It all began as a drunken conversation in a Tyldesley takeaway on a cold Summer’s night, as me and Joe stumbled around, eagerly awaiting our, quite ironically, pizzas.
“Lets go to Rome” I suggest in some what of a haze.
Less than a week later and everything was booked. Me, Joe and another lad named Doyle were all heading to Rome, some part to watch A.S Roma, one part to see some of the city’s numerous sights, big part to get pissed. We succeeded in all three endeavours.
So a four month wait finally reached its conclusion and we set off for Manchester Airport at three o’clock in the morning, on Friday February 13th 2015.
The first port of call, obviously, was to get the drinks in, and everything was going pleasantly. We were all on the hyper side, finding it difficult to wait to board the plane. However, as soon as we got on the plane, and the moment I parked my arse in my seat I, for some reason, instantly died. Well, a bit dramatic, but for reasons unknown to me, I immediately felt absolutely knackered, a little ill, and was asleep before the aircraft had even moved.
Then Doyle decided to be a banterous bastard and put an already soggy tic-tac in my mouth, as I lay there vulnerable and unprotected.
I don’t even like mint.
Despite the unwelcomed guest the flight passed by quite quickly, apart from that one part where I stood at the back of plane threatening to be sick and an air hostess seemed very worried and even gave me a free cup of water, but we won’t talk about that. And I’m usually such a good flyer.
I managed to survive the flight and we soon planted our feet down on Italian soil. We were greeted by Roberto the taxi driver, a fellow Roma supporter, who drove us into the heart of Rome and to our accommodation, giving us our first glimpse at how mental the driving is in the Italian capital.
He got us there in one piece, despite being seemingly distracted for the majority of the drive, and we made our way inside the place we’d be spending the weekend – Roman’s Holidays.
The B&B, is inside an apartment building (which contained a nifty mini-elevator), which threw us off where we were actually supposed to be going initially, but we finally found it on the fourth floor. We were welcomed by Luca, the owner, who dressed incredibly well (as was the norm) and possessed a scent that certain members of the group grew to be very fond of as the trip went on.
However, our time in Rome did not get off to the best of starts. Upon our arrival Luca promptly informed us that his card machine was not working, so we’d have to pay for our stay in cash.
That meant we then had to trudge the streets of Rome to find a cash machine. We did, but after Joe inserted his pin, the machine then request a ‘secret code’, which we had no clue what it was. After a few minutes of stress, Joe had to resort to ringing home to do some money manoeuvring, and after a long, tense, stressful hour, we made it back to hotel with cash in hand.
There were some things that immediately struck me about Rome from just my brief time spent searching for a cash machine and waiting around for things to get sorted:
- Firstly, the elderly in Rome do it right. They’ve nailed life. Practically every elderly person in the city dressed stupendously and were just chilling, loving their life. One gentlemen epitomised this especially, he just sat out side a mechanic’s, bathing in the sun, reading his paper, with his big, woolly Alsatian sat at his feet. If I had have had a better camera to hand I’d have taken a picture to capture his coolness.
- There seems to be absolutely no road etiquette in Rome. People will dump their cars ANYWHERE. There were smart cars parked vertically next to skips, people double parking next to the footpath, driving over zebra crossing whilst the green man was beeping away, and so on. It was quite mental.
- Finally, the designs of the buildings was pristine and very old, so much so you could almost see the history etched into the architecture.
After a brief stint of recovery in our very nice room, we headed out into the city.
The first glamorous sight we came across was a McDonalds. Cultured, I know, but what can you expect? We were starving and the signs which pointed us in the direction of the sacred golden arches were practically begging us to go in.
We refuelled on the greasy, heart attack threatening food and set off once again.
Our next stop was an outside bar in a kind of square, in sight of the Vatican’s wall and the hordes of people heading into the city. Paying €7 for my first beer in Rome was initially quite hard to swallow but when a surprisingly tall bottle of Peroni was brought out, all was forgotten. Around 150 yards away from us was a team of A.S Roma cheerleaders, who put on a mildly entertaining routine as, I imagine, they tried selling tickets for Sundays game.
Another thing that surprised me during my time in Rome was just how little Rome’s other football team, Lazio, seem to be noticed in the city. We didn’t come across one Lazio fan, one sticker of their badge, one club store, not even a fake shirt on sale on a dodgy market stall throughout our time there.
We then wandered down the road and followed the droves of people to see where we’d end up, we found ourselves on the doorstop of St. Peters’ Bascila, the home of the Pope. The whole thing looked incredible, and even though I’m not religious in the absolute slightest, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel something whilst I stood there with all the statues staring down upon me.
We took in the sights and then set off down the road to find the river Tiber, so we knew which way to go the next day, and see what else we could find.
We followed the river East (I think) until we stumbled across Castle D’Angelo, which was quite pleasant to see. Then we pressed on until we found a draw droppingly large building, which was incredibly grand and detailed. I was genuinely set a back by just how stunning this building was, and I don’t even know it’s name!
After that, as dusk drew in, we decided to head back into the general direction of our hotel and find a bar on the way. We had to stop of at a pharmacy first, however, as Joe decided the best way to combat his chaffing legs (due to wearing new, never worn before, not washed jeans) was to put plasters on the inside of seems and his legs. Which went well.
We found, as would become a theme of the trip, an Irish bar named Morrison’s. In which I accidentally ordered a Carlsberg as my mind somehow though it was ordering Carling. I watched in envy as Doyle ordered a Magners and I was left with my flat, rancid pint.
The next bar we visited was quite strange, as it almost had a Whacky Warehouse feel to it, due to the decor and gimmicky drinks I saw brought out. We sat outside under a canopy, and as it was happy hour we were bombarded by a tray of various savoury snacks. Oh, and a massive smoking bowl filled with olives. I don’t know why the bowl was smoking.
Stood outside the doors to the bar was a clown making balloons for the wee ‘uns, he was quite good too – his bike was especially impressive. Then I saw the clown, who was moments earlier handing a little balloon dog to a child, make a big, black balloon dick for some couple. Caught me off guard I must say.
With bellies now rumbling, we headed for a restaurant that Luca had recommended. It took a great deal of time, stressful map reading and shouting at Doyle until we finally made it, and we were then left disappointed. The restaurant only offered a set menu and it didn’t even contain pizza!
Slightly disappointed and even more hungry we headed for the bar that Luca had told us about to cool our heads with a drink before finding somewhere else. As it turned out the bar served food, and whilst again there was no pizza, there was a healthy selection of burgers, so that’s what we went for.
Italians don’t cook their beef.
Whilst we weren’t massive fans of the half-raw burgers, we weren’t in the mood for complaining and ate (most) of it up. We were left confused, however, as our chips had still not arrived and the actual burgers were served with crisp. Joe asked the waiter if he could bring them out and then ten minutes later he returned, crisp in hand.
€5 EUROS FOR A BOWL OF CRISP!
We quickly declined and hurried to pay our bill, telling them that they weren’t getting €10 out of us for two bowls of crisp and we went on our way.
We did manage to hunt down a pizza place finally, and I think we had at least one more before the night was done.
The rest of the night was spent drinking in a near-by bar and that brought a very enjoyable, yet at times quite stressful, first day in Rome to a close.