There’s really nothing to stop you from getting into Rome.
Visa? My passport garnered a stamp, though I’m not sure the officer even looked at me. Customs? If you have nothing to declare, take a right turn and you’re out the door. The wait for your luggage or bus will be far more taxing.
Of course, once in Rome, getting to your hotel can be more of an adventure. I managed to turn a five-minute walk into a 20- or 25-minute walk, and when dragging along luggage, you very quickly get a feel for the bumpy cobblestone, narrow streets and even narrower sidewalks that make up the city. Then imagine every single one of these crevices is stuffed with people, cars, mopeds or all of the above.
Thanks to our self-“guided” tour, we saw that seemingly every street is lined with peddlers. Near Termini Station, there are five primary wares: hats, sunglasses, shawls, something that looks like a stapler, and a goo-like, pig-shaped substance that makes a sound when you throw it against something. Expand your radius to unravel many more options.
Our hotel offers a respite from the hustle of the outdoors. A couple floors up, you hear the occasional car horn and not much else. Head up a couple more floors to the rooftop breakfast patio, and life doesn’t get a whole lot better. But you don’t go to Rome to eat breakfast. You go for gelato. And pizza. And pasta. In that order.
And you go to have your fill of history. So after 12 hours of sleep and one great breakfast, we set out for the city’s iconic Colosseum and Roman Forum. This time, we kept a 15-minute walk to a 15-minute walk. Scaffolding currently surrounds about a fifth of the outside of the structure; which was about the same length as the line to get in. (Though when we walked by later, we were offered at least three tours that would allow us to skip the by-then-non-existent line.). Actually going into the Colosseum wasn’t a huge priority for us (already did that playing one of the Assassin’s Creed games anyway), so we instead visited the neighboring Palatine Hill and Roman Forum. Paying to walk through the gates gets you an up-close look at what remains from the the Roman Empire, including the location where Julius Caesar’s body was burned, (I learned this from listening to the Rick Steves walking tour after checking out the hallowed grounds.) Coincidentally, your payment also gets you a reprieve from the street vendors. All but those selling bottled water remained outside. This actually makes a big difference — a little more peaceful, a lot more quiet. A couple chose to nap next to the gardens on Palatine Hill, and I was tempted to mimic them.
Yet, to me, the Altare della Patria (or Victor Emmanuel Monument) is the building that really stood out. Maybe it’s because it’s massive. Or because it’s built with white marble. Some Italians think it’s an eyesore, particularly set against the ancient ruins directly behind it (and some ruins that were wiped away to construct it). Completed in 1925, it honors the first king of a unified Italy. The annoyance is understandable, but, in a way, it’s a 20th century homage to the ruins that now lie in its shadow.