Thursday, 19 March 2009

Italia - Part I: Rome

I have a confession to make: I am supposed to be packing, but it all seems so final, putting everything into our bags and making plans for New Zealand, so I've decided to procrastinate by reliving our month in Italy... surely this is a much better use of my time.

A long time before I met Kent and realised just how great it is to see the world, I decided that I wasn't really interested in travelling, with the exception of Italy. It's the only place in the world that I have always desperately wanted to see, so it's perhaps a bit strange that we left it until the very end of our travels to go there. The danger of course, in really, really, really wanting to go somewhere, is that it will turn out to be rubbish and the disappointment will be a bit much to take. Kent did warn me of this, but he needn't have bothered - after years of thinking this might be my favourite place, I was proved right... YAY!

As this was our last trip and neither of us has been gainfully employed since before Christmas, our aim was to have the best possible time for the least possible money; not such an easy task when the Euro is almost worth the same as the Pound now and Italy is a fairly expensive country to start with. This is where Kent came up with a cunning plan: WWOOF-ing. This is a global scheme which allows you to work on an organic farm in return for food and board. It's an excellent way to experience the side of a country and its culture that you just couldn't as an ordinary tourist. Our friends we visited in Norway, Pete & Ginny, are wwoofing there, and have been for almost a year, so we had a bit of an idea of how things might work. Being organised as we are, our cunning plan was only formulated as we were heading home from France, but even so, we managed to find a couple of farms willing to take us on short notice.
Before all that we had a few days in Rome, to relax before starting the first real work either of us has done in quite some time - good practise for Kent for the farm though!
The ridiculousness of Rome is that you basically can't go anywhere without virtually tripping over history - triumphal arches, churches, monuments, obelisks, ruined buildings, you name it, it's everywhere, and just there for the world to see - things like this still amaze me, probably because NZ is so new in comparison. All this history is not exactly surprising, considering it used to be the centre of the western world; I get the feeling you could spend a month here and still only really scratch the surface... and we only had 2 days!
Our hotel was a hop, skip and a jump from the Colosseum, so we headed that way first, only to be met by a large number of people with the same idea - and it wasn't even tourist season yet, gulp! It was incredible, and just insane to think that it was built a couple of thousand years ago and lots of it is still standing. Whilst my parents are very thorough, I doubt any of the houses they've built in the last 20 years will still be around that far into the future.
Our tour included a visit to Palatine Hill, where Rome was founded by Romulus in 753BC (on my birthday, no less) and the Roman Forum (which takes ruins to ridiculous heights), so we whiled away the day taking it all in, and enjoying the sun... such a nice change from all the dodgy weather we've had on our travels this year.
The next day we strapped on our walking shoes - jandals, in my case - and hit the big touristy spots: the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, St Peters Square, and Circo Massimo. Brilliantly, the city really isn't that big, and it's pretty easy to walk to most of the sights, so it was good for those of us keeping an eye on the budget.

We were a bit knackered after this, and I was a bit nervous about our first farm - sitting about playing with music all day is one thing, but I hadn't partaken in manual labour for a very long time, so I experienced a bit of 'what have I got myself into?' anxiety... it was a bit of an early night, before our adventures continued...
Eryn xx

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