rome. We headed towards the Colosseum, admiring the various Roman ruins and the quite scrummy Italian ice creams. We go to the beautiful Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II and pay the 7 euro's each to take the glass lift to the roof. A silly price really but still stunning views across Rome and the Colosseum after which we took a slow stroll back to the hotel and a beer in the bar. 

View from the top.
Evening was spent in a smashing little restaurant full of eclectic charm. 

Waiting for wine

Tuesday was the day we'd booked a guided tour of the Colosseum but a quick look at the ticket and a scratch of the head I ask my wife why we'd booked the Spanish speaking tour. Arse. So it's another 10 euros each to transfer to the English speaking tour guide - yet more money. You do get a little fed-up paying to get into almost everything when the museums etc are all free at home. Anyway the tour was good and the Colosseum quite stunning and well worth the visit. The trip back to the hotel surprisingly, by surprisingly I mean we went there deliberately, took us past the place with the amazing ice creams so we could not walk on by without loading up a three scoop cone.

The evening was spent in a very popular little restaurant which was recommended in our guide book - it was pretty shit - it was busy, distinctly average food and forgetful service. Here's the thing, the general standard of food in Rome was distinctly average.  You'd be forgiven for expecting the pasta and pizza's to be top notch but it's just not. The overriding word that springs to mind is "bland". I love Italian food, I've had some lovely pasta in some of the Italian restaurants in Bedford etc but not a single one in the week I was in Rome. 

Looking for food.

Wednesday was a day of bus hopping around Rome and visiting the sites.  First on the list was the Vatican. We'd bought a days ticket to ride the open top buses and with this you get a set of headphones that you can plug into sockets next to your seat and listen to a narration of the sites you're driving past. So we traveled and listened until we reached the Vatican. As expected it was very busy and full of nuns and priests and rather impressive.  We purchased a sandwich a drink, in my case a beer - something that surprised my wife, from a mobile food place and settled down for brunch.

Busy, busy, busy
Food and drink consumed we continued on our we doing a bit of tourist shopping on the way. I really wanted a bobble head pope but the prices were a bit too high so I had to consul myself with a nice ring instead.  It's silver with the cross and the Lords prayer engraved round it. My wife felt it was an odd choice for an atheist to chose but I liked it for it's own sake bit like religious art you don't have to be religious to appreciate it. Not that this ring was fine art, at ten euros my wife expects it to turn my finger green. 

Stopping at a cafe.
We then visited a castle and generally bummed around Rome for the day, visiting the Trevi Fountain, museums etc on our quests to see as much of Rome as we could.
Some statues in some museum
Interestingly the Trevi Fountain is stunning but if you're expecting it to be sitting in an impression plaza you're in for a disappointment. It's hidden away down some small alleyways in a small and crowded little square.

Trevi Fountain - watch your bags !!
Thursday it was a very early start as we had book to travel to Pompeii; a three hour journey by coach. The journey was broken up by a stop for a coffee, the standard visit to a craft producer and a quick stop in Naples.

Naples, it was alright I guess.
It's quite impressive standing in Naples and seeing Mount Vesuvius in the background and knowing that we were heading to Pompeii; a town destroyed by the volcano in 79AD. Anyway off to Pompeii and our first task once we arrived was to grab some lunch.  Pompeii is still lived in today and due to tourist is quite busy.

In newer Pompeii
After lunch we set off into the old city of Pompeii, home to around 25,000 people at the time of the eruption that buried it for many centuries.  First thing that shocked me was how large it was. I had this idea in my head that it was a small village but in fact it was a large Roman town - thriving and quite beautiful.

Amphitheatre Pompeii
We spent two hours on a guided tour around Pompeii and only saw a fraction of it. It really is an amazing place; from the grand buildings and marble pillars to the small domestic dwellings and the city's brothel - still adorned with rather naughty pictures on the walls. While walking around Pompeii you are taken in by both it's beauty and it's familiarity, so much of it you can relate to and recognise as not being out of place in ones own towns and citys. Welcome signs at the front doors, the shops, the public swimming baths, lead piping etc. Then you remember what befell the residence and this is brought into stark focus when you see the plaster cast of the people who perished. Inside each of these is the remains of a Pompeii resident cast forever in their dying pose. Quite moving even in the hubbub of the milling tourists. One can't help but wish that they were put somewhere better that the shelves of the storage areas or in the glass cabinets in dark corners.

Then the long couch trip back to Rome arriving back at 9pm very tired and hungry. So we hit the local Mc Donalds and ordered for England. Excellent day. Friday we spent the day prior to flying home chilling around Rome and enjoying a HUGE beer at one of Rome's many bar/cafe's. Then the flight home which was delayed because one of the planes tyres went flat just as we were about to take off which meant sitting on the plane for a couple of hours while the tyre was replaced. Still all in all an excellent trip away.

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