Just returned from Rome, and these are my memories and reminiscences…
This was another Rugby trip to see Wales play (strangely enough) Italy. On the last weekend of the 6 Nations tournament, and it was all still to play for with 3 Teams (including Wales) in the running to win the Championship.
So we start with the journey there. I was collected from my home by Kevin, a “new recruit” to our happy team, we then get my brother from his abode and head to Bristol Airport.
Fun Fact 1 – As we pull into the airport car park and are greeted by our “meet & greet” driver I swear he called young Kevin a “Silly Fart”, now I am assured by my brother he actually said “Silver Ford” but I have my doubts!
Inside the Terminal (don’t worry not gonna do the old “always makes me nervous” gag) We meet the rest of our Merry band of travellers, on this trip: “Big” Rob (me), Rob Davies “Travel”, Andy (my brother), Carey, Kevin, John & Phil.
Fun Fact 2 – as we meet in the airport one of our number gets a text from his wife telling us Italian air traffic control are having a 1 day strike, Great!
Luckily, after failing to get the little Dalek (automated check in droids) to work, we get an update the strike is on Friday and this being Thursday we’re okay, phew!
Rob, our organiser and travel agent to the (not) stars, is first to check in, the lady on the desk swipes his passport and whoosh, about 48 boarding cards fly out of the machine, a case off premature boarding … it can be an age thing (I’ve heard) so we decide not to dwell on the point too much and move on, we all check in. He eventually finishes checking in, (outlasting the other six of us combined!) in doing so showing admiral staying power for a man of his vintage.
So we head for a meal and a drink, well it is a Rugby trip!. Oh of course going through security first, and although I know WHY they do this it really is a pain for someone like me who likes his jewellery, as by the time I take it all off I could have driven to the ****** Country!
Despite a long queue at the bar we have a pint and a “full breakfast”.
Next it’s to the boarding gate and our first mode of transport. At this point I must say, first impressions for me were “okay I could kick start this”, not such a good thing for one of our number who is shall we say … a none too ecstatic champion of the aviation mode of transport.
I manage to crouch myself to my seat, surprisingly not too bad in a leg room capacity, and we’re off, only pausing for a later passenger in the aisle attempting to put his bag in the over head locker stating “Don’t worry won’t be long” to which I’m mentally replying “don’t care about how long you are it’s the flying 90 degree elbows your chucking out nearly decapitating me that’s causing me concern!”
Then near as damn it we’re down again, not (thankfully) a result of a problem but this first leg was only an hour, and we even cut some time off that, and we’re in Brussels. Home of Politics … NATO … Waffles … French Fries, Chocolate and BEER! We try a beer, called Hoegaarden, first impressions (strangely) cloudy for a lager, and a little “fruity” for my taste but not unpleasant.
To our second flight, a larger plane, and a two hour flight that the boy racers who were flying the thing managed in an hour and 40 mins so good times.
Out of the plane, collect the bags, to arrivals and look for our driver, and here in the home of: Giovanni, Antonio, Mario, Luigi and Francesco … we get another Rob Davies and promptly nearly get into the wrong car!
The journey from Leonardo da Vinci Airport (at Fiumicino) to central Rome is …well how can I put this … as a lapsed Catholic I can truly understand why Italians are SO religious, and it has nothing to do with their proximity to the Holy See! In the 45 minute journey I must have said two masses, 8 Hail Mary’s and a 10 Our Fathers! The locals there drive like nutters! It’s not only the speed, we have drivers and riders (motorbikes & mopeds) texting as they come to a halt at traffic lights… TEXTING! I’m too scared to text and I’m a ***** PASSENGER in this vehicle!
We make it, thankfully, to our Hotel, the same one as last trip, Antica Roma, Via del Tritone, 82 Rome RM 00187 Italy.
We check in, and head out. As it was early evening and we hadn’t eaten since breakfast and deciding discretion being the better part of valour, we head to have a meal with the next drink, so after visiting the building site that the Trevi Fountain currently is, and finding that the first restaurant we visited last time was packed, we find Al Presidente
a nice restaurant just up from the fountain, with an indoor and outdoor seating area, we order what turns out to be the definition of a ‘large’ Lager each and have a very nice meal.
