Days 1 and 2: The Vatican

April 26, 2013  •  3 Comments

2 Countries...8 Cities...15 Days. Bring. It. On.

I feel like the intro to our vacation should have it's own "Amazing Race"-like promo.  It was seriously so many things, places, foods, and people, packed into so few days.  Of course, I've always said we are speed tourists, so I wouldn't have it any other way!

That being said...let the magic of Italy (and a few days in France) begin:)

Day 1: Travel

No really, "travel" sums up day 1. Italy is 6 hours ahead of us so we literally lost 6 hours of our day and landed in Italy at 9:30a on Tuesday.  Monday was gone.  We were fortunate enough to have an empty third seat next to us on the plane, so that 10.5 hour plane ride went a WHOLE lot faster because we could stretch out a little and sleep.  Definitely helped deter jet lag.

Oh WAIT! We left our house at 6a to get to Atlanta 2 hours earlier than we needed to just so we could go eat at J Christopher's for breakfast.  We found this restaurant in Savannah, and it's soooo good.  Try the blueberry crunchcakes and hazelnut french toast.  Prior to going to Italy, they made the best orange juice I had ever had.

Day 2: Rome and the Vatican

We hopped off the plane, and whisked our way through non-existent customs in Italy.  They literally just looked at our passports, stamped them (yippee!), and sent us on our way.  The plane ride was only the first in a long list of forms of transportation to help us reach our destination.  We whipped out our pre-purchased Eurrail tickets and hopped on the Leonardo Da Vinci Express Train to take us into Rome from Fiumicino airport.  Apparently in Italy, they don't actually make sure you have the correct ticket BEFORE you get on your train, the conductor roams around the train during the trip and stamps your ticket.  So, there's no one making sure you don't screw it up.  I have decided this is most definitely by design as it increases their revenue when ignorant Americans like us just hop on.  So, we write in our 1st of 8 "travel days" we are allowed on our pass.  When the conductor comes along, he takes one look at us, then one long long at the pass, then another look at us, then another look at the pass.  Then says, "English, yes?"  Yeah...good guess. We must have that written all over our faces.  As it turns out, the Express Train is a "special service" and thus a 1st class only train.  Of course it doesn't say this anywhere, and our pass is only good for 2nd class.  So, we get the priveledge of purchasing the ticket. And using up one of our travel days for nothing. Awesome.

Everything immediately looks different here.  Cool looking umbrella pines.  No skyscrapers, old brick buildings packed together with tiny streets and tons of graffiti.  Zillions of scooters, bikes, smart cars, mini coopers, and Land Rovers.  Yeah...that last one didn't make a whole lot of sense to me either.

We disembarked from our twice paid train, and wandered around the Roma Termini with full luggage for about 25 min before finally finding the metro station.  We successfully purchased 3 days metro passes, and hopped on our 100% correct metro line and headed to our hotel.  Hurray for doing something right!  After getting entirely turned around in an underground transportation system, we stood at the street above our stop and trying to figure out where in the world they list street names in this country.  Oh....on little plaques on the BUILDING!  After a good 20 minute walk, we had arrived.

We stayed at a little B&B called A Peace of Rome in Prati, right outside the Vatican.  They were extremely helpful, and it was a cute little clean well kempt room.  No complaints here, for sure.  That's my plug for them.  Although, like most B&Bs we stayed at, they don't actually offer breakfast.  They did make some good recommendations, though!

As soon as we settled in, we took off to go to the Vatican for the day.  We picked up some amazing pizza at a nearby shop, La Camagnia del Pane, and ate it on the go.  That's the second mistake of the day, everything here has LOTS of olive oil.  Impossible to eat on the go. Well, possible, but Lucas's pants now have permanent grease stains.

It is said that if you spent just a few seconds looking at every piece of art at the Vatican Museum, it'd take something like 12 years to see everything.  We took about 10 steps into the museum, turned back around and bought an audioguide.  The signs were mostly in Italian, and it wasn't the most user-friendly museum.  Turns out, that's because each new pope that comes in changes something.  There was one room that used to be a breezeway.  One pope closed it in and made it a room, another pope had the ceiling painted to celebrate all the great things he had done, and another came in and decided to make it a tapestry room.  Very complicated. 

There were hallways and rooms full of sculptures, some leaned toward pagan, most toward Christian.

the vatican museum, statue, Rome, Italy, "Christine Lewis Photography"

The Vatican Museum, Rome, Italy, "Christine Lewis Photography", travel

Intricately detailed ceilings and walls everywhere. The ceilings were my favorite, can't you tell? :)

The Vatican Museum, Rome, Italy, "Christine Lewis Photography", travel

The Vatican Museum, Rome, Italy, "Christine Lewis Photography", travel

The Vatican Museum, Rome, Italy, "Christine Lewis Photography", travel

 

The Vatican Museum, Rome, Italy, "Christine Lewis Photography", travel

 

The Vatican Museum, Rome, Italy, "Christine Lewis Photography", travel

 

The Vatican Museum, Rome, Italy, "Christine Lewis Photography", travel

Egyptian relics including Amenhotep's sarcophogas

The Vatican Museum, Rome, Italy, "Christine Lewis Photography", travel, amenhotep sarcophogas

Whole rooms dedicated to Raphael's works (This one is called "Disputation Over the Most Holy Sacrament")

The Vatican Museum, Rome, Italy, "Christine Lewis Photography", Raphael, "Disputation Over the Most Holy Sacrament"

There were brilliant courtyards (including one with a giant pinecone), paintings, and more than I can even remember.  The icing on the cake? The Sistene Chapel at the end.  They do have a very strict no photograph policy in this chapel, unfortunately.  It was quite amazing to see Michelangelo's work on the ceiling and the Last Judgement.  You could stare at it forever and still not see all the detail. 

