Cruise 2013 – Day 9 – Rome – Vatican City

One final breakfast before setting out into Rome, though I suppose technically, we wouldn’t be heading out into ‘Rome’ today, because we would set off via tram to the Vatican City – which is technically its own country (Why not call it ‘The Vatican Country’ then, dumbasses). The Vatican city is surrounded by a wall, though its anything but restrictive, and traffic and everything else passes freely between the Vatican and Italy.

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We set off in the morning via Tram, and after a half hour or so ride through the city, we arrived at el Vaticano. The mental image I had envisioned for the Vatican City was very different from how it actually looked, perhaps im old fashioned but I pictured it up on a hill, sort of away from everything else, maybe with a little sand. Nope, not ‘out of the way’ at all, and you can see it from miles away thanks to St Peters Basilica.

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Warning: Objects in picture may look smaller than they are in real life

There was a large queue just to get in/close to the basilica itself, and there are even fashion police towards the entrance – St Peters is a practicing church, and as such, no strappy tops, vests, hotpants or short skirts are allowed. We had the pleasure of seeing one woman be refused entry because her top was too revealing, lol.

The fashion police are hardcore, 30 degrees C and they stand there in their black suit in the sun, judging people's attire
The fashion police are hardcore, 30 degrees C and they stand there in their black suit in the sun, judging people’s attire

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Once we got inside, we were that we could walk up the Basilica, walking the stairs up costs 5 euros, and taking a lift 1/3 of the way and then walking the rest would set you back 7 euros, I opted for the latter in a futile attempt to save energy and sweat walking up the 551 steps to get to the top (taking the lift cuts it down to around 350 steps).
Mum and dad were having none of that, and stayed at the bottom, something I probably should have considered more. Once you enter, there is no turning back, the stairwells are cramped and hot, with a single file of tourists all the way both up and down.

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The first bit was okay, because I took the lift, it was only a short staircase from here to the inner top of the inside of the Basilica, this was a path on the inside of the dome inside the church – if that makes sense… (there will be pictures), the view from here was already incredible, and very high…From here it got worse, the stairwell eventually caves in slightly, preventing you from standing up straight, and then zig-zags for a while, before turning into a narrow spiral staircase… followed by another zig-zag staircase, and then one more super narrow spiral staircase, which is so narrow it doesn’t even have a middle column, just a knotted rope.

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Your reward for this trial is the best view possible in the Vatican city, or indeed Rome itself, a small viewing platform situated above the highest tower in St Peters Basilica, providing a magnificent view of both the Vatican and Rome. I wiped the sweat from my brow, and stayed a while – partially to enjoy the view, partially because there was a massive queue to go down because, once again, single file narrow staircases.

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Oh god I've changed my mind, maybe i'll just stay up here for good.
Oh god I’ve changed my mind, maybe i’ll just stay up here for good.

The journey down would lead to a souvenir shop situated on walkable roof of the basilica, I bought some souvenirs – both for my dad waiting downstairs (Christian) and a little something for some folk back home. Following the exit route to the end led straight inside St Peter’s itself, the most obnoxiously large anything I’ve ever seen. The ceiling inside St Peters is easily larger than most church towers, and then there are the different wings, the gigantic… I don’t even know what was in the middle, there are statues which are 2 stories high, a statue with real diamonds above it, the ceiling is apparently made of gold…
All the while, there are men in black suits walking around, telling people off, making sure people aren’t taking photos of forbidden objects, keeping people quiet, escorting people out for taking off items of clothing.. etc. I’ll let some pictures do the talking, but St Peters Basilica is the most famous church in the world for good reason, I’m not even remotely religious, but the statues and art in the basilica alone were worth the visit.

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‘Pieta’ by Michelangelo is apparently a big deal, though if im honest I had never heard of it before coming here.

