While in Rome we stayed close to the Vatican so we spent our first day (afternoon really) there. We had bought tickets to the Vatican museum and Sistine Chapel in advance – per advice from a friend. Holy cow, best travel advice I’ve ever been given. To get in the museum we had to walk for close to a kilometer past everyone without advance reservations before we showed our ticket and walked in the doors. And that line wasn’t moving. The people at the end of the line had to have been turned away – there’s no way they made it in before the museum closed. Derek really liked the hall of maps (above, right), but I was super excited to see the School of Athens fresco by Raphael.
We both marveled at the Sistine Chapel. And at how many people were in that room at once! Little L liked the stairs which was a problem because the guards were ushering the crowds away from the stairs, plus I didn’t really want her crawling up them with fat unsuspecting tourist feet trodding down. Good thing the guards thought she was cute – they let her crawl up the stairs & played with her while continuting to direct evevone else.
Although we had walked through the massive square in front of St. Peter’s Basilica to get to the Vatican Museum, we went back to really see it. As a bonus the line to get into the basilica was significantly shorter than it had been before we went to the museum. Woot for good timing. Once we got in everything in that church made me feel small. All of the artwork seemed a little higher up and bigger than in most churches. The floor space was overwhelming, as were the crowds. But I got to see Michaelangelo’s Pieta! Albeit through bulletproof glass. I realized when in St. Peter’s – while I love Renaissance art and sculpture, it’s not my favorite style for churches. However, the square with all of the Bernini sculptures is impressive.
The next day we hopped on a bus to get closer to central Rome (it was walkable, but we decided it was worth it to save some of our energy). We saw the Pantheon – such an impressive dome! Well done, ancient Romans. Fun fact – the ground inside the church is slightly slopped so the rain water from the oculus has somewhere to go. We also went to Piazza Navona,
threw coins into the Trevi Fountain,
I carried the stroller (with Daughter in it) all the way up the Spanish Steps (I’m a star),
ate some excellent food (the restaurant also being a tip from a friend),
and saw the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and The Roman Forum. It was a big day. It was the price we decided to pay for spending only 48 hours in Rome.
We definitely had more enthusiasm at the beginning of the day. We were kind of bummed by the tour we took at the Colosseum – the guide just didn’t give us any new information and didn’t take us around the actual arena. And we didn’t have much of a clue as to what exactly we were seeing at the Palatine Hill or the Forum. However, at the end of the day some gelato and pasta remedied our exhaustion. : )
The next day we wandered away from the Vatican over towards Piazza Navona again, through the Campo de’ Fiori market and then caught a muggy train (after a missed bus and a quickly-grabbed taxi) to Siena, Tuscany.
Thoughts about visiting Rome:
Ask your friends and family for what they loved and hated. I kind of think we’re the last people to visit Rome! ha. But seriously, use them as a resource. They know you and will have constructive things to say.
Anticipate crowds. Even in October half of Europe was also trying to see the Sistine chapel. Buy your tickets in advance. Or plan to spend a lot of times in lines.
You can’t see everything. Say it to yourself again. You can’t see everything. Unless you have some serious time to spend. However, I would wager the average trip to Rome isn’t much longer than ours. So be reasonable in your expectations. Rome has so much art and thousands of years of history – don’t expect yourself to experience it all in a matter of 24-36 hours.
This is Italy! It’s on the Mediterranean – the weather was much nicer than I expected it to be. Plan for that, but know that you’re not allowed into St. Peter’s with visible knees, midriff, or shoulders.Ciao!