Pretext: Before visiting Rome we stopped in Venice, you can read more about that here (Venice, beautiful Venice). Or perhaps check out Travel Fail: Italian Bar Bill Blunder for a chuckle at our expense. If you want to know more about our plans for our time in Italy check out out Planning Venice & Rome or watch a video of the whole darn thing here.
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The first leg of our one year anniversary began in Venice; but I’m sure you’ve read all about that by now (if not, tut tut) and by 2pm on Tuesday our train was rolling into Roma Termini; we were ready to begin our long awaited Roman adventure. I say long awaited as Rome is somewhere I’ve always longed to visit; the Colosseum, the forum, the pantheon, the Vatican… (“you know something is going to be impressive when it is proceeded by ‘THE'” said The DreamFlyDiscover blog) who doesn’t have Rome on their bucket list?! The train doors whooshed open. We were finally here.
Arriving in Rome
An Uber Black picked us up at the station and we were winging our way to B&B La Ciumachella, our well-priced accommodation just west of Roma Central and nearby to Vatican City. Finding accommodation is no easy process, there’s tonnes on offer, but the prices are simply extortionate. £100 a night will get you a basic hotel room, 2-pushing-3 star rating in an OK area (probably near the station). If you can push up to £140 you’re hitting the 4 star range but probably not too central, whilst £150-£250 per night are probably the ones that you’ve seen in the magazines. Apartments and B&Bs are plentiful, but can be pot luck in term of quality and service. Whats more ‘Rome’ seems to be a very vague (or at least large) entity with some ‘Rome hotels” being 7+ miles from the centre; fine for business, not fine for Gladiator hunting. Imagine our delight when stumbling upon B&B La Crumblychedder – a steal at £54 a night with good reviews and in an ideal location for waving manicly at the Pope’s house.
The Uber drops us outside a multi story office block in quiet Prati and points in towards the hotels concierge desk. After booking (and before our manic attempt to cancel said booking) we had read that our home for the next 4 nights was on the 8th floor of an office block. “Take the elevator up to the 7th floor and walk the final flight” we read. Despite this, our host had been in contact to arrange an arrival time so all was fine; all seemed nice.
The only way is up…
As we ascended in the elevator of this 1970’s office block we had a funny feeling that this was not going to be quite the stay we had anticipated. It was budget accommodation for a reason. We were greeted by the host after a long wait in the hallway of the office block (opposite the Embassy of Zambia, no less) who then led us into her dark and moody abode. The accommodation consisted of a shady, cluttered hallway with two sliding doors (the two en-suite bedrooms) and a third heavily fortified door leading to the host’s private apartment complete with kitchen, balcony etc etc… it soon became pretty clear that the host was something of an artist. Her pained and emotional artwork adorned the hallway and bedroom walls and we concluded that her apartment was more of an artists loft with a convenient, money-making side-business rather than a homely, welcoming space ripe for a B&B.
More immediately, our host led us to our room followed closely by her cat. We were told to stay put whilst she fetched our towels and toilet paper (seriously, she knew what time we were arriving!!) and then we were asked what time we wanted breakfast at tomorrow. I mean… it’s 2pm… I don’t even know what time I am having lunch let alone breakfast. The host left us and we collapsed onto the bed in silence. No TV, no air conditioning, no safe, no real lock on the door, curtains that didn’t fit the windows, one towel, dead street. The list went on as we lay in silence on our phones.
Me: What you doing?
Mrs Carl: Nothing… you?
Me: Mmmm… just on booking.com
Mrs Carl: *gasps*….me too!!! 😦
In Unison: We can’t stay here!
Depressed and worried about how loudly the sounds of our voices carried around the empty apartment, we reached for our bottle of Disaronno. With no cups or glasses to be found we drunk straight from the bottle. We were at an all time Italian low; a far cry from our time in Venice. We left the apartment pretty rapidly to explore the local, quiet town. It’s 4pm now and its that awkward time between lunch and dinner; pretty much nowhere would serve us food. This would be unheard of in Central Rome where the warm cafes and vibrant restaurants are open all hours.
Finding our feet
We slump for a real back street Pizzeria to calculate our options. We jump on the WiFi and begin the most frantic, frenzied, stressful search for a new hotel. Lastminute, booking, tripadvisor, hotels, kayak; all the dot coms you can imagine were open on our phones. £100 a night, £150 a night, £60 but it’s a bit of a gamble, £70 but it’s in an awful location. The hotel minefield was again as hard to navigate ever; or perhaps even harder as we were now on a time frame and we were already £54 per night in debt to B&B La Crappycellar. As luck would have it.. nope.. theres no luck here.. even the restaurant were kicking us out at 6pm. It seems this tourist spot thrives on the day trade from the Vatican and can afford an early shut down. Balls. We make our way back to our B&B via the ‘alcohol and cup’ store and resume our search from the bedroom. Still, prices are extortionate, hotels that were once were vacant were now filling up and we just can’t get a break. And now our decision is torn. We have a busy day at the Colosseum tomorrow (Wednesday) and then the following day at the Vatican (Thurs). Its probably too late to move tonight, so do we move tomorrow or the next day? It would seem that not only have we picked poor accommodation but also we’ve plumped for the quiet part of town. After a long debate we decide we would stick it out for two nights as we’d be busy all day and it would be madness to leave our Vatican-convenient location the day before needing to be right back here again. We decided to sleep on it and see how we felt at breakfast.
