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Rome, the Eternal CityAuthor: BJC
Email: BJC49@telstra (More Trip Reviews by BJC)
Date of Trip: June 2006
Speaking of taking one's breath away, we climbed up to the observation deck atop the dome. We had opted to pay the seven Euros to take the lift up and down. What we did not understand when reading the warning signs, was that after the lift there are a further 320 steps up to the top, and 320 back down, and not just ordinary steps. Instead they are just one person wide and they wind around inside the shell of the dome. Once you start, you cannot go back. However, let me say that the view from the top was well worth the effort, especially in that you get to see all of Vatican City, including the most stunning gardens. The other bonus is that there are toilets and a coffee shop/souvenir shop run by the nuns on the roof of the Basilica, and only a few hardy soles to share it with. Also the lift down drops you off right into the Basilica so you avoid the queue waiting to get in.
While we thought that this had to be the highlight of our visit to Rome, and we were truly awed by the beauty and majesty of the Basilica, and while we are Christians but not Catholics, for some reason I was not moved spiritually. However, I expect it would be different for everyone.
Please beware, there is a downside to Rome. Big tourists crowds attract beggars, gypsies, pickpockets and strolling accordion players, all of whom are out to get your money. Unfortunately for us on the way down from the Forum, in a big crowd in the middle of the afternoon, when we were tired and had dropped our guard, my wife had her purse neatly lifted from her backpack.
Luckily, it only contained money, about 70 Euro, which was more than she would normally carry, as she had intended to do some shopping on the way back to our hotel. I had our Credit Cards in a money belt strapped to my body under my shirt and tucked into my trousers.
Just a warning, don't carry anything about in Rome that you cannot afford to lose, unless it is all but impossible to get at without some form of physical effort, and don't use your credit card unless at a reputable store, hotel or service provider.
ATM's are plentiful and easily accessible. Only draw out what you need, and only carry with you what you expect to spend at that time. Keep everything else in the safe at your hotel.
And don't look wealthy. By that I mean don't adorn yourself with lots of jewelry. Bright and shiny baubles attract attention. Avoid crowds or crowded places, and if unavoidable keep turning around and looking at the people near you. If you are carrying important things in a backpack wear it on your front until you can get some space around yourself.
So on to Florence, we did a guided bus tour from Rome, which can also be done on the train, and for a lot less. However a tip for you, in Florence, as in Rome, Athens, Pompeii, Istanbul and just about anywhere where tourists are in the Mediterranean, if you are in a tour group, you get priority access to places where the individual tourist has to queue up for.
In Florence there was a queue a mile long to get to in see "David." Our group simply strolled up to the section for tour groups and went straight in, much to the consternation of those individuals waiting in the queue. So there is some value to be had from an organised tour.
What can one say about Florence, such a beautiful city you need longer than a day to do it justice. Unfortunately it was all the time we had. In hindsight, we should have gone up in the morning, stayed overnight, and gone back to Rome the following afternoon.
Then all too quickly it was over and we boarded the long flight back to Australia. Beautiful Italy, sadly just Rome and Florence this time. Mind you we had already visited Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes, magical Istanbul, Kusadasi and stunning Ephesus, Athens, Naples and Pompeii, but that's another cruise story.
We'll be back, as there are three sets of our coins in the Trevi, to be sure!
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