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After leaving, we hunted down a nearby Italian restaurant with some guidance from mum’s phone, we ended up at yet another high rated restaurant. I ordered tortellini this time – small pasta packages with filling, I cant quite remember what was inside it, but it was served with bacon, mushroom and peas and cooked with cream, and it was delicious. We also shared a tiramisu for dessert, something I have been wanting to try since arriving in Rome, Tiramisu is an Italian dessert after all, so it made sense to try it (especially after already trying panna cotta yesterday). The tiramisu arrived yellow, which caught me off guard, as tiramisu in the UK is generally some variation of white and brown, one taste however was enough to remind me that this was the real deal though, the top was a mouse like custard/cream, light and with a sweet flavor, and then the bottom was sponge soaked in a light sweet coffee, it was a beautiful end to our penultimate Italian meal.

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Our next few hours would not go quite as smoothly, we were headed to the national museum (Museo Nazionale Romano), and originally planned to get there via bus, however our bus didn’t show up for around 15-20 minutes…. We changed our tactics and decided to take the metro, so after a short walk to the metro station, getting off at the right station (Termini) we walked around and spent about 30 minutes in the blazing roman heat trying to find the damn place, only to finally find out (90 minutes after we first started heading there) that the museum is closed on Mondays. Well shit.

Ragequit then. Back to the hotel.

There are random water fountains all around Rome just constantly spewing out drinking water, even the birds appreciate it, especially on hot days like this one.
There are random water fountains all around Rome just constantly spewing out drinking water, even the birds appreciate it, especially on hot days like this one.
Not quite everywhere in Rome is classy
Not quite everywhere in Rome is classy

A few hours later, we would make our reappearance at Trevi fountain, we had originally planned to come and see the fountain lit up at night, as we had heard it was very pretty when lit up, however the sun was still lingering about so would have to waste some time first.
I ended up in a liquor shop, trying to find more souvenirs, the shop assistant was throwing all sorts of alcohol at us to try and I was eventually talked in to buying some melon crème liquor, I grabbed a bottle to take to the next uni gathering I go to (so look forward to that guys 😛 ).

We searched around a little, trying to find somewhere nice nearby for dinner, and though there was no shortage of restaurants around, we had trouble finding ones with consistently good reviews. As a result, we ended up back at ‘Fontana Di Venere’ where we had lunch yesterday, the waiter recognized us and we got a few free bits and pieces during the meal, which was nice. I tried the lasagna today, it was really different to just about every other lasagna I’ve eaten, I believe the cheese was different, but it also felt like it was cooked then left to cool, then reheated – there was a clear solidity to it, you could cut into it with a fork and knife and the rest of it would remain a block of lasagna without turning into a big puddle of pasta and sauce, it was nice on the whole, but very heavy for a first course. The second course was veal again, though with a white wine cream sauce, accompanied by my favorite potatoes, and the finale was of course the panna cotta again. Our waiter gave us some Limoncello drinks on the house to finish the meal (Italian specialty lemon liquor), sour and strong, yet with a lovely fresh lemon aroma and tangy initial taste. Overall it was a very satisfying final meal in Italy.

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It was night by the time we left, so I snapped a few pictures of dark Rome (or rather, did the best I could considering the camera I was working with) and then we headed back to the gelato shop on our hotel road for one final adios. I feel borderline sick whilst typing this, but it was worth it.

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Italy has been incredible from start to finish, with delicious pizza, pasta and gelato (tripadvisor certainly helped us weed out all the crap meals), amazing architectural masterpieces (coliseum, pantheon, Vatican) and just generally nice areas, easy public transport and so on (sometimes, it’s the little things that count). I can’t forget the cruise as well of course – which was awesome, and then of course there are all of the Spanish cities we’ve visited (Barcelona, Palma, Valencia), all of which were beautiful in their own way. I still maintain Marseilles was shit though.

Hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my 2013 Europe holiday, if you read everything, you may be interested to know that this blog was just under 9000 words in length. Also I took over 1000 photos during the 9 day holiday, somehow.

If you’re interested in reading my holiday stories, the others can be found towards the bottom of this page – http://www.mengsbizarreadventure.com/travel/