Thursday, May 13, 2010


Savage sketching in the Profane Museum in the Vatican City

Savage, a very good friend of mine, is getting married shortly. He's an artist and a graphic designer, so I thought a trip to Rome might be a fitting wedding present as there is no city on Earth that offers more extraordinary art for a trifling expenditure of shoe leather.

We were in Rome for three very busy days, though most of our time was spent in the Vatican City. We stayed at the very pleasant and centrally located Walk in Centre Rome, a bed & breakfast situated some three hundred yards from the Vatican City. Bread & Breakfast is probably something of a misnomer, as the breakfast of the Continental variety and therefore not worthy of the name.

Our first day was spent tramping around the Colosseum and the Forum and eating a distinctly lacklustre and rather expensive meal.

Our second day was spent in the Vatican. We took a guided tour with Angel Tours. I had had good experiences with Angel Tours before, though sadly this was not repeated. The tour guide, who seemed to have been given the job at rather short notice made a poor showing. That said the majesty of the place overcame any shortcomings on her part and Savage was bowled over by the astonishing bredth and quality of the art collections.

We returned to the Vatican for our last day as Savage was very keen to do some sketching in the Octagonal Courtyard and I was determined that he should see The School of Athens, which had been bypassed by our tour of the previous day. We concluded by climbing the dome of St. Peters Basilica and topped all of that with a magnificent five course meal in D'Onoro on the Via Germanica.

We managed to return home between clouds of volcanic ash, sated and uplifted. Definately a successful trip.

Lessons learned.

- Buy a guidebook and trust to it. Our Rough Guide did not steer us wrong once and was absolutely spot on when it came to places to eat.

- Purchase Reserved Tickets in advance for the Vatican Art Museums. Many of the sights worth seeing become very crowded later in the day and it is worth the few extra shillings to get in early. Booking a guided tour will enable to skip the queues, but so will buying a reserved ticket.

- Bring a rain coat and some light clothing, the weather at least while we were there was very changeable.

- Do not go to an Italian restaurant in a hurry; savour the experience, you won't really be given a choice in the matter.

- Most Romans appear to have a smattering of English and are very polite, however there do appear to be pockets of rudeness remaining. Speaking English, ideally loudly and slowly, interspersed with phrases as "Johnny chop chop, saavy?" and "Whatta mistake-a to make-a", will probably not earn you any friends, but will certainly ensure rapid and efficient service as soon as you establish that this is the only way that they will get rid of you.

Doing so is actually in many ways more effective if the party does have English - you can simply pretend not to understand him. This is not to suggest that you should spend your holiday baiting the natives, but merely that fire be met with fire.

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