The Vatican Museum, spiral staircase, rome, italy, "Christine Lewis Photograpy"

At the end, near the gift shops, there was a HUGE gorgeous spiral staircase.  More like a spiral ramp, actually.  Yes, I did have to stand there for quite a few minutes to get a picture without tourists:)

the vatican museum, spiral staircase, rome, italy, "Christine Lewis Photography"

And let me tell you how many people peep their heads out over the edge! Haha, worth it though.

the vatican, rome, italy, "Christine Lewis Photography" St Peters Basilica, dome

Then, we headed to St. Peter's Basilica

the vatican, rome, italy, "Christine Lewis Photography", St Peters Basilica

The basilica itself is actually one of the highlights of the trip.  I'm fairly certain I heard the angels singing when I walked in.  I almost don't even want to share my pictures because they can't even start to show its grandeur.  Here are a few that might give you a hint of what it's like:

the vatican, rome, italy, "Christine Lewis Photography", St Peters Basilica

the vatican, rome, italy, "Christine Lewis Photography", St Peters Basilica

the vatican, rome, italy, "Christine Lewis Photography", St Peters Basilica

The place is huge, with a gigantic dome, everything covered ornately in paintings and details.  I've heard before that the shape and ornateness of the ceilings in catholic churches are done in a way to encourage you to look toward the heavens.  If that was the goal, it totally worked.  We were all walking around looking straight up, bumping into each other.  There were way too many people, but it was worth it.  The basilica was built on top of St. Peter's burial site, with the altar being directly on top of St. Peter's tomb.

If you go to Rome and find yourself at the basilica, you absolutely MUST pay to go to the top of the dome.  It was about 5 euros to take the stairs and 7 to take the elevator.  Bah, we can do the stairs! Haha, it was the craziest combination of ramps, stairs, spiraling, leaning, slanting, climbing, that I've ever seen in my life.  I mean, this was a LOT of stairs.  The elevator doesn't actually take you the whole way either, so be ready.  If you're claustrophobic, don't do it.  It gets so tiny. At the end, there's actually a rope hanging down the tiny spiral staircase just in case you need it. But, when you get to the top, the view is breathtaking. 

the vatican, rome, italy, "Christine Lewis Photography", St Peters Basilica, view from the dome, panorama

You can see the whole expanse of Rome.  The Tiber river, the Colosseum in the distance.  Definitely worth the journey.  Actually, the journey was a big part of the fun:)

the vatican, rome, italy, "Christine Lewis Photography", St Peters Basilica, View from the dome, Vatican Museum

This is what the Vatican Museum looks like from above.

the vatican, rome, italy, "Christine Lewis Photography", St Peters Basilica, View from the dome, St Peters Square

The courtyard at the basilica was designed by Bernini. There's a huge obelisk in the middle of the courtyard that acts as a sundial.

the vatican, rome, italy, "Christine Lewis Photography", St Peters Basilica, View from the dome, rooftops

I just loved the pattern of the buildings in this one.

the vatican, rome, italy, "Christine Lewis Photography", St Peters Basilica, View from the dome

 

the vatican, rome, italy, "Christine Lewis Photography", St Peters Basilica, The dome

We're such nerds. Those are our shadows. Aren't we cute?

the vatican, rome, italy, "Christine Lewis Photography", St Peters Basilica, dome

The dome from the outside.

After, we walked around and found our first gelato stop of the trip.  We walked in to the little gelateria, L'Arena Del Gelato, and I saw the single biggest jar of Nutella I've ever seen in my life.   I'm fairly certain I heard the angels singing when I walked in.  It was probably a foot wide and a foot tall.  I logically opted for the nutella gelato, and was very happy about it.

We worked up a hunger about 6p.  As it turns out, Italians don't actually eat until more like 8p! Most restaurants aren't even open til 7. So, we explored a bit of the city, including the Castel d'Angelo, Palazzo di Giustizia, Augustus's Mausoleum and the Piazza del Popolo.  We mostly just walked around and looked at the outside of these amazing buildings.  The piazza was gorgeous, but too many annoying little sales guys wanting to sell you a rose.  We walked the Via del Corso, which turns into a pedestrian road in the afternoon.  There are plenty of good Italian shops like Gucci and Prada:)  Then of course there's Nike and Mac too.

With the help of the completely offline TripAdvisor Rome app (perfect for using out of the country), we finally stumbled upon a restaurant called Il Belli.  I highly recommend using this app. It kept us eating REALLY good food everywhere we went!  We had some typical Roman pasta for our first course.  Then they brought out our main course for 2.  It was a huge steak, about 2 inches thick, on a crazy hot stone.  The steak was nearly raw.  At first, I only ate the more cooked ends.  Then, Lucas figured out that it's a cook-your-own system.  He cut the steak and laid it on the stone til it was cooked to our liking! Amazing.  And sooo good with the truffle sauce for dipping and the red Italian wine for

And that, my friends, was only our first day in Italy!  Stay tuned for the rest of the trip:)

Select images from our trip are available for purchase, you can find them here!

Want to follow us on the rest of our trip? Read Day 3, Days 4 and 5, Day 6, Day 7, Days 8 and 9, Days 10 and 11, Day 12, and Days 13-15.


Comments

Jennifer Foley(non-registered)
Love your first post! Can't wait to read more about your adventures.

I was channeling your advice when I was in Rome. Writing posts every day is a lot of work, but so worth it when you can look back and read them!
G'ma Ginny(non-registered)
Wow is right! I almost felt like I was with you--I can hardly wait for the rest of the trip!
JP(non-registered)
Wow! Great verbal and visual images!
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