Against all odds, i somehow managed to make my flight. I told myself to remember that sometimes things do go your way, as at one stage i had actually given up trying to make this flight! With temperatures at about 40 degrees, the whole train system shut down right as i was standing at the platform. I decided to wait 15 minutes, but still there was no progress. With time becoming more of an issue, I ran outside with my 15kg backpack in tow and tried (but failed) to hail down a cab. Miraculously a bus appeared and without even knowing where it was going, i just got on as it was heading in the right direction. I got off near a station that was on a different train line and hoped that it was operating. Another train ride, a long walk and an hour on a shuttle bus and i arrived at Beauvais airport! In the end i checked my bag in with about 10 minutes before it closed. Phew! Lets just say that cheap Ryanair flight was NOT worth the hassle, and i will definitely be flying from Charles De Gaulle if i ever come back to Paris. It took me four hours to get there!
My flight was actually to Manchester, as i needed to get a stamp in my ancestry working visa. Once your visa is issued, you have three months to validate it or it expires. That meant an expensive and rather annoying stopover before Rome! I arrived at 11pm and my flight to Rome was 6am, so i just slept on a bench. Eventually I landed in Rome, and checked into my room exhausted!
First up was the Vatican City and its museum! As usual i had to contend with ridiculously large lines as well as the crippling heat! I later found out that about 30,000 people pass through the museum every day during summer! When i arrived at the Vatican’s walls i was approached by someone offering tours plus an express ‘jump the queue’ ticket. It was much cheaper than what i had seen online so i signed up for 40 euros (16 euros is the entry price). This was definitely worthwhile and i learnt much more than i would have on my own. Unfortunately St Peters Church was closed as they were preparing for a big speech/event given by the pope himself.
The tour was about three hours in length and we walked through the main areas of the Vatican Museum. I saw some amazing maps, tapestries and sculptures, but i was most interested in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel – a room where on average 5 million people will arch their heads and marvel at the ceiling per year. After being herded around like sheep, we arrived in the great church, and it was amazing! You aren’t allowed to take pictures, but i couldn’t resist.. 😀
The ceiling basically walks you through the steps of creation, with the most famous picture being the creation of Adam. On the front wall is “The Last Judgement”, where the people on the left are going to heaven, and on the right are going to hell.
Interestingly, one of them is holding a lion skin, but it has the face of a man. The face is a self portrait of Michaelangelo – his very subtle signature for the piece!
I was very impressed with the Vatican museum, though having been to the Louvre only a few days beforehand probably detracted from my experience.
On the way back i visited the Spanish steps, which i really liked. I filled my bottle of water up at the fountain which was a sunken ship.
I then made my way to the Trevi Fountain, which was a real disappointment. The whole facade was covered in scaffolding and there wasn’t even any water! I have no idea why they would do renovations at this time of the year, but it really wasn’t much to look at!
I was up with the sparrows the next morning and arrived in St Peter’s square before it was even open! I still had to wait half an hour to get in, but managed to avoid the chaos. Once again, i was blown away by how amazing the architecture in this church was. The mosaics were incredible, spanning from wall to wall.
I decided to brave the heat and climb to the top of the dome, which turned out to be a great idea. Have a look at the view i saw from up there. It’s not often you can see a whole country whilst standing in one place, but i could trace the Vatican City from up there!
This is a great shot of the entrance to St Peter’s (taken from the dome), where you can see the two arms extended with massive pillars reaching out across the space – these arms are significant and were designed to welcome people into the church. They also have dozens of saints on them.
I spent the rest of the afternoon wearing holes through my shoes as i trekked around Rome by foot. I went into a few churches and they were all quite unique and interesting in their own way. This staircase i found particularly interesting – built in the fifth century without a central support beam! Once again – I was amazed by the architecture and engineering of this city!
It was the first Sunday of the month, and that meant free entry into the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. To make things even more crowded, the Vatican is closed on Sundays too, so it was guaranteed that I would be “fighting to the death” as i sought out these attractions (pun intended)! I lined up at the entrance to Palatin Hill, as i expected most people would be at the Colosseum, and i was right! I got my ticket to all three places and probably saved myself about an hour and a half waiting time in the Colosseum line. 🙂
The Colosseum was pretty much what i was expecting. It was massive, quite run down, but you could sense the enourmity of this structure and the amazing spectacles it would have hosted years ago. Although i didn’t do a guided tour, i researched it myself and also did a bit of eavesdropping whenever there was something of note. One thing i didn’t realise was that they used to flood the Colosseum and stage massive naval battles!
I walked on toward Palatine Hill – this area is famous as it is essentially the birthplace of Rome. Founded by the brothers Reamus and Romulus! There were historical structures and ruins everywhere, which gave it an awesome feel.
Finally, i arrived at the Roman Forum. A place with several important ancient government buildings and previously the heart of Rome. There was just so much to see in one place, and i wished that i was part of a tour so that i could get a better explanation of what i was seeing. Eavesdropping just wasn’t enough.
To tick all the boxes of my whirlwind Rome visit I made my way to the Pantheon. This is one of Rome’s most well preserved buildings after being completed around 126 AD!
With an early flight to Cyprus the next day, i couldn’t think of a better way to finish my stay than by having a traditional Italian Pizza!
Oh and of course some gelato from supposedly one of the best shops in the world, Giolitti. I have to say it was the best ice cream i have ever had, so for now i will agree 🙂 I had A scoop of chocolate and another of hazlenut, which was highly recommended on tripadviser.
Rome was great, but i will never come again at this time of the year – it is just too busy! 24 hours until I finally see Danielle again – it has been too long!!!