Tied up with work lately and what it means is that I travel less for pleasure. Yet this year coincide with my BIG 40 birthday and when is it a better time to take some time off and travel with the love of my life, my wife Susan?
In fact, this trip was a birthday gift from her. But more importantly, we had arranged one of my sister-in-laws to help us babysit our twins while we were travelling. That’s the main difference. For the past two years, since our twins arrived in late 2012, we’d had no break for ourselves apart from a couple of afternoon ‘reccesses’ for some birthday and anniversary celebration lunches. Yeah, that’s the joy of parenthood, hahaha. Don’t get me wrong, we love our kids but sometimes, a proper break will help for all of us. So I thank my wife for organising this trip.
Since we became parents, this sort of holiday was a rarity. Hence we tried to pack as much as we could for our 9-day holiday. The planning pretty much reminded me my preivous travel to China. Looking around online for information, planning the itinarary was definitely fun. For the nine days, we planned to visit Rome, Pisa, Florence and Venice. So here we come Italy!
Like I said, we wanted to pack as much as possible so we travelled after work on Friday and we arrived at our first destination, Rome late on our first night. It had been ten years since I last visited this ancient city and much had changed since I last remembered. The city became more crowded and locals became a little more rude.
However, no matter how these little things affected my last fond memory of this magical place, I still love all the historic landmarks of the city. We had booked a private room during our two day stay in Rome and thanks to Airbnb, the apartment was located in the centre of Rome and close to a Metro station, which virtually linked to all major landmarks and sightseeing points in the city.
Great indeed! So our plan for day one was to spend the entire day at Vatican City. This holy place was simply a must for anyone who’s visiting Rome. Despite being the smallest country in the world, everything inside is bigger than you might imagine. My wife learnt from the past that if you are to visit the Vatican Museum, you really want to pre-book the ticket online prior to your visit. Because if you don’t, you will have to queue up on the day and that could take hours before you could even get the ticket let alone going into the museum. I am telling you that you WILL need a day for Vatican! Our super quick pace still took us almost four hours to walk through the museum. Why? One, there were much to see and if you are a photography enthusiast, then it might take you longer to go through each section. Second, the sheer volume of tourist might scare you! The museum was packed with tons of tourist groups. Most of the time we found ourselves stuck behind large groups and getting through to the next section was simply impossible! It was an intimidating or stressful experience.
Furthermore, if you are interested all the historic myths and facts, you might want to pick up an audio guide so you can learn about every exhibit. But that also means that it will take longer for you to complete the visit! Everything you see in the museum will be an interesting experience, from 3-D painting to the walls and ceilings to the postures and facial expressions of the scupltures, you will surely be entertained for hours! Still, I think the Vatican Museum is a definitely place of visit.
After our exit, we headed towards Saint Peter Square. Unfortunately that we couldn’t go in due to a preparation of a function for Sunday. So we asked the tourist information and planned to return the next morning to continue our quest of Vatican. Leaving the holy place left us very empty since we didn’t plan to do anything else for day one but our quick-mind-decision-plan-b took us to the Fort and eventually to Piazza Navona, a very nice public square with amazing fountains and surrounded by historic buildings. There we bought a selfie stick, a little device that allowed us to clip our iPhones and extended so we could take a ‘proper’ selfie!
A word of advice when you want to buy any merchandise from the street. First you ask price of the your target prize, then walkaway. They will usually come after you and offered a lower price without you even said anything. Then if you really want it, then turn back and offer a reasonable price, they would usually agree!
So we bought the stick for 30 percent less of the asking price! But how useful was this stick? We literally took hundreds of selfies with it throughout this trip! It was definitely worth every penny of it and no more asking for other’s help and worry about someone ‘legging’ our phone away. There we also bought a bag for chestnuts for €5. It was expensive for a bag of chestnuts but when I saw the size of them and I just couldn’t help myself. October seemed to be a chestnuts season and there were plenty of nice, big, fat and juicy chestnuts.
As we continued, we found all the famous landmarks within a mile of the Piazza including the famous Pantheon. There we also found a pretty popular coffee bar where they sold roasted beans and freshly made coffee. We just saw people queued up for coffee and beans. So, we did what a tourist would do, bought a bag of beans to try at home!
There we continued our venture around the area until we got tired and looked for a local place for dinner. We weren’t too fuzzy about where we ate so long we could get some rest and some warm food.
After feeding our bellies, we looked for our final landmark, Fontana Di Trevi (Trevi Fountain), before headed back to our apartment. What surprised us was that the fountain was under rennovation. The entired fountain was boarded up and because there were many who came here to make a wish, the government decided to ‘make’ a small little ‘pond’ with a picture of the fountain right in front of the ‘real thing’ for the tourist to toss a coin. Umm… This was rather disappointing indeed because how vividly I remembered the beautiful and grand looking Trevi fountain was ten years ago.
The disappointment turned into worst nightmare after my brother rang my mobile after visiting the fountain and told me that our house was burgled and my car was stolen?? Yes, what a shocking news and kind of spoiled my birthday present a little. Knowing that I couldn’t do anything in Rome nor could I recovery anything so we braved ourselves and continue our trip and tried to enjoy as much as we could before returning home to sort out the ‘mess’.
So there we were ending our first day in Rome. Even with the news, we enjoyed the day and looked forward to the remaining days in Italy.
Here’s more photos from our Day 1 in Rome 🙂