…a continuation of Part I…
In the morning we jogged through Villa Borghese, a public park replete with museums, gardens, lakes, fountains, neoclassical temples, statues, jogging paths and picnic grounds – the perfect place to get away from the noises and crowds of the city. As much as we enjoy city life, it’s only sustainable for us if there are places of respite and solitude (and a nice view certainly doesn’t hurt) and Rome has some great ones.
To avoid the crowds we got an early start at the Vatican Museum. It’s pretty rare for us to visit museums when traveling but you know, when in Rome. (I’m so sorry I said that.)
Once again, Adam cleverly did his research ahead of time and bought tickets online which saved us from waiting in a lengthy line around the block. I was surprised to see that several nuns were patiently waiting in that line. Don’t they have the direct number to the man upstairs? I would have thought they’d be able to enter swiftly through a VIP door or something. But like everyone else, they had to stand in the sun, sandwiched between Italian teenagers in the heat of passion.
We moved quickly through the Vatican museum and almost missed the surprisingly diminutive Sistine Chapel, save for the throngs of people craning their necks upward. From there we headed to St. Peter’s Basilica, the massive Renaissance style church located in the heart of Vatican City.
In the afternoon we walked up the Gianicolo Hill. This is not one of the famous seven hills of Rome, however it provides a wonderful view of the city to the east, located just above Trastavere. There are many ways to climb the hill, but we went up stairs from near Vatican City and stopped at each view point along the way, providing better and better vistas of the Eternal City.
At the top we found a statue of Girabaldi, a gorgeous panorama of the city and several Italian couples of all ages locked at the lips. We decided to go along with the locals as best we knew how, so we grabbed some big beers from a cart nearby and held hands as we watched dusk spread across the steeples, hills and ancient buildings of Rome. This is a magical view of Rome and, along with Villa Borghese is a must-see place in order to fully comprehend the enormity of chaos, character and churches & landmarks spread across the city.
When we walked the steep hill down through Trastevere we found a great little place called Osteria Numero 6 to sit outside and have dinner.
During our time in Rome we stayed up near the Vatican on the Northwest side of the Tiber River where we would regularly pass the Castel San Angelo. In Adam’s favorite opera, Tosca, the main character learns about the death of her lover and jumps off of Castle San Angelo into the river to kill herself.
Twice a day when we passed the Castle, Adam would stop to fixate about how she could have done that considering the Castle isn’t within jumping, or even leaping distance from the river.
Feeling betrayed by Puccini, he kept muttering – “It just doesn’t make sense!”
In my opinion, the Castle San Angelo is the ugliest building in Rome and I was tired of standing around staring at it. Finally on our walk to the train station I told him that if he keeps obsessing over it, I’m going to hurl myself into the Tiber river.
[Such a Lucille move]
Then we hopped on a train to Venice.
- If you’re planning on visiting the Vatican museum make sure to buy your tickets online here. It costs 4 Euros more per person, but you get to skip the line and go straight in.
- Also, unlike every major league sporting event I’ve ever been to, the Vatican can actually read the barcode on your phone so no need to print anything out.
- All the guidebooks say that the Vatican Museum (including the Sistine Chapel) are least crowded at noon. We found this to be 100% correct. The museum at 10am was completely packed but by noon was almost empty.
- All this said, if you’re a non-Catholic and non-lover of art you’ve never heard of, I don’t recommend the Vatican museum. Perhaps if you like spending all your time in New York City inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art then the Vatican Museum is for you, but otherwise there are so many other ways to spend half a day in Rome. You can even just spend your extra time soaking up the atmosphere around St. Peter’s Square and inside St. Peter’s Basilica.
- One of the coolest things inside St. Peter’s Basilica is down the center there is listed in subtle gold writing the lengths of other great churches around the world. You can actually compare St. Paul’s, The National Cathedral and Notre Dame’s size as you walk down the center of the church.
- The best lunch in Washington, DC (where we lived for four years) was taking a sandwich or piece of pizza to the Lincoln Memorial and sitting with the crowd overlooking the mall. I think doing the same thing with the stairs in front of St. Peter’s Basilica is probably best lunch in Rome.
- Whatever you do, go up to Villa Borghese and go up to Gianicolo Hill. They are both worth the trek and the quiet solitude of overlooking this marvelous city.
- Don’t think about Tosca too literally, it may ruin your trip.