“What are you doing for the holidays?”
“Oh, I’m meeting up with a friend from South Africa in Italy.”
This had become my generic response when the topic of the upcoming holidays came up. Everything was crazy busy before I left and I hardly had time to fully digest the fact that I would be seeing my friend Khara for the first time in over 3 months. When I began my journey to the airport I think it finally hit me and the excitement began to bubble.
Just 30 minutes before my flight was supposed to take off my heart sank as I listened to the announcement that no traveler ever wants to hear: “We regret to inform you but flight EZS1345 to Rome has been cancelled.” WHAT?!?! I couldn’t believe what I’d just heard and a million and one worries popped into my head: What about Khara? What about my bus from the airport? Will I get a refund for the first night’s accommodation? AHHHH.
They then went on to say that they had organised for everyone to be booked onto a flight early the next morning and that we would all be put up in a hotel for the night and an airport shuttle organised. I weighed up the option of going back home but then realised that with the hour commute to the airport I’d have to leave at the ridiculous hour of 3AM. I decided to go with the rest of the crowd, pick up my voucher for the hotel and stay the night in Geneva.
The hotel was beautiful and even though this was frustrating I still managed to get to Rome early in the morning and by 10:30 was out making the most of the day.
I cannot begin to describe the joy I felt when I saw Khara walking down the road in Rome towards me. I couldn’t actually believe I was seeing her. It was completely surreal. After long hugs and ‘Oh my word you’re here’ comments we got to the hostel and checked in.
We were then all set and ready to begin our first day in the Eternal City. Our aim for the day was to walk around and just get a feel for the beautiful city. Our first stop was the Spanish Steps which were very unfortunately under construction. We still managed to see them though and walk up to the top, getting an incredible view of the rooftops of Rome.
Next we found the Trevi Fountain. Wow. This has got to be one of my favourite places in Rome. One actually hears the grand fountain before you see it. And when you arrive it’s a bit of challenge trying to find a spot in among all the crowds of tourists. It’s so huge that it’s hard to take it all in in one go. But once you find a spot and get to take in the grandeur of it all, it literally takes your breath away.
Legend has it that if you throw a coin in the fountain you will one day return to Rome. Of course we gave it a go but cleverly remembered to use our South African rand cents instead of the more expensive euros.
The sun was beating down and I couldn’t believe the difference in temperature to that in France! We decided to have our first (of many) gelato. Next we walked on to the famous Pantheon. This for me was the first reminder of the ancient civilisation of Rome. We found a lovely little cobbled alleyway nearby lined with restaurants. We chose one and had our first pizza. It was so wonderful to sit and catch up three months worth of news. Throughout the meal we kept looking at one another in disbelief that this was actually happening. It literally felt like something out of a movie!
With regained energy we made our way to the famous piazza Navona. Dotted with fountains and lined by the looming grand buildings, it was beautiful. We sat a while and enjoyed the gentle sounds of water trickling from the fountains.
Next we made our way to the market at Campo Di Fiori. Unfortunately by this stage in the day the stalls were shutting down and everyone was packing away but nonetheless we got to see some of Italy’s finest fresh produce, pasta and oils.
We passed by this magnificent building as we walked back to our hostel: the Piazza Venezia. It is not something that I had set out for us to see but soon became one of my favourite buildings in Rome. It was just so big and white and you couldn’t help but stopping in awe each time you passed it.
The day ended with a delicious pasta now far from our hostel.
Throughout the day as we turned each corner we would stop and say “wow, that’s beautiful” and snap a photo of the building before us. I don’t know the name or importance of half of these buildings but Rome really is full of them. There isn’t a street without something beautiful. It really just is abundantly rich in stunning architecture.