After an hour’s flight from Vienna, we landed at the Rome International Airport early morning of June 9. This time, pooped from the grind of backpacking, we hired a private van to take us to our hostel east of Termini.
The hostel didn’t have airconditioning units or electric fans, which exacerbated the already stifling summer heat. The upside was that it was atmospheric and located at a busy neighborhood so it wasn’t hard to soak up on the Roman atmosphere. A cafeteria stood next door, where patrons gathered on evenings and chatted in Italian while having a smoke, dinner and a drink of wine. Not far off is a pizzeria run by a friendly woman who cheerily takes orders from customers. She didn’t mind that we never understood each other; she was just, as the staff of SM Hypermarket says, happy to serve. At the back of the hotel are a couple of houses where the scent of freshly cooked fish whiff through the air while a plump woman beats a rug at the terrace.
Still reeling from exhaustion, we spent the first day sleeping before hitting it off in the supermarket in the afternoon. We bought prepared meals, which we later ate for dinner at the hotel’s veranda. We also toured a little bit in the streets nearby, meeting a number of fellow Filipinos, who surprisingly compose a considerable portion of Rome’s immigrant population.
Next morning, we were on our usual business, touring as much of Rome as we can on board a hop-on-hop-off bus. Stops included the Vatican City, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, and the Trevi Fountain, before having a late lunch. In the evening, while we were having dinner, a Filipino driver whom we met earlier volunteered to drive us to Pisa for a day trip.
So we were northbound the next day. Much has been said about the beauty of Pisa beyond the Piazza del Miracoli but without much time on our hands, we couldn’t get past the obligatory photo ops with the Leaning Tower, where there were throngs of tourists in Italian football jerseys and painted with the Italian colors on their faces (it was the start of the World Cup).
A few hours later, our Filipino guide took us to a hilltop overlooking Florence, whose beauty seemed to have popped out of one of those paintings displayed all throughout the streets.
In the evening, upon returning to Rome, our guide toured us some more to some of Rome’s other parts before we decided to call it a day.
Early the next day, we went on our way to Venice, where our week-long Mediterranean cruise would start. It was beautiful day with colorful houses lining up at the bank of the canals. The iconic gondolas carrying men in striped shirts plied through the narrow waterways., theater masks displayed prominently on street stalls, and large seagulls flew too close to the ground for comfort.
It took an hour before the cruise’s service bus arrived and when it did, it finally signaled a change in our pace.