It was karma.
After all the horrible things I’ve said about Greece it was only fair that it had the last laugh – in the form of a public transport strike and a 35 euro taxi to the airport.
But it didn’t matter because I was going to Italy.
I instantly like Rome, with its distinct lack of high rises and advertising plastered on buildings.
And then there’s the wine, and the coffee (none of this Nescafé shit), and the pizza, and the gelato (yes, I know I’m supposed to be dairy-free but it’s Italy).
Of course it helps that I’m also staying with a friend’s mum who lives within walking distance of all the sights.
I was in need of a little mothering, and a queen bed, and a washing machine, and some home-cooked meals, and the company of a fellow kiwi.
My first night in Rome is perfect. There’s gelato involved and there’s a walking tour of the sights by night – which I reckon is the best way to see Rome without the heaving crowds.
As incredible as it is, I will never quite understand how people could get enjoyment out of watching other people die.
After the Colloseum I do the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and then the Trevi Fountain.
And yes, I sat on the edge of the fountain and threw two coins over my shoulder – the first to ensure a return to Rome and the second to grant me a wish.
And no, I’m not going to tell you what I wished for.
Feeling proud of my achievements I go in search of a celebratory gelato and by total accident stumble across the place which Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote the book ‘Eat, Pray, Love,’ calls the – “best gelato in Rome.”
On my travels I can’t count how many times someone has smarmily asked me – ‘is this your Eat, Pray, Love journey?’
You know what, perhaps it is. I’ve sure eaten a lot, I’ve seen more temples, mosques and churches than I care to remember, but this love thing – it still evades me. Perhaps my book would be called, ‘Eat, Pray, get horribly lost.’
Back to the gelato…
From the outside it’s so un-assuming.
It’s like they thought we make such good gelato we don’t need to advertise.
Inside you can’t even see the gelato. It’s hidden under shiny metal lids and it costs double the price for half the size.
Oh yeah, and they don’t do cones.
But, here’s the thing, it’s amazing.
I’ve now had their Seville orange, cinnamon-ginger, honey, chocolate with smashed up bits of meringue in it, and zabaione (egg yolk, sugar and sweet wine).
It becomes my afternoon ritual, gelato and people-watching at the Pantheon, which is my favourite Roman monument by far.
It’s so medieval looking, it’s so grand, it’s so – I am Rome hear me roar.
Meanwhile, the bizzarest monument award has to go to the pyramid at the end of my street.
Yes, that’s right – the pyramid.
Just like how the Roman’s stole all the Greek gods and renamed them, they also stole the Egyptian’s pyramids.
You know what they say – immitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
I’ve got to say the only part of my body not enjoying Rome is my feet. They’ve swollen up like over-cooked saveloys with all this negotiating mis-matched cobblestones in jandals.
They hate me more after I spend a day going the wrong and long way round the Vatican.
However, as a result I did stumble across where they house all the old pope mobiles.
Of course the grand finale of any Vatican tour is Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. I’d show you a picture but Japanese TV station Nippon own the rights to it. Then again, we should be grateful they donated millions to get it cleaned.
After the Vatican I head for St Peter’s Basilica and on the way spot the ridiculously dressed but quite handsome Swiss guards.
This one is a total poser.
The interior of the church is very grandeur and very palatial, although I must say I would have appreciated some warning as to the presence of the late Pope John XXIII.
I actually gasped out loud when I stumbled across his wax-like body behind glass – I just wasn’t expecting to see him there.
After I catch my breath I loose it again clambering up the 551 stairs to reach the top of the dome for the best panoramic views of Rome.
Literally within seconds of learning I’m travelling by myself and that Spain is on my itinerary, she’s taken my photo and has blackberried it to her son who lives in Madrid.
I’m pretty sure I’ve just been set up on a blind date but I’m not complaining, she showed me his picture – he’s a babe.
Sure beats Italian men, they’re too short and nuggety for me.
That aside, they’re way too PDA.
My first vicarious PDA experience is when on the bus at the traffic lights a Vespa pulls up beside us and the couple start pashing.
I’m transfixed, but my friend’s mum whose clearly seen way too much of this just groans – “that’s so Italian.”
The next day on the bus it’s my turn for some PDA. Unwelcome PDA I might add, in the form of a creepy guy sitting opposite me who repeatedly rubs my leg with his. It’s peak hour traffic, I can’t move, I don’t want to cause a scene = longest bus trip of my life.
Apart from that, the only other thing I don’t like about Rome is the hay-fever, which is causing havoc with my contact lenses and making it look like I’ve been smoking a shit load of weed.
Apparently it’s a mix of spring pollen and, get this – sand in the air from Africa.
Oh well, at least it’s exotic hayfever.