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Wednesday, 13 June 2012

From Florence to Rome

Hey everyone!!

We are now in Rome! The capital of Italy! The centre of the Roman empire!

Sam is currently sleeping, I'm writing this from a sort of dresser that's in our room. The hostel we're in is ok, we get a free buffet breakfast again, the building is nice and it is conveniently very close to the main train station in Rome (Roma Termini). Although one pretty big issue is that the door to our room doesn't lock.... I'll tell you how we dealt with that later. But it serves its purpose well and everyone here seems friendly.

It's been a bit of a strange day. It's been busy and we've got lots of stuff done, but things didn't exactly go according to plan at some points. We're alright for the moment, though.

It seems a bit less safe here in Italy that it did in Spain. I don't know if that's just because we were able to understand the language better in Spain and I already knew about some stuff, but the atmosphere here just seems a bit different. It's probably nothing. Everyone we're met has been lovely. But we're just being a bit more cautious in general just to be safe.

The weather has been great again, completely sunny and 25 degrees roughly. We've had a lot of luck with the weather on our trip so far, and from the weather forecasts we've seen it looks set to continue.

But before I depress you too much, I definitely don't want to go to bed as late as I did last night (I WAS FUCKING SHATTERED THIS MORNING), so let's get started on today's story...


So we started the day in Florence. We set the alarm for 7.30am the previous night (which was good news for me considering I went to sleep at like 5am...) so that we would definitely be able to take full advantage of the buffet breakfast offered by the hostel.

We woke up at 10.30am.

FOR FUCKS SAKE. Why does this always happen?!?!

We threw on some clothes and ran downstairs.

"That breakfast buffet better FUCKING be on or I'm going to kill myself" - Jack Lowe, 10:34am, Florence.

It was still on. I did not die.

Not only that, but it was fucking incredible. We were so lucky. Here is a list of things that it offered:

- Basically all types of coffee and tea
- Blood orange fruit juice, pineapple juice, lemon/carrot juice

- Cereals: cornflakes, muesli, some other type of flake (LOL)
- Slices of cherry tart and some other type of tart
- Fruit: kiwi, apples, oranges.
- 3 different types of biscuit
- Natural yoghurt
- Individually-wrapped cakes
- Scrambled egg
- Toast

There was probably more but I've forgotten.

We ate SOOOOOO much.

The breakfast wasn't included in the price of the hostel, but for 3 euros each this was more than worth it. We could eat enough to fill us up for most of the day. I ate a yoghurt, two big bowls of cereal and three or four slices of cherry tart. I don't know what Sam ate, but I'm guessing it was at least 10 times as much as I did...fatty,

This was so perfect. The hostel was one of our favourites of the whole trip actually.

After this, we showered, got dressed and packed up all of our stuff as we were leaving for Rome later on. We checked out of the hostel, but left our stuff in the luggage room so that we could come back for it before going to the train station. Then we left.

The first thing on the agenda for today was to go to a post office. We had a parcel that we wanted to send back home which contained some fragile souvenirs (the masks we bought in Venice and some figurines we bought in Córdoba), which would have been difficult to carry with us for the rest of the trip.

The amazingly helpful peson at the reception of the hostel gave us the directions to the nearest post office, and we eventually found it.

The place was absolutely crammed. What the fuck?

We had to get one of the little ticket things you get from a machine which has the number of your turn to go up to the counter. Luckily, there were different tickets for different types of services, and not many people were there to send parcels. It seemed that most were there for the financial shit that they offer.

While we were waiting, an Italian man tried to ask us something in Italian, but we couldn't understand him. A guy behind us stepped in and sorted out the man's issue, realising that we were English - he must have heard us talking.

After this incident, he asked us where we were from, and we told him we were from Kent in England. He told us about how he'd been to England a few times, and that he learnt English from living in Australia, and now he works in a university/college thing in Florence. It was refreshing to talk to someone who actually knew what we were going on about!

His English was very good, and he told us quite a few little things about Italy which were useful. He also explained why the post office was so busy - he said it's always been busy, but recently the post office has become the place where you pay house tax or something. So now there are even longer queues.

Our number came up, so we said goodbye and went to the counter.

The process wasn't too bad -  the woman who served us was reasonably good at English, so it went ok, despite a few moments of confusion.

A problem arose, though, when we had to tell her our 'Codigo Fiscal' (Fiscal code). What the fuck is this?

Our Italian friend noticed that there was a problem, so he came over and the woman explained the problem to him. He then told us that in Italy they have these health cards (not same as European health cards) with codes on them that act as a form of identification.

