While our flight was over the European continent, I became uber-excited and couldn’t wait to begin our first European vacation. When the pilot announced that it was time for landing, I couldn’t stop smiling and was bouncing off the walls. Finally, finally! Our much awaited vacation in Italy was about to begin. Since the time we had planned to go to Italy in December 2012 and booked our hotel and flight tickets in February 2013, our every conversation over a cup of coffee during weekends involved something about Italy. As we approached May, serious planning came into action.
When the flight landed in Roma Fiumicino Airport, a streak of happiness passed through us and we merrily walked out of the plane. I completely despise the US immigration system and although I know not every country is as paranoid as the US, the whole thought of going through the Italian immigration system was not something I was looking forward to.
The immigration lines moved quickly and our immigration process was complete in 15 seconds. Not kidding! The officer looked at our faces, our Schengan visas, stamped our date of entry and let us into their bella Italia. U.S has a lunatic immigration system. Sigh!
After picking up our bags and refreshing ourselves inside the airport, we picked our Roma Passes from inside the airport. Though it’s not necessary to buy it in advance, we still ordered it online well before our trip.
There are a slew of buses and trains to take one to Roma Termini, the central train and bus station in Rome. The fastest way to get to Rome is to take the Leonardo Express; takes 30 minutes. Unfortunately, with 14 EUROS/person, this is also the most expensive way to get to Rome. The train station is located just across the Roma Fiumicino Airport.
The cheapest way to get to Roma Termini is to take a bus, and it costs around 4 or 5 EUROS, but the travel time is 60 minutes. From the ticket counter inside the airport, we purchased tickets for the Terravision bus. The regular ticket price is 5 EUROS/adult, but with our Roma Pass, we had to pay just 4 EUROS/adult. The bus station is just outside the airport and we had to wait for about 30 minutes to take the bus.
After the long flight journey, we dozed off to a slumber during the bus journey. Lack of coffee, the overcast weather and the rains worsened it. After an hour’s drive, the bus stopped at Roma Termini and the place was packed like sardines.
Dragging our heavy check-in bag, we tried to find the Deposito Bagagli (left baggage) area inside the station. After searching high and low, we found it on the underground floor (near the Metro trains). Check out the prices for the left baggage here. The prices are for each bag that you want to check in, so pack accordingly. And only 20 kilos are allowed in each bag.
With Roma Pass, we had unlimited access to local metros and buses inside Rome. With a swipe at the turnstile, we got on to Metro B (towards Laurentina) to explore the Eternal City. As soon as we walked out of the Colosseo station, the Roman Colosseum majestically stood in front of us. It was darn crowded outside. Unlike the pictures I have seen where the structure peacefully sits on green meadows; it is actually located in a very busy and noisy street. The souvenir vendors and food vendors around was reminiscent of the market streets in India.
Although we wanted to visit Colosseum towards the evening, we could not resist the urge to capture a few pictures in front of the Colosseum. Then with our map in our hands and using our broken Italian we asked people “Dove Roman Forum?”, and found our way to the Roman Forum.
On our way to the Roman Forum, we noticed a carved out plaque of the Rise and Fall of Rome!
Our plan was to spend about an hour in the Roman Forum, but it was so big and there were so many things to see that we spent a little over 2 hours just at the Forum. Towards one end of the Forum (on the opposite side of the Colosseum), there is a flight of stairs leading to the Capitoline Hill. From here, we captured an aerial view of the Roman Forum. We then walked to reach the Piazza del Campidoglio.
By then, we were dog tired and ravenous. We passed by the glorious Victor Emmanuel Monument and wanted to eat lunch at Cavour 313. This is the part where I insanely missed Google Maps and Yelp. We couldn’t find Cavour 313 and were too hungry to walk any further. A small shop selling appetizing gelatos allured us and we were ready to try out first gelato in Italy! Hazelnut and Pistachio please! We gobbled it up, but I was not a happy camper yet; my stomach was still rumbling. So, we got a slice of pizza and started walking towards the Imperial Forum. Both the gelato and pizza were a dud.
We carried our exhausted selves to the Imperial Forum, which is just across the street from the Roman Forum. Some of the significant dilapidated structures to see here are Basilica Ulpia, Julius Caesar Forum and Trajan’s Market. It is free to walk around the Roman Forum and it took us about 30 minutes to explore it. Luckily, there are grass meadows just next to the Imperial Forum, facing the busy streets. We relaxed for a bit under the shaded trees and continued walking towards the Roman Colosseum.
The lines to enter the Colosseum are always long, our Roma Passes helped us outflank the lines. The Arch of Constantine is just behind the Colosseum and can also be seen from a corner of the Colosseum. Just next to the Arch of Constantine is the Palantine Hill, which we saw from a distance.
After spending an hour inside the Colosseum, we bought a slice of pizza from a street vendor (really bad idea!) and took the metro back to Roma Termini. After collecting our bags from Left Baggage, we went on to search for the local train that would take us to Frascati, a little town where we had booked our hotel.
The departure board said that our train departed from binari (platform) 18 and we could only see Platform 17 and Platform 19. Somehow a sign directing us to Platform 18 caught our eye; one has to walk for about 500 meters on Platform 17/19 to reach Platform 18. Gosh! We were relieved to see the train and after a 30 minutes journey, we reached Frascati. Dragging our bags, we walked around the station to find a taxi. A passerby said that the taxi rank was further away and that one has to climb a flight of stairs to get there. There was just no way we had the energy to climb those stairs with our huge bag, so I asked my husband to wait near the railway station and I walked up to get a taxi.
Luckily, the guy spoke English and I told him we had to pick up my husband and then go to the hotel. Such a relief! I hate to admit this, but I was almost in tears when I found a taxi that could actually take us to the hotel. After the 12 hours flight journey from JFK to Rome and walking non-stop in the city, my legs were crying to take a break. The check-in process was easy and the hotel was beautifully located on a hill. We were hungry then, but honestly we had no energy to eat and just crashed for the night.
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