Colin has always been a rugby fan having played from school age; when we met I soon began to enjoy watching it too, although it helped that it was the year England won the rugby World Cup! Whilst were watching the 6 Nations last year we realised that this year Ireland would be playing Italy in Rome and as we would be wintering in Italy it would be a pretty easy trip to get to the game and watch it live.
So a plan was hatched which resulted in 10 MdR winterers flying up to Rome for the weekend. Tickets for the game were easily found online at the official site and a budget hotel was booked where we could all find rooms.
Our weekend started with a short flight from Comiso and a 33ml can of Guinness shared between 5 of us. It gave just enough for a taste of what was to come. The forward scouting party had arrived in Rome a few days before and had found an Irish bar (The Scholars Lounge) for the Friday night Wales v England game. The bar was already packed by 6pm with standing room only in the main area but we managed to find a table upstairs with a good view of the big screen, the only criteria was we had to eat to sit there which was fine as we were hungry. What a game! Plenty of Guinness saw us through the highs and lows, with England finally victorious. After the game an Italian Elvis and his band came on to entertain us with some good ole rock and roll into the wee hours.
Feeling slightly shabby the next morning we headed off to the Stadio Olimpico via tube and tram. It was faces squeezed up the window full on the tram with lots of emerald green on show. Entertainment came from an Irish guy on his phone to someone at home: ‘I’m on a tram, it’s a bit like a train thing’. A short walk with the crowds across the bridge to the stadium, through the electronic turnstiles and into the stadium itself where the teams were out warming up. The stadium was maybe only 75% full but both teams’ supporters made plenty of noise. Unfortunately the game wasn’t one of the best but the atmosphere made up for it, especially as we got to meet the Italian Snow White, Evil Stepmother and the Seven Dwarfs.
Rugby finished, it was time for sightseeing; we walked until our feet hurt around the Forum and Palatine Hill and were too worn out for the Coliseum. The next day was St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. It was free to enter but took about an hour queueing in the sunshine to pass through the security x-ray machines to get in. After taking in the beautiful interior of the cathedral we climbed up the 551 steps to the top of the Michaelangelo designed dome, the steps near the top became very narrow and leaned inwards as we curved around the inside of the dome. The views on top were fantastic, it was a clear day and we could see plenty of snowy mountains to the west and could just make out a ship on the sea out east as well as being able to play spot the landmark throughout central Rome. As we descended from the dome section we came out on a flat roof where there were toilets, a shop and a postbox, so a few postcards were quickly written and posted off from the roof of St. Peter’s. A real highlight of the trip. Back down inside the Basilica I got told off for mugging too long for the camera whilst next to the status of St. Peter with the shiny foot and Colin got told off for wearing his hat. Oops!
Even after so much Guinness, Colin succumbed to the flu when we got back to MdR and struggled bravely through the next open mike night that he had organised. Another great night of music was had despite the lurgy going round.
Next up was Shrove Tuesday where we had planned to head over to Acireale Carnival, one of the best in Sicily. However, the weather wasn’t being very kind to us. February had been pretty miserable for weather with strong winds and more rain than in previous months and for Shrove Tuesday it decided to thrown as much rain down as it possibly could. Driving along the Italian roads in those conditions was a challenge but Stephen from Wandering Dragon got us safely there. We’d booked into the San Biagio Resort, a former Franciscan convent with a little bit of trepidation as some reviews weren’t too favourable. Our fears were unfounded as the hotel and rooms were very pleasant.
A wander down into the town with the aim to catch the midday parade had us wondering if we had missed it as the streets were deserted other than for a few cars. We asked a passing carabinieri if he knew what was happening – he was very apologetic but unfortunately due to weather the parades were cancelled. Oh no! We met up with friends who had arrived a day before, found some of the flower floats parked up around the corner and bought some wine to take back to the room so we could make our own party. A visit to the festival information room gave us a taste of what we were missing with lots of photos from previous years’ events. We made up for the lack of parade with our own pizza party including lots of confetti throwing around.