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At the end of My Barcelona Story, I left you on a ferry in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.
To get from Barcelona to Rome it would have made more sense to fly, but I thought that it would make it more of an adventure if I went by sea.
To help keep my costs low, I booked only ‘deck space’. Which is exactly what it says on the tin. You get a space on the deck. No more.
Which sounds okay…
…but then when you take into account that the ferry crossing was going to take 20 hours, this is when most people would consider upgrading to a cabin.
I was ready to rough it.
After watching Barcelona fade away in the distance from the top deck of the ferry, I went wandering around to try and find somewhere to sleep. I stumbled upon what they called a ‘Sleepers Lounge’, which is basically just a room filled with coach-like chairs.
I claimed three chairs to myself, and by lifting the armrests and laying across them, it was kinda like a bed.
…a crappy bed.
But still a bed.
As I was drifting off to sleep, the movement of the boat through the water made me feel as though I was getting rocked to sleep. Which I found very soothing. It gave a whole new meaning to the term ‘water bed’.
Getting to sleep was no problem, but I frequently woke up throughout the night due to being too cold. The aircon in the room was on all night, which created a pleasant temperature when awake and moving about, but a freezing temperature when trying to sleep. I had to get creative. I dug around in my backpack and came up with the ingenious idea to use my two towels as a make-shift duvet. They did the trick.
The next morning, I was in the lady’s bathroom trying my best to get washed and freshened up. Whilst those that had bought a cabin had just come into pee, I was there brushing my teeth and washing my arms and legs. I started to feel like I was an illegal stowaway on the boat.
By the afternoon, this whole ‘adventure travel by boat’ feeling had well and truly worn off. The previous Thursday I was up and dressed at 6.30am, it was now 4.30pm on Friday. I had been the same clothes for the full 34 hours, slept across some chairs using towels as a blanket and had a shower from a sink. At this point, I wanted nothing more than to take my bra off and to have a long shower.
Whilst I was on the boat, I noticed that very few people spoke English. The main languages were Spanish and Italian (obviously, since the boat was going from Spain to Italy) and for the first time on my travels, I felt like a foreigner.
I couldn’t hold down a conversation with anyone, not even the crew. So, I spent a lot of the time just wandering about on my own moving from the Sleepers Lounge to the deck and back again (all whilst dragging along my backpack and luggage).
But, there was one guy who continued to make me smile. He was Italian and could not speak a word of English, and I can’t speak a word of Italian. But everywhere I went, he kept popping up. Even though we couldn’t speak each other’s languages we were still able to basically converse using hand gestures. And it was very basic, to say the least, but he helped to break up the long journey and it kept me entertained.
Welcome to Italia
I was sat up on the top deck when the first sights of Italian soil became visible on the horizon. I was so excited to get off the boat. I have no idea how sailors spend months at sea looking at the same view in every direction for days on end.
As soon as I stepped off the Ferry, I got lost.
And with no one able to speak English, every time I asked for directions to the train station I got nowhere.
Luckily, I met another traveller from Costa Rica who spoke both English and Spanish. She was able to speak Spanish to some Italians (who understood Spanish) and then translate the information back to me. It sounds a little crazy, but it worked.
Turns out we needed to hop on a bus to the train station, then we could get a train into the centre Rome.
We both made friends and travelled together for the next few hours into the city. She had a couch surfing arrangement set up and once we got into Rome we parted ways and wished each other well on the rest of our travels.
By the time I checked into my hostel, it was about 11pm at night. I had been in the same clothes for about 40 hours and had been sweating whilst lugging around my backpack for countless miles in 30°C+ heat. Surprisingly, I headed straight for the showers.
I was so looking forward to being clean. I hung my towel up, stripped off, climbed into the shower, lifted the tap to turn the water on …
No water came out.
My heart sank.
I needed a shower very badly.
After getting dressed again and visiting reception, the hostel staff explained that the water on the 5th floor (my floor) had unexpectedly gone off. But I could use the showers on the 4th floor.
That’ll do me.
I don’t care what floor the shower is on, as long as I can have one.
That night, as I climbed into bed, I was so grateful to whoever invented the mattress – pure genius!
First impressions of Rome
The next morning, I excitedly woke up feeling all refreshed and ready to explore. I was up, dressed, and the first to be out of the door.
