Travel Writing Awards Entry 

Picture this. It’s a warm Saturday morning in Rome in the year 80 AD and after a hard week slaving (literally) you’re keen for a bit of R and R. You’ve spent all week with people around you dieing of disease and people being executed for the pettiest of crimes. So what do you do with your day off? Why you head on down to the newly opened Coliseum to watch a good old fashioned Gladiator fight to the death.

You buy a ticket off a scalper, bargain down on some knock off merchandise, grab an over priced hot dog and take your position on the lower deck. Now you’re not here to see any of this Russell Crowe, mobile phone throwing, gladiator with a trailer and make up artist rubbish, but a proper bloodbath. There is no referee with a whistle or any padded poles or safety helmets. The weapons are real swords, knives, chains and lions. If that thumb points down, life will end for the sorry soul not strong enough to overpower his opponent. Trust me, Vulcan and Storm would not have lasted long in this environment.

Ah the good old days. It was a time when men were men and boys II men didn’t exist. A far cry from the world of today where a tradesman needs a method statement, a 10 metre orange cone perimeter fence and seventeen safety officers just to fix a leaking tap.

By now you’ve probably guessed that we’ve been to Rome. We surprised my little sister Carly with a trip there. She had been staying with us for a few weeks as part of her school trip to France and we decided to pop over for a few days before she went home. It’s an amazing place. Certainly the richest history of anywhere on Earth, as evidenced by the sheer number of things we saw that were dated BC or very early AD. The lack of Starbucks and Subway was also a giveaway.

There are many major attractions in Rome but none is more famous than The Vatican. Unfortunately the Pope was back packing in Australia on a surfing holiday at the time, so we couldn’t catch up for a beer, but we did visit his pad and it’s pretty impressive. Interestingly, they wouldn’t let us in because Carlie was wearing a short skirt and Carly was in a singlet. I had to wander the streets looking for scarves and eventually purchased some off a little old lady who screwed me on price. It was such a hassle and the security caused even more frustration when they let in a guy wearing a Slayer ‘South of Heaven’ t-shirt right before us. I tell you what, if the Pope came to my place in anything less than double plugger thongs from K-Mart, Brisbane Broncos football shorts and a navy blue singlet, he’d better be bringing a lot of beer.

We also went to the Vatican Museum, which houses the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo certainly knew how throw a brush around. It’s nothing short of brilliant. But what was almost as entertaining were the anti-photography guards in the museum. I saw a kid of 4have his hands chopped off for a quick snap of the masterpiece. He was 4. He needed that photo to remember it when he’s older. What if he had been seeking inspiration for a career as an artist? That’s all out the window now, as he has no hands.

The Romans certainly knew how to pull together a good water feature. There are literally fountains everywhere, even ones in dirty ally ways that you can drink out of. And people do. The most famous of these fountains is the Trevi, which is one of the most beautiful displays of stone and water I have ever seen. It’s not only brilliant for its visual appearance but for its ability to attract a crowd and create a central meeting place. The guards were quite overzealous there as well. Stabbing people for putting their toes in the water. As is tradition, we all threw money into the fountain over our shoulder, which means we have to return to Rome at some point in our lives. Sounds like a pyramid selling scheme to me. 

All in all it’s a spectacular place and if you look past the graffiti is quite elegant too. They don’t make them like they used to, is a phrase that rings true in Rome. The fact that all those ruins and old buildings are still there is phenomenal. The other phrase that rings true is ‘when in Rome’. It’s amazing how funny you think it is when you’re actually in Rome. Another beer sir? ‘Oh go on then, when in Rome’. Guided tour of the Coliseum sir? ‘Why not, when in Rome’. Gimme all your money! ‘Yes sir, when in Rome’.
Next on the list is our long awaited Greek Island cruise with Joel and Leanne. We are off next Friday and the trip takes in a bunch of Greek Islands, a few days in Turkey and a few days in Athens. I’m nearly as excited about that as I am about seeing the new Batman film tomorrow.

Hail Caesar (dressing),