Flight Centre's Alex Russ travels to Rome and experiences the charm and amazing historical sights of one Europe's great cities. Alex visits the Colosseum, the Forum, the Pantheon and the Arch of Constantine. Alex tells us about her first big travel adventure.
I was travelling by myself, on a budget, and with my Lonely Planet Guide for company. I read it from start to finish on the plane. Almost immediately, its advice and tips saved me. If you've read it, you'll remember the warning about unlicensed cabs which don't use meters, have a reputation for changing tariffs and not taking you to where you want to go. The drivers crowd around airport exits and try to schmooze you into their cars. Thankfully, the alcohol on one of the driver's breath snapped me back to reality after my long flight and I graciously declined the offer.
I waited in the taxi line for thirty minutes and got an amazing driver. Arriving around midnight, being a twenty two year old female and travelling alone, this cab driver took me under his wing and drove me around the city showing me bits and pieces for no extra charge. We passed the Colosseum and Roman Forum and he pointed out the Trevi Fountain. These were all lit up beautifully and really captured the monster size of these historic and iconic landmarks. Later on, I discovered that there are tours which cover these attractions for around AUD$100, I definitely recommend doing a tour instead!
I stayed in Rome for one week and nestled myself into a cosy 3-star inn somewhere on Massimo D'Azeglio. Being pretty central I could walk around and get my bearings. I was very happy with the service especially the front desk manager who had his eye on me and never failed to remind me to leave my room-key with him. Yes, I was a novice in travel at that time. He also gave me a cartoon-like map of the city with all the historic sites in giant animated pictures. By the end of my week it was completely crinkled and folded into the smallest square as it lived in my back pocket. Each day I would plan my walking to track myself so I would see The Pantheon one day, the Quirinale Palace the next and the National Monument of Victor Emmanuel II. It was absolutely astonishing, to walk up a cobblestone road and be met by the big-daddy Pantheon.
The temple was built for the worship of the ancient gods by Marcus Agrippa, and it really knocks your socks off. The sheer size of the structure is amazing. The Pantheon is completely inspiring. Definitely go inside, light a candle, and think about how magnificent it really is. I remember sitting to the side wondering how on earth people knew to do this over two thousand years ago? It has an open section in the roof called the oculus and there are tiny holes in the floor to let the rain drain away. Awesome!
I saved my visit to the Colosseum for my last day. Once again, walking up a busy road and crossing through some crazy traffic I was confronted by another giant. Please, do some research on this amphitheatre which was the largest built during the Roman Empire. I highly encourage you to read up on its surrounding ruins before you get there. The Arch of Constantine which is right next door has some amazing historical friezes. They tell the story of Rome's 'golden age' and the detailing is fantastic. Understanding all of it is even better.
The language barrier and my bashful demeanour as a young adult resulted in my biggest regret, not trying more of the food. I kick myself each time I think about it. But I will make up for it. I will go back and I will be writing only about the food next time.
Looking for more information about travelling to Rome? Contact [email]text=Alexandra Russ[/email], an International Travel Consultant with Flight Centre based in Beenleigh City, Queensland who can be reached at 1300 341 590 or by [email]text=email[/email].