Rome probably isn’t the first location you’d think of for a ‘lad’s holiday’, but I’m from Henley-on-Thames, and we’re very cultured lads (…or not as you’re about to discover). At the end of April this year my three ‘core’ friends and I took a trip to the Italian capital. I’m currently in the process of editing together the 12GB of film I shot on my phone, but damn, it’s nearly September. In the meanwhile, here’s a blog post that no one’s going to read:
Also, side note, I’ve no idea how to change the photo captions from BLOCK CAPS, so just assume I’m shouting.
Does it come with chips?
We flew from London City airport, which is exciting because in order to get there, one must ride the DLR (Dockland Light Railway) through the shimmering towers of canary wharf. It was so exciting that George even came up with a chant: “DLR, DLR!”
Once we’d landed in Leonardo Da Vinci airport, we were immediately greeted by the human embodiment of the Italian stereotype. A loud, flapping, sweating cabby chased us down the airport hallway; providing a delightfully flemmy lecture on the comfort and convenience of a taxi ride into the city, over the designated purpose-built high speed train. In a strange turn of events he even admitted that he would be charging us more than the cost of four train tickets combined. We took the train.
A loud, flapping, sweating cabby chased us down the airport hallway; providing a delightfully flemmy lecture on the comfort and convenience of a taxi ride into the city, over the designated purpose-built high speed train.
Next (After getting lost for a good 45 minutes because I decided that ‘that way looks about right’.) we arrived at our hostel. The first call of action was to decided who should sleep on the one top bunk. I lost because, well, I’m me. The second call of action was to see how far Moyle could throw a biscuit out of the window. Turns out quite far. Literally onto the roof of the building opposite.
It was then time for tea, and while the English are accustomed to eating ‘nout but roast potatoes coated in gravy, we thought we’d try something exotic and local. We went for pizza. Robert, meanwhile was having none of this cultural drivel, and opted for some kind of sausage meal. Turns out the Italians do sausage and chips about as well as we do spag-bowl, an honest attempt at a translation, but nowhere near the same plate of food.
Our final stop for the evening was the Trevi Fountain, which was swamped by tourists when we arrived around 10PM. Bloody tourists.
All aboard the magic bus
Long ago, Rome was the capital of a giganitc empire that stretched from the Scottish boarder to Iraq. Today the eternal city’s newfound status is the ‘selfie stick capital of the world‘. With that in mind, our second day began on the bright red, open-top, double decker tourist bus.
It started to rain, so George Raine bought himself a poncho from one of the city’s countless selfie stick sellers, who all miraculously swap sunglasses and aforementioned self-portraiture poles out for umbrellas and coats the instant a raindrop falls.
It was from here that we got a good understanding of the lay of the land, wizzing past the train station, the Colosseum, and the ‘Altare della Patria’; which was an ‘effing huuuge marble palace complex which makes Buckingham palace look kinda crummy. It started to rain, so George Raine bought himself a poncho from one of the city’s countless selfie stick sellers, who all miraculously swap sunglasses and aforementioned self-portraiture poles out for umbrellas and coats the instant a raindrop falls. He had to haggle first though:
After the bus tour was done we headed to the Pantheon (Not to be confused with Athen’s Parthenon.) This absolute beaut of an ancient structure had stood the test of time, and was in very good shape when we arrived. As the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome (Thanks, Wikipedia.) it was awespiring to behold in person, especially when considering how old it is. It was secretly one of the reasons I’d insisted on taking the boys to such a romantic locale, so I made sure we spent a good long while enjoying coffee and beer at a near by cafe with a view to the temple.
We then spent the rest of the day playing frisbee in the park, as per trip tradition. I’m still terrible.
Betrayal in the arena
We dedicated our next day in Rome to the Colosseum, antiquity’s equivalent of The Great British Bake Off, which featured live fights to the death between slaves, gladiators, live animals; and rumour has it, Christians too.
