Having both reached the age of 30 and having never visited Italy, the shame we felt oozed from our pores – uncultured brutes . With 4 days off work and only a couple of quid between us, we felt that it was time for an adventure to the Italian capital of Rome (and adventure it was). There’s obviously all the obligatory tourist traps to fit into the short trip and to fit them all in was always going to be a challenge. Rome is brimming with architecture, history, romance…and people. Lots of people.
The Journey to Rome
The journey to Italy is pretty straightforward. A simple low budget flight gets you to Ciampino Airport which is located 12km from central Rome. The tourist websites all say how easy and cheap it is to use the local public transport. Apparently, it’s a great way to get to the centre of Rome in around 30-45 minutes. There are two public transport options – the Metro or the bus. Both are cheap enough, costing a fraction of what you would pay for a taxi. Feeling brave and somewhat tight, we opted for the bus. Knowing absolutely no Italian we waited for about half an hour before bungling our luggage onto a bus heading to the centre of Rome. The rush hour traffic in and around Rome is an absolute nightmare which leads me to Tip 1: avoid rush hour traffic – if you can get a flight that lands at any other time, it’s probably worth the extra few quid.
An hour into a journey that was expected to take around 30 minutes, we began to become a little concerned. With no clues as to where we were going, what the next stop would be, how long it would take – no real time announcements to reassure the passenger, I conclude that this is not my kind of holiday – crammed onto a bus with standing room only, no air-conditioning and my increasingly anxious body pressing against the sweaty portly figure of a stranger conversing in a language I was unable to understand.
With other passengers on the bus neither concerned nor frustrated, having presumably completed this journey numerous times in the past,. Our prayers for a saviour were answered when A gentle, kind hearted, middle aged French lady directing us to get off at the next stop and to get the Metro to “Termini”. Arriving at “Termini”, some 30 minutes later, the light already fading. Luckily, (or perhaps by design) our hotel sits slap bang in the centre of Rome, no more than a 2 minute walk from the transport interchange “Termini”.
We checked into NH Collection Roma Palazzo Cinquecento – a recently renovated 177 room luxury hotel located within walking distance of all the major tourist hot-spots. A cheeky online find meant that this classy establishment was within our budget. It’s interior oozed modern Italian design, the rooms decorated in neutral tones. The reception staff greet us with a friendly welcome and the bellboy offering to carry our cases to our room. The king sized beds delightfully comfortable, the linen fresh and crisp. The rooms spotless and the bathroom well cleaned. All of which were to be expected from such a sophisticated hotel.
The hotel restaurant, just recently up and running, serves an interesting array of traditional Italian cuisine and international foods. We chose to sample the most luxurious lasagne with a side of asparagus (a curious combination, but a taste sensation to say the least). Enjoying this food with a bottle of locally sourced red wine. Extremely satisfied with our quality meal we happily paid the price. Opting to eat out for breakfast, we did not have the opportunity to sample the pastries, fresh fruit or items made to order. We enjoyed the flexibility to experience the café culture that Italy is well known for.
The hotel has it’s own roof terrace with views over the city and of the garden which contains it’s own ruins. I’ve never stayed at a hotel with it’s own ruins before. The roof terrace is especially beautiful at night when the city is all lit up.
After the stressful journey it was great to be able to relax in these luxurious surroundings. Worries about being so close to the centre of Rome were proved to have no foundation. Even in our front facing room we did not hear any noise from outside. We would need a good nights sleep in preparation for the exploring we had planned for the next day.