Travelling Solo to Rome! | Part 1

I'll leave some few tips here and there in my post but I'll ultimately summarize them in a list at the end of my Rome Trip post for easier reading! Hopefully, this will help the people who are planning to go to Rome for holiday.


Thursday, 2 April 2015

Finally, the day has come! My trip to Rome! My flight was from Stuttgart to Fiumicino Airport that day, so I went to Stuttgart in the morning to stroll around awhile and also had my lunch there before my afternoon flight. 

I went to Alte Kanzlei for lunch. Although I've been in Germany for a month now, I've never really eaten much German cuisine except for bruschettas and cakes. Finally, I'm stepping into a German restaurant.

The atmosphere of the place was really good but I got a little intimidated because it looked so fancy. The menu did seem a bit pricey for me (I'm a student, anything above 10 Euro seems pricey for me), but I guess it's reasonable. 

I actually didn't know what I should do in a German restaurant (AH HAH! Research is very important and I often forget to do it unless I'm confronted with a situation). I didn't know whether I should wait for somebody to serve me while standing at the entrance or find a place to sit first then wait patiently for somebody to pass me the menu. I went straight in and find my own seat and I was waiting and waiting... the waiters were very busy, so I stood up and went to the bar and asked for a menu. But of course, even though at first they don't seem helpful but after I asked for help, it was completely different. So, here are some quick tips for dining in a German restaurant (with some references to other blogs about German dining etiquette and also from my experience):
  1. Don't wait to be showed to your table. Find your own seating place! Unless, you see a "Please wait to be seated" sign. 
  2. Make sure the place you're sitting is not under "Reservation"! 
  3. Maybe it's a good move to call and reserve a table before you come in order to get a better seating. All the window seats were taken when I walked in.
  4. Ordering water? Note that they won't serve you tap water even though it is free and safe to drink. Be sure to state that you want "tap water", I've read that some might think that it is offensive to order tap water, but in my past experience, the waiter didn't have any problem with it. If you order "water", they will ask if you want it "still" or " ". If they don't, I think the default is "carbonated" ones but I don't like it, so I always go with "still". I've done this twice, and it costed me 2 to 3 Euro and they are always served in a chilled glass bottle. 
  5. They serve breads even though you did not order them. Some restaurant charged them separately, some serves them for free (or you are paying for it already, to put it in another way). I often see the other customers not eating them when they are served to them but only some eats them after their main meal. For me, I eat them once it is served to me, because I was helluva hungry!
  6. Finished your meal? The waiter will clear your table and ask if "everything is good?"/"Alles ist gut?". It's pretty weird because for me, often in Malaysia, the waiter will not clear the table even though I'm done with my food. So, somehow, when the waiter is clearing the table, we will think that they are asking us to leave earlier. But of course, that is not what they meant! I think it is a good gesture because you don't have to see the dirty plates in front of you after you have done eating. 
  7. The bill will be brought to you if you ask. It is considered rude if they bring the receipt to you if you didn't ask for it. 
  8. Cash is king! Always bring enough cash with you. It is also preferable to use cash instead of credit cards and also some restaurants don't accept credit cards too!
  9. Tips? They don't have "service charge" in the receipts, so you have to tip the waiters separately if you want to. I often read that it is customary to leave 5-15%. But I always don't, because... I'm too stingy and I'm still studying. Weeeeeeeee~ I wish they do this in Malaysia too. Quite often the service charge is included in the bill, even though the service are wonderfully terrible, we still have to pay for them, which is kind of forceful. 

I've had so many breads since I arrived here and I love every single one of them. I love bread generally, so yeah! :D

I've ordered a Swabian dish called Maultaschen with onion gravy which is really really really nice! I love the mash potatoes too, it tasted different from the ones that I'm used to. Plus, I don't really like potatoes in general so this was a surprise for me. They are a bit sour-y thus very appetizing. I know this is a simple dish but for me, everything was superb. 

