My trip to Rome to watch England play Italy is going to have to be a 2 part thing,  so look away now if you’re only interested in my view in the match.

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I will start with a small detail on the logistics of match tickets however.  I always tend to go straight to the club/country website when buying ‘away’ tickets.  I make myself aware of the dates the tickets are likely to become available by registering with the site, whether that be a club site such as Racing Metro or for international tickets the recommended official site.

That way I’ve been able to get tickets at face value from a reputable source.  In the case of tickets for Italy v England I registered on http://www.ticketone.it Then went on at the allocated time to buy front row tickets for my 2 friends Henry and Sue and myself; we paid £63 each.  And now have a membership style card to load any future games onto.

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The plan to go to Rome was hatched as the 3 of us were leaving a Harlequins match around the time of last years’ 6 Nations.  Henry and Sue did all of the leg work and booked flights and what turned out to be a rather lovely hotel.

We flew from Gatwick, arriving with plenty of time to spare, a fairly decent chicken burger in the Wetherspoons set us up for the journey. Over shopping very nearly set us up to miss boarding but we made just in time.

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The joys of most people trying to avoid baggage charges meant there wasn’t enough room for the cabin luggage, so several bags had to be sent to the hold.  We had the pleasure of a funny captain! Alastair Carrie went the extra mile in being both informative and pretty hilarious too! Made the flight go much quicker, including the parts I hate, taking of and landing!

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The airport in Rome was slightly confusing, but we found the desk where Henry had booked a shuttle bus, the bus was rather worn to say the least, and we were last to be dropped off, which added a fair amount of time to the journey.  Hard to know what to do before hand, but I’d recommend pre-booking a taxi.

We arrived at out hotel The Rome Life after a bit of a journey, rather than explain to guests in the morning where to go in the city the receptionist explained as he was checking people in, it meant unnecessary waiting.

Rather than look for food we dropped our bags and ate in a small Taverna opposite the hotel. I had the tastiest Spaghetti Carbonara I’ve ever had! 

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My room surpassed my expectations, swish would be my word of choice to describe it! I had a huge double bed despite being on my own.  My room had a small bath and shower which suited me perfectly, Henry and Sue had a huge shower I believe which was good for them too.

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We were booked for bed and breakfast which turned out to be a good plan, there was a great choice and we all filled up each morning, meaning we only needed a snack before dinner in the evening.

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Day one was a sightseeing day, I was in a knee brace and needing to use a stick so walking was likely to be an issue…. It became a potential problem when ‘A funny thing happened at the Forum’  Rather than on the way, don’t ask me how, but I managed to send said stick flying into a closed Forum! Only me! We searched for help, finding a very helpful policeman who directed us, well, Henry and Sue to the Museum where they were able to find help and miracle of miracles get my stick back! I’d have been lost without it!

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I actually had no concept of what I was going to see in Rome, I was completely unprepared for the sheer magnitude of the buildings and in effect ruins.  The Forum is literally in the middle of the City, it was fascinating to see what had been in ancient times.  It never ceases to amaze me that huge structures were built without the benefit of things such a electricity and cranes.  The Colosseum sits at the top of the ruins of The Forum.  Again the enormity can only really be taken in by seeing the structure with your own eyes.  We didn’t go inside, but walked round taking in the exterior as we went.

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Looking across at the whole area, with the exception of the ugly yellow hoardings, was like looking at what I imagine rural Italy to be like, yet we were in the middle of a major city.

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The Piazza Venezia is at the opposite end to the Colosseum,  The Tomb of The Unknown Soldier it forms part of the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II the first King of Italy.

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A huge added bonus to add to the wonderful sites was the weather, I wore jeans and a light top and was way too warm, it was glorious! Lovely to feel the sun on our faces.

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We made our way to the Trevi Fountain once we’d spent time in the area of the Forum.  The Fountain is a short walk and easy to find.  Feeling slightly vulnerable with my stick I didn’t go to the front as the area was very crowded, but I did manage to get some good photos of the very famous fountain.

