Rome in a day

Now here was an exciting moment. Having set off from Hadrian's wall months before I was finally at the beating heart of the Roman Empire.

But as I stepped off the Train at Roma Termini before I could rush of and get lost in the hot madness of Rome the small matter of filling out paperwork needed attending to.

Getting a new passport sent to Italy would take a minimum of six weeks and involve a little creative bureaucracy. (Technically you have to be a resident abroad)  So in order to continue my trip I would need to return to London, pay an extortionate amount for a new passport, and then fly back to Rome. Before that was possible I needed to go to the British Embassy in Rome and pay for an 'emergency passport' to get me through customs in London.

My naivety (read entitled attitude) never ceases to cause me frustration in the face of this type of bureaucracy. Don't British citizens have an inalienable right to the paperwork world governments (and our own) demand to let us wander the earth? Jumping through hoops and paying through the teeth to prove this seems thoroughly unreasonable.

In the world I want to live in a comfortable room welcomes you, tea is served and an apology issued for the slight wait you have endured while the necessary documents are printed out wherever is most convenient. This is the civilized world I want to live in.

Instead the British Embassy is an ugly squat building treading a fine line between military instillation and 1970's modernist monstrosity. It reminded me a little of the Hallwood library at Nottingham University but whatever vision the architect here had has been thoroughly compromised to an outside observer by the security apparatus draped across its frontage obscuring it to the point of anonymity. Indeed I walked past this ugly black mark on Rome's marble backside twice while looking for a handsome building with a Union Jack flying high.

You might presume this is the entrance but you would be wrong. There is a grubby little side gate looking for all the world like a tradesman's entrance where you must go and shout through a tinny speaker while being eyeballed by a security camera. 

Hours of waiting, handing over money and generally feeling caught in a sweaty Kafkaesque nightmare continued for most of the morning before I gratefully emerged at noon with instructions to return at 14:30.

With two and a half hours in hand I embarked on a brisk walk around Rome's unmissable sights. The Colloseum, Parthenon, Forum, various churches, piazzas, the opera house, Altare della Patria.

All passing in a blur of marble, car horns and heat, viewed through a tangle of tourists. It was glorious.

My effort to cram as much history and architecture into a few hours was only marred by one particularly over-weight American visitor who, apparently guiding a party of similarly bovine looking yanks, remarked "Here's some more old ruins you can take a picture of" as they arrived at the Forum, that very center of Roman public life. She wasn't wrong of course but it was enough to make me grind my teeth.

Travel really is the most superficial of things unless accompanied by some measure of historical knowledge. How can you do anything but coo at how pretty something is if you can't begin to understand its importance. I redoubled my determination to read as much as possible about the history of the countries I would be visiting further down the road..

Having returned at a canter to the Embassy and proceed to wait for another hour, I was left with just enough time to jog to the Spanish steps and wheeze for a moment or two before heading back to the train station to catch my train.

No time for the Sistine Chapel or a million other things but Rome had left its mark.


  1. I'd love to post a comment but the never seem to work. your brilliant post shows Triumph over adversity- Mum!

  2. Great blog Tom absence of photos in earlier blogs are not a problem as your descriptions are very vivid of both the scenery and the experiences. Keep it up and stay safe xxx Dad