Very few cities in the world have retained their ancient history and heritage and proudly flaunt it to the visitors at every step they take.Roma is one of those few cities which are not only rich in history but also have , beautifully and rightly so , displayed fantastic amalgam of history with modernity to the world.
When I woke up to my first morning in Rome and opened my eyes , for one minute I couldn’t recognize where and why I was.I was trying hard to match the image of my bedroom in India with interior of hotel room in Rome.Luckily I regained my sense and reminded myself that I am not at my home but five thousand Km far from my city in a different continent and country.Though,I had arranged the whole tour by myself starting from booking flight-tickets,Eu-rail Pass , hotel bookings to the identification of interest points and was not bind to any strict tour plan.But still I had made some information handy in an excel sheet like ‘which bus or train to catch’,’when and which place to visit’,etc..
According to the plan , today , we have to go to city center and visit the historical monuments and museums in the city of Rome probably on an hop-on hop-off bus service.As we have opted for ‘breakfast-included’ booking , we don’t want to miss our break-fast and considering that it is already 9:00 am and restaurant will not entertain anyone coming after 10:00 there is a real possibility for that to happen if we don’t speed up the things a little.(No,it’s not a “tense-on”,I am “in-tension-ally” writing in present tense,if you notice,for a change. 🙂 )
Knowing fully well that people reading this are not very keen to know what is there in the breakfast but I would still tell you in brief.It is continental in nature and looks and appear very artificial and bald to die-hard fans , like us, of Desi breakfast.I am now taking a small tour of dining area and making some silent decision in my mind of dishes I may include in my breakfast today.It is a meal based on lighter Mediterranean breakfast traditions.It consists of coffee and milk and hot chocolate with a variety of sweet cakes such as waffles/pancakes, brioche and starchy foods such as croissants, with a sweet jam, cream, or chocolate filling. It is being served with juice.This also include sliced cold meats, such as salami or ham, yogurt or cereal, or a slice of cheese. I have now selected “British Breakfast Tea” with latte,Cakes,Orange Juice and bun with jam and cheese for my first meal of this morning… Let me enjoy it first before I lead to Roma 🙂
Our first objective is to reach city center which is close to all the historical monument , heritage buildings and ruined symbols of majestic Roman Empire.We reach to the bus stand , through underpass, which is situated across the road in front of our hotel and start waiting for the bus which will take us to Eurofermi Metro Station.Now that we have reached here ,we aim to purchase ‘Roma-Pass’ ,for 25 Euro , that will entitle us to unlimited travel on Buses , Metro , Trams , Free entry to first three Museums visited and a healthy discount on the rest , for three days.
Now , we have boarded the Metro and shall be arriving at main train station of Rome,’Termini’, that is very close to city center.Being consistently exposed to the accusation by Americans and European people that “Indians Stare”,I innocently assumed that it shall be a different experience in Rome , an European City. How wrong I was! I along with my wife are objects of constant and consistent staring by fellow-travelers , all Europeans, even though our dress and behavior is very local and uninviting for any stares.But ‘color’ can not become fair by ‘Fair and Lovely’. Let me also tell you that as we have come to Europe in winters so there are tourists from Asian countries and I am yet to see any Indian traveler here.May be the reason of stares we are facing in Rome is that there are very Indians/Asians around at this time of year.Whatever, but I logically and fairly concluded that staring is subconscious and mostly unintentional act by majority of people which is result of natural curiosity rather than any malicious intent.
We reach at Termini and comE out of the station following the ‘Uscita'(Exit ,in Italian)sign boards.It’s surprising how many people think Uscita is an Italian town accessible from every train station they’ve visited in Italy. 🙂
We now proceed out of Metro station through an underground way which opens in the sidewalk of a road in front of Termini Station.Wow ! Weather is perfect , view is awesome and our excitement is on cloud-nine.Roman architecture is Magical.Though , there is less variation in the structures of buildings but they are wearing almost every color in the rainbow.Pink , Orange , peach , blue , grey are among the most visible.I know its very childish to say but I have a fetish for these European buildings which have an aura of mystery and arrogance.
