Rome, Italy, Vatican City, 26th - 29th March 2019
Spring break was here, and it was time to travel! A 2.5 hours flight away from London, Rome is a place filled with the rich history of the Roman empire, as well as the ruins of the once great civilization that stood in its place.
We started off the day with a coach from London Liverpool Street to Stansted Airport (where we met Wei Loon who was going to Belfast) and took the 0845 Ryanair flight to Rome. Upon arriving at Rome Ciampino, I was taken aback by how fast customs were. The immigration officer simply looked at my face, scanned my passport, and I was cleared. It was very much unlike the other countries that I had been to, where they would ask how long you were going to stay for and other questions of the like. I guess the lower terror threat plays a part in their more relaxed immigration clearance.
Upon exiting customs, the size of the airport was really underwhelming, as there were only about 5 shops that sold travel tickets/currency exchange and nothing else. Having done our research, we decided not to take the taxis (which apparently cost €30 for a one-way trip to Rome, but are marked up by the taxi drivers), and ended up buying a 72-hour travel pass and taking the public transport to Rome using City Mapper.
Rome Ciampino Airport
Upon arriving at Rome, we headed to Cipro and checked in at our apartment (that happened to only by a 10-minute walk to the Vatican). The apartment was beautiful, and even had a kitchen for us to make breakfast. After placing down our belongings, we took a 5-minute walk to La Rustichella for some Italian food (duh).
Our apartment for the next 3 days
The pizza and spaghetti were a notch above those you could get in UK, and the eggs on the carbonara were more defined than those you would find in your usual carbonara. Needless to say, I was going to gain weight over the next few days.
Pasta, Pizza, and Lasagne
After lunch, we took the metro down towards the Pantheon. A temple dedicated to all the gods of pagan Rome, it was one of the most preserved and influential buildings in ancient Rome. Upon entering the Pantheon, I was intrigued by the giant circular hole at the top of the ceiling (meant to let light in), and I wondered what would happen should it rain. It turns out that the floor of the pantheon is slightly convex so that the water flows into its effective drainage system (mainly holes on the floor).
Following our visit to the Pantheon, we made our way to the Trevi Fountain. Along the way, the statues and the architecture that surrounded the city were a sight to behold. Being one of the oldest water sources in Rome, it stands at a massive 85 feet tall and is almost 65 feet wide. With so many tourists in that area, it was not easy take a good photo of the place, but it was definitely a sight worth seeing.
After Trevi Fountain, we headed north to the Spanish steps and Piazza del Popolo (stopping by along the way for some gelato). The Spanish step’s unique design serves as a popular place for artists, painters, and poets, and soon enough it became a popular meeting place for people of all kinds of backgrounds. Till date, it serves as a tourist attraction with its elegance and beautiful architecture. In Piazza del Popolo, an Egyptian obelisk dedicated to Ramesses II is located at the centre of the piazza. The Chigi Chapel in Santa Maria del Popolo (one of the churches present beside the Piazza) also happens to represent Earth on the Path of Illumination for the famous fiction “Angels and Demons” by Dan Brown.
Having walked for quite a bit, we headed to Non c’è trippa pe’ gatti for dinner, where we had pizza and spaghetti. Being done for the day, we went grocery shopping at Carrefour for breakfast, and returned for a wholesome night of Collegehumour and Dora parodies.
After breakfast we headed off to the Colosseum, one of the main attractions in Rome. Once called the Flavian Amphitheatre, it was a gathering point for locals from all different social classes to witness gladiators battles. With one contest after another being staged in the course of a single day, it provided draconic entertainment for the Romans of the past until Christianity progressively put an end to those parts of them which included the deaths of people. Upon arriving at the Colosseum, we were greeted by ticket scalpers selling “Skip-the-line” tickets, salesmen pretending to be staff, and a whole bunch of people selling souvenirs at €1 per piece. With very few official staff, it was wise to stick to one another and to refrain from having extended conversations with any strangers.
All roads lead to Rome
As the queue for the Colosseum tickets was extremely long, we decided to head to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill to purchase our tickets (which covered all 3 locations). Starting off at Palatine Hill, we made our way around the ruins of the Roman Forum, which served as the centre of Rome in the Roman empire. The whole area consisted of various architecture such as archs, pillars, and baths, resulting in us spending a total of about 2.5 hours covering the whole area.
After going through the Forum and Palatine hill, we entered Rome’s most iconic attraction, the Colosseum. The Colosseum was colossal, and its second level was filled with museum exhibitions on the history of the Colosseum, as well as the artefacts that were once present in the Colosseum.
After our visit to the Colosseum, we went for some gelato at The sweet life (La dolce Vita), before visiting the other piazzas around Rome such as Piazza Venezia. I was feeling quite sick at this point (probably a fever), so I mainly followed my friends around the different streets.
Palantine Hill, Roamn Forum and the Colosseum
We settled for dinner at Ristorante Carlo Menta, which served good Italian food for a decent price (about €7 per person). Unfortunately I did not have an appetite as I was feeling nauseous, so I missed out on the good food.
I woke up feeling slightly better, and after breakfast, we made our way to the Vatican Museums. The size of the Vatican museums, as well as the amount of history and priceless artefacts they possess left me in awe. The Vatican Museums were founded under the patronage of two eighteenth-century popes - Clement XIV (1769-1774) and Pius VI (1775-1799). Today, the collections reside in 13 museums in the complex comprising of two Vatican palaces. What I noticed about the museum was that each and every room was intricately designed, with paintings on the ceilings and sculptures all over the place. I should have read up on the history of the Vatican before entering, for I felt like an uncultured swine just staring at the exhibits without understanding their meaning and the reasons behind their creation.
Pictures taken in the Vatican Museums
After the Vatican museums, we headed on to the Sistine Chapel, which is an artistic masterpiece and a place for crucial religious activity. The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was painted by Michelangelo, featuring nine scenes from Genesis, such as “The creation of Adam”. As the site was a holy one, pictures were not allowed we be taken.
Upon completing our tour of the Vatican museums, we had takeaway pizza for lunch at Alice’s (one of the best pizzas I have eaten by far), before taking a short walk to St. Peter’s Square. St. Peter’s Square was huge, with water fountains around the centre of the square that provided visitors with potable (and holy) water. Interestingly, such fountains are actually present all around Rome, and they are akin to save points in an adventure game.
St. Peter's Square with clear blue skies
Having seen most of what we wanted to see in the Vatican, we spent the better part of our afternoon walking around the streets of Rome, eating more Gelato, and eating at Trapizzino for tea.
3D Triangular Pizzas?
After visiting the pyramid of Caius Cestius, it was time for dinner, and we headed to Eggs, which apparently served the best carbonara in the world. True to their name, the restaurant specialised in eggs, and served eggs cooked in all sorts of ways. The carbonara they served was fantastic, apart from the fact that the pasta they made was too hard for my liking. What really stood out the most however, was their excellent customer service. After dinner, we walked to Gelateria del Viale for more Gelato, before calling it a day.
Pyramid of Caius Cestius
With our flight at 2pm in the afternoon, we grabbed a quick brunch at Bar Fondi, before heading to the airport.
All in all it was quite an eye opening trip, and it would have been much better if I had researched more about the roman empire (or if I was able to better appreciate the vast history and culture that laid before me). Rome might not have been built in a day, but I was glad we covered most of it in three.
Transport (72h travel pass): £16
Gelato (I had gelato 7 times): £22
Tickets to attractions: £22
Highlight of the trip