Obviously we didn't have one, so the woman went off for a while to consult something. She came back shortly afterwards, and it turned out that we didn't necessarily need it. However, she asked our Italian friend if he would mind giving them his phone number so that they could ring him if there was a problem with posting the package. Sam then exchanged contact details with him so that we would know if there was an issue.

After all of this was done and we said goodbye again to the guy we met, we headed back to the number 17 bus stop near the hostel (the post office was within walking distance). The next stop: train station so that we could book the tickets to Rome for later on in the afternoon.

We got off at the station after the 30-minute bus ride, and walked towards the ticket offices.

And then we realised that we'd been absolute fucktards.

So. Fucking. Stupid.

Once again, we'd travelled to the train station to reserve seats, WITHOUT OUR INTERRAIL PASSES.

This time we actually wasted time too because we didn't want to visit anything near to the station. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

The only thing we could do was go back to the hostel, so we jumped on the next bus.

On the way there, we decided that we were going to take all of our stuff with us from the hostel and try and get a train to Rome as soon as possible. We'd originally planned to visit a gallery and a few other small things before leaving Florence, but we'd planned to leave Rome in the afternoon and time would have been very stretched. Not only this, but we would also have to carry our fucking huge rucksacks with us everywhere. Not exactly convenient.

This annoyed me quite a bit. Just because we'd forgotten something so small, we couldn't get to experience more of the city, which is what the trip is all about - experiencing, not booking things and shit like that.

There was nothing we could do though, and when we got to the hostel we said a final goodbye and got on the 17 bus for the last time back to the train station.

If you thought that us forgetting about the InterRail tickets and wasting precious time in Florence was bad and a bad point of the day, you are in for a shock.

It happened on the bus.

Me and Sam were sitting opposite each other in one of the four-seater sections.

I noticed that an old Italian man who was next to Sam was trying to grab my attention and talk to me. But he was speaking solely in Italian.


In the end, he sort of gave up and I thought nothing of it.

And then I realised he was WARNING us.

Two ticket inspectors, a man and a woman both in their twenties, dressed in normal, casual clothes but with identification badges came up our way on the bus.

There was nothing we could do. The old guy probably knew that we wouldn't have paid as we're tourists, so I kind of feel's just a shame he couldn't warn us in English.

After checking the tickets around us, they asked us if we had tickets. We said that we were going to buy them at the station; that we thought that's what you did. They kept saying that the bus is not free and that you have to get a ticket before a travel.

And then came the bit that was REALLY SHIT.

They said that they had to fine us.



No fucking way!!!

I tried to explain that we needed the money to get home. That we couldn't afford it.

Sam was more reasonable though. We had the money, just on a card.They told us that we'd have to get off at one of the upcoming stops which had a cash machine nearby.

Meanwhile, they took our passports and used them to fill out the horrible yellow forms for the fine (I say that they're horrible because I do have prior experience in this field, with two train fines to my name... I swear they're the same fucking forms).

We did, and they came with us. We withdrew 100 euros. We gave it to them.

To be fair, they were reasonable the whole way through, never really putting pressure on us or being overly stern. It actually just looked like they were doing their job rather than enjoying it or using it as a medium to exert unnecessary authority, which happens pretty much every time in the UK.

They told us that the fine slips they gave us can be used as tickets for an hour and a half after the fine was issued, which was pretty good actually. It meant that if you did get a fine, you weren't completely stranded. So we used those.

They even showed us which bus to get on to get to the train station. We apologised and headed back off.

I was so pissed off at this point. 100 euros. And if we hadn't fucked up earlier and remembered our InterRail tickets, none of that would have happened. And we would have seen more of Florence. And we would have already had our train tickets to roam.


We worked out that it was also probably the last bus we'd get in Italy. In Rome there is the metro system to get around, and after Rome we are only staying in Milan for one night, which won't involve buses.

How fucking typical is that.

Anyway, we got off at the station, and at this point we just wanted to get to Rome as quickly as possible. We manage to book some tickets easily to go to Rome in 15 minutes' time from that point, so we checked what platform our train was on straight away and headed off.

In the end we cut it VERY FINE in terms of time to get the train. We accidentally walked to the other side of the station because we thought our train was there, only to find that we had to walk all the way back to the other side again.

But we got on.

We realised that our seats were not together - we were both in the aisle seats of 2 two-seaters opposite each other in the carriage. But it wasn't too bad.

The journey took less than an hour and a half. We both just listened to music really.

The countryside we passed through was incredible. I would have taken photos but I didn't have access to Sam's phone and I was in the aisle seat anyway, so it was always going to be difficult. But it was mainly mountains, rolling hills and quaint villages. Typically Italian villages too. It was beautiful.

When we got to Rome, then first place we headed for, as usual, was the ticket office.