I did not enjoy my time in Rome.
I said that I would always be honest when I started this blog. I never want to put rose-coloured glasses on my stories and make every place look and sound like a glamorous vacation.
Because the truth is, nobody is going to enjoy every place that they visit…and I did not enjoy Rome.
So much so, that on my first day exploring, I went back to my hostel early at about 1pm. I didn’t want to wonder around anymore. I would have been very happy to catch a flight and go straight back home.
I found the city to be very dirty and almost every street I walked down had a strong smell of urine that was evaporating in the heat.
The roads scared the crap out of me. They were just zebra crossings that you walk across freely and cars had to stop and give way to you. Now, I’m all for zebra crossings in small areas with little traffic, but we’re talking about the centre of Rome here! I felt okay when I was crossing with a group of other people, but when I am on my lonesome and I have to take on 5 lanes of traffic that include 4 fiats, 3 scooters and a tour bus, with road markings that are barely visible anymore, I’d feel much better with a traffic lighted green man.
Whilst exploring I had numerous men shout stuff at me and blow kisses, and even follow me for a few metres. I wasn’t dressed provocatively, I had a summer dress on with a pair of sandals, no make-up and my hair in a simple ponytail. This behaviour from strange men made me feel uncomfortable.
I felt that the place had way too many tourists. I know that’s hypocritical of me because I was there as a tourist, but the place was heavily crowded with seas of people at every attraction. It was impossible to avoid the crowds.
There were street sellers that were constantly pestering me and not allowing me to pass them. I have no problem with them offering me their items, but if I decline I don’t expect to be blocked from passing or followed down the street. One seller kept placing hats on my head and each time I took them off he placed another on my head.
All of these things ruined my whole experience of Rome.
Food fixes everything
Back at the hostel, I took a nap until the rest of my roommates arrived back from their daily adventures. I was sharing a room with 5 males – 3 of them were from America, 1 from Australia and 1 from Canada.
After talking to them about my day I felt a bit better and decided to venture back outside for another try. It was still light so I went out in search of food.
I ended up buying a panini and a cannoli and I ate them whilst sat on a wall people-watching as the day was coming to an end.
Even though I am a solo traveller and I have completed all of my adventures on my own, for the first time, I actually felt alone.
I had a strange moment where I felt small, insignificant and lonely.
I needed a hug.
…but instead I had to settle with stuffing my face with a very sweet cannoli. Which was the next best thing.
The next morning, I was determined to have a better day. I was focused on seeing the sights of Rome and nobody was going to stop me.
I headed into the streets with a ‘fuck-off’ attitude to anyone who was going to try and pressure me into buying something or push me into their restaurant.
…and I did have a much better day.
Without a doubt, the attractions in Rome are incredible. The Colosseum, the Roman Forum etc, but I’ll detail all the sights in another post coming soon.
A simple highlight of my day was stumbling upon a spray paint street artist. I found him fascinating to watch. It was almost like performance art watching him work. I recorded him creating one of his pieces. Check it out and let me know what you think.
You can find loads of hidden gems, sculptures and amazing architecture just wondering around. This was something that I loved about Rome – a new surprise around every corner.
I just think that the city has got too many tourists, which attracted the pushy street sellers and created an overall unpleasant vibe. It’s the first city that I would not have felt safe going out at night on my own.
But, on my last day, a roommate talked me into going to see The Colosseum when it got dark. He said that I couldn’t leave Rome without seeing it all lit up and that I would later regret it. He kindly offered to take me there so I wouldn’t feel unsafe.
And he was right…
The Colosseum at night was a beautiful sight and I am really glad that we went and I got to see it. But when we were walking back, I am glad that I wasn’t on my own, because even with a male chaperone there were times when I felt uncomfortable.
Time to move on
The next day I was checking out and catching my bus to Florence.
Whilst waiting at the bus station, I have to admit, I was glad to be leaving Rome. I am happy that I have been the city and seen the main sights, but it is not a place that I would want to go back to and visit again anytime soon.
Everyone has different experiences and opinions of places. I know some people who absolutely love Rome, but sadly I didn’t. And since this was my first taste of Italy, I was hoping that my next stop, Florence, wasn’t going to be the same.
Stay tuned to find out.Next: My Florence & Pisa Story