July 4, 2018
Besides the Colosseum and all of the Ancient Roman ruins, what else do people tend to go to Rome to see? The Vatican City! The Vatican City is an independent state that is located within Rome. With only 110 acres of land and 1,000 people living there, it is considered the smallest state in the world! But that wasn’t what I was really interested in. Being raised Roman Catholic, it is a huge thing to be able to see the Vatican City. Here, the pope lives and carries out many important duties for the Roman Catholics.
First on the list, St. Peter’s Square! St. Peter’s Square is located right in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. St. Peter is one of Jesus’ twelve disciples and plays a very important role in the beginning of the Church. St. Peter was also the very first Bishop of Rome and pope. St. Peter’s Square was very big and mostly empty, besides the tourists. It offered a great view of the Basilica but besides that, there was not much else. The importance of the square, I suppose, lies in its purpose. I believe here, the pope sometimes holds large masses for special celebrations.
One of the things we had to see in the Vatican City was the Sistine Chapel. This place was something I only read about. With research, I found out that the chapel is located within the Vatican Museum. So, you guessed it, we had to get a ticket for that. We booked the night we arrived in Rome and luckily got a ticket via TicketsRome. Two tickets to enter the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel cost us 59 euros. Our entry time was about 1pm. After we had met the group and the guide, he walked us in as a large group, had us wait a couple minutes, then came back and gave us each entry tickets and set us free. It seemed like a sketchy procedure but it was legit.
The museum was SO crowded. I love museums and I go to them as often as I can, but when a place is this crowded I get agitated and flustered. Even though we purchased informational audio guides (8 euros a person), the inability to relax or even look at artwork in peace was so uncomfortable.
The Vatican Museum had many artifacts, sculptures and artworks. These were more than just Roman history. There was a whole section on Egyptian history as well. The museum and overcrowding was so overwhelming. I think Coaliang and I were so frustrated, we kind of just tried to find our way to the chapel and get out! The museum was set up in a way where there was no direct path to the chapel. You had to walk through at least half the museum to find the entrance to the chapel.
The Sistine Chapel was not what I expected. I’ve gone in my fair share of chapels and this one didn’t have anything I was used to seeing. It was a huge room with very colorful paintings everywhere you looked. There were no chairs, no clear alter, and tons of people. (There were no photos allowed and many museum staff so sorry for no pictures!) I did like seeing the iconic paintings of stories in the Bible I grew up with. It was even good to point out things to Caoliang since he knew of the stories and history from our marriage prep. We didn’t spend too long in there, again, the crowds, but it was interesting to learn that this is where the cardinals gather to vote for the new pope. I also learned The Sistine Chapel is considered the pope’s chapel. The fame that this chapel gets from most of the world, is probably the painting of the ceiling, The Last Judgement by Michelangelo.
I think after we saw the chapel, Caoliang and I were done with the museum. It felt a bit suffocating to be in there and we just wanted to get some air. Museums and learning history is great but when you’ve seen hours and hours of artwork and read so much information, it starts to get a bit much.
Before our next big item to see, St. Peter’s Basilica, we wanted to get a late lunch. Like I said before, picking the right place to eat on a trip is tricky. This meal, we didn’t do so well either. We ordered two quick pizzas from a place I didn’t even care to remember and they were terrible. I’ve had frozen pizzas better than this! The pizza was hard to cut (or even tear), the cheese was almost nonexistent and the best thing I had at this place was my bottled iced tea! Again, choosing a place near a tourist attraction, not the smartest idea. I think after this situation we will learn to be a little more picky about our restaurant selection.
After the massive crowds at the Vatican Museum, a part of me wanted to skip the Basilica and just get away from the crowds. Luckily that part of me was a tiny part! After getting over myself, we headed over to the Basilica. The entrance to the cathedral is free but you have to be in the right dress. Thankfully, Coaliang had mentioned before about the dress code so we were sure to wear the appropriate clothes this day. In the summer, it is often men and women wear shorter shorts and smaller tops, but at the Basilica you have to be sure you are covered up! To enter, you must have your shoulders covered, no low cut tops and you have to have your knees covered (or at least wear shorts long enough to hover over your knees). When we were entering, we saw a man got turned away because his shorts were too short. They also sold these paper panchos if you needed more coverage. Thankfully for us, we were good (but sweaty).
