We got up early at 6:30 in the morning as we wanted to make the most of the day and see many things. I wanted to avoid big queues in places like the Vatican.
Santa Maria Maggiore was the first we saw, since we had it just outside the hotel. The good thing about this church, like almost all the others, is that it opened at 7 in the morning. So we saw it without any problem. Then we went down to the Colosseum on Via Cavour, stopping at San Pietro in Vincoli.
As it was 8:30 or so in the morning there were almost no people, which allowed us to see it with tranquility. The truth is that it took us a while to find it because it was after climbing some stairs from which the church was not visible.
The particularity of this church is not its spectacularity, but in it are the chains of San Pietro and the Moses of Michelangelo. They are impressive, especially the Moses. After this, we went down to the Via dei Fori Imperiali. On Sunday, since this street is closed to traffic it's nice to walk without the burden of cars.
After Trajan's Forum we headed towards the Altare della Patria, but as it was still closed. We walked down to the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, where the Bocca della Verita is. On the way there is a church (I do not remember the name) full of people as Sundays are wedding days in Rome.
In Santa Maria in Cosmedin there were almost no people, so in 5 minutes we took the picture with Boca. There are some small urns to leave donations. I say this because everyone throws something, more than anything by compromise, since there is a security guard guarding the mouth and people who happen to take the picture.
It does not make much of a case. In fact, we take the picture, while he talks on his cell phone and barefoot, with the shoes lying there. The church interior is very small and somewhat abandoned or that was my impression. There are the relics of Valentine's Day, and a sign to the lovers.
On the way up we went to see Altare della Patria. There are security guards who start whistling like crazy so we cannot sit down or bend over to take a picture. Another curious thing is that they charge 50 cents for going to the washroom inside the monument, which is common in many places.
Following the signs, we get to a panoramic elevator that goes up to the highest part of the monument and from which we can see all of Rome. The truth is that it is worth it, but it is a little expensive. Another curiosity is the flame that is lit on the stairs, guarded 24 hours a day by guards.
After seeing the monument to Vittorio Emanuele we walked all the way through Via dei Fori Imperiali. We pass through the Colosseum to the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, which is the Cathedral of Rome. This Basilica is awesome. At the central doors of the cathedral, on the inside, there are two handles shaped like children.
Tradition says that all pregnant women in Rome who want to have a son, go to touch them. The Holy Stairs is just in front of the Basilica. This ladder is the one that Christ ascended in the palace of Pontius Pilate. People raise her on her knees, step by step, asking what each one wants. On some steps there are circles of glass. These circles are on the areas of the stone where the blood of Christ is falling from his forehead. It's quite an experience to hold them.
After this, we go down again towards the Colosseum. It was already broken and there was still a long day. We went to the Palatine and waited a little queue for about 30 minutes. There is a discount for members of the European Union under 25 years of age. When we left it was already 3 o'clock, so we went to eat. We ate at a restaurant that is on the street. I do not remember the name but it was overlooking the Colosseum and right next to a gay bar. We ate great and cheap.
After eating, and since we already had the ticket bought when we entered the Palatine, we entered the Colosseum. We did not have a guide. Some friends who have been recently were with a guide told me that it was worth it. We just wait to enter for 5 minutes. After seeing it we went to the hotel to take a shower and to rest for a while, as we were super tired. Not before buying some gifts near the Santa Maria Maggiore. We bought magnets and a keychain.
After resting we walked towards Via Nazionale. In this area there are cheap and nice restaurants. Afterwards we walked to the Pantheon and the Fontana. Of course, it was an unforgettable experience. We had an ice cream in the oldest ice cream shop in Rome. It's called San Crispino and there are two in the area.
One is in front of the Fontana, with the ice cream shop in the street on the right. And in the Pantheon, as we leave it behind us, there is a street that goes straight ahead on the left side. Right down that street, when turning the corner is another. It's tiny but has some delicious ice cream. Do not leave Rome without trying the ice cream.
I ordered a melon flavour and had even the characteristic strands. We also ordered one of fig that had the seeds! The two ice creams came out a little expensive, but it's worth it. And after seeing the Illuminated Fontana and Pantheon, which by the way is the best image that I take of Rome came back to hotel.
We get up early, like every day at 6:30 in the morning and at 7 we head for breakfast. At about 8 we left the hotel towards the metro, because to go to the Vatican it is necessary to take it. We took the red line to the Ottaviano stop. There we got off and walked along Via Ottaviano, which leads to the Vatican. We walk about 10 minutes and follow all the people because everyone goes to the same place.
As it was around 8:30 in the morning, there were almost no people. We saw the St. Peter's Square and we passed Basilica. To get to the Basilica, we have to access through some security arches on the right side of the colonnade. When we enter the Basilica just to the right is Michelangelo's Pieta, curiously protected with a Methacrylate crystal.
