In early April, I took a break from writing Area 11's second album to take a trip to a city I had wanted to visit for as long as I could remember: Rome. Luckily for both of us, Beckii was free to come with me too, and we both set off (her by plane from the Isle of Man, me by train from Cosenza in southern Italy) on April Fool's day and met at the city's Termini station. I beat her by about 5 hours or so, so I'd had time to check us into our little apartment in Trastevere, an old and fashionable part of Rome.
We spent the first night settling in and catching up, but early the next morning we started our adventures in Rome. Beckii had been a total lad and made a really precise and full itinerary of things we could do, and first on her list was to visit the Pyramid of Cestius, which had recently been restored. This pyramid was built around 12 BC for Gaius Cestius, a Roman magistrate and religious leader (and not an Egyptian Pharaoh as I'm sure Beckii hoped). We couldn't look inside, but we did find a lovely garden behind the pyramid adjacent to the Protestant Cemetery, where we stopped and rested for a while. For this trip I decided against bringing a DSLR as I've learnt that carrying heavy camera equipment often pisses me off more than I get use of it, especially when I'm trying to enjoy a holiday, and especially when it's hot. Therefore, I figured it was a perfect time for the Sony QX-100 (for info on my camera gear, click here) to show it's full potential, and I think it handled itself great on this trip. I broke it in by taking a few photos of B amongst the daisies that grew in the garden which I'm sure I'll upload at some point, along with a few other fashion portraits I took of her during our trip; here's one to give you an idea:
We then walked over to the Baths of Caracalla, the ruins of a Roman bath house built between AD 212 and 217, and ate lunch under the huge pillars which were once a impressive bathing complex in the heart of Rome. Although all that remains now is rubble, the towering pillars really give the impression of how massive in scale this complex would have been back when it was in use.
The floor is covered in beautiful mosaics which are impressively preserved. Beckii scuffed the ground on one of the paths and unearthed a whole piece of mosaic under her feet, which had probably not been seen for hundreds of years.
The final stop for our first day was the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran. The oldest church in the West, it is essentially the number one church in the Catholic faith (it even 'out ranks' St. Peter's Basilica). I was expecting it to be pretty stunning. Outside the church sits the Lateran Obelisk: 455 tons of red granite which originally stood at the temple of Amun in Karnak, Egypt. It is the tallest obelisk in Italy (which has a lot of Obelisks..) and the largest standing ancient Egyptian obelisk left in the world. What with seeing a pyramid earlier in the day and then this, Beckii decided we'd come to Rome to see ancient Egypt! Here she is trying her best not to freak out, as she's big into the ancient Egyptian fandom.
It was getting late when we finally walked into the archbasilica (the only basilica with such a title) , and the sun was quite low in the sky. If I'm being honest, though, the archbasilica was a little bit of an anticlimax. The grass outside was scorched and it felt a little bit neglected, oddly. Inside it was impressive, but in a very glitzy and, dare I say, almost tacky way. We spent about 30 minutes inside, which I feel was enough for me.
As a side note, this year, Easter fell on April 5th, and we'd obliviously decided to visit the heart of Catholicism at exactly the same time that the city was at it's fullest. We did experience a fair amount of large crowds because of this!
The next morning we got on the metro and headed to the Vatican with the intent on seeing both the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Basilica although in the end we only managed the former, due to the aforementioned Easter weekend (it was Good Friday, and there were religious services all day in St. Peter's). However, as we joined the crowd in St. Peter's Square, we got a good look at the front of the basilica, and it sure is impressive. There wasn't really a sign anywhere saying you couldn't go in though, so it was down to the Vatican guards who wore very funny uniforms to tell individuals again and again that they couldn't enter the church (an example is on the right!). I'm not sure I'd have the patience to be honest, although I guess it's their jobs.
We followed Google maps to the entrance to the Vatican Museums, and upon noticing the huge queue, we promptly decided to have lunch instead for the time being. After an hour we came back and the queue had gone down, so we paid the €16 or whatever is was and shuffled ourselves in.
The museums are huge and varied, and I don't think we saw all of it. Every room has hundreds of artefacts and artwork from all over Christendom and it's just a bit overwhelming honestly. I suggest unless you're an expert, just switch off and observe. There's too many people to stand around anyway, and if like me you're with a friend, the potential for getting split up is huge. And if we're honest, everyone is there for one thing, and they save it till last.
The Sistine Chapel is a small, although lofty, building made even smaller by the hundreds of people stuffed into it at any one time. It is here that new popes are chosen, under the famous ceiling painted for "The Warrior" Pope Julius II by Michelangelo Buonarroti in 1508. The massive painting on the ceiling is focused around nine scenes from the Christian book of Genesis, the most famous being The Creation of Adam (or as Beckii calls it "The Touch"). As an admirer of renaissance art, seeing this in person was amazing and moving for me, and certainly a highlight of my trip. Now and again a relatively aggressive voice would come over a loudspeaker telling people not to speak. An American lady next to me likened it to the voice of God which amused me. The door to leave the chapel is tiny, so it took quite a long time to get out, and by the time we did we were both ready to go home! Another quick trip on the metro took us back to our little room in Trastevere where we ate takeaway Pizzas.
On the fourth day we headed to the Palatine Hill, the site of the ancient city. Many Roman emperor's built their palaces here. Alas, they are now ruins, but we spent the best part of a relatively rainy day wandering amongst fallen columns and bits of ancient masonry. The ticket for the Palatine Hill also gave you access to the Colosseum (which we didn't visit today) and the Roman Forum (pictured above). This is where ancient Rome and the Roman Empire itself was once governed, and a lot of the structures are still standing. Below, you can see Beckii standing under the Arch of Titus, which is in pretty good nick, and was the inspiration for the Arc de Triomphe in Paris!
Due to the increasing rainfall, we retreated back to our hotel room and had some pretty ropey Chinese food!
We spent most of the fifth day checking out of one hotel and getting to a new hotel, which was made pretty difficult due to it being Easter Sunday! We were both pretty tired from moving our luggage around on the buses, so we chilled out in the new hotel a bit, and we did a fun photoshoot.
We didn't really do much today in all honesty, but we did check out the Colosseum finally, as our tickets from the day before were still valid (which actually made fuck all difference because it was coincidentally free on this particular Sunday anyway!). It was jam-packed, even in the rain, but we got to see the whole site and managed to have a great time; even the really long rainy queue was fun (we played I spy...)!
We did a huge amount in the sixth day, and the best way for you to enjoy our trip is to watch Beckii's video below! Scroll down after to see some of the photos I took during the day.
We then only had one day left of our trip to Rome, but amazingly we'd pretty much done everything we'd wanted to! So we got ourselves a picnic, and headed over to the Villa Borghese. We spent most of the day by the Temple of Aesculapius (which you can see above) just sitting in the sunshine and enjoying local olives, breads and cheeses.
We went exploring and Beckii found a nice tree stump to stand on. As you can see by her hat she's wearing in the other picture, it did start to get a bit cold, so we eventually took the long way back to the hotel, passing through the Circus Maximus which we'd neglected to see before. We also saw the "Mouth of Truth", which was made famous in the film Roman Holiday. That evening we ate in a lovely restaurant called La Famiglia to celebrate a special occasion, which was bittersweet as our trip had come to an end.
We really really enjoyed our time in Rome, it's a great city to visit especially with a friend, and there's lots and lots to see and do. Even though we saw all the really famous things, there's much more to the city we didn't get to see, and I'd love to go back and explore the less 'obvious' side to Rome.