The month of August took us to Italy for a brief trip around Rome and a big family wedding further up the country. Part 1 of this multi-staged blog will focus on Rome and what we got up to there.
After narrowly making our flight from London Gatwick (this is becoming a bit of a theme), we headed to the most inhabited city in Italy, the capital, Rome. If you are heading into Fiumicino airport the best (and easiest) way to get to the centre of Rome is to use the Leonardo Express. This is a 32 minute train journey into Roma Termini, the main train station in the city centre. Tickets are €14 each and you are better off buying them at the airport once you have landed.
Once in Rome itself, the Metro is the cheapest way to travel. Our hotel was situated near the Colosseum, so just two stops on the Metro got us to our new home. Tickets for the Metro are €1.50 each and last up to 100 minutes meaning you can travel around for a bargain.
When we arrived out of the Metro station we were greeted with the most amazing site. The sun had already set but the lighting made the Colosseum look fantastic.
Since we were staying so close to the Colosseum and we were hungry, we thought it would cost a fortune to eat out. Luckily for us, we were wrong! Down the side streets encircling the Colosseum are many different restaurants all competing for business, this allowed us to eat two courses with wine for around €30 total. Not only was it affordable, it was delicious!
Our first full day took us to the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel. Which is about a 30 minute ride from where we were on the Metro.
A useful tip when visting the Vatican:
Obviously booking online beforehand is the smartest thing to do but the most important thing is to ignore the touts. As soon as you arrive to the outskirts of Vatican City, men with what looks like ‘authentic’ identification, accost you. They tried to tell us that our tickets would not let us into the Sistine Chapel and if we paid them now we would get our tickets upgraded. This is not true at all. Entrance to the Vatican Museum includes a visit to the Sistine Chapel. Please do not fall into their trap.
The walled city itself is beautiful. The gardens flourished with colour and were very well cared for. The museum itself collected a vast array of religious artwork from all over the work with some pictured below:
The walk to the Sistine Chapel gets busy. Hordes of tourists all piling into one small room. The journey there was interesting, with beautiful reliefs and murals adorning the walls and guards staring at you the whole while. In my mind beforehand, I thought that the “Creation of Adam” would take centre stage in the Chapel, unrivalled by all those around it. This was not the case at all. You are not allowed to take photographs while inside but as you can see from the badly taken picture below, the ceiling is plastered with the beautiful artwork of Michelangelo with the small-looking “Creation of Adam” nestled alongside other beautiful creations. This took him four years to finish back in the 1500s.
After heading back to our hotel for a quick break we decided to have a crack at entering the Colosseum. A short walk took us to its grand outside but then the weather took a turn for the worse. Raindrops the size of golf balls flew out of the moody sky absolutely soaking us through. We decided to quickly go back to our hotel and wait for the storm to blow over. The five minute walk was so wet. Flash floods had turned the roads into rivers and drains were overflowing. I couldn’t believe it, not ten minutes ago the weather was warm and sunny!
After a couple of hours it was like nothing had happened, the streets had returned to normal, the skies were blue and the air heated up again. We finally made it inside the Colosseum and after, took a stroll around Palatine Hill, one of the famed seven hills of Rome.
The Colosseum nowadays can hold up to 3000 people at once, and as a main tourist attraction it does get busy. Back in the year 80, after its creation, this amphitheatre could hold up to 70,000 people. This crowd would watch gladiatorial fights, animal shows, dramas based on mythology and naval warship reenactments. It is a great place to visit, highly recommended.
We didn’t get to see everything we wanted to in Rome in such a short period. They say Rome wasn’t built in a day and it can’t be visited properly in one either. It does however mean that we should visit again in the future.
The next day we took the Metro back to Rome Termini for our connecting train to Perugia, an Umbrian city around two hours north of Rome for a big family wedding This will be covered in Part 2 of the blog.