Sunday, August 31, 2008

Roasted in Rome

After our trip to Wales, with the girls back from camp, we headed off to Rome for a short week.

It was dry (we just had one sharp shower) and pretty warm. I'm not overly keen on hot climates - but at least it's better weather than some of the apathetic stuff we have here in the UK that passes for summer!

Rome wasn't quite what I expected. I don't think we saw any of the modern city. What did impress me was the sheer size and extent of what's left of ancient Rome: some of these buildings are huge and were obviously built to last. And it's not just the odd bit of wall, there's acres and acres of buildings.

The Vatican and the Sistine Chapel were a huge disappointment. We queued for hours (continually pestered by tour guides promising us that they could get us in without waiting), and it's largely a tourist machine. The Sistine Chapel was particularly disappointing - OK, it's a decent bit of painting, but it's overrated. And we're all crammed in like sardines into the chapel, with security guards yelling Silence every few seconds, and shouting at and hassling people who ignored the prominent 'no photography' signs.

There was some really interesting stuff in the Vatican museum, that you get pushed past as the throng pushes you through the sausage machine to the Sistine Chapel. I was fascinated by the Gallery of Maps in particular. But generally the whole day was a bit of a washout.

It was late afternoon when we left the Vatican, and we decided to eat locally before heading back to the hotel. And then what I found interesting is that for every block away from the main tourist route, the prices fell basically linearly. So we walked a couple of blocks and ended up in an excellent local restaurant with excellent service and had an excellent meal - a lot less frantic and a lot less expensive than a similar place a couple of streets away. (This pattern was repeated all over Rome - just go down a side street and you'll get a better meal for less.)

We also went to a local water park. And even though it wasn't all that sunny, and I took care to keep in the shade as much as possible, I still got sunburnt.

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