When in Rome...Day 1
So this is coming a little late, but clearly I have to write about the trip to Rome. It deserves more than one post, so I'll split it up. I have many, many more pictures than I can post here, so if one catches your eye, let me know and I can send more.
I had to wake up at 5am Thursday morning in order to make my flight (walk to station, ride subway, catch train to airport, check-in, security, find gate...). I made it to the Stockholm airport easily and on-time. It's a little odd, once you pass through security, you have to walk right through the duty-free shop (which is filled with pretty much every expensive item you can imagine). Normally these shops will just be off to the side, similar to a mall...it just seems strange to be in the middle of a store while lugging a bag behind you.
I flew Lufthansa to Frankfurt, and upon reaching the gate, they informed me there were no more seats available and I was on the standby list. Fortunately, I made it on the plane, and off to Rome we went. Upon landing, we did not have to go through customs (all 3 countries part of the EU), so that was really nice and saved some time.
The Rome airport (Fiumicino) is about 30km west of Rome, and so I had to find a way to get to the city. I figured a bus would be easiest, but all the signs for buses led to an info desk where the guy behind the counter simply could not be bothered with a silly request such as: where is the bus ticket counter? The next option, then, was the train -- the Leonardo Express -- a direct route to Roma Termini, the central train station. After a little searching (the train station at the airport is a bit of a trek from the arrivals area), I hopped on the train and was on my way to Rome!
The Italian countryside -- view from the train.
The Italian countryside is quite beautiful, but unfortunately during much of the trip the view was obscured by retaining walls. Starting about 10km from the city, all you see is graffiti. At one point, even the trains had graffiti on them! I heard some people on the train discussing this; I guess the Italian government has given up on repainting the trains, because as soon as they do, the graffiti quickly returns. We passed many run-down train stations on the way.
Finally reaching the station (about a 30 minute trip), the next task was to purchase a Roma Pass. I highly recommend this if you are going to Rome for a 2-3 day trip -- it buys you full access to the transportation system, free admission to two museums of your choice, and big discounts on all subsequent attractions. The hotel was just a couple blocks from Roma Termini, very convenient.
Roma Termini -- seems like it goes on forever.
I checked into the hotel/hostel, and around that time Annie was supposed to arrive. I had no clue where her bus would drop her off at the station, and after asking two Italian cops, I was still clueless. Randomly, after about 5 minutes of aimless wandering, I saw her walking towards me! We then brought her luggage to the hotel and looked for a place to eat. One of the tour guide books we had recommended a small pizza shop nearby, which was quite delicious.
A little wandering around the city and 2 scoops of gelato later (which is AMAZING...I'd go back just for seconds, and thirds...), it was time to call it a night and get some rest for the big day the next day. Another post to follow soon!