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- Posted:Wednesday, March 5, 2014
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A visit to the world's smallest state
One early morning, accompanied with a semi-hot cappuccino and croissant eaten like a true Roman – standing up and in a hurry – I was off on the Metro to the Vatican.
From Termini you can access the Vatican by walking (a good walk), by bus (40 or 64) or by the Metro (Ottaviano stop). If your first port of call around Vatican City is the Vatican Museum then the Metro stop is probably closer.
When you reach the top of the Metro steps you will be greeted by people selling tours. If you just want to do your own thing and visit the Vatican Museum at your own leisure then keep walking. But, if you want someone to fill in all the history and show you exactly where you're going and what you're looking at, then taking one of these tours will be a good idea. They range in price from €30 to €65 depending on what’s involved. It might be worth your while to do a bit of research on these tours before you visit to see which one offers the best value-for-money.
You can also plan ahead and book your tour online with the official Vatican website but these tours do sell out quickly, so book ahead in advance. Bear in mind that in order to enter the Vatican Museum alone the fee is €15 and that covers the museums and Sistine Chapel. Of course, St. Peter’s Basilica is free to enter but there is an admission fee to climb the dome.
My hopes of striking lucky and getting a quiet day at the Vatican were instantly dashed when I got to the queue for the Vatican Museum. Unfortunately the tour that I was on was not one where you could skip the line. However, we had a very interesting and knowledgeable tour guide called Francesco and he entertained our wait by providing us with the history and facts about the Vatican. After passing through security (do not bring a big bag pack or tripod as they will make you check it in; also make sure you have your shoulders and knees covered), we started our tour of the Vatican Museum.
The museum part is packed full of detailed sculptures, maps, decorative ceilings and so much more. On a busy day in the Vatican Museum it can be tough to appreciate these amazing art works as droves of tourists are herded through, trying their best to catch a glimpse of what their guide is talking about. However, this is bound to happen during high season due to the incredible volume of visitors at this top Rome attraction.
Our next stop was the Sistine Chapel, which was a little bit easier to view as you just have to look up! Having already been informed about a lot of its detail by Francesco, we spent a lot of time looking for what we had been told to search for or noticing other parts of this amazing work of art.
St Peter’s Basilica was next on our route and, with stiff necks from all our looking up at Michelangelo’s great accomplishment, we gathered at the back of St. Peter’s to take in the largest interior of any Christian church in the world. When it comes to churches, St. Peter’s really is the Holy Grail of the Christian world (all puns intended).
A walk around St. Peter’s Basilica is not only an awe-inspiring look at a church with what is practically a museum inside of it; it’s also a great free thing to do in Rome. You could spend hours in St Peter’s as there is so much to see and detail involved in its interior. It also has a serene and calming atmosphere despite the throngs of tourists that pass through its doors daily.
With our tour and the entire morning over, I took a stroll alone around St. Peter’s Square and the tiny state that is Vatican City. Once you’re done taking in the sites of the Vatican, I recommend that you walk in the direction of Castel Sant’Angelo along Via della Conciliazone. However, no matter how thirsty or hungry you are, my advice would be to stay clear of any of the food establishments around here as they are the ultimate tourist traps (€5 for a glass of cola!). Castel Sant’Angelo is often an overlooked tourist attraction on the Rome trail but this castle is steeped in history, most of which is from a darker time in Rome.
In front of Castel Sant’Angelo you will see the beautiful bridge that is Pont Sant’ Angelo. This will lead you back into the centre of Rome so you can continue with your sightseeing – that’s after a quick rest to put your feet up, of course.
I spent the early evening in Piazza del Popolo for dinner as well as for a stroll around this open square, which is also home to... you guessed it, another fountain! Piazza del Popolo is a popular area for both locals and tourists in the evening, whether you're dining in the area or just people watching from the fountains.
After a long day on my feet and one well-deserved glass of Italian red wine later, I made my way back on the metro to Termini for my last night’s sleep in Rome.
Photos courtesy of David McSpadden and Paul Speed. All images used under the Creative Commons license.