An impromptu trip to Rome (part 1)

One blustery Friday evening in January 2009 I did the most spontaneous thing I have ever done and booked a flight to Rome for early the following morning.

Earlier in the day I’d endured the dreaded ‘Collections’ (Oxford speak for mock exams at the beginning of each term); I hadn’t felt they’d gone well, and I was about to embark on another term at Oxford in a sombre state of mind, not helped by simultaneously being beleaguered by men problems.  I’d been for a long and freezing walk round Oxford that evening, the rain had started to fall, and I was feeling thoroughly miserable:  so I went straight back to my room in college and booked myself onto the next flight to Rome. This was in the bygone days when I still had money in my savings account…

I stayed awake and got on a coach to Heathrow at 2am.  I didn’t tell anybody I was going, and I didn’t book a hotel, which was all part of the adventure.

Here’s what I wrote in my diary!

17/1/09 – 3.30am

I’m at Heathrow and check-in doesn’t open for an hour!  Gah!  But am really excited actually.  This is definitely the most crazily spontaneous thing I have ever done.  I hope I can get some Euros… everywhere seems to be closed at the mo.

5am

All checked in and enjoying a cappuccino before boarding commences in around 20 minutes.  Positively teeming with excitement!  This is just the sort of major diversion I was in need of. Don’t want to start term on a downer.  Definitely a good idea and can’t wait to see the Colosseum again!!

12pm

Wow, this is so surreal, can’t believe I’m actually here!!  Am sitting in the small leafy area next to Trajan’s Column.  We had lunch here with the summer school one day. It’s sunny, and warm enough that I can have my coat undone and I don’t need a scarf. Hurrah!

Trajan's Column

Trajan's Column against a beautiful blue sky

The journey went smoothly.  I found a random little hotel which is €45 a night, which was the cheapest one I found. It’s really near Termini, which is convenient for the Metro.  I might go to the Vatican tomorrow morning, just to wander around rather than go in – want to limit expenditure as much as possible!!

I’ve walked round the Colosseum, imperial fora and the Capitoline Hill so far.  Have had a big grin on my face much of the time – I must look an idiot but I’m just so happy to be back!

Arch of Constantine

The Arch of Constantine - and the January sun

12.30pm

I’m sat outside a restaurant in the sun with a glass of red wine and a pizza on its way.  Wonderful!  Definitely a good idea to come here to recuperate!

6.50pm

It’s been a very tiring day – done lots of walking!  I’ve been to the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps (actually went up to the top this time!), Pantheon, Piazza Navona etc.  Nowhere new, but nice to revisit.  Spent ages attempting to find my favourite gelateria, San Crisipino’s, without the aid of the map; failed, and then spent even more time trying to find it with the map.  I always struggle to remember which side of the Trevi fountain it’s on, and then of course it’s so small and inconspicious that I always walk past it several times.  However, I did find it eventually and had a delicious scoop of meringue and caramel for old time’s sake.  Mmm!

The Pantheon

Horses waiting patiently outside the Pantheon

I threw the obligatory coin into the Trevi Fountain to ensure my return to Rome, and made a wish – it’s not failed me on either count thus far, so let’s hope its success continues.

I’m now in a restaurant awaiting food.  It’s strange eating out alone.  It’s not something I’d do back in England, but there’s something about being a traveller which seems to make it ok.  I certainly haven’t felt at all uncomfortable.  On the contrary, it’s wonderful to have some time to myself, and I feel rather enigmatic dining alone and scribbling away in my journal.  I also like people-watching, and just sitting watching the world go by.  It’s quite a contented feeling actually.

It was definitely a good idea to have a complete change of scene and get out of miserable, rainy England for a while.  It’s been so sunny and warm here – I could sit outside for lunch in the sun with just my flimsy 3/4 sleeve low-cut top and not need a coat. Sooo nice!  I can’t believe that only 24 hours ago the thought hadn’t even crossed my mind that I’d be spending the weekend in Rome!

Earlier I was walking to Colosseo Metro Station and the Via dei Fori Imperiali had been pedestrianised to allow a huge protest to march down it.  I don’t know what they were protesting about, as the few snippets of Italian I could understand – “basta silencio” – didn’t really tell me much.  They were carrying flags, but I shamefully didn’t recognise what country they represented.  A few people were holding banners of grisly pictures of what looked like burnt people – so whatever it was, it was obviously really serious.  There were swarms of Carabinieri about, and there was a helicopter hovering overhead.  Must remember to try and find out what that was about.

On a more trivial note, I’m not too impressed with the hotel, although the staff are nice, which helps.  The room is literally about a sixth of the size of my uni room, and I’ve had to move rooms because they originally put me in a smoking room, something I only realised after spending a longer spell of time here when I came back for a shower.  Still, they were quick to find me another room, and it’s only for a couple of nights so I won’t grumble too much.

Plan for tomorrow morning is going to the Vatican I think, just to potter around and take some photos.  I took masses today, mostly of things I already have loads of photos of, but the only time I’ve been to the Vatican was a brief visit in 2005, so it’ll be good to revisit.  If I can find it – that’s the first hurdle!!

I’m knackered now, having had no sleep for 48hrs, but it’s been well worth it – an unexpectedly lovely day.

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About Rachel Ingram

I graduated from Oxford University in 2009 with an MA in Classical Archaeology and Ancient History from St John's College. After graduating I worked as a Geographic Researcher at Holidaylettings.co.uk, spending lots of time researching and writing travel guides to worldwide destinations, developing my copywriting skills. After working as a copywriter and content consultant at White.net (formerly SEOptimise), where I most enjoyed working with travel clients, I went self-employed. I now divide my time between freelance copywriting and running the business I set up with my boyfriend - AirExperiences.co.uk - selling aviation gift experiences. In my spare time I'm training for a Private Pilot's Licence, and I also enjoy travelling, wine and baking. My favourite authors are Charles Dickens, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Bill Bryson.
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