Although as we weaved in and out of those barrier things that are used to form queues, some cheeky shit ran and ducked under the barrier to get in the queue before us. What the fuck? He then even had the cheek to ask us a question in Italian (I think he was asking if you needed to get a ticket for your turn, like in that post office). We couldn't respond anyway, so we just blanked him.

It took about 20-25 minutes to get to the front of the queue. It was funny actually, that guy in front of us was so blatantly in a rush that there was great comic value in watching his impatience - pacing, looking at his watch, being the first to tell someone if they hadn't realised it was their turn. It would be funny if he missed his train.

When we got to the ticket office, we were served by a woman who spoke good English, so this was useful. We reserved our seats for going to Milan, and, after asking, we managed to book our tickets from Milan to Geneva too! This person is a legend!! Such a relief.

We were then just focused on getting to our new hostel. The directions that we'd copied off the HostelWorld website were pretty clear, and the hostel is very close to the station, so it didn't take us long to find it.

We climbed the stairs up to the first floor of the building and we let in after pressing the doorbell. We were greeted by a friendly woman who showed us where everything was and the room etc., and she also said we could pay for our stay later on because we didn't have enough cash on us at the time.

As I said earlier, the main issue was that our bedroom door wouldn't lock. Therefore, any of our important stuff in our bags was at risk if we left it there. So we decided that we would take our most important stuff with us when we went out and keep our bags under our beds so they were not on display.

We checked our internet stuff and then made a plan for the evening. And then we went to do some exploring. We decided we were going to visit the area around the Colosseum (or Collosseo as they call it here) as it is close to the hostel and there are quite a lot of things to see in a small area.

We walked back to Roma Termini train station and then got the tube for two stops to 'Colloseo'.

As soon as you walk out of the station, the Colosseum is what you see.

We crossed the road and then walked around it.

It is incredible to think that this has survived for so long. People 2000 years ago would have seen something similar.

This is what we had to walk on around the was very comfortable on the feet!

It's so big!

Unfortunately, it was closed by the time we arrived, but we could see a little bit of the inside
through the metal fence!

We might try and see the inside before we leave Rome as it's quite close to the hostel.

Random Roman shit lying everywhere. Take this bit of a column for example...casually lying next to a bin.


Right next to the Colosseum is the Arco di Constantino:

We hung around here for a bit, enjoying the view of these two landmarks, and then we walked down the Via del Fori Imperiali which has something historical and interesting everywhere you look.

There was a map showing the extent of the Roman empire near the famous Foro Romano (Roman forum):

This is a part of the remains of the Forum, with the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II in the background.

Silhouette of the monument.

More Roman remains:

Interesting buildings:

Here if you look closely you can really imagine what the building would have looked like.

Random patterned pieces of stone everywhere!

Beautiful arches:

Old stuff.

The whitest building in the whole world, the monument.

It is protected by guards! We saw them change over too, which was an interesting process.

Churches and stuff.

The remains of some Roman houses. It's amazing that you can still see this artwork today.

The houses and the monument:

Going up steps towards the Campidogllo, and area where there are museums/statues etc.


A random structure that overlapped onto the PAVEMENT on the street. What the fuck? You can walk through history on the street!

Another interesting building:

This photo is a bit shit, but I needed to show you where the Circo Massimo was. So here was the site of a massive entertainment stadium thing, that would have have hosted all sorts of things, such as chariot racing.

The area is fucking hench. We saw people using the area as a park and it's pretty much all grass now, apart from a few remains at the other end of it.

After this, we headed for the tube station near to the Circo Massimo. However, when we got into the station, we realised we didn't have enough change and we couldn't use card for such a small transaction, so we hunted down a place where we could break up our 50 euro note.

After trying one restaurant, another let us do it, and we ended up getting on the tube by the Colosseum as this was where the restaurant was. We got off after one stop and then walked the rest of the way to the hostel. It was dark at this point so we wanted to get back quickly, and thankfully it wasn't too bad.


So that was our first day in Rome! I'm now writing this conclusion at 12.30pm today...I needed sleep.

We're just about to go out an see even more shit, hopefully all the stuff around the Vatican and loads more. There will be some great photos and we're looking forward to it.

We've just had the buffet breakfast from this hostel, which wasn't too bad. We filled ourselves up and now we're ready for the day. BRING IT ON CATHOLIC BITCHES.

I'll hopefully post again late tonight, although it might have to be tomorrow morning again because Blogger has been spazzing a bit when I've tried to upload photos recently. We'll see, it'll go up eventually.

So see you then!

Jack - 13/6/12 - 12:36 in Rome, 11:36 in the UK

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