Touring Italy Rome Roma: Florence to Roma Termini was 1.5 hours. We reached at 9 pm and checked into a seedy hotel close to the station. Some of the hotels close to the station usually have their rooms distributed across various buildings. Ours was one such where the reception was in one building, the room in another and breakfast was served in a third.
Rome was well worth the wait. This is a beautiful city with a lot of sites to see. Frankly, we covered Rome in a haphazard manner since we ended up going to Vatican and Colosseum on both days. But if we were to cover Rome in a better way, here is how we would have done it.
Rome has just 2 metro lines and it is never easy getting on the metro to get to the next monument. So be prepared to trudge along on foot for long distances. A metro railcard costs? 4.
Keep one day for the Vatican. Preferably the first day itself. Check whether the Vatican Museum is open because that is what we did not do and had to go again the next day. Make sure you reach the Vatican Museum at 8 am as the lines to get in are long.
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Vatican Musei can be reached by getting on the Red Line (Linea A) in direction of Battistini and getting down at Cipro. If you want to visit only St. Peter’s Basilica, get down at Ottaviano. If you are lucky, then you will find a short line outside the museum gates else you will have to follow until the end of the line which sometimes ends up inside the courtyard of St. Peter’s Basilica.
The entry fee is? 12. There will be touts and guides along the line who will offer their services. Our advice is to take a guide. The Vatican Museum holds the largest private collection of artifacts and since everything is unmarked, you will go through the museum without understanding a thing.
The guide’s services are ? 30 per person. So that means you will be spending? 42 per person to see the whole of Vatican. It is also possible to bargain with the guide. Make sure your guide has a group standing well ahead in the line for you to join them. Otherwise, like us, you would end up spending 2 hours in the line waiting to get in.
The guide will breeze you through the most important artifacts in the museum. The Raphael rooms are good to see and so is the Sistine Chapel. Photography is allowed everywhere except the Sistine Chapel. The famous chapel which hosts the ceiling decorated by Michelangelo, as well as the Last Judgement, is a visual treat. The guide gave us a lot of information about Michelangelo and the history of the Sistine Chapel. She explained the paintings in detail and some snippets of the paintings, as well as Michelangelo’s life, were quite interesting.
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The tour ends in the amazing St. Peter’s Basilica. The largest cathedral in the world dwarfs you with its size and grandeur. Bramante, Michelangelo, and Bernini have lent their talent in creating of this majestic monument. Is it possible to climb the steps to the top of the dome by paying? 4. There are 330 steps to the top. The first landing takes you inside the dome from where you can glance down 150 feet to the altar. You can climb further up and reach the peak from the outside.
From here, you can catch a great view of the Piazza San Pietro’s semicircular colonnade, Vatican Gardens, Vatican railway station (used only for freight) and the Vatican museum. The walls of the smallest city in the world can be traced between the buildings. The city has a total area of 4 sq.kms has its own TV and radio station, currency and police force. You might catch the Swiss Guards in their colorful attire.
After coming down the dome, we visited the tomb of Pope Giovanni Paulo II and the tombs of the other popes. These tombs are located directly below the Basilica and below the altar is the remains of St. Peter. Make sure you buy a stamp from the Vatican gift shop or send a postcard back to your friends back home.
This tour takes most of your day. So either head back home or if you still have some Enthu left, cover some sights on Linea A while going back to your hotel. A night tour of the city is a good option. Starting from Roma Termini, the open roof bus takes 1 hour to take you through the sites. This tour can also be taken during the day but it’s a different experience seeing all the monuments lit up. Tour costs? 13.50.
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Other sights worth visiting in Rome are Piazza del Popolo from where you can walk right up to the Vittoriano covering Pantheon and Area Sacra di Largo Argentina on the way. The Area Sacra is supposed to be the site where Julius Caesar was murdered by Brutus. The Vittorio Emmanuel monument (Vittoriano) is a gargantuan structure which stands in the heart of the city.
This monument is magnificent and should not be missed. From the terraces of the Vittoriano, you can see the Roman Forum and the Palatine which are ruins of ancient Roman sites. The Colosseum is just a few yards from the Vittoriano and can also be reached via the Blue Line (Linea B). The Colosseum closes at 3:30 pm during winters and the entry fee is ? 10. Next to the famous arena is Arc de Constantine. Fontana di Spagna (Spanish Steps) and the area around it is quite lively in the evening. From here you can walk to the Fontana De Trevi (Trevi’s Fountain). It is said that if you toss a coin in this beautiful fountain, a return trip to Rome is guaranteed.
Some sights which we did not go to were the Castello St Angelo and Piazza Della Republica, which we covered only via the bus tour. The catacombs are another major attraction which we did not have time for. These are the underground graves which number around 50,000 and are under the aegis of the Vatican. You have to take a Vatican guide into the catacombs lest you get lost. These are situated further outside the central city. So if you are in Rome for the third day, do visit them.
I do hope this travelogue will be useful for anyone reading it to plan his/her trip to Italy. I plan to update the Only Planet Guide with further travelogues. So until the next version .arrivederci !!!
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