I blog when I go abroad, and occasionally when I do stuff in the UK too. There's a nicer interface over here.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Hats off

Oh dear. I got grumpy. I suppose it had to happen sometime.

The train from Venice to Rome was thoroughly nondescript. Really. A bullet through the backbone of Italy, it's fast and not picturesque and in large part through tunnels. After a convivial start where we chatted to some seat mates from England and Australia, mostly people slept and I knocked out two blog posts. Noticing that we were stopping at Tiburtina, the starting point for our sleeper service later that night, we hopped off there rather than Termini, so we could drop our bags off.

Roma Tiburtina is a new, modern station, Rome's attempt at slowly shifting their long distance services to a suburb. Af least I think that's the case. Anyway, it has no fucking left luggage storage. It's massive, an interchange and terminus, but has nowhere you can leave your proxy bags. It took us about 30 minutes to confirm this to our satisfaction, because it was frankly unbelievable, and once we did we had to schlep on the non-air conditioned rush hour metro to Termini. I felt like passing out. It was about 6pm and I was running on empty - in fact a net loss on calories, having had zero food and just one can of lager (plus lots of zero calorie fluids) throughout the day, and that 10km walk around Venice in the morning.

Termini is a confusing boiling hot chaotic mess of a building site. Left luggage was fucking miles away and cost a fortune. We got a private storage room because we had so many bags. They close at 11pm. Hopeless.

Back to the metro via a stop for water. Really not having fun here. Another long schlep to an insanely crowded platform to get the train to the Vatican, for which I had worn my only long trousers of the trip. First train was way too busy to board, and after that we'd decided (Ok, realised) that actually we didn't have though time, because we needed to go pick up a picnic at a deli in another part of town. Bleh. I really wanted to visit Vatican City, my last new passport stamp of the trip. Not to be.

A slight diversion about the term "passport stamp". It seems to be the only term I've ever used which has been so widely assumed to be literal. "You won't get stamps in Europe". Of course I know that. But people almost always seem to think I'm meaning actual stamps, not just another country added to the list of those visited. How is it not an obvious slang term or metaphor? Hnnngh.

Ahem. Anyway, changing metro lines, we mostly had long corridors to ourselves. Rome had been the first place where we'd seen proper crowds, and suddenly it was like being in Sofia again. But that soon changed and another hot ride later we emerged at a big road junction. Maps came out and Volpetti's was found, a 600m walk away.

It's an amazing deli full of the most astonishing meats and cheeses and antipasti. I failed dismally to appreciate it as much as I normally would, or indeed it warranted. Rome was just pissing me off. Tempers and temperatures running higher than usual, 4 of us set off to the bar in the park/playground we'd walked past while plans for transporting the frankly ridiculous amount of food and wine were made. As colosseum old hands, Lloyd and Steve were going to transport the food by cab to Tiburtina; the rest of us would do tourism and, later, get the bags.

The bar in the park/playground we'd walked past shut the second we got there. Back past Volpetti's we went into a different bar. I got changed back into shorts. Mood slightly improved due to the combination of alcohol and air to my shins. Got told to neck my beer because we were off, as a group, to walk up a hill and eat a picnic. My feet and thighs were hurting.

Up top of the hill, in a park with a stunning hazy view, Rome actually seemed quite nice for a bit. I drank and disliked the top notch wine, we all ate cheese and meats and olives. The transportation unit went back to pick up the shipment, Paul went to take photos, and the rest of us went to the Colosseum.

It's a pretty impressive ruin. The experience is sullied a tiny bit by there being a main road directly in front, and in fact the first thing I focused on was the lamppost advert for an Irish pub. Whither Guinness?

Upstairs for a better view. Looked for, and eventually found, somewhere to have a drink as the sun set. Ordered beers and were served giant glass steins of them, as you get in Bavaria, prompting me to say danke schön. Despite my accent and, y'know, all the other English words I was speaking the whole time, this seemed to make the waiter think we were German. A few minutes later he delivered two plates of savoury snacks to us, which we hadn't ordered - they were a freebie, "you don't get this in Germany, hey?". Huh.

Two giant beers later and my mood had vastly improved. But Rome had a final act. I paid a tactical visit to the facilities and on my return just grabbed my bag and we set off.

Without my hat.


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