Rome, our first stop in Italy. We chose to travel to Italy for the Easter holidays, which turned out to be a slight lapse in judgement, considering Easter weekend in Rome meant the city would be PACKED. Even though it made portions of the trip a bit uncomfortable with the crowds, it was still worth it.
After a 2-hour flight from London, one of the first things we noticed is that signage in Italy is kind of confusing. Signs would lead to one area, but then no sign to tell you where to go next. When trying to buy a train ticket, it was clear that no-one really knew where to go since there seemed to be about 3-4 different places you could buy a ticket. To add to the confusion, we wanted to pick up the pass we bought to have fast track access into the Vatican and the main Rome sights. It turned out to be quite frustrating trying to locate the office at the airport station as well as Roma Termini. We ended up waiting until going to the Vatican the next day to pick up the pass. We ended up taking a taxi from Roma Termini to our hotel since we had trouble locating the bus we needed to take.
After checking into our B&B (Bed & Breakfast…but with no Breakfast…so just Bed), we decided to get a late dinner and explore Rome at night. We went to Piazza Navona, the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain. I LOVE cities at night. London is gorgeous at night, and Rome is no exception. The fountains and monuments seem so much more idyllic at night.
It turned out that getting the Omnia pass was worth it since we planned this trip for Easter weekend. To say that it was crowded would be an understatement. On Saturday we decided to visit the Vatican. Due to it being Easter weekend, Saturday was the only day we could go since it would be closed on Sunday and Monday for Easter services. The Omnia pass included the Vatican and the Roma pass. The Vatican pass enabled us to jump the queue at St Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum. It was definitely worth it because the queue was LONG. After getting shoved and herded by the many tourist groups, we made our way through the Basilica. It’s gorgeous, but I really wish we’d gotten more time inside.
The Vatican Museum was quite something too. The Sistine Chapel is obviously the main attraction. There’s an additional tip below about that, but if you’re making your way to the Sistine Chapel, take the shorter route. I was warned about this by my colleague, but I missed the entrance. There will come a point where there are stairs going up on your left, and a courtyard out to the right. There is a sign that says “shorter route” to the Sistine Chapel whereas if you enter after the courtyard, it’s the long route. Take the short route. By all means explore the courtyard w/ the gold globe, but go back and take the short route. We took the long route and it was LONG. It’s a one way trip to the chapel going through halls and halls of stuff.
With all the trouble it took to get there, it was a bit anticlimactic. We’d been on our feet all day getting shoved and herded, so we were both pretty tired. As much of a pain it was, in hindsight, it was worth it. Heading into the Sistine Chapel there are signs saying no photographs. When you reach the stairs to go in, there is a voice recording telling you no photographs are allowed. Joe was even preparing his camera to covertly take photos because as he put it “I didn’t go through all that to see it and not take pictures”. Well, it turns out, it didn’t matter. Everyone and their mother was taking photos and the guards weren’t doing a thing. They just stood there, and watched. I was a bit mortified that they were allowing people to take flash photographs, but oh well. I tend to be quite a rule abider, but I was soon snapping away.
Our last full day in Rome we decided to visit the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. When we first saw the Pantheon on Friday night, it was closed so on Sunday, we were able to go inside before hitting the Colosseum. Once again, the Roma pass came in handy at the Colosseum. We were able to jump the queue and go in with hardly any wait. Without much context, it’s hard to appreciate the Colosseum. Obviously if you’ve seen Gladiator film, it’s probably a bit cooler. It was still quite an impressive structure. The Roman Forum was interesting. We were also able to jump the queue but it wasn’t that long. It was a lot of walking and from all the walking and standing we’d done the previous day, I wanted to take a lot of breaks. Once again, without much context, the stones and pillars may not have much meaning. The cool thing was, I was able to bust out my kindle and look up different things to read on wikipedia (very handy!).
Tips for traveling in Rome:
1. The train from the airport to Roma Termini is about 25 minutes long and quite comfortable. It cost us 14 euros each.
2. The most popular bus to take around Rome is the 64. To access the buses from Roma Termini, go out the main front doors, pass the taxi lines. You’ll come to one set of buses, keep going straight past them, and you’ll encounter another area with more buses. These are the ones that should take you where you need to.
3. Beware of pickpockets on the buses, especially the 64 as it is the one most tourists take.
4. When visiting Vatican Museum and you want to see the Sistine Chapel, you’ll come to a place where there are stairs on your left, 2 signs in the middle and a courtyard ahead with a gold globe in it. For the shorter trip to the Sistine Chapel, go LEFT. By all means visit the courtyard, but turn back and go the shorter route. The long route…is long.
5. Consider getting the Omnia and/or Roma pass if your time in Rome is limited. If you’re planning on visiting over the busy summer period, it may be worth your while to jump the queue. It also gives you free usage of the Roma Christiana tour buses as well as the local buses and metro.
And now onto photographs! I have to admit…out of the entire trip, I took some of my favourite photographs in Rome. Enjoy!