The Eternal City

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September 28th 2015
Published: December 6th 2015
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First day of sight-seeing in the Eternal City, aaand the metro's closed. Of course, in true Italian style, this means we get to buy the tickets and get down to the station only to be turned back by police. No explanation given (later we were told it was due to a 'crash' which I sincerely hope is not true.) So we were sent over to the buses, which were ridiculously full. So we headed to the taxi queue, which was round the block. Mmmm. Luckily we managed to steal a taxi at drop-off and, thanks to the amazing (if slightly crazy) driver we got from Termini to the Vatican in 15 minutes. I think we may have gone through a park at some point but never mind.

The Vatican was amazingly calm and we got through the pre-booked queue in about 15 minutes, dead on time. Now, the Vatican museums are amazing but, be warned, wear sensible shoes. I wish I had had a pedometer as it must have been miles.

The only other time I visited the Vatican was a mad dash through to see the Sistine Chapel, which left me incredibly underwhelmed frankly. This time we took our time (well, three hours at least) and still felt rushed. I feel bad for the artists who spent half a lifetime creating some of the statues, only for it to be placed in the corner of a room, given a cursory glance by tourists, and ignored. You could spend days in the museum and still not see everything.

One rather surreal thing to see was a portrait of George IV. Along with the American couple who were, in the whiniest accent ever, commenting on the fact he was wearing a bib., that's a cravat.

Leaving the museum we avoided the majorly over-priced restaurants outside, walked exactly one block and found restaurants for a tenth of the price (literally - we met someone who had been given a bill of over 80 euros at Caffe Vaticano, opposite the entrance). Something which really impressed me about the museum itself was they didn't try to rip off tourists too badly. Drinks machines were 1 euro inside, and the cafe was very reasonably-priced. They were also very good about the kids running round the gift-shop, despite the 200euro plus replica busts everywhere. Italy is very family-friendly.

Walking round to St. Peter's we were accosted by various people trying to sell 'entrance tickets'. Being pretty sure it was free as always we ignored their threats that 'it was already fully-booked.' Very confusing in the end what they were trying to do as, despite the horrendously long queue snaking round most of the square, we got in in under half an hour. There are admittedly far more beautiful churches in the world but it seemed worth a visit. What was worth the trip was to go up the dome. Spurning the offer of a 5euro lift (it only skipped out 300 steps anyway) we got out cardio for the day. The view from the main roof is truly stunning, a hundred or so more steps up inside a (wonky!), yellow-tiled (as only the '70s could have done!), very narrow staircase was slightly less fun. Congratulations to me, my vertigo did not hit and we made it up inside the dome.

There was some ceremony happening below which was rather cool to see (although an odd thought that people are always watching you, I don't think I'd ever realised they were up there when we had been inside the basilica.) The Pope was still in America so I'm not sure who his replacement was. Even further up was the outside view from the dome, very crowded (more due to lack of space than an excess of people) so we beat a hasty retreat one level down. Now there is a certain strange comfort to be got from finding something very, very familiar when abroad but I draw the line at the epitome of commercialisation in one of the holiest buildings on Earth. Yes, the rooftop cafe inside St. Peter's serves espresso...and coca cola. It takes a little away from the awe and wonder to see so many people sitting around with giant cups of coke on the roof of a basilica. However, after 500 steps were in desperate need of sugar so we had no qualms about joining them.

Retreating to street level it was quite late in the day and we had still planned on seeing the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps. We were so energised we even thought we'd walk home. Not the best idea when we got lost, had to backtrack seven blocks to go to the Spanish Steps which are just some stone steps completely covered in tourists. I'm actually at a loss as to why they are famous, they were literally steps which you couldn't even use due the insane number of people sitting on the. And there was a McDonalds next to them which didn't exactly add to the ambience.

So we quickly moved on to the Trevi Fountain which I was sure was going to be more impressive. And it probably is, when it's not empty and covered in scaffolding. It's just one of those things i would have liked to tick off my list but I'm pretty sure if I had chucked a coin into the fountain it would have hit one of the cleaners and I would have been done for assault. So I managed to get a sneaky photo of the top, and pretend I'd actually seen it without the plastics screens, and with water.

Absolutely exhausted we headed back for pizza and wine. When in Rome! According to Google maps, we walked about 8 kms, not including walking around the museums or up the dome. Maybe I could count travelling as a new exercise regime!

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7th December 2015
Spiral Staircase

The Vatican
How wonderful you could visit without mind numbing queues. Having been an exhibition woodcarver in a previous life I would love to oggle the wood, statues and stone mason mastery of Rome and the Vatican. When you consider a piece is not finished until the last scratch, gouge or blemish is removed, the words patience and dedication take on reverential meaning. visit the be so lucky!
7th December 2015

The Vatican
Thanks as usual for your wonderfully worded account. Thank you for climbing the steps for me and showing where that staircase is I have seen on the adverts on TV so many times.

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