Let’s face it – even if you are the most adventurous traveller and wish to discover all the offbeat and secret places in the world, you’d still want to experience the grandeur and the architectural brilliance of Rome. Not many other cities in the world can boast of having some of the most intricate and beautiful buildings and of presenting visitors with breathtakingly beautiful and historically rich sites at every nook and cranny. From the mighty Colosseum to the artistic area of Trastevere, from the ruins of the Roman forum to devouring scrumptious Itallian delicacies, Rome has much to offer for visitors with varied interests.
Even though Savi and I are not particularly fond of overtly touristy and religious sites, the Vatican, even with thousands of tourists thronging St. Peter’s square and serpentine queues to gain entry into St. Peter’s Basilica, is one of our must-visit places whenever we are in the charming city of Rome. It’s amazing how sometimes clichéd places and things to do end up being really high on our to-do list – Paris and Rome are two such places. After all, they are clichés for a reason – they are two of the prettiest cities in the world and every traveller must pay the famous attractions in these cities a visit at least once in a lifetime.
Of the three times that we have been to Rome, we have made it a point to spend at least a day at the Vatican, exploring St. Peter’s Basilica and walking through meandering alleys that lay beyond the realms of the crowded St. Peter’s square. A word of caution – if you are easily scared by large crowds, then either go really early in the day or book a guided tour of the attractions in the area. The next time we are in Rome, we are definitely going to arrange a skip-the-line guided tour of the Vatican after our last experience with a tour in Paris.
Vid loves this area since he gets some amazing photo opportunities every time we visit and this photo-essay is an attempt to convince you to include a visit to the Vatican City the next time you are in Rome. Even though Vatican is an independent city-state, it sits pretty within the sprawling capital city of Rome, so it’s really easy to get to the Vatican from wherever you are in Rome – it’s well connected by the underground train system, tram, and buses. However, our favourite way to get to the Vatican is by walking across Ponte Sant’Angelo (angel-clad bridge) – the views are stunning and you are greeted to the rising holy angel at the top of the Castle in front and the St. Peter’s Basilica on the left.
On the walk from the bridge towards the St. Peter’s Basilica, one begins to realise the sheer size of the church – one of the largest in the world. The equally massive and impressive St. Peter’s Square provides a befitting approach to the church. There’s intricately carved sculptures and sheer Renaissance brilliance till the eye can see.
Relax, take a deep breath and savour these moments while you absorb the grandeur of the St. Peter’s Basilica. All one can do is marvel at the architectural genius of Michelangelo and the other contributors. You’ll also need this breathing space as the next hour or two will be spent queuing up to enter the Basilica. But you’ll realise that the wait was well worth it the moment you see Michelangelo’s masterpiece depicting Virgin Mary cradling dead Jesus in her arms inside the building. Now we travel quite frequently and have visited many churches, but we can’t help being overwhelmed by the grandeur of St. Peter’s Basilica every time we visit.
Once you have spent enough time exploring the interiors, you must climb to the top of the dome of the Basilica for this stunning view:
After exploring all that St. Peter’s Basilica and square has to offer, take a stroll back towards the Castelo Sant’Angelo which makes for a great winding down after a somewhat hectic morning at the Basilica. For a nice view (I wish the coffee was that good too ;-)) go to the cafe on the fourth floor of the Castle 🙂
Now all this was done on a self-guided walk in the Vatican, but the moment we reached the Vatican Museums, we were left aghast at the LONG queue to get in. Trust us when we say this, the meandering queue to get into the St. Peter’s Basilica seemed like a breeze compared to this one. We were naive to believe that we could just walk to the museums in the afternoon and get in fairly easily. Since we were already a bit tired from all the walking, we decided to skip the museums. Next time we are in Rome, we are definitely going to take a night tour of the Vatican Museum organised by City Wonders. From our past experiences of taking evening / night tours in Paris and Figueres, we have learnt that the popular places seem completely different and even more magical once the crowds have dispersed. A little extra money goes a long way in terms of enjoyment and more importantly, sanity 😉
Well, all we could experience of the museum on our last visit was this picture:
- The entry to the St. Peter’s Basilica is free. Make sure you are carrying your Passport with you and are wearing acceptable clothes – shorts, off-shoulder tops, and skirts above the knees are strictly forbidden
- If you want to go atop the Dome, you can take the lift for €7 or €5 if you want to climb all the way. Keep in mind that even when you take the lift, you have to climb the last 320 steps.
- The entry for the museum is €16, but we feel it’s better to take a skip-the-line guided tour to save some time and hassle
Have you been to the Vatican ? How was your experience?