A little vacation for a change.
I don’t do “vacations”. At least by its classical definition which uses this term as to describe recreation away from work or everyday life. For me it’s been couple of years since the last time I disconnected from everyday duties. Loads of good and bad have happened during the last few months so this was just a thing of necessity. It was a quick and spontaneous decision to book tickets to Italy and even in those few weeks upon getting in plane loads had changed in plans, but, hell yeah, how good it felt stepping out of plane in Rome.
It was few of hottest days in my life (every day +38°C by day and around +30 °C over the night doesn’t compare to +23 °C, the high of Latvian summer). As hard as it looked on first, it turned out as an easy adaptation to temperatures and no need to look for a beach. But I did visit loads of sightseeing places, so there were parts of classical vacation.
Great tune by Austrian DJ Parov Stelar that I’ve listened to about 30 times over a few hours thanks to that pirated copy CD’s selling middle age man playing it over and over in street market located right under my “hotel” windows. So I somehow came back to it when started editing photos and writing this blog post.
Boarding and arriving in Italy took no time. First few emotions – it’s hot. It did took some two days to fully adapt to drastic temperature change, as well took about 30 minutes to understand logic behind my shuttle bus arriving and departing platforms which was only available in really bad English on their website. In overall I would have loved to become fluent with more than a few phrases as English was not that much used in those authentic places I attended, yet it wasn’t a barrier to take a risk and enjoy.
After settling in my hotel which was located right by Vatican City (just a 200m from Vatican Museums), I hit the streets. Unfortunately, my previously found quick dinner place was closed (as many other local places for their traditional vacation time), so I went over the bridge to main part of Rome, meanwhile capturing moment as river side cafes open up for evening part.
My route crossed Ponte Sant’Angelo with a look on Castle of the Holy Angel and modern day gladiators earning their extra bit of money on touristic photos.
One more cross of the street and another beautiful view. Something that you just can’t get used to while being in Italy as every single street opens a look on many different pieces of art.
It was still above +30 °C and after visiting some of the nearby fountains and plazas I put my direction to closest gelato shop with good reviews. It was pistachio and some citrus taste I’ve got at Don Nino gelateria right next to Panthenon. It was just a few seconds when this beautiful ice-cold treasure started to melt. I put my best efforts to finish more than whats collapsed around my hand.
Over the late night I booked my ticket for Vatican Museum entrance and slept good right before my entrance time, while huge lines in hot heated day arranged next to Vatican Museum entrance. People, read reviews and find a way how to skip the line without overpaying (based on various tour offers I bet I paid even less thanks to no commissions at official site).
Museum was crowded and even great A/C systems all around the place couldn’t help in those small packed rooms. Bearing the slow movement I managed to do the self guided tour of most of around 7 km long Museums. While museum being the business for Vatican City, it’s still not only worth a visit for a religious people, but also every single art lover. That much of diversity, starting from Egyptian artefacts and ending with world famous Sistine Chapel.
You could also have a peak in Vatican car park, featuring classical small cars and even few of top sports models of Audi, BMW and others.
I took the chance to pay a few extra EUR to see how it looks from the top of the Cupola di San Pietro. It definitely was a nice view, while Saint Peter’s Square turned out not to be that huge as I have imagined it from TV screens.
Vatican City guard protecting the closed territories of this city. His uniform living through the centuries. While this guy was not against a picture in next few minutes I got into my first adventure – taken by militarists with automatic guns thanks to my street photography. Lesson learned – don’t take photos of them. It was short conversation and showcase of my photo collection while ensuring that there’s no photos of them in my camera.
After the Vatican tour I finally started to feel a bit hungry (my body still undergoing adaptation process to the heat) so I went to one of the top pizza places in Rome. Hidden out of the tourist routes it’s been one of the best places in region offering pizza al taglio [pizza in slices]. It was my first lesson in pizza and I did it with my best effort. Not the cheapest option, but definitely offering one of the best gourmet pizza in the world. Gourmet pizza – you see, I’m starting to learn difference between various type of pizza. Sorry for out of focus picture – it just describes how hungry I was at that time.
After a small recharge in hotel room I was ready to continue my walk around Rome. Having a short stop at Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele to once again realise how huge constructions in Rome have been.
And couldn’t skip at least one photo at Colosseum.
After experience packed first full day I visited Trastevere neighbourhood for its laid-back atmosphere and great bars. First on my search attention grabbed Il Baretto – local family owned cocktail bar with them looking after well-being of each visitor. This bar offered nice music, an cute terrace on the hill and great drinks of Negroni and Aperol Spritz.
On the way home I managed to catch one of this trips most successful photos – A wild Fiat in its natural habitat.
A new day came with a famous Spanish Steps attendance.
And more packed Trevi Fountain where each photo you had taken came with someone posing basically for you.
Someone doesn’t feel justified by this road sign.
