After an awfully long period of waitning for my visa, I was finally in Europe. So, in a matter of two days, I travelled from Mumbai to Munich, Munich to Basel (Switzerland), Basel to Belfort (France) and Belfort to Rome. And it’s the last bit that I should be focusing on.
Since I missed my flight to Rome on the 31st of May (thanks, bureaucracy) I was forced to look at other options at the very last minute – and I mean, literally just a day in advance. The cheapest option I found was a direct bus, all the way from France to Italy, which took a whooping 14 hours. The young company Flixbus runs bus service all across Europe, and I was pretty impressed. They met all safety standards, and decent seats that reclined far back, were on schedule and had a great map to help locate stops and what not.
And so, on the morning of June 3rd, we were at Rome. My mother and I, with our overpacked bags, found the bus taking us to our Airbnb. Fun fact about Rome #1 – they sell tickets at stations or at convinience stores and not in the buses. And so I ran across the street, in blatant disregard for traffic rules – just like an Italian, I might add. Tickets punched, we sat down, because we toally had it all in control. We knew the stop we had to get down at, and we knew the number of stops in between. We could handle it.
Nah, fam, no vacation is without troubles. Fun fact about Rome #2 – they sometimes skip bus stops when there’s nobody at the stop waiting, so if you want to get down at a stop, you’d to punch a button. Except, we didn’t know what our stop looked like. We also couldn’t read the names of the stops. All we could do is pray, and as we later realised, burn our data to use google maps and get an approximate location.
We got down, a stop too ahead of ours, but it was still a victory. And so, we made it to our Airbnb, where it was all nice and sweet with greetings and small talk. Our host, Achille, was polite and let us have our space after a long, long night.
After a quick shower and a change of clothes, we went out for lunch – what’s an Italian vacation without some pasta and pizza? Fun fact about Rome #3 – pasta is only an appetizer. A lot of you may already know this, but on a personal level, I find it hard to accept. Still the best pasta ever, hands down.
Since we only had a few hours, and were exhausted, we decided to skip the Colosseum and head to the Vatican City. It was 25 minutes by walking, and thanks to a bickering Italian couple, we found some shortcuts and tips about the city – like, beer Wednesdays at a local cafe.
The Vatican city, well, the inner Dan Brown fan in me was all over the place. Oh, how much I absolutely freaked out about only the sign to Castle Sant’ Angelo. We headed for St. Peter’s Basilica, since it was already 4 pm and everything else was close to shutting down. The courtyard itself was overwhelming. The sun was still harsh, but we ried walking across the entire place. We failed, alright. Legs all crumble, and yet we gathered the courage to join the kilometer long queue to enter the Basilica itself. Here’s the irony – most people going in didn’t give a glowworm’s ass about, you know, praying. Just like me. All I wanted to see was the grandeur – and grandeur it is that we saw.
Fun fact about Rome #4 – You need to cover up your shoulders and knees to enter. So, no matter how hot it is, remember to carry a jacket or a scarf to help cover up. Those Vatican guards ain’t no joke, oh no. So, shoulders wrapped in a woolen scarf, I stepped into the Basilica with stories more ancient than I could fathom. The pillars that suported the structure, so tall I had to tilt my head as far as it could stretch. The glass murals, each with a story, made my people who were greater than I could ever dream of being. We went around the place, admiring the statues, all the while as I had to remind myself that I was witnessing Michelangelo’s work firsthand. There is nothing more humbling than being a witness to some of the greatest influences of our world, still withstanding. It reminded me of the power humans weild, and the possibility of leaving behind a mark for ccenturies to come.
As we were staring into a mural, bells rang and it was a rampage. People all began running, and we couldn’t figure out what’s happening. There was no way we could fight the sea of people, so we moved towards the center. We couldn’t see who it was (I wish it were the Pope, but I know better than that). We did, though, witness prayers at one of the holiest places in the world and humans being humans, trying to sneak in. Worry not, the guards stopped them.
By the time we were done, we realised we had little time left to go anywhere else and spend substantial time, so we chose the next best thing – Gelato! Fun fact about Rome #5 – you can find gelato on every street in Rome. You might have to walk a bit to find shade, or a bench to res
t your feet, or public washrooms, but gelato is considered a survival necessasity. Not once did I regret all the gelato I had, even with the sneezes they led to.
The night was spent eating more pizza, obviously, and crashing into the bed to compensate for the lack of sleep for the previous few days. It did get better the next day though, spent in Dante’s birthplace – Florence.