Sitting happily in a small café in Rome, I thought our pleasant conversation had taken a turn for the worst when my friend looked me square in the eye and said “conto“. I was quite taken aback! What had I done?! Then I realised it was actually what I hadn’t done; paid. She was asking for the bill in Italian. It was with relief that we paid for our coffee and continued exploring the glorious city that is Rome.
Coin sweating was a technique the ancient Romans used to extract the most value out of their money by shaking a bag of gold coins together until just enough had been chipped off to make a new one. This trip is one of my finer shallow pockets moments and certainly follows this method (in spirit anyway; after much trail and error I put aside any deluded dreams that euros would be as easy to mimic). On a whim, I checked RyanAir and flights to Rome were on sale. A few minutes later I was going away for a long weekend with four friends over the Christmas break. A further few minutes and we were booked into Alessandro Palace Hostel – a fantastic student hostel. It’s in a central location, has friendly staff, is really clean and a free breakfast is included. I can’t remember exactly how much the rooms were but it was around €17/night to stay in an 8-bed mixed dorm (with en suite).
Now, I’m sure most of you out there have a bit more sense than I do but just in case: All those sun drenched, t-shirt wearing images you have of Rome do not apply in January! Thankfully, it wasn’t as cold as Berlin but you’ll definitely need some woolies! As we arrived in the late evening, all the tourist attractions were closed – not to waste time doing something as unnecessary as sleep it was off to explore the nightlife. Before I go on: ladies, most of Rome is cobbled. Wearing heels will destroy you – have flats on hand! Truth be told, we had difficultly finding any banter at first but then we came across The Drunken Ship. This place is a lively student bar with fun music, games like Foosball and BeerPong available and brilliant cocktail deals which explains me having my first ever espresso in the aforementioned café early the next morning.
After we were sufficiently caffeinated, our next port of call was the Colosseum. It took us longer than expected to get there as we kept getting side-tracked by the magnificent pieces of Ancient Roman architecture that are just causally scattered around the city – a welcome break from the “pavement pizzas” one can see sprayed around Dublin from the night before. We were fortunate to have very sunny (but cold) weather which made the city look even more beautiful. I can’t tell you how many times I’d already seen the Colosseum in photos and films but when I laid eyes on the real thing, I was blown away. It is spectacular! There are loads of tour guides outside offering their services for a fee (hweh-hweh), however we decided to just look around it ourselves. At the time is was €7.50 for students but I believe it’s increased to €10.50. Given that I really enjoyed the tours I took in Prague, in retrospect I wish we had taken one but that’s not to say we didn’t enjoy it. I had a brilliant moment where my friend texted me to go climbing in our local quarry, to which I replied “Can’t. Currently in the Colosseum”.
With evening setting in, we found a tasty restaurant close to the Trevi Fountain. The fountain itself is stunning – not to mention a lovely place to sit around while digesting dinner with a few scoops of Gelato. Following the tradition of making a wish by throwing a coin into, I went against my cost-saving nature and enjoyed the cheesy novelty of it all.
After another fun night out, it was in a different café that we found ourselves re-fueling the next morning before we went to the Vatican. I know I refused to pay for entrance into the Berliner Dom Cathedral, however even I had to put my values aside in this instance as there was no way I was missing out on the Holy See. So, for €8, we spent the day in the Vatican city with access to all the museums and religious buildings. Unfortunately, no photography was allowed inside so I don’t have any pictures to show you. Take my word on it though: it was worth the money. Wherever there’s not a beautiful sculpture or painting, there’s marble and gold. All this and the sheer size of the place is amazing! After hours of walking around awestruck, we finished up by viewing the Sistine Chapel. When I first saw it, it was quite anticlimactic – with all the fuss people make about it, I was expecting something more… but after awhile I really started liking it so thankfully, it wasn’t wasted on me.
Exhausted from all the walking we’d done, we had a quite evening. With an afternoon flight the next day, we got up early, hit the Italian high street to check out the sales and then it was homeward bound! I really wish I’d more time to explore this fantastic city – they say those that make a wish in the Trevi Fountain are destined to come back to Rome. I think they’re right. All-in-all, a fun and inexpensive trip.