Rome and the Country within a City.
Today we were up early to beat the queues to Vatican City, luckily we were only a 15 minute walk from the City-state located in the heart of Rome. Developed from the papal states in 1929 due to the treaty of latern, Vatican City is an independent state ruled by the Pope.
It is also home to some of the most famous pieces of art and sculpture in the world. It’s a must do while in Rome even for the non-believer such as me.
We had purchased the Omnia Pass which gets you fast track and entrance into a number of sights around Rome. We had hoped to see St Peter’s Basilica, also in Vatican City but didn’t realise you have to pre book your time slots for both.
We arrived at St Peter’s Square, a masterpiece of architecture by Bernini. It includes huge colonnades which wrap around the square, Signifying the warm embrace of Catholicism.
We grabbed our passes and joined the tour group, walking round to the Vatican we passed the huge queues and headed inside. Here we could wander at our leisure without following a guide. We headed straight for the famous Sistine chapel, with it’s ceiling frescoe painted by Michelangelo. On the way through to the chapel we passed through several rooms, my favourite was the map room with various paintings of italian provinces along the walls.
The ceilings were so grand in some of these rooms I thought we had made it to the Sistine already!
After passing through these rooms we came to a crowded doorway and knew this must be it. Walking in the frescoes are incredible, even without being religious I could appreciate them. The main ceiling points are based off stories from the book of genesis and the main wall is based on the last day of judgement, with Christ judging which dead can ascend to heaven, or descend to hell.
We got a little lost from here, but ended up wandering around finding masterpieces by famous sculptors and painters around every bend. It’s well signposted to the different areas, but a must is to go out on the terrace and take in the wonderful gardens. I’ve heard you can get a tour of these since I came back but haven’t investigated.
Gardens of The Vatican
Sculpture representing the Nile
A real life mummy!
Once we had exhausted the museums we headed out, no one mentions the beautiful staircase exit!
It’s magnificent and a great way to end the visit! We left around lunchtime and as we walked out we noticed there was hardly any queue, not sure if this was a one off but a good tip to beat the crowds if it’s all the time.
We grabbed a nice salad away from the main tourist restaurants and walked past a lovely roundabout. Seriously.
Checking the map we made a plan to incorporate a few of Rome’s many sights in one, long, walk. First up was the Castel Sant’Angelo, commissioned by Hadrian to be his mausoleum it sits next to the river tigre. You can go inside and up to the rooftop but we walked around it, finding a statue of Hadrian himself. There is an underground walkway between here and the Vatican. Apparently the Pope used it in a siege to gain better protection in the Castel rather than the Vatican.
From here we walked along the river, checking out the barges before crossing over towards the piazza del popolo and Rome’s central park, the villa borgese. There’s a terrace overlooking the piazza that leads to the park so we walked up to it and took in the stunning view over Rome. A street band were playing Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to heaven’ which was a cool backdrop to it. There was even a popup tennis court in the piazza.
We continued on and enjoyed the greenery and peacefulness of the park. It started to rain a little so we stopped for a glass of wine while it passed. Our plan from here was to meander over to the Spanish Steps and on to the Trevi fountain.
Unfortunately we got a little lost, found ourselves on a dodgy footpath along a busy road and then next to a spooky abandoned metro stop. Luckily we managed to figure out where we were and eventually made it to the top of the Spanish Steps.
Built in 1725 it is said that artists and writers hung out there, which attracted beautiful women to find fame as models, this attracted richer Romans, which gave the steps their popularity as a meeting spot. On the right hand side as you walk up the steps is the house where the famous poet Keats died. At the bottom of the steps is a fountain said to be inspired by a story of a boat that was swept to this exact spot by a flood in the 16th century.
A short walk from here was the Trevi fountain, up there with the Colosseum for top sights in Rome. Still being fed by underwater aquaducts 100s of years later, it’s a momento of the splendour of Rome down the years. Around 3000E are thought to be thrown over the shoulders of jovial tourists into the pool which is collected daily. It’s the largest baroque fountain in the City and was finished in 1762 and can be seen in the famous film ‘La Dolce Vita’
We got ourselves a great big gelato each, I chose tartufo favour and it was incredible! We stood to admire the architecture while we ate our ice creams until we spotted a clearing on the wall of the pool. Nipping in we made a wish as we chucked our euros into the fountain and took a few obligatory selfies.
Once we were done here we wandered down towards the hotel to rest up for a couple of hours.
Through our aimless wanderings we had spotted a cute little local restaurant with a huge pizza oven nearby the hotel. So we took the short walk over and sat down, we ordered two Peroni and looked over the menu which was all in Italian. Peter was a bit panicked about what to order – he’s only recently started eating pizza! I recommended one with sausage and fennel and I ordered a Diavolo. All of this was too much for Peter as he knocked by beer over the table and over me.
Soggy but finding it all too funny our pizzas soon arrived, and they were incredible! So so tasty, thin crispy base, and out of this world flavours. Peter found his a bit too oily so I polished his off too!
We spent the rest of the evening sat inside a bar on Campo d’fiori as it had started raining again then headed back to the hotel, ready to explore ancient Rome tomorrow!