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Another short walk took us to The Spanish Steps, they were pretty much covered in scaffolding, this detracted from what I’m sure is a sight to behold.

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I must mention the fact that we actually started the day at an Art Exhibition, in a fairly nondescript building.  The Art inside was anything but.  We were treated to a sizeable Impressionists exhibition – to see original art by the likes of Monet and Van Gogh was special.  There was a small corner of – ‘Modern Art’ – something I’m really not a fan of on the whole.  But the highlight of the art on show was an exhibition of the work of Fernando Botero – the Way of the Cross, the Passion of Christ was strangely wonderful!  If you ever get the chance to see his work ‘in the flesh’ don’t pass it up.

That was Day 1 done and dusted, it turned out that we’d walked 7.5 miles, I have to say my knee paid for the exertion, but when in Rome……..  The hotel were very helpful in providing me with a big bag of ice each evening.

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We rested up for a few hours before having dinner in a small restaurant opposite the hotel, I had one of the tastiest Spaghetti Carbonara’s I’ve had and the meal as a whole really was inexpensive.  We didn’t find the incredibly expensive city everyone had told us about.

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Day 2 was all about the rugby, we took the Metro to Flaminio where there was a Tram to the stadium.  There was a huge queue so we decided to walk, with the return journey that meant another 7.5 miles walked, but it also meant we were able to take in more of the city.  I’ve written a match report so all I’ll say about the afternoon was that, again, I was shocked to be able to walk straight through with a backpack unchecked!  Yet again there was little or no security!

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Game over and won by England we headed back to the hotel, more ice for me, before we visited the second restaurant in the same street as the hotel.  Lasagne this time for me, with a glass of Prosecco, and another reasonable tab at the end of the evening.

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My knee was pretty much agony over night, and I was tempted to stay in and around the hotel on out final day, but I’m very glad I chose to go to the Vatican with Henry and Sue.  We again made use of the Metro, it was interesting to note that armed soldiers were on duty at each station we went to, as well as what appeared to be significant buildings.

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We were met by a salesman of sorts as we left the station by The Vatican, offering a tour of the Vatican, museum, Sistine Chapel and all with a guide and no queuing for 46€ – he also promised it would cut down the walking and time.  With a dodgy knee it felt like a good plan.  He took us to a bona fide office, where we chose not to use cards, cash just felt safer.  We were then led to meet the guide in St Peters’ Square.

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I’m going to let my photos do the talking – but I can highly recommend booking a tour before you travel, but if you haven’t. as long as you can see a proper office pay the extra on the day.  The guide was incredibly knowledgeable and took us to all of the key parts of Vatican City.  The experience was simply amazing!

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The guide was knowledgable and funny, and as promised we didn’t queue at all.  If you visit Rome I’d say a tour of the Vatican and all it involves is most certainly a must!

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One thing I couldn’t quite believe over the weekend were the number of people who simply had to be in every single photo they took!  The curse of the ‘Selfie’ seemed to me to take away the simple joy of taking in wonderful sights.

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We’d walked around 5 miles – so more ice on my fat knee before dinner, which was again reasonable in a restaurant near to the hotel.

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Our final day left us with a few hours to see some sights – I’d spotted a dome as we walked from the station.  That dome was actually the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore – the largest church in Rome dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Another unimpressive building from the outside – it was rather spectacular inside.

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Again I’ll let the photos do the talking – one very interesting thing was what looked like the symbol of the Illuminati hidden away in one corner.

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After taking the time to fully appreciate our surroundings it was time to make our way to the airport.  We made the return journey in a taxi ordered by the hotel; the charge was 50€ and we had a much smoother ride.

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I spend most of my spare time watching or writing about sport, this was an unusual trip for me.  I was overwhelmed by how magnificent Rome is – I need to do more sightseeing!

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Sue and Henry did a wonderful job in picking a more than snazzy hotel and wow they were patient with this limping lady!  We had a truly fantastic weekend – oh, and the England win was a lovely added bonus!

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