As the title says – all roads (air ways too!) lead to the eternal city. I am deeply surprised I never got to see it before, considering this is one the the big three – next to London and Paris that one must visit when in Europe. But here I am back in Italy. I’ve made it! This is an outstanding place that does not need any introduction whatsoever. Beautiful ancient city that has been influencing the world for millennia. For good and for bad, Europe would not be the place it is now if it wasn’t for Rome (and Vatican City).
Rome is not as big as some might think. I considered buying the Roma Pass (unlimited rides on all public transport) but I decided not to. I looked at google maps and realized all main attractions are well within walking distance and it would be a shame to hide underground and miss all them beautiful streets and buildings. And in all fairness it was a good decision. I did walk a lot. Really a lot but I did not feel as knackered afterwards as I would expect myself to be after a full day on feet – good breaks plan mitigated the exhaustion.
The trip started early in the morning at the main train station – Termini. Nothing to brag about here. It’s an ugly station to be honest and Rome deserves more. Period. I started walking towards Vatican City right away. The distance between the two places is pretty big and it took an hour to get there. And I knew there would be queues. But what was my surprise when half way there I stumbled upon a very famous fountain! It was on my list to see but not necessarily on Saturday morning 🙂 I took some time to spend there as it was pretty empty! And by the way – that’s the best time to take some good pictures of very crowded places – early in the morning or very late at night. Or when it rains heavily. Whichever suits you best 🙂
Vatican itself is not a big cit… eghm… country! And the accessible part is rather tiny and limited to the museum and St Peter Basilica and sometimes the gardens. Entry to the basilica is for free, but be mindful of the queue. If the queue is up to the middle of the square (a square with no corners 🙂 ) the waiting time would be around 45 mins. Be sure you have some water and head protection if the sky is clear. The sun shines bright in Rome! There is a cheeky way to get to the basilica without standing in the queue. If you visit the Vatican museum too, do the museum first. Once you’ve past the Sistine Chapel turn to the right when it says only for groups with a guide – just blend in with any of the groups. This is straight through way to St Peter’s basilica. Just make sure you have not left any bag in the locker. If you don’t do this trick, you will have to turn around, go back to the museum entrance, leave the Vatican and join the line in front of the basilica.
The Vatican museum is marvelous. Not only huge but also contains countless artifacts and paintings and sculptures from across centuries. Frankly this is one of world’s biggest and richest collections and I highly recommend it. I would even tell you to do this if you can afford it (the ticket is 16 euros + 4 euro booking fee / skip the line fee – highly recommended as the waiting time is approx 1h!). Once you are inside take your time to look around. Be sure you see everything in the first part of the museum as once you are in the corridor to the Sistine Chapel it’s a one way! (in reality it isn’t, but it was soooo busy on Saturday when I visited the crowds could only move in one direction…).
The museum if full of Michelangelo’s, Da Vinci’s Raphael’s works. There are so many painting’s that I have seen before in books! The most famous would be Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel. One can even miss it as it’s located on the ceiling high above the visitors head. Make sure you look up and around when you enter the chapel. A true masterpiece all over the place.
The most famous landmark of the Vatican City is St. Peter Basilica. I always wondered why it is just a basilica and not a cathedral – and the answer is not in size but rather who sits in it. And St Peter Basilica is not a seat of a bishop hence it cannot be a cathedral. Despite the title, it is grand and superior. The interior is breathtaking and one’s neck can hurt from constantly looking up ! Speaking of which – you can certainly get up there. The dome is open for tourist access (6 euros if you take the stairs – 551 of them to be precise). It even gets a bit claustrophobic as you at some point walk in the dome. But the views from the top are spectacular! One of the highlights of the trip that’s for sure.
St. Peter’s is a church that was built in renaissance style and hence it lacks the glut. Which is a good thing to be honest. It is the church capital of the world but it does not mean it has to be rich and supersaturated. Although it certainly is jaw-dropping! I spent 1 hour just wondering around and admiring the interiors (including Michaelangelo’s Pieta). One of the most important places for me personally was Saint John Paul II tomb located to the right from the entrance (in the chapel of St. Sebastian). The pope’s body has been moved from the grottoes (which you can also visit) after the canonization few years back.
I spent more time in the Vatican city than I initially planned, but way less than I should have. There was so much too see I feel guilty for rushing through. So if you have never been and plan to visit, make sure you spend the whole day there. It is certainly worth it!
Enjoy my few glimpses from the Holy City.