by Dennis Bunnik
Flying into Rome my expectations were pretty high. Each of my previous visits to Rome were better than the one before so I was really looking forward to it.
Luckily for me Rome knew I was coming and didn’t disappoint! Glorious spring sunshine greeted my arrival – so much so that on the way from the airport I got the driver to stop at the Colosseum so I could get a nice shot.
I was in Italy to spend a few days travelling with our first ever Italy, Sicily & Malta tour group. They were arriving that afternoon from Florence having started a few days earlier in Venice. It was a small group and they were getting on like a house on fire. According to our tour director Giorgio, they had all bonded over lunch and some bottles of Italian red at a winery in Tuscany a few days earlier and were having a hoot. Now I was looking forward to the next few days even more!
We started our Roman adventure with a delightful late afternoon stroll through the city streets. We climbed the Spanish Steps, joined the tourists throwing coins in the Trevi Fountain and stood in awe under the dome of the pantheon. As the lights came on, we wandered into the delightful Piazza Navona with its artists and restaurants. Here we had time on our own to enjoy a relaxed dinner. Giorgio pointed out his favourite places – which all turned out to be off the main square down various little laneways. Only the tourists eat on the square, the real Romans eat in these smaller places.
It turned out to be good advice as Giorgio and I headed for a small restaurant specialising in amazing salads. My theory on holiday is if you eat lots of salads you can justify lots of desserts! We met again at the fountain in Piazza Navona and eventually made our way back to the hotel.
The next day was action packed. We started the morning with a tour of the Vatican Museum – an incredible place, jam-packed full of art and treasures to the point of obscenity.
Our guide, Emma, was a wealth of knowledge and, being a small group, had us manoeuvring through the crowds with ease. She also ensured we were allowed to ‘loiter’ in the Sistine Chapel so that we could take the short-cut into St Peters when it eventually opened after the morning mass. All the larger groups were chased out by the guards and had to take the long way around.
The afternoon was spent exploring the colosseum. This really is an amazing place. It’s one of those places that is instantly familiar because we’ve seen so many pictures of it. At the same time you’re saying to yourself ‘I can’t believe I’m at the colosseum’. I still feel like that and this was my fifth visit! Again Emma was wonderful, taking us up to the upper level and reliving the stories of days gone by when thousands would pack the stadium calling for blood.
The rest of my time in Rome was spent shopping and eating. Rome is a centre of fashion so you’ll find just about everything you can think of, at a very good price.
From Rome we continued on to Sorrento – but that’s another story.
Rome is a highlight on the following Bunnik Tours: