A Snapshot when in Rome…Well this is new. Welcome to a new blog post series called ‘A snapshot when in’. Fittingly for instalment numero uno it is ‘When in Rome’.
So what is this new thing one may wonder? I’ll tell you. Without realising on recent trips, I find myself starting off the first morning of a trip walking. Kind of pointlessly. I’ve decided to make this a challenge to myself. Without using any sort of map, whenever I arrive in a new city, I want to spend one hour, just walking around. Taking in the smells; the ambience, the scenery, and trying to figure out a natural sense of direction. Within the hour, I shall only use my phone to take snapshots of the things I see, with the aim to take ten images within the hour to sum up my first hour in that city. That’s a new photo every six minutes of walking.
Before we get into my first impressions of Rome, I have to tell you the back story as to how I’ve actually ended up here in the first place… As those of you who have been following me for a while will know, I take a lot of flights. A LOT. Arguably this very run of the mill flight to Rome, was met with the most agitation I could have imagined.
I stayed the night before the flight at ‘The Hoxton’, my favourite hotel in London, in Shoreditch. My taxi en route from Waterloo Station, to the hotel, was hit at 20mph directly from behind, by a bus. Brilliant start. Slight agitation to the neck but fortunately no one was seriously hurt. I then proceeded to calm myself down with a small bottle of Italian white wine; foreshadowing what’s to come we hope…
The following morning, all of the trains were significantly delayed from Farringdon station to Gatwick airport. FANTASTIC. As a frequent visitor to British airports, I am now confident of leaving with as little time as possible to make it to the airport as the check in process I can now perform in my sleep. This time it was touch and go but after changing train 3 times in 2 hours, we made it to Gatwick. Perfect, next stop ROME!
I was lucky enough to have an entire plane row to myself on the flight, therefore I nonchalantly slopped my phone, book and passport down on the chair next to me. Upon leaving the aircraft, I didn’t collect my passport from the seat. Easily done when you’ve just arisen from a beautifully comfortable aeroplane sleep. I got down to the bottom of the stairs coming off the plane and immediately realised what I had done. Speaking to the ground staff I asked if I could run back up the stairs and just pick my passport up off the seat next to me where I have left it. I was aggressively told that this was not allowed and that a member of security will escort the passport to me in security as soon as the plane was cleared and checked 15 minutes later. No point arguing, 15 minutes is no time at all. I can be patient.
Thirty minutes pass and by this point, I am understandably beginning to ask questions of security inside Rome airport as to when I should expect my passport to return to me. Every time greeted with belligerent responses of ‘WAIT’ ‘BE PATIENT’. Okay… One hour passes, nothing. Two hours… NOTHING. Now I am getting seriously agitated. An averagely logical human being would see no harm in me walking quickly back up the stairs onto the plane, to pick up my passport. By this point, I have been told by Italian security that the plane has been vigorously checked twice and no passport has been found. Extremely lazy ground staff immediately springs to mind. THE PASSPORT IS ON THE DAMN SEAT.
Now I am starting to think that I may be stuck in Italian security for a while. I was correct. The plane took off again heading for Seville. Wonderful. I’m here for 36 hours yet the most important document of my existence is heading to the South of Spain. Bloody phenomenal. I call the British embassy… Closed. I then phone Vueling, the airline, and air my understandable frustrations at the lack of care taken by their staff when checking the plane. I am told that the exact aircraft will in fact be flying back from Seville to Rome this same evening and will arrive at 23:15. Having already waited 4 hours in security, waiting another 4 hours in the hope of getting my passport back was the only real option else it was DEPORTATION.
This seemed like the longest eight hours of my life. Genuinely. NO exaggerations. Every time I tried to ask a question, I was shouted at and told to shut up and sit down. Since when was leaving your passport on a plane and heeding the advice of ground staff a criminal offence? There were four Indian lads waiting who were rejected entry and every time they asked for water, they were swiftly told ‘You’ve had some’. Treated like animals. I’m not sure what they were held for, but it certainly appeared to be some sort of crime.
