Waking up Monday morning, my sister decided to push through the pain and swelling in her tooth and stay on in Rome, mainly because we hadn’t yet seen the Vatican! After yet another delicious trip to the breakfast buffet we decided to go and ask at the front desk where exactly we might find a supermarket. Much to my relief and annoyance, the very helpful receptionist told us to turn left at the end of the road and keep walking and we’d see it about 5 minutes away. All this time and there was a supermarket right on our doorstep, and here’s the kicker: it was open until half 8 on Sunday night! We could have solved all of our problems!
After a trip to the shop to stock up on the essentials (we finally had water, I was so happy) we were hopping on the metro and heading out to visit the Vatican museums! After going through the security scanners and waiting in line for quarter of an hour, we were on our way up the stairs and into the Vatican museums, opting out of the short itinerary route provided and instead taking the longer route through the exhibits.
The Vatican museums are huge. I mean seriously huge. There’s so much on show and it’s all from different cultures. There’s an Egypt room, an Ancient Greece room, the Raphael rooms which he and his apprentices frescoed and of course, the Sistine Chapel. Also, for all of you geographers out there, there’s a map library which, I’m not going to lie, wasn’t quite as impressive as I had been led to believe but it was still impressive to see the detail put into these old maps.
After a good few hours of wandering through the exhibits (you could easily spend a whole day in there!) we finally arrived at the Sistine Chapel, which was absolutely breathtaking. The work of Michaelangelo on the ceiling of the chapel was absolutely incredible – although I didn’t realise how small the section with “The Creation of Adam” on it was, I thought it was huge but it turns out it’s actually not that big and forms part of an artistic patchwork over the ceiling. I tried to get a picture of it, but I got repeatedly shouted at by the Vatican security guards and, not wanting to be escorted out of the Vatican, I put my camera away.
The afternoon was spent in St Peters square where, the day before, the Pope had given his last mass before retiring. You don’t realise how huge everything is until you’re standing in the centre of it all. It was also really warm outside, so it was lovely to enjoy the gorgeous Roman Spring weather before coming back to the eternal chiller that is England.
Of course, my sister and I felt that we couldn’t visit St Peter’s Basilica without making the climb up to the dome to get the panoramic view over the city from up high. The climb up to the Cupola as it’s called is roughly 550 steps unless you take the lift up to the first roof (we didn’t take the lift) where it will be only a mere 320 steps until you reach the very top. Let me just put it this way, those stairs are windy. And narrow. In places, they’re pretty diagonal too where the curved roof of the Cupola slopes over the top of you. The final steps to the balcony at the top are extremely tight and instead of a handrail, there’s just a long piece of rope dangling from the top for you to grab on to. It’s worth the climb though, the view was stunning although there were a LOT of people crammed onto the balcony – there could be a queuing system put in place quite easily to limit the number of people up there at one time (or maybe that’s just my overwhelming Englishness coming out yet again).
After making it down, we witness the changing of the Swiss Guard before heading back to the hotel for some much needed downtime and then spent the evening in an absolutely fantastic little ristorante in Piazza del Popolo called “Il Brillo Parlante”. if you’re ever in Rome and staying near Popolo you should definitely visit this place for dinner – their pizzas were absolutely delicious and such a reasonable price!
After dinner, we headed back to the hotel looking forward to our first day in Rome where we didn’t actually have anything planned, so we could indulge in that brilliant treat the next morning – the lie in!