After this we wander for a bit and find ourselves outside the Trinity College bar, strange that, it’s like a homing beacon was installed, whilst in the vicinity it would be rude not to pop in for one, so we do, and as is our want on these sort of trips bump into 3 people known to our group.
Continuing the theme, we are strangely pulled to the Scholars Lounge, and have one there too! At about 10:30pm we admit defeat and make our way back to the hotel.
Friday morning, breakfast time, and we are greeted with this…
With the weather this time being great, check out that blue sky! We sight see for a bit…
Don’t normally appear in my own photos but this time thought proof was needed that I do actually go on these trips not just buy the photos afterwards so here goes …
At 9:30am we find ourselves outside the Abbey Theatre Irish pub, which we are informed is not open, as they see us walking away, they open for us. So a round it is then.
It was this time, when leaving the bar, that locally we seem to be passing half the population staring upwards through retro strips of negative film. It was the time of the eclipse, and the local entrepreneurs seem to have switched their stock of umbrellas, sunglasses and this year, selfie sticks for these opaque strips of plastic.
By just after 10am we have reached Vatican City, as a few of us thought we’d like to to give Frances a visit, or at least his pad, then we saw THIS …
Now we’re British, we can queue with the best off them, but this was taking the … Anywho, we thought better of it, saying we would try again on the next trip, getting there earlier.
Finding the need for liquid refreshment … NO NOT LAGER! coffee for the majority, coke for me, see, don’t tar us with our .. own .. Oh right! okay, so anyway.
It was in this establishment, that we were greeted with another strangely Italian practice, as some of our number wished to partake of our ablutions, (this will dear reader be an unfortunate recurring theme for anecdotes on this trip,) we descend the stairs following the signs to be greeted by a Lady stood there in front of 4 cubicles, and we are (independently) shepherded to a specific cubicle, at which point said lady remains stood RIGHT OUTSIDE THE DOOR, off putting or what!
So, 3 of us decided we would not take the perambulation to excess and instead let the omnibus take the strain, so for 15 Euro we hop onto one of the sightseeing buses plying their trade at the end of the street leading to St. Peter’s.
An interesting, relaxing hour and 40 minutes later, having completed one full loop and 3 stops, (by doing the extra three stops the bus drops us about 250 yds from the front door of our hotel) we get off.
A little social media negotiation later we re-assemble at the Scalinata della Trinit dei Monti (Spanish Steps) for those who slept through Italian classes! There’s a free concert just starting, so we listen to the first piece of music, and realising none of us could ‘Name that Tune’ even after they finished playing the whole thing.
We revert to type and find ourselves at the Albert, for some liquid refreshment … Well we’re growing boys!
A few hours walk later and we find this little gem… The George Byron Cafe
There were seats outside where we could variously people watch and be watched by people! Although I would advise the accordionist who appeared and apparently decided our assembled number sat behind a table on the side-wallk were a either:
1 – a cross between Dragons Den or the X-Factor judges for which he HAD to audition (he wouldn’t have got through to round two I’m sorry).
He was needed to provide a soundtrack to the scene in the live action remake of the Lady and the Tramp movie before the spaghetti eating one, and he needed to serenade two of our number…
To the latter thought I would say to check out the front of my head (and see the beard) not just the ponytail! As I always say “Don’t let the hair fool you!”
Oh yea, and another thing happened at this particular establishment, I was christened with a new moniker … “the Lord of the Rings” … can’t for the life of me see why!?? 🙂
Feeling a little peckish after a few pints there, we head down the street for all of about 200 yds and find one of our best new favourite places.
I must interject and go back a bit and in doing so offer our heartfelt support to the local resident who whilst being passed by a group infront of ours was greeted by one of their number expelling gas at a herculean level almost causing said young lady to be blown into oncoming traffic.
The Flann O’Brien is a Tardis of a pub, appearing tiny from the outside but actually being huge inside. We have a great meal here, are treated to a sing song from other Welsh customers, and a great atmosphere in a very well run pub.
