City Break to Rome - Part 2
So continuing where we left off from last week..
Just to recap - We'd decided the day before that we would go to the Colosseum and have a look around the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and book tickets for the Vatican for Monday.
Day 2 in Rome was a beautiful blue-sky, sunny day. We were up early as we knew there would some pretty long queues at all the sites so we skipped breakfast and headed out. As it was a Sunday, the buses were pretty quiet and we made our way to Piazza Venezia in about 10 mins.
From here, we walked past the Altar of the Fatherland again (see previous post) and along past the Roman Forum towards the Colosseum. There was already a queue forming outside the Roman Forum but we thought we'd checkout the Colosseum first.
On route, we spotted a Tourist Information Centre and as I'd forgotten our map at the hotel, I figured I'd grab another one there and see if we could also get some tickets to the Vatican. Whilst there, we found out that admission to the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill was free on the first Sunday of the month. All we had to do was queue up at the Roman Forum entrance and we'd get a ticket that would give us access to all three. Score!
We headed straight to the Roman Forum as it was practically opposite and only had to wait about 20 mins before getting our free tickets and going in.
Walking around the Roman Forum, we soon realised that having an audio guide might have been useful as there wasn't much information around the place to tell you what you are looking at. We did some research after we'd been and found out that it was once the centre of social and economic activity and some of the ruins date back to 6BC.. mind boggling!
We walked back on ourselves before heading towards the Colosseum end and walked past some beautiful wisteria and then past the Temple of Romulus who was the founder and first King of Rome.
When the Colosseum comes in to view, it's really impressive and actually the vantage point you have from within the Roman Forum is superb and there are minimal tourists to contend with for photo opps.
To the right is the Arch of Constantine.
Whilst we were there, Si proposed. (see Our Engagement Story for more details)
As we hadn't had any breakfast and we just had to toast our exciting news; we left the Roman Forum and headed to lunch. We stopped in a Pizzeria just off from the Colosseum and had our first pizza in Roma with a glass of vino to celebrate.
After lunch, we headed to the Colosseum and although there were significant queues - because we had our free tickets there was a separate line to join so we only had to wait about half an hour before going in.
Once we were in though, I felt a bit underwhelmed - don't get me wrong, it's really interesting to be in a place where such historical events took place but I felt like the outside is more spectacular than the inside.
We still enjoyed walking around it and taking in the sights and the history.
There was even a cheeky seagull embracing the history too...
We skipped Palatine Hill and called it a day as we needed to head back to our hotel to freshen up, tell our families our good news and then go to dinner at the Hotel Eden. See more details about this in Our Engagement Story.
On Monday, we headed in to Trastevere for breakfast and picked up some delicious pastries before we headed towards Vatican City. We'd originally planned to get on one of the local trains and get off at St Peters Station but we ended up on a tram and heading in the wrong direction.. We jumped off the tram and decided we were better walking and I'm so glad we did!
Our route took us along the River Tiber and in the sunshine it was stunning. We got some great shots of the water and got to see a different part of the Eternal City.
After a very leisurely stroll that only took about 45 minutes, we had arrived at the Vatican.
Vatican City is it's own state and so it's actually separate from Roman rule but still within Rome if that makes sense..
Most of it is surrounded by a wall but St Peter's Square is an open and public area. When we were standing outside St Peter's Basilica words failed me - I'd seen it in photos and on the Angels and Demons film but being there in person - just WOW!
It's a colossal church and St Peter's Square and the colonnades that surround it only add to its grandeur.
I knew without a doubt that this was one site that I wanted to pay to go in to and doing it through a guided tour would probably be the best way as I figured there'd be a lot to take in.
All around St Peter's Square are some official offices that you can go in to to get signed up on to a tour - the one office we went in to was sold out. Apparently it had been closed on the Sunday so everyone that hadn't gone the day before was trying to go today. It was really busy outside so I wasn't surprised and the queues just to get in to St Peter's Basilica were massive.
We decided to try the Reps standing outside - normally this wouldn't have been something I would have even contemplated but it turned out to be fine. We signed up on to a tour that would take us through the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel and in to St Peter's Basilica where; if we wanted to, we could go up in to Michelangelo's Dome.
Our guide was very informative giving us a brief breakdown in St Peter's Square of the Church before taking us around the City walls in to the Vatican Museum.
The museum itself is full of some wondrous pieces of sculpture, tapestries, and artwork.
The Sistine Chapel, a tall rectangular shaped building is truly fascinating with it's ancient frescoes depicting The Life of Moses and The Life of Christ. Michelangelo's 'The Last Judgement' is particularly thought provoking and poignant. The ceiling is truly stunning with it's bright colours and depictions of the Book of Genesis - sadly, I have no photos as you are not allowed to take any - the Swiss Guards are pretty hot on telling you off and ushering you through.
It was also super busy throughout our tour and various tour groups were bustling past each other to try and get pictures whilst staying together which made the experience a little less enjoyable. There were points during our tour that we couldn't hear our own Guide for interference from the other Group Guides so in the end - we just walked through taking in the artwork as best we could.
I'd still definitely recommend booking on to a tour but I'd suggest going on one as early as possible so that you're one of the first groups going through.
From here, we went though a side door into a courtyard and this is where our Guide left us to continue on our own in to St Peter's Basilica.
Just off the courtyard is where you'd go down to the Grottos under St Peter's but we headed straight in to the Basilica and oh my goodness, it's staggering how grand and open the space inside is.
There are incredibly ornate mosaics on the walls and numerous alcoves that each hold more beautiful work - it really is a place that has to be experienced in person as no pictures can really do it justice!
We decided against going up in to the Dome as we'd done approx 15,000 steps that day and as there were over 500 steps up into it - I genuinely didn't think I'd make it up there, never mind back down..
We headed off back in to Rome past the Castel Sant'Angelo and took in Bernini's Angels before carrying on to a small restaurant for an aperitif and a much needed rest. As it was Happy Hour, the restaurant served us free bruschetta and nibbles and as it was now raining; we stayed there until the rain stopped and just enjoyed watching the world go by.
We then made our way to a little side street off Piazza Navona to a very quaint restaurant with only 8 tables and had dinner before heading back towards Piazza Venezia to take in the sunset and then the Colosseum lit up at night.
By 9:30pm, we were ready to head back to the hotel and decided we would set a late alarm and enjoy a much needed lie in!
Our final day was spent packing and enjoying the last of the sunshine on the rooftop of the hotel by the pool before we headed to the airport and home.. we had a truly wonderful time in Rome and I would definitely like to go back!
There is simply more to see, more food to be eaten, not to mention more Prosecco and Aperol Spritz's to be enjoyed - Alla Prossima! (Till next time!)