Coming out of the metro station we were immediately greeted by a salesman who convinced us that his tour company were the best tour company, and that his tour guides deserved €30 instead of the standard €7 entry. We were sold, and Moyle proudly declared he’d name his first born son after the salesman, for arranging us such a sweet deal. The tour was a moderate disaster.
We were sold, and Moyle proudly declared he’d name his first born son after the salesman, for arranging us such a sweet deal.
The woman showing us the Colosseum was very shrill. “It’s not actually called the Colosseum, it’s actually the Flavian Amphitheater.” she smirked, with a smugness that only Italians can muster.
When it was time to enter the arena, we managed to lose her entirely amongst the hordes of sweaty tourists. This was fine until we hit the ticket barrier, which only she could pass us through. Luckily thanks to some quick thinking by George, who managed to convince the ticket barrier lady that he could see our tour off in the distance, we managed to bring her back and she let us through. No apology though, just a sigh and an order to hurry up.
She then spoke at length about the many gates of the Colosseum. Apparently one was for the living, and one for the dead. Rob asked her about the use of boats during the opening ceremony and she scrambled to come up with an explanation. Moyle got confused about some dates and a Canadian behind us yelled out “IT’S A.D., A.D.” This very quickly turned into one of our many catchphrases for the trip: “It’s A.D., stupid!“.
Our next stop on the tour of crumbly old buildings was the Roman Forum. Thankfully this time the bloke doing the nattering was far far more engaging. He spoke in length about the importance of the Via Sacra, the road to which all Roman roads start/end, where temples, arches, and the lodgings of the Praetorian Guard combined into the Roman equivalent of Downing Street or Times Square. It was really cool to walk on the same slabs that people have walked on for over two millennia.
The day ended as the previous one had with another game of Frisbee. This time on a picturesque island that sat in the middle of the Tiber river, connected to either bank with a cobby bridge. The disc only went into the river like, twice. Fortunately a big stick was on-hand for such predictable emergencies, and it was salvaged every time that I that we missed a catch.
Illegal selfies in the Vatican City
On the forth day we went to visit God. It stands to reason that as Jesus was born to a carpenter in a stable, we should commemorate his selfless, impoverished life by building a humongous gold-plated cathedral.
We knew that the Vatican had special dress modesty rules for entry, not unlike that club in Bournemouth that wouldn’t let George in for wearing yellow trainers.
Our biggest concern was our knees. We knew that the Vatican had special dress modesty rules for entry, not unlike that club in Bournemouth that wouldn’t let George in for wearing yellow trainers. However, it was also boiling outside, so we made the tactical decision to arrive in shorts, but have jeans ready to change into.
Looking back, I’ve no idea where we would have changed… In the queue? Opposite the nuns? When we made it through the hours long queue, the lady politely told us that shorts were fine.
St Peter’s Ballista itself was huge. I don’t like to use the word ‘epic’, but I feel like here it’s valid. It’s a ginormous monument to the power that the Papal State once exerted over medieval Europe.
Our next objective was Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam, atop the roof of the Sistine Chapel. Turns out to get there you have to exit the micro-nation, pop round the corner, and enter through the side door. We had to hurry and we only just made it through the gates before it shut. Thanks to the lazy ticket man, I got away with flashing my long-since expired student ID for a cheeky discount.
In the chapel itself one sorry bastard has the thankless task of reminding the hundreds of tourists squished into the room that “This is a holy place. No photos. Silence please. Silence please. No Photos.” Didn’t stop me getting a selfie. I’m badass.
Then we headed back to the hostel and got very very drunk, but I have a professional office job to keep so I won’t tell you that story.
Segway all the way
And on our final morning in the Roman capital, much to the disdain of the locals, we hired segways and swagged our way around the city one last time.
This is something that I hope my upcoming film will showcase a lot better, but in the meanwhile here’s a gif from Google’s fantastic Photos suite:
And then I found £20.