Although again strangely resulting in an unusual tale to tell from the W.C.. As I was there, queuing again, I was treated to an amusing moment almost causing an embarrassing one for one of our number. A current incumbent of a cubicle audibly let fly a stream of gargantuan force and
magnitude, continuing for what appeared an age and… Then … petered …almost… out… to .. an end .. but .. not .. quite ・stopping… for another .. .age ・almost resulting in one of our happy if desperate band to lose control themselves.
Upon entering one of said cubicles I was greeted with this one being fitted with timer assisted lights. Resulting in sudden shooting by radar, as you’re plunged into total darkness! Luckily I was able to pass on the Enigma code to work this tricky technological apparatus to the next customer.
However as I said we’ll be back to this great pub!
More sightseeing, and I must say for me the Italian Gentlewomen outshine even their wonderful architecture, there were some truly beautiful ladies there.
A final drink near the Trevi on our way back to the hotel, and for the walk back I try one of the famous local Ice Creams, very nice too.
So to Saturday, match day! Breakfast and we start the ‘casual’ stroll to Stadio Olympico a mere 5.4km (or 3.35 miles in old money), we take our time stopping off at a cafe that the longest serving of our number had visited 4 years before.
The only signs I could find said ‘Pane Pizza E ..’ and more likely ‘Pizza e Natura’, apologies if these are actually advertising hoardings!, a good bar though and 3.50 Euro for large bottles of Peroni, so we had to have two to help with the dehydration from all the walking.
This particular establishment adjoined a piazza, where it appeared by the time we left, half the cerise adorned supporters in the country had congregated. Prior to heading to the match.
Back to our trek and eventually we make it to the Peroni Village that is set up around the stadium for I assume all big matches.
We have a few there, with an offer on of 1 hat per 8 drinks, and seven off us, guess who got the extra one for the first round!? (Oh and quite a few hours later, and despite them changing the rules at various times making it 1 hat for 9 or even 1 hat for 10 drinks), we leave with 6 hats!
Guess who didn’t get one!! … Not that I am at all bitter and twisted about it, mainly as I appear to have what my northern Celtic neighbours colourfully describe as ‘an exceptionally large heed!’ meaning said cranial adornment would have been plonked on top!
So to the match, and I first must say the fans were welcoming and in great spirits both before and after what must have been a painful match for them, even coming up to ask to have their photos taken with some genuine Welsh nutters i.e. US!
My only complaint is, was it really necessary to attempt to subdue the famed Welsh vocalizing by playing our national song in what, to my untrained ear appeared to be 3:2 time, resulting in none of us knowing where the ***** we were in said anthem!
It was a great win after a shaky first half, and the view from our seats was great…
I only felt sorry for the poor individual sitting in front of me who had to wear my knees as ear muffs! 🙂
As the professionals were giving their all elsewhere, locally we were treated to a variety of sporting excesses, and Award nominees:
The ”Who can hold it the longest” Award was won by the young chap in front of me at one of my visits who had perfected hopping with legs crossed!
An on-going, varying player, game of touch Rugby with a wide variety of ‘touches’ involved, from the ‘needing a rub down with a magic sponge’ type, to a requiring cries of ‘MEDIC’ variety!
The ”You really don’t want to pick it up from there … Chuckies been there” Award goes to the individual retrieving a ball during said impromptu game of touch rugby from a location which itself was linked un-noticed to the earlier winner of the ”Linda Blair” Award for projectile vomiting, a portly gentleman who had proceeded to spectacularly assuage himself of what appeared to be about 20 previously imbibed pints of lager!
The “Impromptu shower with lager shampoo” Award won by me when a miss-directed ruby ball dislodged a half full and unseen discarded lager on the statue ledge above my head.
The “I didn’t expect to hear that from there” Award goes to the owner of the plaintive female voice from a male cubicle wailing “I can’t get out!” and as a result getting the resounding choral response of “Well you shouldn’t have ***** gone in there in the first place then!” from an increasingly desperate queue of males outside!
