Linked to Sunday Scribblings
I had just one purpose in my mind when I booked my short break. I needed to prove to myself that there really are place well worth exploring just a short distance away. I can’t say I was particularly excited before setting off on my trip to Rome. After all, most of my holidays involve delving deep into countries far away with cultures which differ in every way from ours. Rome is just a few hours away and part of the EU as is the UK.
And so it was that I booked a cheap flight from London Gatwick on Easyjet, a no-frills budget airline where one has the novel experience of actually having to pay for a glass of wine and a sandwich! But it was fine. The A300-and-something was modern and clean. It left and arrived on time. After disembarking and gliding smoothly through passport control I managed to fathom out which was the cheapest way to transfer from the airport to the city, then found myself sitting on a crowded transfer bus. But it was cheap and reasonably cheerful. As we left the airport we drove through open, flat and characterless countryside. After a while the surroundings changed to typical urban sprawl. The road was flanked by anonymous 60’s blocks of apartment buildings; archetypal, bland. From their rooftops, forests of aerials pointed skyward, speckled with satellite dishes. I could have been in the outskirts of any city anywhere in Europe.
But then things changed; dramatically. We plunged through an arch in a tall stone wall which disappeared into the distance to our left and right. Suddenly we were hurtling along a tree lined avenue with majestic buildings set back from the road. I began to smile to myself. Gradually the city centre with its rows of shops began to envelope us! And then, an hour after setting off from Fiumicino airport, I ended up at Rome’s Termini train station. I disembarked and grabbed by back-pack from the hold. I found the piece of paper on which I’d written out a route to my accommodation and set of in the stifling heat on what should have been a ten minute walk to my accommodation.
Two hours later I arrived, having taken numerous wrong turns and asked for directions from several non-English-speaking locals who appeared baffled by my gesticulations, spluttering and sign language. I had booked an inexpensive bed and breakfast establishment. Until I got there had no idea it would be a group of rooms within a condominium block rather than a mini-hotel. I clearly looked baffled as I stood there staring at the number 39 on the wall with sweat running down my face. My predicament was noticed by a passer-by who, in perfect English asked if I required assistance in gaining entry. She looked at my piece of paper to establish the name of lodgings then pressed one of dozens of little buttons; the one which was labelled Sweet House Cianza. The speaker crackled into life, a loud clonk came from the massive wooden door and a voice invited me to push it open and enter. Once inside I found an ancient elevator which carried me creaking and banging up to the fourth floor where I was met by a grinning gentleman who introduced himself as Chandra. He took me to his little office where he produced a map of Rome and proceeded to make circles and lines all over it which were intended to suggest places of interest and the easiest ways of reaching them. He then took me to my room. I wasn’t expecting much. It was not after all a hotel. I had shelled out very little financially, so I expected very little in return. How wrong I was! My vast room was as good as any I had stayed in anywhere. An enormous bed, a huge comfy sofa, and a dining table. A modern bathroom which even had one of those things I think you are supposed to wash your feet in – a bidet? There was a little telly too! Atop a fridge sat an actual Italian espresso machine; I was after all in the land of coffee! A tray piled high with breakfast items; packets of croissants toast and jams. A box of muesli sat alongside various varieties of tea bags and ground coffee. Now this I liked! Suddenly any doubts I had about my Roman mini-break evaporated. This was surely a sign of the good things to come.
And so it was. The following five days were to be filled with one amazing experience after another. And in a day or two’s time I’ll be inviting you to join me through my words and pictures, on what turned out to be the trip of a lifetime.