It is the only sculpture that we saw so protected and personally I was quite surprised. Because for example, Michelangelo's Moses was almost within reach, only protected by a mini wooden fence of only 30 cm in height. It will be for being inside the Vatican. As we continue on the side of the Pieta, a little further on, we see the tomb of John Paul II.
It was hard for us to find it since we thought it was in the papal tombs, but then they told us that since they beatified him, they went up to the Basilica. The first time we entered the Basilica we passed by as we did not know that this was the tomb. We see it from afar as there is a cordon of security and there are also several security people giving way only to nuns and priests.
One thing that we see is that there are many security people, of American movie types with dark suits and pinches. It surprised me a lot. As we walk around the Basilica we see little stairs that go down just below a very large statue (like all the ones in the Basilica). There we can access the papal tombs.
We go to another site that I will now tell you. There is also a sacristy that we can access. At the end of the corridor leading to this sacristy there is a souvenir shop and a museum. In this souvenir shop, among other things such as rosaries, scapulars there are some little glass bottles to be filled with blessed water.
These boats are found in all the stores around the St. Peter's Square. We buy it in the store inside the Sacristy, and we see a security boy. We give him the little boats and he goes to the Sacristy and at the same time he goes out with them full of holy water.
After seeing the Basilica, and luckily, there were hardly any people since it was early, we went up to the dome. To go to the elevator and the stairs we have to leave the Basilica and right at the door go to the left and there are the lockers. We see it indicated we enter the Basilica. We went up in an elevator.
We have the option to climb the 800-odd steps or walk up the elevator halfway up the road. From above there are spectacular views of Rome and especially of St. Peter's Square. The views were not very clear. Back to the elevator we enter a store that has religious memories and things right in this half of the way. I bought a rosary in this store.
At 11:30 we had arranged the visit to the Ufficio Scavi. I did not know about the existence of this trip to the Vatican necropolis. I made the reservations by mail and I had no problem. They were super quick to answer me and send me the tickets that you should print. I sent an email indicating the day I was going to the Vatican.
They confirmed that I had room to make the visit. I sent them a new mail indicating my credit card number and in just a couple of hours I had the confirmation and the tickets to print. At first I was not very confident about having to send my card number by mail, but I read that many travelers had done so and had not had any problems. I did it super fast and without problems.
To access the Scavi Ufficio, we go to the left colonnade as we look at the Basilica in front. There is a security control of the police that we must pass and then go to the Swiss guard who are the ones who give us access to access this area. Then we walk a little bit, all in a straight line and we arrive at the Ufficio Scavi. It lasts an hour and a half and the last thing we see is the original Saint Peter's tomb. Then, we go directly to the area of the papal tombs.
After this, we go to see the Basilica again. This time it seemed that we were going in procession of the amount of people there, and see the tomb of John Paul II, which in the morning we had not seen because we thought he was in the papal tombs. We went out in search of a place to eat.
In the end, seeing that the time to enter the Vatican Museums was upon us, we ate in a little stall on the street. We ate chicken panini and water. We did not like anything. The bread was super hard, and overheated. The chicken did not taste like chicken but between the hunger we had and the time that we were on, we ate whatever they give us.
We entered the Vatican Museums at 2:30. To access, we go out through the right colonnade. We walk down the street and go along the wall that there is. When we arrived there was an infinite queue, but as we were having the tickets, we tried to access by an area, supposedly for those who bought the tickets. The result was that they opened the doors and there everybody entered.
Of course, for anyone who understands art is paradise, and the impressive Sistine Chapel. I had been told it was very small, but when I saw it, it seemed very big. Yes, we were very squeezed and the security guards do not let you take pictures, and they kept shushing. The truth is that the visit was very long. We were very tired, and there were many people, many groups with guides but well, it is worth seeing, and more if you understand art.
At the exit, from the museum, we go to a souvenir shop. There is a post office. The Vatican has its own Post Office. It was the only place where I found Vatican coins. I wanted to buy some to give to my father because he collects them. In the St. Peter's Square, there is a numismatic shop. I asked there but they told me that they did not have them, that I should ask in the souvenir shops around the square because they sold them there.
I asked at a store on the way to the Museums and they told me that they did. They sell them in collector's cases. They also told me that the only euro currency that is in circulation in the Vatican is 50 cents. The rest, they only sell them to collectors and they are not in circulation. For my purchasing power they were very expensive. So I asked in the post office of inside the museums and there they sold the coins of 50 cents.
Once we left, we took a bus that took us to Trastevere. We entered the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere and we walked a little through the neighborhood. After walking, we went to the Tiber Island and back to the hotel. At night we went for a walk and dinner. We got into a restaurant of these in which they offer pizza and drink. It was not bad, but not to good either.
I still dream of the first pizza I ate in Rome. Later, we went to the Fontana, to say goodbye to her, since it was our last night, and of course, to eat a banana and chocolate ice cream. If a banana ice cream is natural, its color is gray, nothing of the typical yellow color. I can tell you that its flavor is unforgettable.