In the summer of 2006, I worked in Munich and hungered to see the world. I was able to get 8 days off my summer internship and decided to go to Austria (Vienna) and Italy (Rome, Pisa and Sicily). After that chaotic trip, I wrote an email to my family and friends chronicling my adventures and these are the tales I will share with you for the next few weeks.
I left Venice at 1432 and my train was due to arrive in Rome at 1905. I sat next to a really chatty Italian couple, and managed to get an hour or two of sleep in between their very animated conversations. I got to Rome around 1935 (half an hour late) and tried to get a map of Rome at the train station. The lines in Italy are crazy long and the government offices and public places are sort of like in Kenya- highly inefficient. A place with 20 or so booths usually has only one or two tellers working, and you can only imagine how long the queues are during tourist season. Finally I gave up on the map idea since it was getting really late, and I really needed to find accommodation for the night. I headed out to the streets,and tried looking for any place that looked like a youth hostel. I ended up in a hotel or two, and they all told me they were full for the night. I was beginning to panic,and feel like Virgin Mary and Joseph looking for accommodation in Bethlehem . Finally at the third hotel, a really sweet old guy told me it would be impossible to find rooms around this area at this time. In true Italian hospitality he gave me a map of Rome , and marked youth hostels on it that I should look up. After thanking him heartily I went to the first place he had picked. It was a 10 minute walk and by this point I really hated my suitcase. I got there and the doormen –one was Ethiopian and one was Eritrean- let me in.
This youth hostel is actually owned by these two really rich Eritrean women. They told me they doubted if there were any free rooms,but that I should talk to their boss- Salvadore. Salvadore made me wait for a good half hour, and finally I was led into this kitchen/main office. We all sat down- Ethiopian, Eritrean, Salvadore and me, and it honestly looked like a mafia meeting-them having a heated conversation in Italian and me silently sitting there knowing that my fate for the night lay in the hands of Salvadore. I was given a cold glass of orange juice which I downed with gusto. I really believe that I must have been Italian in my previous life. Either that or Italian is a really easy language to understand. I guess it is the latter- Italians speak with a lot of actions,and you always understand what they are saying even if you don’t get the words. I could see him going through a list of rooms and coming up blank. The Ethiopian asking him “And what of this other room? ” Salvadore looking it up, and coming back with a negative response. Things looked glum for me. Finally in gestures, symbols and Italian with a thick Sicilian accent he explained to me that all the normal rooms were full and the only empty place he had was a private room fully equipped with bathroom, and that I would get breakfast in bed. Hmmmmmm he named some crazy price,and gave me a pained expression showing me that this was going way below what he should charge for it. I knew I was being robbed blind, but at this time in the night I had no chance of finding another place, and the thought of a bed and a long hot shower made the hole they were making in my pocket seem smaller. I showered and slept in a bed. No train officials disrupted my sleep asking me for my travel ticket in the wee hours of the morning!!! Sigh……the joys of sleeping on a real bed.
The next morning, I woke up to breakfast in bed. I moved to a normal room which was immensely cheaper than my previous room, though I had five roommates now. Grabbed a shower, and off I went to explore Rome armed with my map. I walked and walked and all I could see was the non-historic part of Rome i.e. normal buildings, shops etc. The roads in Rome are highly dangerous. They are sooooo soooooo sooooo wide, and you just have to run across them, and hope for the best. Then there are just as many motorcycles as cars, and I think motorcycles can turn on red. Phewww!!!! I had many close calls. Finally I turned a corner, and felt like I had walked into ancient Rome . It was unbelievable the change of scenery. Ruins, ancient buildings centuries old, churches from ancient times.There was so much to see, and it was unbelievable to be in such a historic site. I climbed up the millions of steps at one of the monuments, and once I got to the top I decided to take a seat. Warning people- don’t ever take off your shoes at a national monument in Italy . It is illegal. So there I was I took off my sandals and sat cross legged and watched Rome from above. Suddenly a cop comes up to me, and speaks to me in Italian. I thought he was telling me that I can’t sit there.Turns out actually he was telling me to put my sandals back on. Strange law!! Finally I went to the Colosseum. What can I say……..it was colossal!!!!I felt like I had walked right into a history book. Later on in the early evening I went to a lovely cathedral where I got to see Michalangelo’s “Moses.” Sadly I didn’t get to take a picture of it since Mass was just about to begin. I walked around all day not believing that so much history could be squeezed into one town. Every corner was like walking into a time machine. Unbelievable!!! In the evening I partied. It was lots of fun!!!