Street art in Rome lives up to its reputation
Me tryna put on a pretty face
These trees have been made to look this way in order to frame the Basilica from afar
So, this is going to be the last post in this series. To everyone who has actually been reading these, thank you! I woke up to WordPress telling me that my site got mad traffic yesterday. Oh WordPress, you know the way to a girl’s heart!
“Every city and every person has a word”
“What’s the word for Rome?”
Did I just quote Eat Pray Love? Damn straight, I did. I have been enamoured with Rome since my Dan Brown days, enchanted by its history. Elizabeth Gilbert added to my fascination with her chapter on Rome, oh the food and the gelato! Evidently, I couldn’t wait to land in Rome.
What do you think of when I say Rome? The first few words that pop into my head are fashion, food and sex. So imagine my amusement when we booked a cab on landing in Rome and for a second, thought that Karl Lagerfeld is here to drive us. No, don’t smirk. If Karl Lagerfeld got skinny, he would resemble our driver perfectly. Our driver was probably in his 70’s and dressed head to toe in black. Hell, he even had a few metal chains dangling from his jacket and wore black sunnies. Can you blame me for being in awe?
As he drove us towards our hostel, I was completely enveloped in the sights. It was as if I had stepped into a Dan Brown book and he kept prodding me with the historical facts about each monument that we passed. Oh Rome is beautiful. Rome is swathed so heavily in drapes of history, you cannot help feeling captivated.
Alessandro Palace Hostel & Bar
We stayed at Alessandro, Via Vicenza and if your name happens to be Rahul, get ready for a lot of SRK references at the reception. Alessandro is a great place to meet new people and mingle with them. The rooms are spacious, the beds creak if you so much as move your arm, thus making you wonder what the person above you is actually up to. But hey, I liked this hostel too much to find faults with it.
The most fun you will have is in the washroom. They not only had a jet spray (bless you) but also this motion detector thing that would cause the lights to go off when you sat still for a long time. This was great encouragement to try out some dance moves while you tried to pee and hoped the lights would switch back on soon. We made friends with two of our roommates, these two 17yo German girls. One of my favourite things about being a girl is meeting other girls because girls are amazing. Girls can form a bond with each other within moments of meeting and make spontaneous plans and talk their hearts out. Nikita and I spent an entire day hanging out with them and discussed everything from boys, religion, refugees to our respective cultures. One of them told us that she loves Indian food so much that she would rather eat that instead of German food on a daily basis. Since she loved Indian culture so much, Nikita obviously took it upon herself to teach Merle some Bollywood dance moves. Needless to say, it was a beautiful day.
We also met the coolest people on our very first day. From this English guy who staunchly believed in the power of waistcoats and suits even in the July heat to this guy from Puerto Rico who pronounced ‘beach’ as ‘bitch’, that night was lit. We became quick friends with a small group of people and spent the night getting tipsy and laughing too much. The English guy also took it upon himself to lift me up on his shoulders because I complained about short girl problems. This was without a doubt the best night we had during our entire trip. Well, that was before it got fucked of course. I am choosing to not share how it got fucked because I do not want this to be there, but a word of warning. Do not go talking and scoring from random dudes in Italy. DO NOT DO IT.
Is Rome discriminatory?
My time in Rome was a mixed bag of feelings. Rome is not one of my favourite places to be in. Contradictory, I know. I did start this post by telling you how mesmerising Rome is. However, you will notice that Romans have an air about them. You will notice it if you are a good observer. Oh, they are subtle, these Romans. You will recognise a forced smile and a rigid body language. You will also find yourself observing that when the lady behind the counter told you to not touch anything on display, she did not stop the white Italian lady from doing the same. You will also find that you feel more comfortable in the company of familiar brown faces or other tourists, Italians do not bother to try. This may not hold true for all Romans, but they did not strike me as the warmest people.
Of course, it could be that maybe I only met a certain sort of people. Our Italian guide did not make me feel like this, the department stores or the bakeries did not make me feel like this. I would hate to stereotype Romans, but there is something about them that speaks of an air of haughty superiority. If you too, find yourself subjected to this, try your best to ignore it and move on.
Well, of course I knew how deeply seeped religion is in the core of Rome, the Vatican is here after all. I was looking forward to being in Vatican City after all that I have read about it. But what I wasn’t ready for is how uncomfortable religion made me. I am an atheist but I respect other’s religious beliefs. Till you don’t shove your believes down my throat, we are good. But Rome tries so hard, oh Rome spreads its arms thickly greased with Christianity and tries to grab hold of you. Even souvenir shops in Rome sell framed posters of the Pope. Ironic then, how India is looked upon as extremely religious. So, this is why I chose to not explore the Vatican. We got there, took pictures and left. Religion clearly overwhelms me. You will also find souvenir shops selling models of Pinocchio. I was confused so as to why till I learnt that Pinocchio was created by an Italian writer. Strange thing to sell though.
FOOD FOOD AND MORE FOOD
Nikita and I went berserk when it came to Italian food. There is a restaurant right opposite Alessandro, I don’t remember the name but my goodness the food! Every single thing, I kid you not, every single thing we ordered tasted like ambrosia. Our server, the epitome of an Italian man came over and said namaste. We had gotten used to being greeted with a namaste by now. Funny, because not once have I actually greeted anyone in India with a namaste. Then he said, “I watch Bidai every night”. Wuuut?
The three of us looked at him with confusion clearly visible on our faces. He was disappointed to learn that we have never watched this supposedly great Indian series. But boy was he charming! Cute as hell, and words so smooth that you wanted to fall. The amount of beautiful food we ate here and literally everywhere else in Rome still comes back to haunt me. The Backpackers and co. had booked us on a gelato and espresso tour and oh my goodness the gelato. From pine flavoured gelato to the original Limencello, to buffalo milk and peppercorns to the finest chocolate gelato you ever tasted, we were in heaven. Nikita and I had gelato every single day and did not give a rat’s ass about the kilos we were obviously piling on.
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I mean, do you see that dessert?
A word of caution, the Rome airport sucks. Especially when you have an early morning flight. Everything is so disorganised and messy, you will be itching to get out of there. You know, I thought I would be dreading coming back to India by the end of the trip, but I really wasn’t. Nikita and I were really looking forward to being home and all the songs from Swades kept running on loop in my head. There really is no place like home.
However, I am so grateful and glad that I could do this trip. I met some wonderful people, stepped out of my comfort zone and did this alone, gained so much confidence to interact with anyone at all and of course, found a great friend in Nikita. To anyone who is afraid of travelling alone, do it. You will be gifting yourself a sense of liberty that will never desert you. You will realise that you can handle shit by yourself and that you have zero need to depend on anyone at all.
Hopefully, I will be back in Paris someday. However, what I really hope is that I would have more opportunities to travel solo in the future. Thank you for reading and keeping up with my Europe adventures! Ciao 🙂