When entering the Basilica you just immediately go into a state of awe. The ceilings are so high and so decorated. Everything was so ornate and detailed. It was amazing to be in THE church of all Catholic churches. One of the reasons this church was named after St. Peter is that his body is buried here. I read it is under the main altar. There was a mass going on at the time we entered so we couldn’t see the whole church, but just being in the space is breathtaking enough.
Being in there I reflected and thought about why Catholic churches are so big and grand. I then came to the conclusion, maybe it’s because man was trying to capture the beauty and grandeur of what Heaven would be like. I could be wrong, but in my mind it was a pretty good fit. St. Peter’s Basilica was purely magnificent. I’m happy we didn’t pass this up. After a few prayers and purchased items from the shop, we headed out to see parts of Rome we missed.
Back to Rome…
The ticket we had to enter the Colosseum the day before, was also good to enter the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. We didn’t have time to make it the day before by closing time so we really wanted to be sure we take advantage of the entry ticket this day (it was our last day in Rome)! We didn’t think we would spend so much time in the Vatican as well but by the time we got out of there it was already 5pm! The only way to get to Palatine Hill in time was by taxi. So I fired up the app MyTaxi and we were off!
With a little bit of traffic, we made it just before 6pm (they stop letting people in around this time since it closes at 7pm). While we were there, we overheard a tour guide saying the Palatine Hill was like the Beverly Hills of its time. The rich people would live on the hill with the “clean air” and everyone else below in the city with the “unclean air.”. The hill now looked like a bunch of broken brick walls. It was interesting to see but without a guide, pamphlet or much knowledge, it was hard to get a complete feel for where we were. The hill then led to the Roman Forum, again, cool to see but hard to know everything about it. Also I think the view from above was better than being actually in the Roman Forum. After this, we walked to the Trevi Fountain.
The fountain was so crowded, as you could probably guess. It was very large with clean water and nice to look at, but the crowd that surrounded it made it impossible to get up close. I really didn’t want to get that close just because the amount of people (can you tell I don’t like crowds). To give you some history on the fountain; it was designed by the Italian architect Nicola Salvi and is 86 feet high by 161 feet wide. Also it is the largest Baroque fountain in the city. After some pictures and videos we headed out of there.
Going back to the issue of finding good food while traveling…after the crap pizza in the Vatican, we were determined to eat something good! We reached out to our AirBnB host to see if he had any local suggestions. He told us about this place called Sora Margherita located in an area called the ghetto of Rome. Thankfully we were right in the neighborhood and walked the short distance over. When we arrived, the lady told us the next available table wouldn’t be free until 9:30 pm, it was 8:45 pm at the time. A 45 minute wait? This better be worth it. So to kill time, we walked around the corner and found a street bench with decent people watching. Once we returned, we saw the place was still packed and still busy. It had looked like only two servers were working and the place was small!
When we got seated, it was in a tiny table that was cornered in by other tables. This place was really local. There was nothing glitzy about it. Just harsh bright light, tight tables, lots of Italian chatter and yummy looking platters. With Antonello’s recommendation of the fried artichoke, we ordered that to start followed by fried codfish (a popular dish) and a pasta with red meat sauce. The food was much better than food we’ve had on the trip so far! Thank goodness! Since the tight space was becoming a bit much, we enjoyed our meal and then headed out. We were glad to end our Rome trip with at least a belly full of good food at a place with a lot of local charm!
Wow what a city! After the two full days in Rome, our backs were sweaty and feet were sore, but it was just the beginning of our trip! Rome, you made us feel like we were walking through history but now onto a smaller, quieter city for some different feels. Next stop, Florence!