00:00. The plane was delayed. I am beginning to ask more and more questions of the security as to when I can expect the ground staff to call to say YES they have found the passport, or NO they haven’t. I’m met this time with the response of two security guards pulling their guns out of their holsters… I AM ASKING A POLITE QUESTION ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT AFTER 9 HOURS I CAN EXPECT TO RECEIVE MY PASSPORT ANYTIME SOON. At 01:00, my passport finally arrives back in my hand. If Vueling airline had carried out the proper compulsory checks after and before flights, my passport would have been found immediately and none of this would have happened. I cannot stress enough how poor this is on the airline/ ground staffs behalf. No apology was issued. Yes; I shouldn’t have left it on the seat, but in what world is any of the truthful account I have just given of events justifiable? It’s not. Simple as that.
Alas, passport obtained, through customs… When in Rome. I bought a beer to celebrate. Peroni of course.
My taxi driver to my hotel (Hotel Borromeo) was a hero. He charged me forty five Euros instead of the sixty Uber quoted as he doesn’t believe in the additional fifteen euro commission Uber charge just to leave the airport and enter Rome the city. Turns out not all Italians are arse holes!
So finally, We can begin ‘A Snapshot when in Rome’. I left Hotel Borromeo, turned right and just kept walking. A gorgeous Autumnal morning with a temperature of Nineteen degrees Celsius, the occasional Chelsea crest and numerous Roma crests. The reason I am in Rome is for Roma V Chelsea in the Uefa Champions League… TONIGHT! Huge game. I always like to arrive for European away games a day or two early so I can maximise some time exploring the city as well. One thing I noticed right away was that the Roman architecture really is as beautiful as you learn in school. ‘The Romans’ one of the first history topics I learnt. But where are all the Toga’s? I was standing out as a British tourist as all the locals were wearing thick coats and trousers, whereas I am content in my Shorts, high socks and t shirt. Due to the stunning architecture, I found myself snapping away quite frequently within the first few minutes. Compared to other European cities I have recently been to, the police presence was significantly lower. Probably a blessing after the evening before…
As much as I want this hour of walking to be all about the exercise and using my eyes, I couldn’t help realise that I was feeling extremely tired after the endeavours of the night before. I stopped off at S’ant Eustachio – A coffee shop that was highly recommended to me. I ordered a large Capuccino to go as I wanted to enjoy a longer drink rather than the famous Espresso. It did not disappoint. I thought four euros fifty cent was rather steep, but remembering I’m in the middle of the city, and the taste certainly made it worth all four hundred and fifty cents.
Re-invigorated, I took some cobblestone side streets to get a wider feel for how the city was structured. Some streets are designed solely for pedestrians and motorbikes, others much wider. I always find that the hidden gems of a city are always down the side streets and away from the wide open crowds that collect elsewhere. These posts are not about ‘recommendations’ of tourist attractions or buildings to see, more a ‘Dear Diary’ entry that you may be able to compare/ relate to when you visit the same city, or even a different one. Even whilst writing this, I’ve found that the one hour experience is so much more memorable just by thinking about it straight after. I managed to figure out that because the majority of the first thirty minutes was downhill, heading in a similar direction with a steeper gradient would take me back close to my hotel. I needed to stop off at the end of the hour to get a travel adaptor. Left mine at home didn’t I. Classic Benson.
Low and behold, I ended up a four minute walk away from my hotel. It is amazing how much quicker you become acquainted with your surroundings when you force yourself to avoid public transport, or the comfort of Google Maps just for one hour. I feel like I could already self direct myself to a few of Rome’s popular spots. All in all, my favourite part of the walk was definitely coming in and out of the gorgeous autumnal sunshine after taking a turn down a new side street. I’m glad we eventually made it to Rome… Roll on the match tonight! COME ON CHELSEA!
Please let me know anything in particular you guys want to read from these one hour snapshot posts.