Fast forward, and I've arrived in Fiumicino Airport! 
Tip!!! | Buy bus tickets online or at the bus ticket boothTerravision is a good website to buy your ticket online, it might be cheaper to buy online too as they sell the tickets for 5 or 6 Euro for one-way journey  and 8 Euro for return ticket at the booth. If you decided to buy it at the booth, be prepared to queue up for the line. If you buy online, you can skip the line to change your receipt for the ticket at the booth.
This time I've done my research on where I was suppose to take the public transport! It's very easy and don't worry, they always have enough seats. I heard Terravision is very popular but I bought from Schiaffini because the bus leaves earlier. It costed me 5 Euro one-way. It will be cheaper if you buy a return ticket but you will have to set for a date and time for that. I didn't because my return flight was at another airport.
Tip!!! | Need to call? Want to use internet on your phone when you're out and about?You can only buy sim cards at the store itself. More info here.
Even though I can't live without the internet, I didn't buy myself a local sim card because I thought it was very expensive and I'm only there for less than 6 days. I have wi-fi at night when I'm at my host's house or hostel.
Tip!!! | Get an offline map on your smartphone! 
I used an offline map app called Ulmon to navigate around. I notice Google's Map Engine is very useful but too bad, it is only usable on the web version and not on smartphone. I wish they would create an app for that. Yes, I know, I'm too dependent on my phone. I'm too lazy to use the paper map method because I think it's a waste of time to locate myself in the map. I have GPS for that.

After I arrived at Termini Station, I waited for my Couch-surfing host to fetch me. He is kind enough to fetch me and cook dinner for me too. But, my experience was not really that great and it was very weird for me. I have another post for that. I don't want to ruin my Rome trip post with a disgusting story on how I was taken advantage of and molested. I'll post that up later. Happy bits first.


Friday, 23 April 2015

I went out in the morning, took the tram and went to somewhere nearby the Vatican City. 
Tip!!! | To use the public transport legally, you need to have a ticket before using the public transport there. 
The public transport system is very different here. You can buy a ticket for 1,50 Euro that you can use for 100 mins on tram or buses and also one metro ride. You can buy many tickets and save it for later use. You need to insert them into a machine (for time stamp) when you start to ride any public transport. There is also a whole day pass but I think it's cheaper to buy the 100 mins ones because you will be walking a lot and you won't be really using the public transport that much.
It's very confusing, I know. But often, when I take the tram, I don't have tickets. First of all, I don't understand how they work. Second, there were no ticket machine at the place that I start my journey from. I don't know if I will get in trouble or not for confessing this. But of course, I don't encourage the others to do the same thing I did.
Tip!!! | Public transport are confusing but it saves time. You can find the routes from the internet yourself but it will be very confusing. Instead, ask your hostel receptionist or the tourist information center as they know better and they can tell you which transport to take in order to get somewhere specific. 
Even though I was near the Vatican City, I decided to walk to Campo de' Fiori for the morning market and also need to get something for my brunch. I've also decided to indulge myself in exploring and taking pictures of the streets of Rome on my way there.

St. Peter's Basilica from afar 

At Campo de' Fiori's morning market
Tip!!! | Campo de' Fiori. Best to come to the market from 7am - 1pm on Monday till Saturday. They sell fresh fruits and veggies here. There are also a number of restaurants in this piazza. Avoid Sundays as the real market are close on this day. 

Pizza by weigh!

Fresh pastries!

Got me some delicious flower and cheese pizza.
Tip!!! | Is there a line? Often, in Italy, the line is not a line! Sometimes, it's a line to ask for help or info but if you know what you want, you can go in front and do it. But make sure if this is the case first. 
For me, it was quite confusing as at first I tried to line up but then I saw other customers was walking to the front and chose their pizza. Puzzled I tried to do the same. I waited and waited and finally, the staff noticed me and asked me which pizza I would like. Don't want to be rude, so I waited for some eye contact before ordering. And I bought two slices of pizza for under 3 Euro! Which is really cheap! They charge the pizza by weight instead of slices. 

I've also bought some sweets/cookies from the same shop but it's in another building across the street. I don't know what it's called but I just randomly chose one and ordered 100g of it. I should have bought one of each type as I didn't know what was what. 

Barnum Cafe.

Chilled at Barnum Cafe plus they have free Wi-Fi, as I really needed them on that day! So I ordered a pear and hazelnut cake which was really nice. Then, walked back to Vatican City again.
Tip!!! | Wi-Fi can be found easily in restaurants and cafe. But in order to use it, you have to dine in (naturally).

