From the moment I stepped off the bus at Termini Station, half asleep and a little disoriented, Rome’s beauty and stature immediately showed.

It started off a little rough, though. My flight from Croatia was supposed to take off at 3:45pm but was delayed for over 4 hours so we didn’t land until about 9:30pm. Seems a little ridiculous to spend more than 6 hours at the airport for a 45 minute flight. Needless to say, I passed out as soon as I hit the bed at the hostel.

I woke the first day with a fresh energy to explore the city, so I spent the majority of it walking as I usually do the first day I get to a new destination. I didn’t have any real plan to start other than I knew I was staying just around the corner from the Colosseum. So, naturally, I went from there.

Needing fuel for the next few hours I grabbed a sandwich and wandered down the street. Through restaurants and passed boutique shopping stores, I turned the corner and saw the Colosseum in the distance. It’s one of those places that gives you that simple yet powerful ‘wow’ feeling.

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I mean, come on, you see it in movies and pictures and just the thought of what once happened there in front 70,000 people is incredible to think about.

Gladiators flighting and getting mauled by the likes of lions, tigers, panthers and bears who, sometimes, hadn’t eaten for up to 3 days prior to whatever spectacle was happening to make them that much more aggressive, all the way to naval exercises, concerts and theatre performances.

So, with that all in mind, I looked for my quickest way inside. Not only was the line to buy tickets (16 Euro) at least an hour and a half wait, you still had to wait in line for another hour just to get inside. So for 32 Euro I joined a guided tour that got to skip the line and go straight in (with included access to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill – each additional 10 Euro tickets when purchased separately), which was perfect because as soon as I got in I handed my headset back and went off on my own. Perfect.

Some may think that 32 Euro (roughly $50CAD) to be expensive for an entry fee, especially for a solo traveler on a budget, and usually you would be right. But let me explain. The most beneficial part of traveling on a solo budget is that time is money while you are in each destination. With less financial freedom to do all the things, adequately picking and choosing where (and what) you spend your money on will allow you to do and see more. In this case (and at The Vatican – more on that shortly) I needed to decide how I was going to get the most out of my time in the Eternal City.

I had 3-5 main things to do/see in each of my destinations. Rome was The Colosseum, Vatican City, Trevi Fountain and the Sistine Chapel (pretty typical list, I know). I knew that Trevi Fountain would be the only free attraction on the list, so I budgeted accordingly after a bit of research online in regards to entrance fees. When it was all said and done, it went something like this:

Original Budget (on day of visiting Colosseum and day after):

Day Of:

  • Breakfast – 5 Euro
  • Lunch – 10 Euro
  • Dinner – 10 Euro
  • Sightseeing/attractions/entertainment – 20 Euro
  • Miscellaneous (snacks, water etc.) – 10 Euro
  • Total: 55 Euro

Day After:

  • Breakfast – 5 Euro
  • Lunch – 10 Euro
  • Dinner – 10 Euro
  • Sightseeing/attractions/entertainment – 0 Euro
  • Miscellaneous (snacks, water etc.) – 10 Euro
  • Total: 35 Euro

Updated Budget (on day of visiting Colosseum and day after):

Day Of:

  • Breakfast – 4 Euro
  • Lunch – 8 Euro
  • Dinner – 10 Euro
  • Sightseeing/attractions/entertainment – 32 Euro
  • Miscellaneous (snacks, water etc.) – 0 Euro
  • Total: 54 Euro

Day After:

  • Breakfast – 5 Euro
  • Lunch – 10 Euro
  • Dinner – 10 Euro
  • Sightseeing/attractions/entertainment – 0 Euro
  • Miscellaneous (snacks, water etc.) – 0 Euro
  • Total: 20 Euro

 

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Altare della Patria

As you can see, by switching a few small details around I was able to afford that additional 16 Euro entrance fee to skip the line at the Colosseum without increasing or going over budget. It allowed me to spend over 3 hours inside, taking in everything it had to offer (and even eat lunch inside the Colosseum), tour the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, spend close to 3 hours inside, outside and on-top of Altare della Patria (also known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II) and watch the sunset in St. Peters Square. Not bad for a first day in Rome.

It almost seems ironic, but I believe that the best thing you can do while traveling on a budget is be flexible. I will write another post in the next few weeks that will dive into that in more detail.

Before I ditched my headset and separated myself from the guided tour I was actually able to take in a few cool facts from the guide. One being that on the night of an event they could get all 70,000 spectators through the gates and into their seats in 15 minutes. Thats some pretty darn good logistics.

I couldn’t get enough of the Colosseum. I spent those 3 hours just walking around and thinking about how insane some of the things that happened there were. Seeing how small and dark the rooms would have been below the floor where the animals would have been held, to just how steep and vast the theatre actually was. 70,000 people cheering at a lion ripping someones arm off. That would have been something.