The “Priorities Priorities” Award goes to the young male being tackled by an enthusiastic female joining in the game of Rugby for crying “GRAB ME LAGER… GRAB ME LAGER” as he is unceremoniously dumped to the ground by said member of the weaker sex
After all the entertainment we wander back, some what slower than on the way out, apart from when taking life in our hands and crossing roads, I SWEAR there were double points for Wales supporters at each junction at that point in the evening.
We stayed at said Peroni village・after the match to see the next ones on a large screen they set up over the bar. As well as lager they also served food, and after a false start, (I mean who sells ALL burgers with cheese!) Resulting in mine being given to my brother. I got a replacement later, and at 7 Euro it was expensive, but as they know they have a captive audience there, I have paid more for a LOT worse, these being freshly cooked and the size of a side plate!
When we reach central Rome the hunt was on for sustenance, and we stumble, almost literally on this place Ristorante Il Falchetto, where the food was great. Indeed the best according to some of our number. Whilst not being cheap, it did offer a free challenge with each meal, as to find the rest rooms you needed to spot that behind a check in type desk there was a ‘hidden’ panel, behind which your quest ended!
Deciding that a desert in the last place would have put undue stress on the national debt, we headed off closer to home, and stop at Antico Caffe Castelino where I have Tiramisu and to provide a balanced diet .. a lager!
Sunday ・Last full day ・and guess what, we go for a walk! Heading out in the first rain of the trip, we hit some of the main sites: Altare della Patria, Circus Maximus, Piazza della Bocca della Verita (Mouth of Truth) Which I left with all digits intact so must have been faulty that day!
Arriving at the Coliseum, we join a queue, pay our fee and go for a wander around one of THE tourist attractions of the world. I really enjoyed it, and got some great photos, another one off the list.
After a meal at Gustando Roma, and nice it was too I admit defeat, and head back to the hotel, and here I have to say that Google Maps is a brilliant app, and free on most smart phones is a great tool for the traveller.
As the others retreated at various times to the hotel, a few hours later we decide on the one agreed ‘must do’ of this trip, a return visit to Ristorante Polese. This was a place we stumbled upon last time, and liked so much we had two meals there in a day. This time we weren’t disappointed, the food was great, the welcome effusive, and they remembered us from 2 years before. We had a great meal, for me the best Garlic bread of the trip, Swordfish Steak and chips and tiramasu for desert, Oh and of course the obligatory lager.
After this and a quick photo to record the visit, we return to the hotel as we were up at 3am ・yea that’s what I thought, “YOU MEAN THERE’S A 3 AM??!!!” For the return journey.
The Journey Home ・( Lyric credit to Don Black )・
We get to the airport in good time, well at that time in the morning there was considerably less people on the roads, and during this marginally less fraught journey I came to the conclusion that the speed driven on the cobblestone roads would mean I would be able to tell central Rome residents travelling in any other country ・they would be the ones being violently sick at the side of any FLAT road. As their resistance to the flowing feeling of nausea that frequently almost overcame this individual who has NEVER suffered from car sickness, must have an opposite effect for them when using more “traditionally flat and unimpeded” roads
Rome to Brussels, flight concluded, and the last toilet related anecdote of the trip I promise. Thinking as we had now left Rome, indeed left the whole country, they would be safe a small group of our happy band ventured once more to the cubicles, where those waiting outside were greeted with the following commentary:
“Oh what’s up with the ***** seats?”
“Whoa ・what the ******!?”
“Oo Ya B*****d”
“They’re ‘avvin a Giraffe!”
“Oh NOT AGAIN”
“Oh for *****’s Sake”
Caused apparently by over sensitive ‘swipe hand in front of sensor for flush’ devices repeatedly miss-firing resulting in those using said malfunctioning equipment shooting up and down like demented “Whack-A-Mole” characters!
With the exception of a 1 hour slot to meet our connecting flight, and the length of time it took us to get through security meaning we got there AFTER final call, and with the exception of 2 people were the last passengers to get to the plane! We make it back to Bristol, head back to Wales and I知 at home again. A really good trip, with a great group of mates, and one I hope we can continue to replicate at regular intervals for years to come.