Day One. London to Rome
Today, in a sense, began yesterday. To be at Stansted airport in time for my 6am flight would have been impossible had I not headed out with some of the last tubes of Tuesday night and thus, at a few minutes before midnight, I was bunkering down for a delightful night spent on a bench marked with "warning fragile" tape near Mr. O'Leary's interpretation of a check-in desk. Some three and a half fitful hours later and I, along with many others, were facing that desk with a shared expression that must have resembled Dawn of the Dead. Some time later and a rather fast landing on Rome's short runway made for an interesting arrival to the country, other than that though the flight passed without incident and I even managed to catch another half hour of sleep - so my newly acquired timepiece informed me. Having never flown with Ryanair before, I wasn't sure what to expect; rumours of "cattle class" had me filled with dread but in reality the seats afforded a decent amount of leg room (less so by the windows it seemed) and the crew were courteous. You could see, however, the areas were corners have been cut in order to offer such low fares, such as the uniforms which verge on translucent.
Once through through "passport control" I bought a shuttle-bus ticket for €4 to Termini, Rome's main station, and headed out to the bus stands outside. An hour later and I was regretting buying the ticket in advance, my operator "terravision" whilst comfortable, quick and airconditioned when it arrived, took around 40 minutes to do so - in which time several other operators, selling €3.90 had been and gone. Lesson learned.
Eventually I got to Termini and found my way inside to the Metro where all I knew was that I must get "Linea A to Manzoni" and then walk from there. Despite the best efforts of Rome's 'upgrade works' to confuse and complicate the hunt for Linea A, I was successful and around 12 noon I found my way to the flat on Via di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in which I had booked a room through AirBnB.com. A quick chat with my host, my bags dropped and keys in hand I headed in the direction of the Colosseum, a walk that turned out to be no more than 10 minutes and quite pleasant. Once there it was easy to see exactly why it is such a huge draw to tourists, it is massive and incredibly imposing - though, by this point my stomach was calling me and imposing or not, ancient Rome's most famous monument would have to wait!
Lunch was a (very) simple affair of Spaghetti con Cacio e Pepe, which, should you ever see it on a menu means "Spaghetti with grated (South-Italian Cacio) cheese and black pepper."
In all honesty, it was quite delicious in spite of its basic appearance, and set me up nicely to wander around the outside of the Colosseum and then down to the Vittoria, a more recent addition to Rome but non the less striking for it. This 19th century palatial building was constructed to mark the unification of Italy; clad in white marble it is easily as imposing as its 1700 year old neighbour. I spent quite some time exploring this area (due no doubt to lack of sleep and the heat, my pace was rather slower than normal) and then headed back to the flat around 4pm. Three and a half hours later I awoke, very hot and somewhat sweaty but refreshed and ready to head back out to see the city as it wound down and relaxed.
Dinner followed a similar path as lunch - much toing and froing between different restaurants before eventually giving in and picking one of the first I looked at. This one, a quaint little place tucked down a side street near the Colosseum, provided me with a Risotto ai Fungi which, at the grand sum of €8, was a little disappointing. After a large, cold Peroni I made my way slowly to the room again, even with my snatched moments of sleep I was exhausted at crying out for proper rest. At 10pm I succumbed to my body's demands and thus ends the first day.