The morning of our first full day on this tour is underway. We make our way to our private terrace to have some breakfast. The group we’ll be traveling with all seem nice. Everyone seems to be very excited to get this trip underway. Our guide seems a bit flakey, not all with it or invested in our group. I’m not quite sure how well she’ll be able to lead us.
We spent the late morning at the Vatican. The one good thing about traveling in a tour group situation is that you don’t have to wait in line with the general public. It’s as if you have a VIP access to attractions. With any major attraction in any popular city, it will be hella busy by mid-morning. I’ve always stressed to those who ask me, get to your ‘must-see’ attraction first thing in the morning. The Vatican is no different. Looking at the que for the general public is like looking at a horde of people squished together in a make shift maze. I am so, so glad we didn’t have to wait with them!
Once in the Vatican our guide left us with another guide. We were given headsets so that she could communicate with us without yelling over the masses. For the most part it worked out quite well. She navigated the Vatican with ease and managed to keep us all together as a group. If you’ve ever been in the Vatican, it’s really easy to get lost amongst the massive number of people visiting.
The Vatican is filled with statues, tapestries, maps and gardens. Hallways are 20 feet wide and literally we stand shoulder to shoulder with tourists. If you’re claustrophobic, this may not be the best place for you. The gardens and courtyards are nice, but it was extremely hot that day and no shade the hide in from the sun. Our tour guide had us standing out in the sun for about 10 minutes, and people were starting to get visibly upset with her.
The whole point in wandering through the Vatican is to get to the piece de resistance, the Sistine Chapel. It felt like forever trying to make our way there. Finally we’re there and you’re pushed into the space like a herd of cow. We were warned not to take any pictures and there is to be absolutely no talking while in the Sistine Chapel. Oooook. So in we go, looking up as we go, and the whole time I’m in there all I’m hearing are the guards going ‘shhhhh shhhhhh shhhhhh.’ THE WHOLE DAMN TIME. Stop shooshing us and let us enjoy the view for crying out loud! It was so bloody annoying. I just wanted to get out of there.
We didn’t stay long. Maybe five minutes at most. Mostly because we were being told in our headsets it was time to go. I left the Sistine Chapel feeling under impressed. It wasn’t at all what I thought it would be or how the travel books describe it to you. It definitely wasn’t the highlight of the morning, that’s for sure.
After leaving the Vatican, we went into St. Peter’s Basilica. Now THIS was impressive! I was blown away by the sheer height of the ceiling and the size of the interior. When you enter, people immediately head to the right to see Michelangelo’s statue of St. Pieta. It sits behind glass because years ago some guy ran up to it to touch it. Anyway, despite the handprints on the glass, you can still get a great view of the statue.
We spent a bit of time inside, but eventually made our way out. Our guide called it a day after that, letting us have the rest of the day to ourselves. Mum, Dad and I wandered up a bit to find a little cafe to grab a bite to eat and rehash everything we had just seen. We spent the rest of the day walking Old Rome, making our way to Piazza Navona where we stopped to have some gelato. It’s an impressive piazza! Your eye immediately travels to the Fountain of the Four Rivers. On either side of this, at both ends of the piazza, you’ll find the Fountain of Neptune and the Fountain of Moor. All are just stunning!
We could have stayed in Piazza Navona for forever. There was a lot to see here and a lot going on in the piazza. Open air cafes and local vendors all around you, it’s not hard to get swept away by the ambiance of this little piece of old Rome.
The afternoon got away from us and we decided to make our way back to the hotel. Our first official tour day in the books and we were exhausted! But excited for what tomorrow would bring! We would have the morning to ourselves and meet our group later in the day for our tour of the Colosseum. The reason I got into Archaeology was seeing pictures of the Colosseum! It also happens to be another item checked off my bucket list!
Stay tuned for cats in heavenly places, finding gems in the winding city streets and of course, the Colosseum!
Until next time…