After a relaxed morning catching up with an old Parisian friend over breakfast (a Florence resident for 8 years now) and finally visiting the Pitti Palace after our failed attempt the day before, we headed to the train station. All roads, and train tracks, lead to Rome!
A quick 1hr 15 fast train and here we are in the capital city of Italy. We’ve done some great planning and every day is jammed packed with sightseeing activities.
Day 1 was dedicated to the North and North West parts of the city, around the Vatican.
We’ve booked tickets online through a website called Tiqets as all Vatican tickets from the official website were sold out until the 22nd of July… Since we’ve got zero will for queuing, we went for the peaceful way and booked tickets through this website even though it was a bit more expensive, 30€ vs 17€ for normal tickets. These also allow you to skip the line though – on a hot day, worth every penny.
On our way to the Vatican we stopped by the Piazza del Popolo and then the Castel Sant’Angelo, the latter of which offered spectacular panoramic views over the city and Vatican square.
Then came our time slot for the Vatican, for which we had to hurry as the entrance was much further than we thought so we had to march to make it on time. Seeing the non-ticket holder line, we were happy we went with the slightly more expensive option to save time.
The Vatican was HECTIC. We shuffled our way through some of the museum’s galleries (like herded cattle!) and used our famous friend Rick Steves’ podcast to learn more about some of the marvels displayed.
We, along with the other billion people around, then made our way through to the famous Sistine Chapel and yep, it is pretty damn amazing. All of the different frescoes painted by Michelangelo are so full of history (literally) and really awesome to look at (though pretty hard on your neck). Baffled at how he managed to spend so many hours painting up above him, some scholars believed he was laying horizontally to paint, but this theory was later rejected.
Our podcast then indicated to take a right at the end of the chapel to make our way directly to St Peter’s Basilica, rather than follow the herd to the left. The sign said that only groups were allowed but we went anyway, and this saved us hours of queuing. Thanks Rick!
Though neither of us Christian, we must admit this basilica was jaw dropping. It was over the top extravagant, with golden ceilings and a giant bronze altar. It goes on and on and on (the markings on the floor show how other churches around the world pale in comparison in sheer size).
After spending nearly 4 hours in the Vatican, we then made our way to the old Jewish ghetto for a quick visit (our trusting walking tour app guiding us) before heading back home by foot. Long day of walking again.
For dinner, we then decided to keep spending to a minimum again (all this sightseeing is expensive!) and to cook our own carbonara, Italian style. When we asked an Italian nonna (grandmother) at the supermarket where to find the cream as we couldn’t see it, she looked at us horrified at what we just asked and proceeded to explain how it should be done (with a mixture of gestures, broken English, and a translation app). We followed her methods carefully, and it was DELICIOUS.
Now time for a good night sleep before another full day of visits!
- If you haven’t booked your tickets for the Vatican, follow the tickets holders line and go all the way in. No one checks in the street if you actually have tickets and you can then just buy tickets inside (non-tested but pretty sure it would work, do so at your own risk!).
- According to the Roman mama we met, the good carbonara recipe only involves spaghetti, raw eggs, Pecorino, lardons and olive oil. No cream!
Distance walked: 22,442 steps. 14.95km