There’s no place like Rome. We guess you could say that about a lot of places. There’s just something especially captivating about the Roman civilization and wandering around Rome stirred up our imaginations. There’s also no place like the Vatican and you don’t have to be religious to appreciate its “Awe-mazing” art and architecture.
We set off on foot one day and took in a lot of the sights including the Colosseum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, etc… They’re most impressive and really got our imaginations wondering what it must have been like back in Roman times. Surprisingly, the most visually impressive monument from the outside is just a little over a hundred years old celebrating Italy’s unification. Thus, Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II earned the spot as our lead picture up above.
We ventured to the outskirts of Rome to see the San Callisto Catacombs. We arrived late in the day just before closing and ended up as the only ones on the English tour given by Father Mason from Melbourne, Australia. He explained that there were 20km of tunnels and half a million people buried there about 2,000 years ago. They don’t allow pictures to be taken in the catacombs. The best we could do was snap a quick one to remember the place. Above ground, we found a flock of sheep grazing away.
We booked a half-day tour of the Vatican through Viator that was incredible. We got to skip the long lines and our guide conveyed numerous insights that made the visit that much more interesting. The Vatican museum, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basillica are all on such a grand scale that we experienced a rapturous sensory overload. Words cannot convey the jaw-dropping art works and architecture that we were immersed in. The Vatican Museum is non-stop, in-your-face art that is found everywhere you look: floors, walls and ceilings. Michelangelo’s work in the Sistine Chapel, the only place where photos are not allowed, engulfed and amazed us. St. Peter’s Basillica is so massive that many of the world’s cathedrals that we’ve marveled at would seem lost inside it. In all our travels, we haven’t come across anything like the Vatican.
We made B&B Laocoonte our home base for 3 nights. It’s located in the Prati district near Vatican City. It’s just a few blocks from the metro station and within walking distance of the major sights. Our room was comfortable and a nice Italian breakfast was delivered to our room each morning. The wifi was fair. We had a private bathroom but it was a few steps down the hall, which was a little weird and the only downside.
Food and Drink:
We lacked a kitchen, so we ate out while in Rome. We started off at an authentic local restaurant named Tony & Dino where no English was spoken and they don’t use menus. So, when we ordered a course, we had no idea what we were in for. The antipasti consisted of 3 dishes and the pasta had 2 dishes, each with a different sauce. It was more food than we expected but we enjoyed as much of it as we could. After a month of Italian food, we decided on a change of pace and opted for an Asian restaurant’s version of spaghetti, which was pretty good. We found a good budget option in Ciao Restaurant in Rome’s Termini train station to get some healthy salads. There was nothing noteworthy on the drink side as we stuck to sparkling water for a change of pace.
After putting over 1,500 km on our rental car, we turned it in when we arrived in Rome and relied on the Metro system, bus and foot to get around. The Metro system was fairly easy to navigate. The trains ran frequently and one of the rides even provided announcements in English. The buses were less timely resulting in longer wait times.
We used Viator to book our tour of the Vatican. They subcontract to local agencies around the world that they screen and we’ve used them several times during our trip. We’ve found them to consistently offer good value for the tours we’ve booked.
For Your Amusement:
Rooftop antennas way outnumber satellite dishes in Rome.
Rich got his most expensive haircut of the trip at €20 (~$28 US). The stylist told him that now he looks like an Italian.
Highlights: The Vatican, Colosseum and Pantheon were our favorites.
Next Up: We drop further south to the Amalfi Coast.