The Whirlwind Tour
The tour guide stands before us her little flag held high in the air, in hope that we can all see it. As soon as we get close to a standstill she turns and is on her way again. “Come along then”, her thick Italian accent sharply shouts out the English words and we all know it is a command. Paula, she is called. But when she pronounces it, it’s incredibly elongated Paaaoooolllllaa, and we quickly gather she is a woman not to be messed with.
As we stand outside the Colosseum she begins to tell us its history, although her voice is loud and carries across the crowds of thousands standing around us, her accent is so thick we struggle to understand her English. A few of us strain closer to try and hear her. To which Paula mis-interprets as the people behind us must be talking too loudly, and she marches through our small crowd to confront them. Finding that it is actually two police officers and a gentleman on a bicycle stops her none and her English soon turns into angered Italian as she tells them what she thinks of the noise they are making. Us Brits, slightly uncomfortable with such confrontation, shuffle together, safety in numbers and all that.
After the police clearly refuse to move Paula takes her post at the front of the group once again, and after another speech she is off and we follow the little flag around the Colosseum on our tour. Although much of the tour couldn’t be heard or understood by the group we all awaited until it was over to begin complaining about that – we had seen her temper.
After the Colosseum we are soon shuffled across to the Roman forum the flag waiving out in front at all times. After a brief lunch near the Trevi Fountain, our walking tour begins, before setting off Paula gives us specific instructions. “Follow the flag at all times” and “Do not wait for traffic to stop, step out in front of the traffic, they have brakes and will stop”. From then the race is on. Walk down past the trevi fountain and turn right, walk through a narrow path with shops on each side and mopeds driving down the path. Cross the road and turn right, continue passed some marble buildings until you come to an opening, turn left and continue until you get to some buildings with balconies. Walk down a long wide street and you will see the Spanish Steps on the right hand side, stop for 3 minutes for photos and then we are off again, continue past the T-junction with the big statue on a plinth in the centre (no idea what it actually is and no time to ask). Walk by the buildings with Angels on the corner and you will come out on a really large square with some fountains in the middle with some big dogs on them. Stop for 3 minutes for the photos. Continue out under some more marble archways and turn right, cross the road turn right and there is another statue in the middle of the road. Some more left and rights and long streets and then hey-presto we are outside Saint Peter’s. With queues all the way round (we later find out at the hotel that it took over an hour and a half queue wait to get inside), 3 minutes for photos and we are off again, out past the columns we turn right and then right-again, then left, and eventually we are out-side St Angelo Castel, 3 minutes for photos. Then the flag takes us back to the bus and we say goodbye to Paula.
I have no idea of half the places I have seen in Rome but I now know the true meaning of a whirlwind tour.