Ciao! Let's tune back in to Day 2 of my Roman adventure...
After the exciting activities of my first day in Rome, you could imagine how tired I was the next morning. On top of that, I only had a couple hours until meeting my tour group outside of Vatican City. A tip about staying in spaces when sharing the same bathroom: Take your showers at night to avoid the crowd! After hovering outside the bathroom for almost an hour and finally getting dressed, my window of time to get to my meeting point had significantly diminished. My only choice was to order an car - never the frugal option.
Luckily, Rome had a few options of car transportation for me to choose from. I had downloaded the MyTaxi app, which hails a taxi in the area to pick you up, but since I hadn't set up an account with them yet, I opted to use Uber for this ride. I hopped into my car, telling my driver that I needed to arrive at the Vatican in 10 minutes, despite the 15 it would normally take to get there. "I'll try my best, but traffic this time of day can make that difficult," my driver told me. Regardless, I had faith in my driver as we maneuvered the Roman streets, taking the fastest routes he could find to get me to my destination.
Arriving right on time, I graciously thanked my driver and walked through the growing crowd of tourists to find my group. Once all of the people in my group found the tour guide and had our radio headsets on, we set out to the entrance of the Vatican. Our tour guide noted a few things on our way to the entrance:
Vatican City is actually its own country and the only one that doesn't require its visitors to have a passport.
The only way to enter the state is through a set of doors where security would check our bags, then leading us to the lobby of the Vatican museums.
Tickets are required to actually enter into the state, which our tour guide purchased for us as we stocked up on water for the nonstop 3-hour tour ahead of us .
In order to see the majority of the sights inside the city, our guide only took us to the most visited exhibits in the museums, since it would take several days to fully take in each piece of art. Our first stop was an outside terrace with a great view of the duomo of St. Peter's Basilica.
We then entered the Cortile della Pigna, or Pinecone Courtyard. There, we saw the Sphere within Sphere, a sculpture where the inner sphere represents the world, and outer sphere represents Christianity.
We had a bit of time before our next stop, so our guide took some time to teach us the history of the Sistene Chapel. Given that its ceiling is the main attraction, she provided photos and a thorough knowledge of the life of Michelangelo, with tons of facts about the history of the ceiling's past and present.
Next up -- the Vatican museums. While simultaneously swimming through the crowds and capturing masterpieces on my camera, I worked to remain attentive to my tour guide through my headset as she spoke about the history of certain pieces of art. This was a true test of my mental endurance to capture each piece in a unique way, while also keeping up with my group.
A few notable sites I found:
Hall of Tapestries
After soaking in all of the overwhelmingly gorgeous masterpieces and the history behind them, it was time to finally visit the Sistene Chapel! Following the stairs up to the chapel entrance, security guards directed us to the center of the chapel in order to make space for as many people as possible. Once in the middle, we then had the chance to take in the four years of both tiring and detailed work that Michelangelo put into the ceiling and front wall.
There are some strict rules to follow when visiting the Chapel:
You must wear clothing that covers your shoulders and knees out of respect.
No photography or video allowed.
No talking allowed.
Naturally, when you bring a swarm of tourists into a small, iconic space like this, such rules were taken lightly. Every few minutes, a guard's voice would boom over the speakers, "Silencio. No video. No photo." This distraction, in addition to the talkative crowd intruding on my personal space, made it much more difficult to take in the ceiling than anticipated. Despite these annoyances, I was able to immerse myself into the mind of Michelangelo for a mere 20 minutes. There were so many aspects to take into account - the colors, the details, the story - all of it left me in awe! Although overwhelmed by such artistry, I was still able to capture a pretty awesome photo of the ceiling.
Our time was up, so we headed outside towards our last stop of the tour: St. Peter's Basilica. I hadn't done much research of most of the Roman sites before arriving in the city, so it made sense that I was in no way prepared for what I was about to experience. I'll just state the obvious first - this church is HUGE. LIke, ENORMOUS. It's filled with so many iconic pieces of history, including the Pieta, the St. Peter's Baldachin, and the Holy Door.
The intricacy of both the ceilings and floors quickly caught my attention. If you're ever needing inspiration while in Rome, definitely take several minutes (or hours) to explore everything that St. Peter's has to offer.
Overall, this tour did a great job of allowing me to learn the history of the country, as well as appreciate the most well-known art that Vatican City has to offer. You can learn more about the tour here.
After stepping outside the gates of Vatican City, I crossed the Tiber and found a small restaurant to recharge for the second half of my day. I still had another tour booked for the next day where I would visit many more Roman sites, so I had some time to visit places that weren't included in that itinerary. While reading Eat, Pray, Love during lunch, the author mentioned a nearby park, Villa Borghese, that was pretty close to me.
Many steps and snapshots later, I finally entered the park, where I found couples strolling, models posing for photoshoots, and children playing at various playgrounds.
After taking more time reading and roaming around, I ventured out into the streets of Rome. Many incorrect turns later, I stumbled upon the Passeggiata del Pincio, a quiet spot overlooking Rome.
I then headed over to the Spanish Steps, which were unfortunately still under construction.
The sun was setting, and I knew it would be time to head home soon, so I took a route down Via del Corso, allowing me to see the posh part of town with every high-end store that you could imagine. This route conveniently gave me the chance to see the Pantheon without as many people around, allowing me to capture some awesome sunset shots.
After getting home and refreshing, I headed out into the Roman nightlife and had dinner at Ai Spaghettari.
It's always an out-of-body experience for me to visit places I've only seen or heard about in some distant context. Actually being in the presence of so much art refreshed my creativity this day. It instilled a continuous lesson I hear over and over of never stopping until your vision has been accomplished, no matter what the cost may be.
...never stop until your vision has been accomplished, no matter what the cost may be.
I'd learn this lesson many more times over the final days of my time in Italy. Rome had exhausted me, but the history and artwork made it all worth it.
Check out the posts below for more of my Italian adventures!