Rise and shine and we’re forced to the breakfast room which we reserved for 8 o’clock. With the B&B host sitting over our shoulder and a plate that contained one dry croissant each and only coffee to wash it down with we wonder why we even bothered. After such an interrupted, stressful sleep at least the change of scenery was appreciated, despite the tormented, creepy, troubled artwork. Back in our room we continued our search for a hotel to make things better and again we were failing. But at least we had a plan. Keep busy. Spend as little time as possible at the B&B. Get drunk. Visit the Colosseum on Wednesday, the Vatican on Thursday and then find somewhere better to stay for Thursday and Friday night. That way we had a little bit more budget and had an end plan. Despite our stressful day, we can see some light. (Alcohol + Activities) – Time at B&B = something workable.
Wednesday, A brighter day; the Colosseum!
Finally some joy and we get to tick something off the bucket list; today is our pre-booked audio tour of the Colosseum! Woop! Let’s get this holiday back on track! After a disappointing breakfast and another unsuccessful hotel search we hit the road to begin our Gladiator hunting. Using Google Maps we tracked down our nearest
gladiator bus stop, bus number and we’re soon on our way.
A brief 10 minute journey and several ‘wows later we’ve made it. The Colosseum is an absolute monster.
I’m guessing that half of my readership have been to the Colosseum and half are planning to go; such is its draw. Without dropping spoilers for those who haven’t been – it is just amazing. I was worried it would be slightly underwhelming. So much anticipation and hype for an empty, crumbling arena? But no, the Colosseum is so much more. I highly recommend the audio/visual guide at about €16 pp. The stories, the history and the horrors all come to life and you can really imagine the scene of the crowd all roaring and baying for blood. Quite gruesome. The Colosseum, by all accounts, was a pure blood bath. PS I need to re watch Gladiator.
We stopped for drinks nearby before continuing our walk past the Forum, past the insanely massive *thing* and slowly onto Trinity College, a dusty Irish bar. Here, we felt at home (I’m not saying home is dusty, Mrs DreamFlyDiscover, I swear! We just always wind up in an Irish Pub…). There was music, food, drink and a convenient perch on the edge of the bar. Beers, prosecco and nachos ensued. We didn’t want to head home.
And then we headed home.
B&B La Officeblock. The bain of our trip. First things first; we’re straight on the WiFi and looking at better places to stay. This is surely a bad sign. We find one through lastminute.com and let out a long, windy sigh of relief. All booked. A similarly priced 2 star near the train station. We’d have one more night in hell, Vatican it up, repent our booking-sins then head onto pastures new. We finally found an Inn that would accept us. All of a sudden this is starting to feel very biblical.
We head out for dinner with big smiles stretching across our faces; we can see the finish line! The first two restaurants we stop by were both busy, bustling, family run trattorias. Neither had space for us. We were beginning to think that this part of town dislikes us as much as we dislike IT. We followed the brightest star in the sky (hehe, bible joke) and headed to a bar-come-restaurant called ‘The Snob’. This seemed quite fitting as we were so dissatisfied with what we had seen of Prati so far. The food was only OK but the warm, happy, friendly reception we received was something worth writing home about. Our rollercoaster mood soon changed again when we headed home and realised, via email, that our booking for tomorrow’s hotel wasn’t confirmed at all. In fact the opposite. Lastminute.com representatives were unable to blah blah blah with the hotel. No such luck. It seems it wasn’t a confirmed booking meerly a signal for an agent to ring the hotel on our behalf?! What the shit. And the whole saga took 3 hours. Back to square one.
It seems every time we walked through B&B La CallMeStella’s doors we were googling hotels. This time, we struck gold.
Top twenty in Rome on tripadvisor. Two nights in an apartment in Central Rome, linked to a 5* boutique hotel. £140 a night (eek). Booked. The photos looked phenomenal.
Now, in the morning we had to tell our host we were leaving early. This should be fun…
Stay tuned for Part 2, coming next week!!!
Disclaimer; I have no issues with budget hotels. We’ve stayed in hotels that cost £9 per night in Asia. Hotels with frequent power cuts, hotels with questionable sanitation, hotels with bugs. We are not adverse to bad accommodation. This, however, was a holiday. A time to relax and not slum it… i guess we just didn’t realise what £54 gets you in Rome..
Thanks for sticking in there, that felt like a long one. I’ve heard plenty of much scarier hotel hell stories than this. What’s yours? Ever been ripped off for a room? Ever felt unsafe in somebody else’s home? Ever walked out on a B&B host? Share your stories in the comments below…