Donning my over-sized sunglasses and channeling my inner Audrey, I set off on my “Roman Holiday.” It has been a little over a week since my return. I wanted to get this post out much sooner but, I can honestly say it has taken me this long to even begin to process everything. If I had to describe the city and our trip in general in one word, it would be overwhelming. I don’t mean this in any way negatively, just that there was so much to see and do and eat, that it was impossible to absorb it all as fully as I would have liked.
So, what did we do? I think it’s fair to say we made a good attempt at doing as much sight seeing as we could. We took the sight seeing bus as soon as we arrived. I like to do this whenever I land in a new city. I think it’s a great way to get orientated, with as little chance as possible of getting lost! (We did manage to get lost later that evening, but that is definitely a story for another day.)
Historical Rome was next on the agenda. On our second day we took a tour of the Colosseum, before rambling around the Roman Forum and Palentine Hill. It was amazing. The guided tour was great and I would definitely recommend it, especially if, like me, you’re not an expert on the history. It was difficult not to feel like I was in an Episode of Spartacus as I looked down on what would have been the arena.
We attempted to take the bus back to our hotel after the Colosseum, however it actually deposited us in the middle of the biggest, loudest and most colourful Gay Pride Parade you can imagine. We were awed and disoriented in equal measure. There may have been another navigational issue or two before we reached home.
Day three, armed with a map, and on foot, we went to see the Trevi Fountain, The Spanish Steps and the Pantheon. The fountain is extremely beautiful and undoubtedly a Jewel in the crown of Rome. The experience was only slightly marred by folks attempting to sell us selfie sticks and fidget spinners. If I return to Rome, I will make an early morning pilgrimage back to the fountain to try to avoid the sense of claustrophobia caused by being surrounded by so many people.
The Spanish Steps were a joy to behold and a very up-market shopping district has grown up around them. Definitely worth a look, if that is your thing. I dared not go in, for fear of having my own Pretty Woman experience. As for The Pantheon, it was breath taking, and inside it I found an oasis of tranquility, in an otherwise crazy city. Even the McDonald’s we visited was like an assault on the senses!
Our last day, suitably covered up, we took ourselves off to see the religious sights. In perhaps the most overwhelming day of all, we visited The Vatican, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. The day did not get off to the most auspicious start. The area around the Vatican screams tourist trap. You literally cannot walk two feet without someone trying to sell you something. When you enter the Vatican at first, the building very much resembles a tax office. Complete with clinical white walls and disgruntled clerks behind counters. It certainly doesn’t prepare you for the wonder and splendour, which you are about to behold.
In the Vatican we decided to take another guided tour, again I would recommend this, particularly for your first visit. The tour took two hours and we saw so many beautiful things, paintings, sculptures, tapestries and maps. It was quite incredible. By the end of the tour, I almost felt as though my mind was incapable of appreciating any more beauty. I felt completely saturated. Luckily, the tour ended at the coffee shop, which could never be described as beautiful, so we had an opportunity to revive ourselves!
From there, we entered the Sistine Chapel. It was every bit as awe inspiring as you might imagine. Every where you look there is something else to be appreciated. Again, my mind struggled with the task of taking it all in.
The last thing on the agenda for the day, and the trip, was St. Peter’s. Before we went inside, I had the opportunity to climb the 551 steps up to the Cupola. I was able to walk around the outside of the Dome and get the most incredible 360 degree view of the Roman skyline. This was undoubtedly the highlight of the holiday for me.
Not only were the views spectacular, but whenever I get to do something like climb up all those steps, I am presented with a rare opportunity. I get the chance to appreciate my body and all it can do. I am reminded to be thankful for my health and fitness, and granted perspective about the reason why I try to keep fit in general. It is a wonderful and liberating thing that when I encounter such a physical challenge, I don’t have to ask myself “will I be able for this?” That alone is worth all the effort in the gym!
Okay, okay, so I am sure many of you are wondering about the food, and the diet and the damage. Food first. We ate everything! Or at least we tried to. It turns out four days is not enough time to eat all the Italian food we wanted to. However, we made a good attempt at covering all the bases. Dinner was the only proper meal of the day, as breakfasts and lunches were quickly dispatched so as not to interfere with our adventures. Breakfast was the typical continental affair and lunch was mostly sandwiches. Luckily we still managed to get through a reasonable amount of pasta and gelato!
As for the damage, I weighed myself on the morning of departure and again on the morning after I got back. Although I did put on about a kilo, I wasn’t overly worried. I am not a great traveler and usually retain fluid after I fly. As of today I am back to my pre-holiday weight.
So what did I do to limit the holiday damage? I walked! We did in excess of 60,000 steps over the course of the four days. I drank gallons of water. In temperatures over 30 degrees it was needed, and I normally drink a few litres a day anyway. I ate when I wanted and what I wanted for the most part.
I did try to be somewhat sensible though. For example when we had the gelato, I would get at least half of it as yogurt. It is an easy swap and I didn’t feel like I was missing out. We stuck to just having main courses at all dinners except the last one. (On the last night we shared a starter and a dessert.) This wasn’t a conscious calorie counting decision particularly. Dinner was usually late and we were too exhausted by that stage to sit through three courses. A big thing which probably helped, is I didn’t drink as much alcohol as I usually would on vacation. I typically had one drink with dinner and maybe one or two more back in the hotel. Again this wasn’t really a decision. My travel companion is pregnant, so she wasn’t drinking.
Overall, I am very happy with how it all went. Every time I take a few days away from my routine, I tend to get a little panicked, thinking the wheels are going to come off completely. However, each time I do it, and they don’t, I gain a little more confidence. Of course, I would be more “comfortable” keeping to my routine, but what would be the fun in that? After all, if we can’t go away or even take time out to enjoy ourselves, what is the point in any of it? As Audrey herself says
“THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS TO ENJOY YOUR LIFE
– TO BE HAPPY – IT’S ALL THAT MATTERS.”
Be well xxx