The structure is definitely deteriorating over time, but the sheer fact that any of it has withstood over 2,000 years is a testament to Roman craftsmanship and ingenuity. I wandered around the outside a little longer and decided to head in the (general) direction of Trevi Fountain.

The Romans did it right. Everything about the city is just well-built and beautiful. Every detail was thought out and carefully crafted and most of these buildings have been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. And still standing. When did Western Civilization begin to cut corners?.

After weaving my way through alleyways and around street vendors, I knew I was close to Trevi Fountain because of the sound: an almost rhythmic combination of fountains of water and a large crowd. But once I navigated my way to within a clear view of the fountain I understood why so many people were here.

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Just look at that. Look at it. Thats worth seeing with your own eyes. I took some photos and videos and randomly met a guy from Texas who was working in England and in Rome for a few days. We laughed about the fact that everyone seemed to be in a rush to go nowhere and agreed that the best way to travel is to take your time.

I spent the rest of the night just meandering the streets and alleyways in complete awe of the city of Rome, slowly making my way to Vatican City to take in the sunset behind the dome of St. Peters Basilica.

The hostel I stayed at, New Generation Hostel, is hands down the best and nicest hostel I have stayed in. Everything was marble – everything – with nice stone and brick trimming, clean rooms and nice beds. Plus it was a 5 minute walk from the Colosseum, close to tons of restaurants, bars, markets and gelato shops. The gelato shops were not only abundant but necessary. Necessary because I got some every night. My goodness.

It was also only a 45 minute walk from Vatican City, which is essentially the furthest I needed to go. So I was perfectly centrally located.

Vatican City had that similar wow feeing as the Colosseum, but in a number of different ways. First it was standing in St. Peters Square and taking in the exquisite craftsmanship and power of the structures and statues, then it was the one-of-a-kind Vatican Museum where around every turn was something almost magical, and finally the breathtaking Sistine Chapel.

I did the same thing here that I did at the Colosseum. The line to get in to St. Peters Basilica was just ridiculous – I honestly couldn’t see the end of it. And the line to get into the Vatican Museum was almost as long, both at 16 Euro for an entry fee. So the next morning I went online to Tiquets and bought a 32 Euro skip the line ticket for the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. That meant I still had the option to purchase a separate ticket for St. Peters Basilica but I would have had to go outside and stand in line again, so, I just stuck with the Museum and Sistine Chapel.

The Vatican Museum was in-cred-ib-le. It blew my mind.

The finite detail of every inch of it was a lot to take in, but still, I plugged my headphones in, whipped my GoPro out and tried to take it all in. There really isn’t a great way to describe the inside of the Museum, so here are some pictures to help tell the story:

The Raphael rooms are worth mentioning. Other than the Sistine Chapel I spent more time here than anywhere else. Just sitting and looking and getting lost in the detail and story of the frescoes. They were painted by Raphael and his apprentices and were originally intended as a suite of apartments for the Pope.

I wasn’t sure what to expect in the Sistine Chapel. I hadn’t seen any photos and other than a few facts read online I didn’t know too much about it, other than it was created by Michelangelo. But, as I mentioned above, it blew. my. mind.

Im sitting here trying to navigate my brain to figure out some sort of way to describe it and I can’t come up with anything that would truly do it justice. I literally couldn’t take my eyes off the scenes from Genesis on the ceiling or The Last Judgement on the altar wall. They were so real, and life-like, it was almost as if they were coming out of the walls. It was one of the most incredible things I have ever laid eyes on and I must have spent over an hour in the Chapel alone. I just couldn’t take my eyes off of, well, everything. It truly is one of those places you must see before you die.

By the time I left the museum it was dinner time. As I did the previous two nights I just wandered until I decided on a place that had what I was looking for: carbonara pasta.

Followed closely by gelato. Every night.

I think I lucked out with the hostel I was staying at. I knew it was rated very good on Booking and that it was centrally located, but it exceeded any expectations I had. Even the other people staying in my room were great, which sometimes doesn’t aways happen in a hostel.

On a regular basis while I was gone I would catch myself having absolutely no idea what day of the week it was. When you travel for an extended period your weekdays and weekends blend together, because truthfully every night of the week is the weekend. But Rome was where it almost gave me a heart attack. Long story short I thought I was staying in the same spot for another night, when I wasn’t. It wasn’t until mid-afternoon that I realized that today wasn’t tomorrow and that tomorrow, definitely, was today.

Rome really is one of those cities that has something at every turn. I did and saw so much in the 5 days that I was there but still had so much more I wanted to do and see. The food, the people, the architecture, the charm and the history is an astounding combination that seems to effortlessly blend together.

Here’s a few other shots from around the city:

Posted by Greg Asselin

One Comment

  1. Fantastic pics to go along with the great read! I would love to get back there!

    Reply

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