A view of Castel Sant' Angelo from the Ponte Sant' Angelo bridge

I've seen so many stunts like this throughout my days there. At first, I thought it was something you can do if you achieve the highest level of self-contentment/kung-fu/something but then I found this, which explains everything.

On the way to Piazza di San Pietro

Got cheated into this Caput Mundi Tours

So, I was actually conned into buying tickets for the Vatican Museum at this place. Let me explain. I was walking to the entrance of the Vatican Museum, but there's a few "bodyguards" blocking and directing people to buy tickets across the streets and said we have to buy the ticket to go in (but they didn't say exactly where which was the clever part). Some people ignored them and walked on. They were wearing suits which look kind of legit but BEWARE, they are just using marketing techniques to con you into buying them at their counter. Which I fell for. I went in to this small shop as they said I can get my ticket there but it was more expensive then the ones I saw online from the legit Vatican Museum website. I asked if this was the real place to buy and they told me they are legal. Of course, else how would they even sell them but they are just using dirty tricks. They pressured me to buy them when I said I want to look around first, and then they told me I will get a discount. I ended up buying them at 41Euro for "skipping the line" entrance fee and also a tour guide session which was promised to last for 2 hours but it's a crappy 1 hour and 30 mins session (they want to charge me 46 Euro actually, but they gave me a "discount").
After paying them, I found out that the real ticket counter is inside the Vatican Museum. You have to go through a metal detector check station first and then only you can go to the ticket booth. If only I was clever enough to ignore them and just queue up like the others, I could have bought my ticket at 8 (student entrance fee) + 24 (reduced price for guided tour from museum) = 32 Euro. Idiot. I've actually knew this before I went there but I was so tempted to buy from them because I was too lazy to queue and wait. And you know what? The queue is long, but actually I don't think you need to wait very long if you go there after 12pm. I need to smack my head on the table for an hour to recover from this stupidity.  
And you know what? I found out that the online tickets were all sold out because all these "tour company" booked all of them and re-sold it at a much higher price on that day to innocent and blur tourist (like me. OMG, sad face). I saw the ticket they gave me, it was written there "Online booking". WTF. Seriously. 
Tip!!! | Vatican Musuem. Do not be tempted to buy "skip the line" offers from people on the streets. They offer them at a much higher price!!! Instead, line up to go into the entrance of the Museum, go inside, pass the security check, and buy your ticket at the ticket booth indoor. 
Tip!!! | Always have your student card with you if you have them. Most of the museums have reduced rate for students. Some are even free for students studying in the field of art or architecture. 

My Tour Guide around the Vatican Museum. 
I'll just let the pictures do all the work for this part. It is prohibited to take any pictures inside the Sistine Chapel which is the most important part of the tour. I saw Michelangelo's greatest work in there and it was simply amazing and knowing some stories behind the painting is also very intriguing.

It wasn't easy, taking the pictures I mean since there were so many people in the museum that day. And because it was Good Friday, I didn't get to visit St. Peter's Basilica. It was closed for a few days too because of the Easter holidays. 
Tip!!! | Do check on the opening hours of the places that you want to visit as some times, some are closed at some holidays and also some have free entrance at some certain day too. Example, free entry on every first Sunday of the month for Colosseum, Sant' Angelo Museum, and etc.  

Random florist shop along the streets

And of course, one of the must do things while in Rome is to TASTE ALL THE GELATO FLAVORS!!! If that is possible that is. I've only visited those that are recommended by online sources. One helpful way to know if the food is good or bad is to observe. If there are many people (especially locals) buying it, you know it's good. If the Gelato tub seems like it's barely touched.... well, you can still buy them of course but I'm not sure it will be up to your expectation. 
Tip!!! | For the best Gelato experience, find the shops that make their own gelato flavors! I recommend people to try the chocolate family (which has like 4-8 diff types, any one will do) and also the pistachio flavor. 

The choices are endless

Plenty of yummies!
Oh, remember what I said about lines? The line is actually not a line. Well, for this particular shop, customers have to take a number at the entrance and then you can go into the shop to choose which flavor you want. When your number is called, you can start ordering. So, don't follow the line blindly.