It was time for another great gelato and realisation of the freedom in streets of Rome. Compared to the one’s in Spain megapolis, they’re wide, quiet and all till the one with it’s great beat. Frigadarium with its in-house “Frigadarium flavour” was great mark for my tastebuds.
In next few hours it came to me as a body warning that even if you can walk 20+ km over the day in this +38 heat and eat only gelato, your body still needs to get vitamins. Nothing serious and I managed to take use of huge presence of Powerade and other vitamin filled drinks in every single mini shop. Good base for a climb to Orange gardens just to find out it’s not their season now. Well at least the view there were good to justify huge climb.
Over the route I accidentally located The Fontana dell’Acqua Paola which turned out to be significant part of famous movie La Grande Belleza (one of my favourites).
It went to some off beaten route where over a few km I met only two people and 1 car. But this one had some of the most diverse and colourful houses and gardens over the city. With mini fountains, children attractions and various other extras hiding after walls.
And showing that all roads at the end leads to Vatican.
For a dinner I chose restaurant just 100m of my hotel, the only decent place in 1km radius of touristic routes. And I got amazed. I won’t go into details of truffle pasta and wine. My MVP of this dinner goes to aperitivo [eng.: appetizer] – Fiori di Zucca or something like that, which were battered zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella cheese and anchovies. Mmmmm. It was also fun to see this small Chinese girl finishing huge steak which impressed even waiters who were trying to show her that this steak is super big. If you have a chance, visit to Osteria delle Commari is a must!
When top sights have been seen it’s time to look for something unique. Even in Rome you can find something different in every district. My first hidden gem went for a further away located Quartiere Coppede, an neighbourhood located in Trieste, about 6-7 km of the regular tracks. It revealed those beautiful residencies pictured below, but also came as another heat challenge for me. Already used to water fountains all over the city I was careless to my water reserves and paid with a really dry mouth that could have turned to worst if I wouldn’t find this one open cafe in 2 km radius (don’t trust internet info in small districts as it led me to two closed supermarkets).
And between all the well-known fashion brand shops found one for Doppelgangers. If you can’t find one in person, then at least you can dress as someone.
Security is on high level over the streets and all kind of vital locations. During my visit on train station I got to see how right next to me two foreigners gets taken by police and officials dressed as civilians, investigating their identity and plans.
My next destination were located in the south. Bit of a culture shock and contrast compared to Rome. I will keep the bad experience to myself, as it should be the reason not to visit this city at least for a day. As for good things – it’s a real hub. Gets you connected to Capri, Ischia, Procida islands located next to it, as well it’s just an easy drive away from beautiful Amalfi coast. It’s also the city that gives you the real “movie” feel of Italy – local dominated city, crazy driving culture, open people that even over language barrier gets to create a joke together with you. As this funny small Italian who crossed the street just to invite to join his big company of two families and make fun of how short he is compared to the guy from “Lettonie”. The other thing that amazed me – local reading culture. Just streets full with various book shops.
Just in Naples I understood scooter culture and how crazy it is. It packed me with instinct always to look around. More than that after I hit one rider with football when trying to pass ball back to kids.
It was the only time I used metro over my stay in Italy, but I just had to see two of the most beautiful metro stations. One of them featured candy store interior while other revealed look into ocean or stars.
Already seen nice malls in Rome, but Galleria Umberto I in Naples was something more. Basically another street with various building covered by beautiful roof.
Some tourist sights
And imitation of jungles on the way to Vesuvios actually using just a few trees on look to volcano.
And Castell dell’Ovo being the thin line between tourists (on the left) and locals catching sun (on the right).
Naples in one photo – small streets packed with everything.
And while the place that’s called to be the best pizzeria have huge numbered line, you can just hit one almost next to it. Less fancy, but there’s place to sit, atmosphere and perfect pizza. And while it goes with simpler approach as in Rome, it still convinces me to return for another meal next day.
As events turned out and I didn’t go for another city or island this time, I chose to go for the furthest place with a postcard like view. It come as a good hike up and down.
But the view was worth it.
And it was time to return to Rome for some more interesting experiences and then finish this nice journey with another comfortable flight with newest addition to AirBaltic fleet – CS300. As captain mentioned – for return flight we had plane doing it’s second commercial flight. Probably the one that got launched that morning.
It was great to finally escape everyday life and enjoy bit of a “me time”. I weren’t sure before, but now I have a new approaching favourite for nicest place on earth. At least until I learn something more at another part of our continent. Or maybe it’s time to explore further? Time will show. The main thing is to say grazie [eng. Thank You] as we’re living in this beautiful time when travel can be affordable and far destinations reachable in an hours. As well technology is breaking barriers between languages, real experiences and sharing them.
Footnotes: All photos shot with a Fujifilm X-T2, with XF 23 mm F1.4 lens or iPhone. Processed in Lightroom CC. August, 2017.