Going Places Educational Travel Blog - Part 2: Rome, 20 Years on
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November 12, 2014

Part 2: Rome, 20 Years on

By Julian Moseley

Ciao! Buongiorno! Come stai? Mamma mia … Can you believe that I learned Italian at night school when I was only 15? Well, I did. Go figure. You are supposed to be 18 years old at least but our neighbor and friend at the time, Mr. O'Neil, was head of this adult education program and he snuck me in. In the coffee break I was scared to leave the classroom in case there was some other adult who would recognize me, point an accusing finger and shout “he’s too young to be here!”. So I stayed in the classroom and tried to memorize some irregular verbs. Those irregular verbs didn’t help me much three years later when I was working as a waiter at the Hotel Gabbiano, in Porto San Giorgio (Italian Adriatic coast) and didn’t know the Italian for tablecloth or napkin (tovaglia or tovagliolo - not the easiest of words to pronounce, especially when you’re from Huddersfield). Nor had I learnt the words for knife and fork before taking the train for Italy.

But one digresses …… back to 2014! Did I have a panino after checking into the hotel? No - I had pizza instead. Can’t resist that smell. Did I have a cappuccino? Certo! In a real cup, not a paper one. Italians do things properly. It’s a pleasant surprise that prices here are lower than in London or Paris - lunch cost me only €5. Mi piace!

Anyway, so I have the rest of the day to scoot around and rediscover Rome - after 20 years. And it’s disappointing because it’s like I’ve never been here before - I have no recollection of where anything is in relation to anything else. Anyway, I dash off to the Colosseum, which is, as I’ve said, a couple of blocks away from the hotel. Last time I was here, cars still could drive around it, I mean they got really close, but then someone discovered that the vibrations from all those Fiat 500’s racing past were damaging the structure, so nowadays the only thing racing past are tourists chasing after their stolen wallets. Twenty years ago, we just sauntered into the edifice, gaping at the immensity of it all, saddened by the destruction wrought by 2000 years of neglect and scavenging. Today, we need a timed reservation to enter as a group, and penetrate via a warren of passageways and security personnel, with a local guide who slowly but surely renders the opaque transparent via lively explanations. So this is where Caesar used to sit? So that’s where the lions used to be kept? Yikes!

Dinner on the first night (tomorrow) is at a venue just behind the Colosseum, so I rush around the giant arena, barely acknowledging it, in search of the eatery. Julian’s golden rule of courierdom is this: never rely on a mere address, always go and set foot inside the place before taking the group there. Having a map and an address does not suffice. I find it - yippee - and go inside. “ Buongiorno, sono Julian il capo gruppo Passports”. I scout out the interior, see where we are to sit, make note of where the bathrooms are, check the time and date of our reservation, confirm the menu. The staff are friendly and offer me a drink. Mi dispiace - no c'e tempo - I still have to check out the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, the Trevi fountain, and more!

And just as well I did, because the Trevi Fountain has run dry (I guess they are renovating it) and the Spanish Steps are under re-construction, although basically still visible. I’ll be sure to let the group know that tomorrow, well before we actually get to those places, so they aren’t overly disappointed. Plus it will enhance the impression that I actually know stuff and know my way around, which I don’t - yet. On to the Piazza Navona, near where we have dinner on the second night. Luckily it’s still there and in one piece - no construction, fountains still spurting - and as beautiful as ever. After a bit of back and forth the restaurant is found - a small place on a tiny little street - not so easy - and I plan a good route from the Piazza to the venue, the one that I will take with the group tomorrow. It’s closed on Mondays, so I can’t actually go inside, which makes me a tad nervous, but at least I’ve seen it.

Va bene! I think I’ve got ancient Rome covered - just as well because it’s already 10:00 pm. As I walk back towards the hotel, I pass so many sidewalk cafes, all full of people either having dinner still or enjoying gelatos. Gosh, I’d forgotten how awesome Rome is at night time. I toy with the idea of having a gelato too, but I’m just too tired. Buona notte! A domani ..






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