When in Rome…

 Strange as it may seem now, a few years ago, after having flown around the world all my life, I developed a massive fear of flying. I don’t know if any of you reading this have ever felt such irrational fears? It got to the point where I would embark and with every turn, bump or even sound I thought the plane was going down. Anyone who got up to the toilet I would scrutinize as I thought they were a terrorist. If someone had said put a gun to your head and play Russian roulette or board and fly on a plane, I would have felt safer to pull the trigger. Enclosed, trapped, no way out, no control. Horrible. So, I made a stand and said no more flying. For the next THREE years I traveled everywhere by coach, train or car. My family would set off and I would join them, sometimes thousands of miles away a few days later.

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For those who haven’t experienced them, coach journeys are long, smelly and worst of all you meet and can’t escape from weirdos. This wasn’t quite life in the fast lane.  So, I decided it was time, time to fight to the fear. After 3 years of remaining Earth bound, I booked two flights to somewhere not too far, but somewhere where I had always wanted to go – Rome. It took a lot for me to make that first journey, but facing my fears is what I had to do. The city was so wonderful, the sites so interesting. It was then that I vowed never to let fear hamper my life again.

I would greatly recommend going inside the Colosseum and and buying the Colosseum Tour. We did ours through SP.Q.R tours, which gave us a free tour of the Palatine Hill and the Forum Panorama. Really I felt that this day was the highlight of our trip. Just a short walk away, up a large boulevard is the majestic Victor Emmanuel monument. In the evening I would recommend Plaza di Fiori, where we had wine and listened to beautiful music. Another must see is the Pantheon, an architectural marvel, which is close to the Fontana di Trevi and Piazza Navona where I had the best Capuccino ever! Just walking round the little streets and finding a pretty cafe is really romantic in this city. We had a week, so we also went to see the Circus Maximus and the abandoned Roman Baths, which are further out. The weather that day was stormy, so we got some great atmospheric shots. It was incredible how the murals were just left to the rain and it was even possible to walk on them. This city just has so much culture and history. In most cities this would be the main attraction! Plaza del Popolo was lively and this was the best place for shopping! Villa Burghesa offered great views over the city. I would recommend hiring an electric tuk tuk to pedal round the grounds.

Finally, the Vatican, a whole country in itself, with nuns and gigantic religious statues galor. Vatican City, one of the most sacred places in Christendom, attests to a great history and a formidable spiritual venture. A unique collection of artistic and architectural masterpieces lie within the boundaries of this small state. At its centre is St Peter’s Basilica, with its double colonnade and a circular piazza in front and bordered by palaces and gardens. The basilica, erected over the tomb of St Peter the Apostle, is the largest religious building in the world, the fruit of the combined genius of Bramante, Raphael, Michelangelo, Bernini and Maderno. We did the tour, but apart from enabling us to jump the queue (which was massive), I wouldn’t really recommend it. A great way to bypass this is to read to Angels and Demons by Dan Brown (one of my favorite books) and look out for all the places referred to and discussed in that. When you go to the Vatican don’t forget to bring some food and water with you, as your day will be long and there are no places to buy anything once inside. Don’t forget to see Castle Sant’ Angelo on your way back to the city.

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