We now feel like having something to eat as the breakfast was very light.It is 11:00 am.The sight of a ‘pizzeria’ don’t help us to curb our hunger either.So , we surrender our self to one of the basic instincts and necessity of human life , that is , hunger.This is a very small eatery and has many varieties of Pizzas.Mushroom , Chicken , Cheese , onion , tomato , potato and fish.And most surprising was to see that pizzas are not always round shape here but they are being made in a rectangular tray.The man at counter with cutlery in hand do ask us for the size of piece he should cut and then put in on the weighing machine and tell us the price.After making it hot in oven he serves it to us.The shape , size and method of serving pizza is totally new to us and we are surprised.Any way size and shape of pizza will never change the taste of it and that is why , what we eat here is very tasty.The economically-pleasant surprise for us is that it cost us only ‘three point something’ Euros for a meal of two.And we know that this place is certainly going to be frequented by us in coming days.
Having our stomach full of pizza and coke , as planned , we are just going to opt for a Hop-On Hop-off service.Before we can even take a step outside above-mentioned pizzeria , a clever travel agent from ‘Greenline Tours’ who has actually identified our self as tourist , did approach us for the same.His offer is 20 Euro per person for a 24 hour service.Before we can think of negotiating here comes his discounted offer.He is offering a price of 16 Euro Per Person.We have opted for it.After a wait of around 10 minutes our bus is ready to go.Though its quite cold but we make it a point to sit on the open roof of bus as I think this is what Hop-On Hop-off service is for.
Well it is a sunny day in winter and we are enjoying the sun on the top of bus.On the side of seats there are a multiple-language earphones to guide tourist throughout the tour.But that is hardly audible and clear , so useless facility.It stops at every place mentioned in the itinerary and then leaves for next destination.In all , that is not experience worth 18 Euros.It took us to Piazza Venezia , Colosseo ,Circo Massimo , Isola Tiberina , San Pietro ,Piazza della Repubblica, stops close-by to the Trevi Fountain, Santa Maria Maggiore, Sant’Angelo and Piazza Barberini.
One thing I notice here is that mostly people use small cars saving lots of fuels unlike Americans and the shape , size and make of cars are very familiar to my Indian eyes.I can even see cars of one biggest Indian brand on roads.One of many strange things is that shape and size of some cars are not matching with usual names that we are familiar with in India. For example , Chevrolet “Spark” in India is sold as ‘Matiz’ here in Italy and what is called “Beat” in India is sold here as “Spark”.That is quite confusing and surprising.Anyway we are feeling hungry again and will head to to our ‘cheap and best’ pizzeria , again.This time we are going to have more than last time.After having our stomach full of authentic roman pizza , we are wandering on the streets of Rome , aimlessly in the area surrounding Termini-Station.
The only Asians I see here in substantial numbers are Bangladeshis and they mostly own cybercafe , Indian Restaurants , Public Telephone office (That is damn cheap , 10 Minutes in 1 Euro to India), Fruits vendors , vegetables vendors , grocery stores and also sell some cheap toys on the footpath illegally.(We have actually bought one which is a pink rubber-ball filled with strange liquid and when it is thrown on a hard surface it sticks to that and takes shape of splashed water and then after some time takes its original shape of ball )
Now its 7:00 PM and time to go to our hotel.We have taken our dinner at Bangladeshi Dhaba where we ate ‘Indian Daal'(There was nothing Indian in that) , Tortilla(Roti) and Fried potatoes as ‘Aloo ki Subzi’. And , in the case we get hungry in the night , we have also got some pizza packed from our favorite ‘Pizzeria’ just for 4 Euros. Damn Cheap !
We now take the Metro from ‘Termini’ to ‘Eurofermi’ station which is close to our Hotel.And we are still being stared,once in a while, by the people around returning from their work.After arriving at ‘Eurofermi’ we find it difficult to get a direct bus to our hotel and that is when we get in contact with this girl who was working in ‘Turino’ as domestic help and hails from Philippines.And she tells us which bus to catch to get to our hotel.We stand there on a bus-stop and that is when I see this beggar , a white Caucasian man , who is wearing nothing except his underwear.I am just shocked ! I mean ,in an European country with US $36,000 per capita income why should anyone bear something like this ?( I will write a different post on the Beggars , Buskers and Hookers in Italy)I always believed that countries of western Europe implement the social security schemes with strictness unlike India where public money meant for poor never reach them.May be I forgot that Italy is just 15 steps behind in corruption in the list of Transparency International.Grass is always greener on other side , as we say, apply here in true sense.
We board the bus now and are going to our Hotel..We have reached and after taking a shower and having our dinner ..we will take a much required sleep to be ready for another adventurous journey in rural Italy at Ostia Antica-Good Night-We said to Rome ! 🙂