(This is a mini-diary I wrote while on holiday in Rome in 2002.)

The Italian Job!

Saturday 20th April 2002
Rome is amazing! Even before we'd left the airport we'd bumped into Anne Bancroft and Mel Brookes! Actually they almost bumped into us - with their luggage trolley. Had a mad drive to the hotel in a cab with no seatbelts, driven by a maniac who kept trying to talk to us, despite the fact that we clearly didn't understand a word he was saying. The hotel is lovely (we have a balcony!) and the concierge very helpful. We still don't know where anything is, but we have a small map with lots of circles in red marker pen. Rome itself is breathtaking. Down every street is another beautiful building or archaeological site. An initial wander round led us to Trajan's Column and an amazing building which, according to the 4p postcard we bought, seems to be the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. From the size of it the whole army could be buried there. After finding our bearings we got glammed up (well, as glam as you get out of a suitcase) and went to find some night life. Initial attempts to drown in alcohol were slightly hampered by a distinct lack of bars (we were clearly looking in the wrong place), but we eventually settled in the 'Trinity College' pub where we bonded with a large bunch of Irish girls. After lots of singing along to dodgy records and much taking of photos, we finally staggered away around 3am. It soon became clear that the combination of wine, brandy and beer had stopped our legs working so we flagged down a cab. Everything after that is rather hazy. All in all, an excellent day! It's now 11:30am - I've been up for hours and Ad is still asleep. Time to wake him up and embark on another adventure...

Sunday 21st April 2002

Another wonderful day in the beautiful city of Rome - and football to look forward to later today! Yesterday was perfect. Got up late and strolled off to the Collusseum, which is totally breathtaking. Ate some fantastic pizza/toastie things (hot food surprisingly good on a hot day) then sat on the grass with an ice cream, writing postcards and watching a show-off 'centurian' poke people with his sword. He thought he was so cool twizzling his sword to impress tourists, until he dropped it. He tried to laugh it off, but knew he looked a twat. Adam made friends with a sunglasses-seller from Bangladesh who wouldn't go away, even though we'd said we weren't interested. He seemed to think that if he stood there long enough we'd change our minds. We didn't. We then strolled to the Pantheon where we sat with a beer watching a clown humiliate the public. His repertoire ranged from hitting people on the head with a balloon (crap) to walking behind them mimicking the way they walk (VERY funny). From the ancient to the modern - we then visited a multimedia extravaganza claiming to be 'Rome's Number One Attraction'. Yeah, right. It was basically a kids' film about the history of Rome with the audience in 'dynamic' seating. Adam started off all macho then shat himself at a pretend rat. What a girl. In the evening we headed out to find a restaurant that a friend of mine had recommended. After completely failing we settled instead for a lovely-looking establishment, only to find that they were serving nothing but fish - no use for hippie vegetablists like me! More exploring and we eventually came to a bizarre tex-mex-jazz-pizzeria with thatched roofs over the eating areas and a harrassed waitress who didn't speak a word of English. With the aid of pointing and rudimentary sign language, we had a lovely meal and bottle of wine to a background of chilled jazz music. Wonderful. After Friday night's excesses we were both knackered so headed back to the hotel for an early night - only 1:30am!

Monday 22nd April 2002
Yesterday was one of those life-changing, life-affirming days that come along only a handful of times in a lifetime. Everything came together and for one glorious day we were gods and the world was ours! It started in a fairly ordinary way - we got up early(ish) and made it down for breakfast. An American, leaving the hotel as we arrived on Friday, had said it was stunning - he was wrong. Or being ironic (so difficult to tell...). But despite the uninspiring start, we headed out and made our way to the Spanish Steps. Pretty, but not as breathtaking as the Collusseum. Adam declined my challenge to 'Rocky' the steps, but we did climb to the top to discover a collection of talented local artists selling their works. One of them tried very hard to point out the merits of his paintings over that of the man we'd just bought from - too late mate, we've already handed over the money! A bit more strolling and sitting and it was time to head for the Big Match, and this is where words fail me. When I walked in, football was in my head. When I walked out it had got a firm hold on my heart. No going back now, I'm a footie fan for life. I can honestly say that as I left that stadium (and what a stadium!) I felt that football is the most important thing on the planet. I will remember that match for the rest of my life. The dilemma we then had was how to top it. We both felt that we should make an effort for our last night in Rome and decided to try and find a night club. So, armed with a list from the Internet and a map, we managed to stumble across the best club in the whole world! For the second time in one day words can't adequately describe this place - the seedy, smokey, bohemian atmosphere, the jumble sale in the basement, the breakdancers, the pavlova. Chilled out projections coloured the walls and the owner danced in silhouette behind the band. The music moved from digeridoos (yes, really!) to drums, house beats, back to drums, to reggae and then to rap - Adam was getting on down big time! We finally left around 1:30am, drunk, tired and very, very happy. Even the struggle for a taxi and the hotel's broken lift couldn't dampen our spirits. I felt I could have stayed awake all night, buzzing with the memories of our amazing day, but I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. Perfect.

Tuesday 23rd April 2002
Today has been a hard slog - Rome was very hot and the travelling back has been long (train, plane, bus, bus, plane, tube, tube, train, cab = 12 hours!) but there were still a whole bunch of golden moments: throwing open the balcony doors to sunshine bouncing off Italian rooftops, tossing coins into the Trevi, seeing James from Football Italia at the airport, taking advantage of the freebies in the Business Lounge, sipping champagne in Business Class with Ronan Keating, Adam being told by a complete stranger at Heathrow that he had an identical shirt in the 70s (Adam: 'I bought it in a night club in Rome last night' - pure class!), and coming in to land with the lights of London spread out for miles below us. So now it's 12:15am on Tuesday morning and I'm writing this from the train home as Adam falls asleep to a CD (I'm writing on a chocolate wrapper because the paper's in his bag and I don't want to wake him up to get it!). In around 9 hours I've got to be back to the real world and I'm feeling very misty-eyed and philosophical about the whole weekend. A magical time made up of so many fantastic moments. I had high expectations and it surpassed them all.