An obligatory selfie with Gelato. lol. 

Piazza Navona

The quest for great Gelato continues. My second treat of the day. Haha. Giolitti is a very famous gelato shop I think as it has a ridiculous number of flavors and is always packed with people! Honestly, even though they have a lot of those out of the ordinary flavor to choose from, I find the ones they serve are sweeter than the others that I have tried. But none the less, I've actually visited this place 3 times, because it is in the city center and it is very near to Piazza Navona and also the Trevi Fountain. 

And again, the line is not a line! Well, there is a line but not for buying ice-cream. For Giolitti, you have to line up and pay at the cashier first. With the receipt, you go to the ice-cream server, hold your receipt up so that the gelato scooper can take that receipt from you and you proceed to tell him what flavor you want. Oh, and the menu is shown above on the LCD screens so save yourself the trouble of wrestling into the front line to see what flavors they have.   

Tis' awesome

Taking the metro ride back to my host's house

Waiting for the tram
There's no picture taken after that. I just felt too awkward to take pictures. I went back to my host's house early because he requested as I thought he want to show me around or have some plans. And how lucky I was to know that there are two more female couch-surfers joining me from the second night onward. I met Tato who came from Armenia and Ani from Georgia, both who are working in Romania as volunteers. They share many interesting stories and so many interesting information about Romania and their adventures from their past travels too. Somehow, they actually inspired me in a way. You know, I always thought travelling is just something that I do so that I can see this famous building or place in real life, take a picture of it, and mission accomplished. Their idea of travelling is so much different. Tato was genuinely interested in the history behind the places that she visited. After visiting the whole lot of buildings and places, I could only go back with pictures that anyone can find on the internet but she went back with new found interesting facts and stories about places and people. She just inspires me some how and opened up my mind too in a way. I'm really glad that I had the chance to meet and befriend with them, both of them are really very nice (and super adventurous too!). :)


Saturday, 4 April 2015

I didn't really wake up early for most of the days I'm there. I'm always up at 8am or later and I'm only going out after 10am. So, my trip was actually very easy-going and not rushed, which I really like. I wasn't really tired much as I got enough sleep even though I walked a lot! I was walking alone as Tato and Ani wanted to visit the Vatican City which I already visited but we met up after that. The plus side of exploring alone, is also that you don't need to waste time communicating where and what you are going to do with anyone else. But at times, it feels a bit lonely. For me, at first it was fun, but then it kinda gets really sad in a way. Well, I bonded with my camera at least when I was walking alone.

Porta del Popolo

As recommended by Tato, I visited the Leonardo Da Vinci Museum. It was very interesting indeed as I discovered what Leonardo was truly capable of in the past. His work is just amazing and you will have not guess what he had done. If you know, you would be awestrucked too. They even have some video playing that was explaining the story behind the Last Supper drawing which he used a few years to finish. I'm gonna drop some interesting facts here and there, if I remember them correctly. HAHAHA!

Leonardo kept all his sketches, doodles, ideas, and work in very small booklets and he used codices to ensure he was the only one who can understand what they truly meant. Gosh, encrypting in the 1500s, 

He even experiments on human flights

Self-portrait drawn with exquisite details of a human face

He even drew all these in secrecy. Apparently, it was illegal to dissect dead bodies back then. But that did not stop him from his interest in the human body. Look at all the details. Okay, I actually can't imagine someone dissecting another human body so that they can learn to draw the insides. That sounds... disgusting and creepy. In this case, it is somehow well... fascinating too?

Leonardo is also very capable in creating war machines/weaponaries.

He is also an architect.

And also, the first person who invented scuba diving. Can you imagine? Scuba diving in the 1500s. WHAT!?

My gosh, those flippers

And again, another picture of the piazza after I came out of Leonardo Da Vinci Museum.
Some street performers
The reason I took this photograph is because that guy looks like Johnny Depp. image

The Spanish Steps, crawling with ants people

No matter, I'll have a picture even though people are blocking the view and also photobombing my pictures.
View from above the Spanish Steps

Trevi Fountain is still under contruction! What a pity!!!

So, I had to throw my coins in the fake one. I'll throw them into the real one in the future!!!!

