The last time I was in Rome was on a school trip; I was fourteen at the time, and it was my first time traveling outside of Canada. Over the course of two weeks, we made our way through some notable cities/islands, such as Florence, Venice, and Capri, as well as smaller towns in which we stayed. Rome was the last leg of the trip, and being considerably tired, I certainly didn’t enjoy it as much as the cities visited earlier on during our Italian adventure; that and the fact that Rome was already stifling hot and humid when we arrived. Traveling in a large group (of twenty to thirty) also tends to put a damper in things in terms of exploration, which is why I grudgingly decided to give the city another go before completely writing it off.
Instead of flying out of the usual Charles de Gaulle (CDG) or Orly (ORY) airports, I opted for the student budget-friendly airline Ryanair, which flies out of Beauvais (BVA). A lot of people have noted how far it is in comparison to the other two main airports, the main reason being that you have to catch a shuttle bus, which entails an hour long ride from Paris to the airport, from Métro Porte Maillot in the 16th arrondisement. From where I live, though, the journey to the parking lot from where you pick up the shuttle bus is much closer to my home, only a bus ride away. For the curious traveler, the shuttle bus costs 15€ and the schedule goes with the flights departing that day. With that said, it’s best to arrive three hours before your flight at the parking lot so that you can catch the bus. If you find yourself in the area, though, you can check departure times for the bus for each day of the week.
On the flight over to Rome, I seemed to not have a great experience towards the end before we landed. My ears were extremely plugged and felt an insurmountable amount of pressure on my head, thus giving me a major headache. I could hear the air gushing from somewhere at the back of the plane; it seems that there was a huge problem with the cabin pressure, but no one else seemed to be as uncomfortable as I was.
Upon arriving at the airport, we were delighted to come across a sign notifying all tourists that it was Italy’s Cultural Heritage Week (Settimana della Cultura), which meant that all state museums are free for the week. It should be duly noted that transport in Rome is considerably cheaper than Paris. From the airport to one of the city’s main metro stations is only 4€ (in comparison to Paris’ 9€), and a subway ride ticket (valid for 70 minutes) costs 1€.
While I would love to tell you the delightful adventures of napping and local pizzeria eating that followed, I’ll just brief you on the accommodations. Given that a lot of the hostels were around 30€ to 50€ for mediocre accommodations that were close to the city, my friend and I chose a “real” hotel that was in a more residential area in the west part of Rome. We figured that distance wasn’t such a big deal if it was walkable to a subway or to main sites, since we would be exploring plenty in our few days in the city. Hotel Pinewood was a great place to stay, with the nice staff and its great price; divided between the two of us, the room averaged out to costing only 40€ per night, which was similar to staying at a hostel.
Rome Hotel Pinewood
Via della Pineta Sacchetti, 43
00167 Roma, Italie
+39 6 663 6546
The majority of the following day was spent at the Vatican, well, one part of it to be more specific. We first strolled past the Vatican Museum, whose line wrapped around the Vatican’s walls, deciding that we would leave it for another day. We were astonished to see the line to enter St. Peter’s Basilica (San Pietro), which was just as long as the one leading in to the Vatican Museum. However, this one seemed to move along much quicker, so we decided to test our patience by hopping into line.
It’s interesting to return to a place that you visited when you were much younger. I marveled every bit without understanding any of the history or art styles when I was a teenager, but now, I seemed to want to contextualize every bit of it, trying to fit everything into what I knew. For some reason, entry to the cupola of the basilica still cost money. Albeit it was only 5€, but it wasn’t an expense that I was expecting given that the week was supposed to mean free entry to state museums. I hadn’t been in the cupola before, and found the experience a great one. It wasn’t so much the view offered that was the charm, but rather, it was the climb to the view. The small space and seemingly never-ending climb of over 300 steps, and its pairing with the emergence into a relatively open and free space at the top. It is to say that it was the process in attaining the marvelous view that captured me.
Aside from the St. Peter’s Basilica, we spent much more of the time later that day, as well as the subsequent ones wandering around the city with our tourist map in hand searching for cappuccinos, food, and gelato, while bumping into monuments and Rome’s different neighbourhoods. For the record, we did try to check out the Sistine Chapel on our last day, but the line was estimated to be two hours long, and our stomachs much preferred a food adventure as opposed to being baked in the sun while waiting in line. Our experience of Rome through walking led to quite a few gastronomical discoveries.
Gelato seemed to be the mainstay of our diet, and with that, I took a great liking to MILLENNIUM Gelataria and Old Bridge Gelataria. Both are located near the Vatican, but are remarkably cheap and quite tasty – 1,50€ for one scoop, but it is a massive scoop (think maybe two or three of your local ice cream parlour scoops for an equivalent). While the two are open until quite late at night, the former always seems to have a line flooding out of its stand. And if you aren’t one for gelato, Old Bridge Gelataria also makes a mean frappé for 2€, topped off with whipped cream.
2 Via delle Grazie
00193 Rome, Italy
Old Bridge Gelateria
5 Viale dei Bastioni di Michelangelo
Our last meal in Rome was marked with by well-made fettuccine, delicious pizza, and sad tiramisu at Ristochicco Restaurant. To better elaborate, we pulled up some chairs for some outdoor dining at reasonable prices. Since I had a horrible experience with pasta the night before, I opted to redeem Rome with a fettuccine dish, while my friend went for a pizza highlighted by artichoke, ham, and other vegetables. Both mains were a success, in our opinion, so we dared to try the tiramisu thinking that it would be just as delicious. Unfortunately, the tiramisu was more so a cake, and a dry one at that, which we eagerly washed down with a cappuccino. With that said, it’s a great lunch spot, but skip dessert and head to a gelateria instead.
Borgo Pio 186
00165 Rome, Italy
Tel: +39 6 830 8360
With somewhat satisfied stomachs, we bid farewell to Rome by returning to the hotel to pick up our bags and head on over to Termini to catch the train to Civitavecchia, where the overnight ferry to Olbia, Sardania awaited us. The train ride cost us 4,50€ each and took an hour from station to station. When we arrived at the port, the staff told us that a bus would arrive in ten minutes to take us directly to our ferry, since it was windy that evening; however, it turned out that ten Italian minutes really meant thirty to forty minutes.