Day 1 Roma - The Vatican Gardens & Museums

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April 21st 2015
Published: April 23rd 2015
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We set the alarm for 6.30am this morning so that we would have plenty of time to have breakfast downstairs at the hotel and then walk to the Vatican. After about six of hours of sleep we were awake at 6.15am anyway so decided to get showered and dressed and aim to be in the breakfast room close to 7.00am when it opens. There was plenty of food to choose from for breakfast with the buffet including: fruit, fruit juice, cereal, bread, rolls, meat, cheese, croissants and pastries. And, if that wasn't enough to choose from we could order a cooked breakfast!

After a modest breakfast, considering what was on offer, we cleaned our teeth and then set off for the Vatican. Rather than taking the most direct route, and risk getting lost in the small streets and alleys, we decided to stick to the main roads! We managed to cross several streets without being run down - even though we were using the pedestrian crossings. Pedestrian crossings in Rome (probably all of Italy) are a suggestion only and you cannot rely on the drivers to stop for you. The only place we've been that is worse for pedestrians is Hanoi City in Vietnam. There were police stationed at the last pedestrian crossing before the Vatican so we were given a Police escort across that one! Not surprisingly the drivers are much more likely to stop if there is a policeman in sight.

We had to walk around the wall of the Vatican to reach the entrance. All the way we were being hassled by touts wanting to sell us tickets and/or offering their guiding services. Bernie was very happy to be able to tell them all that we had already booked on-line. Absolutely the best way to do it - it makes you feel like a VIP as you by-pass the queue! We reached the entrance and cleared security well before the official opening time of 9.00am. Once we were in it was an easy matter to exchange our voucher for tickets on the 9.30am Vatican Garden Tour which runs on Tuesdays.

With the sky cloudless and blue and the sun shining it was a perfect Spring day in Rome to take a tour of the Vatican Gardens. The gardens are looking fabulous at the moment with lots of plants flowering or about to flower. The wisteria was probably the stand out at the moment with the roses needing a week or two more before they are blooming. The gardens were full of fabulous vantage points from which to photograph the dome of St Peter's Basilica so, not surprisingly, we took HEAPS of photos!

At the conclusion of the garden tour we were free to continue on our own through the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. Awesome, we have wanted to return to the Vatican Museums since our whirlwind visit in 2001 when we had only three hours to visit St Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Museums. Apart from the Sistine Chapel the only thing we could remember of our previous 'short itinerary' visit was racing past corridors of mediaeval tapestries that we didn't have the time to appreciate!

With the rest of the day free to devote to the Vatican Museums we went in search of a map. Every second person had a map; where did they get them from? There were signs up about audio guides being available with a map, but we didn't want an audio guide - just a map. We hunted around for about ten minutes, but couldn't find the maps anywhere. We had given up and decided to hire an audio guide ... just to get a map! Fortunately, from his place in the queue, Bernie spied the maps on a counter so he left the queue and walked around the other side of the counter and took a map. We don't know if we were entitled to a map if we hadn't paid for an audio guide, but we got away with it!!

Map in hand we commenced our 'complete itinerary' visit of the Vatican Museum. The museum's collections are extensive to say the least ranging from antiquities from Egypt and the Near East, Egypt and Rome to 21st century art. On this visit we were able to stroll through the Galleria degli Arazzi and actually admire the tapestries and then the Galleria delle Carte Geografiche where we enjoyed the amazing maps of the Italian Peninsula that are painted on the walls of the corridor.

Although we had plenty of time this visit to enjoy the museum's collections we also had lots of company!! The downside to taking the garden tour first was that the museum was quite full of tourists by the time that we ventured into it. C'est la vie! At least we have seen the collections in more detail than we managed on our last visit.

From the Vatican Museum we ventured around to St Peter's Square with a plan to climb the dome of St Peter's Basilica because we didn't have time to do that either on our last visit. We arrived in St Peter's Square to be confronted by temporary fencing and thousands of chairs laid out in the square. Unbeknownst to us the Pope is giving a general audience on Wednesday morning. Hmmn, maybe that's why there was a RIDICULOUS queue to enter the Basilica??! Seriously, the queue went half way around the square. We decided that we weren't prepared to queue for that long. We might try again another day before we leave Rome. Very early in the morning perhaps!!

We started to head back towards our hotel via Castel Sant' Angelo and across the Ponte Sant' Angelo. We walked along the Fiume Tevere (River Tiber) to Ponte Umberto I because Bernie wanted to check the alignment of the Pont Sant' Angelo and the dome of St Peter's for a night shot that he has seen and wants to copy. Yep, the Eastern end of the Ponte Umberto I is the place to be.

With plenty of time to explore, Bernie navigated us to Piazza Navona and the Pantheon via some of the small streets and alleys. After visiting the Pantheon we stopped for a rest (and drinks!) at Cafe Claudia overlooking the Pantheon. After a big day of walking around Rome, it was really lovely to just sit for a while and watch people go by.

On our way to the Pantheon we saw a Supermercato so we popped back there to buy water, Coke and beer to take back to the hotel. Water is so much cheaper at supermarket prices!! We paid €2.00 per 1.5 litres last night compared with €0.60 per 1.5 litres this afternoon. It always pays to find the supermarket if you can so that you are paying what the locals pay for things rather than tourist prices.

We put our feet up at the Hotel Regno for a couple of hours before heading back to Ponte Umberto I to take that night shot of St Peter's Basilica with the Ponte Sant' Angelo and the Fiume Tevere in the foreground. Bernie wasn't the only one with this shot in mind; the bridge was lined with photographers with their tripods hoping to take a great night shot of St Peter's!! How's this for optimism? There was a guy on the bridge selling selfie sticks so he asks Bernie if he wants to buy one. Yeah right, the guy with the DSLR and a tripod is going to want a selfie stick!!

After dropping the camera gear back to the hotel we headed back out for some dinner just around the corner at La Locanda Del Tempio. We started by sharing an inslata caprese and bruschetta agliolio and followed that up with prawn risotto and seafood linguine washed down with house white and beer respectively.

We were both feeling pretty tired by 10.30pm so had another fairly early night. There's another tour booked for the morning that we need to be ready for!

Steps for the day a whopping 26,961 (20.36km)

Additional photos below
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24th April 2015

Night photography
Fabulous night shot of the river, bridge & Vatican. Really wish I was there with you. Thanks for all your 'newsy' & detailed blogs Tracey; enjoying all your comments. Caroline
24th April 2015

Night photography
Fabulous night shot of the river, bridge & Vatican. Really wish I was there with you. Thanks for all your 'newsy' & detailed blogs Tracey; enjoying all your comments. Caroline

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