I don't know why, but this building just speaks to me and I had to take a picture of it. 

Had my lunch here at Taverna del Seminario
Ordered Lala Spaghetti. But I kept biting sand and also some cracked shells which was very annoying

Also spoiled myself with some Tiramisu.

I also talked to these two lovely ladies from the US next to me. It was very random as I helped them out with opening the bottles and then we just chatted from then onward.

The Pantheon!

This is what you get for asking a random stranger to take picture of you... meh, can't really complain much.

A vertical panoramic view of the inside of The Pantheon

Tourists. Tourists everywhere! Btw, this is where the tomb of Raphael lies.

I also had plenty time to kill, so I walked to the Colosseum.

The most wanted picture in Rome

And a little extra for you. A picture of the Colosseum at another angle
I didn't actually went in the place that day. At first I thought of paying for the tickets to get in but... it was raining, I didn't have my umbrella with me and also it was free entry the next day. So, I decided to just walk back to the city center. LOL. It's not like everything goes according to my plan every time you know. It's hard to make a decision too when you're alone, because nobody is going to argue with you so you have to argue with yourself.
image I know, I don't make any sense and I'm contradicting to my earlier statements.

View of the Roman Forum from afar.

Then I went to Circus Maximus where once upon a time, chariot racing was held on

But there's nothing here now

This lonely tree in the middle of the place.

The Mouth of Truth
I remembered this thing since I was a little child because we had this fortune telling machine which is a replica of The Mouth of Truth. It will print your future reading when you put your palm inside the mouth. I never knew the original one was in Rome. Now, I know. Haha.

It was raining and many people were lining up to take picture with the statue. I was like "f*** this shit, I'm not gonna queue up for a picture", and therefore I took the picture from the outside. Ain't nobody got time for that. 

Temple of Hercules Victor is just across the street.

Fontana dei Tritoni
And at this moment, I met another solo female traveler who is also taking pictures of the place. She surprised me because she was asking me if I'm a Korean too in her language. Thanks to my Korean classes, I understood her and answered her back in Korean. HAHAHA. Yes, somehow I kind of feel happy inside. LOL. Orientals. Her map was soaking wet so I helped her by giving her mine which was more plastic-y. I hope it was useful to her because she was looking quite lost actually.

Journey to Trastevere

Hunted for another gelato place

I've had fragola (strawberry), stracciatella, and mango (chosen by the scooper because I asked him for recommendation, kind of fed up of choosing). In my opinion, the fruit flavors are always too sweet for me but I found my favorite, the stracciatella! Which is just milk with irregularly shaped chocolate chips.

Then, I started to walk to Piazzale Giuseppe Garibaldi for a bird eye view of Rome. I felt like I was on a mission or something because I was following a family which was walking the same way as me. They were climbing through prohibited garden area and I was following behind them. And I even climb through some fences at the end... My gosh, having to climb while wearing a dress.

Half-way up

Monumento a Garibaldi

And I present to you, Rome

Exploring some uncommon path, which I thought was a shortcut but turns out, the gates were locked, so no.
What's funny though is that I can see that not many will walk into this area so I found quite a number of condom foils while I was walking. LOL. Man, the Italians are really something.

Back to the city centre!

I dolci di nonna vincenza, recommended for their sweets and desserts.

Was very tempted to buy all of them but of course, how can a tiny girl eat all those up aye. Luckily I was reunited with Tato and Ani. So, I shared with Tato.

Yums, Italian desserts. :9

Group picture with the waiter photobombing us girls. Lol

One of the best pizzas I've ever tasted!

At night, we went to Da Francesco for dinner. It is a super famous restaurant very well known for their pizzas and we had to wait around an hour and a half to be seated. Because all the seats are reserved!!! But it was all worth it, you have to try them, at least once.
Tip!!! | Restaurants which are famous are always full, so it is better to call them up and make a reservation so that you don't have to wait that long!

It was raining quite heavily but still we took a selfie anyway. It's not always you get to experience Rome on a rainy night.

And we even took a picture of the Spanish Steps without the crowd! Finally, I can see the stairs.

It was almost 11pm by then and luckily there were still trams going round the place, but it was empty. We were the only one in the tram at that hour. 


To be continued....

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