Last weekend, for the first time since I’ve been abroad, I ventured outside of Spain. When my friends and I started planning our international adventures, we knew we all wanted to go to Italy. The food, the wine, the sights, the culture, the men, we wanted it all. After failing to find cheap flights to Florence or Venice (our top two choices), a few of us eventually settled on Rome. Ha, settled on Rome. It was the best compromise I’ve ever made. Rome. Was. Awesome.
After successfully printing our Ryanair boarding passes, navigating our way to the airport via metro, and getting our bags past the Ryanair bag check police, we were on our way. We landed at Rome’s Ciampino airport, and bizarrely enough, there were no customs. While we lamented that we didn’t get a stamp in our passports, it did speed things up a bit. We then had to take a bus to the city center. Fortunately, our hostel was very close to the bus/metro/train station, and we quickly found it and dropped off our bags.
We arrived in Rome on a Friday afternoon, so our first order of business was the Vatican. After talking to my host mom, I knew that the Vatican on a Saturday would mean hours of lines and wasted time. So we quickly figured out Rome’s metro (only two lines?!) and headed over to Vatican City. We got our tickets we a student discount, and entered into the museum five minutes before the last entrance. While this meant we would have a maximum of two hours in the museum, it also meant we had absolutely no line, almost unheard of at the Vatican. With only a day and a half in Rome and so much to see, saving time was crucial.
The Vatican is technically a city-state, which operates independently within downtown area of Rome. Technically, the Pope is the monarch of the Vatican, but I’m thinking he doesn’t live in the museum part that we saw. Most of it is walled, but you can walk freely in and out of it in front of St. Peter’s. Mostly, I’m just disappointed that I yet again didn’t get a stamp in my passport.
The Vatican has a really large and impressive art museum, and some of the best collections in the world. After nearly two millennia of ruling a good portion of the world, it makes since that the Catholic Church has amassed such an extensive collection. Personally, my favorite was the Egyptian art collection. Since I’ve been in Spain, I’ve gotten to see a lot of European/Catholic art, but the Egyptian stuff is all new to me. However, it was kind of sad to think how most of the ancient art in the Vatican was acquired (imperialism and theft).
However, it seemed to me that most of the Vatican Museum is art that was given to or commissioned by the Church. The galleries were huge, and I don’t think we really even began to scratch the surface of everything they have in there. If you ever get the chance to go and you have time, I’d recommend getting a guide with a small tour group. They Vatican museum has lots of tours going through, and in retrospect, it might have been nice to get a little bit more information about some of the pieces. There were so many, and my goodness, they were amazing.
Of course, the most known piece of art in the Vatican is Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. The scale was like nothing I’ve ever seen. I’m surprised the guy had time in his lifetime to paint anything else, because I can’t even imagine how much time that it would have taken. I was also surprised that the God creating Adam picture wasn’t prominently featured. While it’s in the middle of the ceiling, it isn’t any larger or any different than any of the numerous other paintings on the ceiling. We weren’t allowed to take pictures in here, but I snuck one out of my purse. I figured that without the flash, I wasn’t doing any damage to the painting (hopefully).
Here is a link to a wikipedia article about the Sistine Chapel, in case anyone wants to do some further reading.
After the Sistine Chapel, we suddenly found ourselves outside of the Vatican museum. I’m not quite sure how this happened. I was a little upset that our time in the museum ended, but that quickly faded when I realized that we somehow ended up at the front of St. Peter’s Basilica, and got to skip that line too. Really, we kept lucking out with the timing of things. Walking into St. Peter’s was overwhelming. I was on the verge of tears and I’m not quite sure why. With the hoards of tourists and security guards, I wouldn’t say it was because it was a religious experience per say. I don’t know, I don’t think I have the words to describe how I felt. But if you ever get the chance to go, go. Hands down, St. Peter’s Basilica was my favorite thing in Rome, and my favorite church ever. No contest.
At some point in the basilica, I started listening in on some American man of the cloth who was talking to an American couple about some art and some dead popes. Well, he caught me listening to their tour, and quickly invited me to join them. It turns out that Father Ted was from Kalamazoo, Michigan, and I spend a good portion of my time in the basilica following him around and listening to him talk about the art. It was definitely better than any normal tour, because his long black robes and the white collar just made things so much better.
At a certain point, my companions got tired of the awesomeness, and wandered outside. They were kind enough to patiently wait for me, but at a certain point I felt bad keeping them longer, and we left. Fortunately for me, the view outside of the basilica was also awesome and we ended up catching it right as the sun was setting, making for some pretty cool pictures.
We tried to head towards the Trevi Fountain (a good hike across Rome), but ended up getting lost. However, I would have to say getting lost in Rome with friends is a pretty good place to get lost, and we ended up finding dinner. A candlelit street side bistro was calling our name, and I ended up getting ravioli. Anyone who’s eaten Italian with me in the states knows this is in no way an original order, but I had to get it to compare. It was strictly for scientific purposes, you see.
Eventually, after some confusing directions in very broken English, we found the Trevi Fountain. Again, it is huge and beautiful, especially at night. We got some gelato and did some people watching outside the fountain. Mostly, it was packed with tourists, but unlike most tourists in the States, these people represented every culture in the world. We must have heard over 20 languages just sitting there eating gelato. Eventually, we threw our coins in the fountain, which is supposed signify that you’ll return to Rome someday. I hope it’s true.