When I imagined what the city of Rome would be like, I imagined a place filled with history. With remnants of gladiators, goddesses, and a giant kingdom. I dreamt up scenarios of tracing the paths of famous emperors, and following the last steps of many fighters. In none of these scenarios did I imagine the heat. Pure, blistering heat.
Heat can make people cranky. I had already confirmed this theory in Cinque Terre (post here), but even that was a walk in the park compared to the dry and open city. Now our mishaps were not so funny. When we almost missed our tour of The Vatican, had a full day tour in the open outdoors and ended a day unable to locate our train, what would usually be a minor annoyance turned into somewhat of a tragedy. Frustration took over and tears were shed. For one of the first times during our honeymoon, our truthful travel moments were not funny. Overall lesson of this adventure? Heat makes you crazy!
Truthful Travel Lesson #30
Check public transit schedules
Thinking back to London and Paris, we hadn’t had much luck with public transportation. This should have been a warning to us to check out transportation schedules in our next big city. Of course we didn’t. We woke up super excited to visit Vatican City. While I had never been to Rome, my husband had been twice and each time had missed out on making it to the home of the famous Sistine Chapel. It was probably the most important tour for him during our entire honeymoon. So when we walked up to the metro to find it blocked off with signs in Italian, a sinking feeling in my stomach surfaced. Not again.
Plan A was a no go. Quickly realizing that Plan B would have to take effect, we located a confused looking couple who confirmed they were also on their way to the Vatican. They claimed to know the way, so we all hopped on a bus together. While I was trying to figure out how to pay for this ride using the fancy system on the bus, we realized that we were going in the opposite direction of the Vatican. The four of us hopped off the bus, hypothesizing we would need to go the other way. After figuring out which bus to take, we finally made it to the subway and started our journey. As each minute went by, my heart started to race faster.
All the tension that had been building since 6:45 AM culminated in one moment when we got off of the subway and out of the station. Do we go left or right? We had a 50/50 chance of going the right way, and no time to spare if we chose the wrong direction. We chose correctly, and made it to the tour with just minutes to spare.
The Vatican Museums were beautiful, with intricate maps from the 1500’s and paintings with extremely unbelievable details. It was all worth the early morning trouble, but was a rocky start to our time in Rome. With the advanced technology we carry around in our pockets today and the prevalence of WIFI, checking transportation schedules is an easy task. One that we could have done on a train, at dinner, or anytime really. After London, our transportation mishaps were funny. After the Riviera incident, a little concerning. Now they were getting ridiculous.
Truthful Travel Lesson #31
100 Degrees Fahrenheit is REALLY hot
The next day was our big tour of the city, visiting the Colosseum and the Roman Forum and then walking around to take in sights. On our first night in Rome we had dined across from the Colosseum (there’s nothing quite like drinking wine and eating ravioli while looking at the massive Roman amphitheater). I was so ready to finally tour the inside of one of the New Seven Wonders.
Our tour started early, and so did the heat. By the time we got into the Colosseum and climbed up to the main viewing area, the sun was high in the sky. Spoiler alert if you don’t know what the architecture of the Colosseum looks like today: there is no roof. I began to seek out shelter behind wide beams and tall people. I finished all of my water very quickly, and started to feel very nauseous. The Colosseum is magnificent. It is especially beautiful to see from the outside as was recently renovated and looks polished and new.
Then it was on to the Roman Forum, a vast expanse of ruins. This is where things started to go downhill fast. We got there at around 11 am, and within the hour it had hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit. As the heat got worse, my priorities changed. I was no longer interested in learning about the history of the structures. I was very interested in hopping from one spot of shade to another. The only time I got very excited was when I saw a water tap nearby. The rest of the day was spent soaking my hat in water and replenishing my head with cool water. On our afternoon tour, every fountain we passed was an opportunity to jump in that I had to convince myself not to take.
Dry heat is unbearable. It was a rough day, and I have never been so happy to eat gelato and see the sun start to go down in the sky. While there is not much that can be done to beat a hot day outdoors, water is so important to have in abundance. People left our tour due to feeling unwell, and even with all of our water refills I was still having a hard time staying sane. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. 100 degrees Fahrenheit is pretty darn hot.
Truthful Travel Lesson #32
Transportation planning is not our thing
After a day of barely surviving in the Roman heat, we had one job. Get to Naples. Seems easy, but of course if it involves us and transportation it never is. After a bus ride crammed like sardines in rush hour, we finally made it to the train station.
Within five minutes, I had rubbed my eye with a hand that had picked red pepper flakes off a pizza a few hours earlier. I could not see out of one eye. I was off to a bad start already. Once I finally got vision back in my eye, I decided I was going to sit down against a wall with my heavy backpack and wait for our train departure point to pop up on the screen. Within minutes a security guard approached who told me quite rudely that if I wanted to sit, I should find somewhere else.
I got up, and burst into tears. I had spent hours and hours in the heat, was carrying a backpack that was over half my size, was still having trouble with my eye, and could not find out where the train would be departing from. For the first time on the trip, things were not funny. It was about to get even worse. Adrian returned, with no idea of where the train was. After looking closely at our tickets, we realized our mistake. There would be no train taking us to Naples. Our 8 PM train had actually been an 8 AM train, and had left before we had even started our tours for the day.
Transportation 1 million, Us zero. We were lucky to get tickets for another train, but the sting of yet another transportation related mistake took the entire ride to Naples to get over. After all the mistakes we had made, I was finally ready to admit that transportation management was not a strong skill of ours. In fact, it was our worst.
Truthful Travel Lesson #33
History is around every corner
Although the weather was incredibly hot and although transportation still seemed to win against us, Rome was an amazing experience. It is best described as a living museum. During cooler evenings we set out to explore the city ourselves, and found ruins in the middle of seemingly normal streets. There were light shows at night projecting what the ruins would have looked like, along with their stories. There were churches from the Middle Ages and columns dedicated to all the emperors you can think of.
We also came to know some of Rome’s history that is less talked about. The Colosseum, notably, as well as many other Roman ruins, were originally covered in gold and marble. It was not weathering that made them disappear. The church built St. Peters from recycled marble of The Colosseum. History is everywhere in Rome, and is not always what it seems!
Rome was a test in limits: how much heat could we handle and how many times could we mess up transportation? We found out we did have limits, and vowed to try and respect these limits for the rest of our vacation. It had been two and a half weeks of constant truthful travel lessons, and we were still learning. It is said that Rome was not built in a day. Clearly, neither was our traveling sense!
Until Next Time,
A Truthful Traveler