(For the first part of my solo trip to Rome, click here.)
Saturday morning, I got up early again to make my way back to the Vatican. This time, I was there to visit the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. I highly recommend buying tickets online ahead of time, since doing so allowed me to bypass the line and pretty much walk straight in.
I wandered around the museums for several hours, which turned out to be perfect because it rained that morning. The Vatican has a large collection of random old things, some of which I’m sure they must have acquired in less than reputable ways. The collection of Egyptian items was probably my favorite simply because some of them were so old (anything around 2000 years old or more tends to impress me quite a bit). Although, I find it a bit disturbing that most of the Egyptian stuff in museums around the world are things from people’s tombs that were basically stolen from their graves. This is especially disturbing considering Egyptian beliefs about the afterlife (hopefully, we haven’t ruined anyone’s afterlife by taking all of the stuff out of their tomb…).
The Vatican has a lot of stuff. A lot. Here are just a few pictures of said stuff (below- click for captions).
The Sistine Chapel is the last thing you see after going through the Vatican Museums. It was cool to finally see it, but it was a little underwhelming, mainly because there were so many people trying to see it. It’s supposed to be a chapel, and they try to enforce silence, but people are constantly talking and workers are constantly yelling at people to stop talking (occasionally over loudspeakers…). It ruins the vibe, I think. No pictures are allowed inside the chapel, but you can find plenty on the internet.
After grabbing lunch, taking the metro to the Forum, taking it back to my hostel to grab my camera, and returning to the Forum, I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the ruins on Palatine Hill and the ruins of the Roman Forum. I could have spent so much longer here than I did, but I didn’t have the time before it closed for the day. This was probably my favorite tourist site out of all that I visited while in Rome. It was so cool to walk where emperors walked, to touch buildings (or parts of buildings) that had been standing for 2000 years, and to see temples to Roman gods and goddesses.
I made my way to the Pantheon next, which I sat outside of for a while because there was a mass going on when I got there, so no tourists were allowed inside (interesting how a building originally dedicated to the Roman gods and goddesses is now a Catholic church). The Pantheon is a pretty cool building and probably the best conserved from it’s time period. It also shows the ingenuity of Roman architects. The dome is built of different materials, with the heavier materials towards the bottom and lighter materials towards the top to help keep it from collapsing. The big oculus in the center also makes the structure weigh less, as do the square impressions on the inside of the dome. The ancient Romans really knew what they were doing.
I then met up with one of the people I met at my hostel and we wandered around the center of the city a bit, visiting Piazza Navona and Trevi fountain again (this time in the dark).
We then walked across the Tiber River to Trastevere, a popular area to eat in Rome full of restaurants. The restaurant we wanted to go to was very small and we had to put out name on a waiting list and wait with the rest of the small mob (which was fine since we were waiting for another person we met at the hostel to join us). While we were waiting, an American guy overheard us speaking English and asked us how to get a table. We informed him of the long waiting list, then offered to let him sit with us since there were only three of us and there likely wasn’t a three person table (we were right about that).
This restaurant was great. I had carbonara (as did everyone else I was with) and it was so good. Normally, I don’t like carbonara, at least not the way Americans make it (which is very, very wrong I learned), but this was amazing. The sauce was eggy and the bacon/ham was delicious. To top off the great meal, I also had some really good tiramisu for desert.
After dinner, the four of us wandered around the city, hitting up Piazza Navona again, the Trevi fountain (at least my third time there), and the Spanish Steps. The Spanish Steps, we were disappointed to find, were closed for construction. So enjoy my picture of the plexiglas barrier surrounding them.
We then grabbed some drinks, and I tried amaretto (a sweet, almond-flavored liqueur from Italy) for the first time at the recommendation of one of my new acquaintances who was studying abroad in Italy. We talked for a while before the three of us from the hostel headed back for the night. After such a long day and a lot of walking, I slept extremely well that night.
The next morning (Sunday) I decided to sleep in as late as possible, which still wasn’t that late since we had to check out by 10am. I headed back over toward the Vatican with the same two people from the hostel, where we split up to finish our sight-seeing lists. I walked by St. Peter’s Square, which was full of people waiting to be addressed by the Pope since it was Sunday. I decided I didn’t want to wait in the long lines to get into the square and headed to the Castel Sant’Angelo a few blocks away. This castle is actually connected to the Vatican by a long, raised, arched walkway and popes have stayed there from time to time. There’s also a decent view of the cupola of St. Peter’s Basilica from the castle.
I met back up with people for lunch and gelato (soooo good) before making our way back to the hostel to escape the rain. Having seen all the sights I really wanted to see in the city, I was content to sit and let my feet rest for a while. A bit later, I wandered around the stores in Termini Station before catching the bus to the airport. A big storm was moving through the area, which delayed a bunch of flights (including mine), but I managed to make it back to the airport in Valencia just in time to catch the last train into the city (thankfully, because it’s 5 euros for the metro vs. 25+ euros for a taxi into the city).
All in all, I had a great weekend in Rome and can say that my first solo trip was a success. Here’s to traveling solo in the future! Hasta luego.