Roma– A Catholic’s Mecca, a historian’s delight, a food lover’s haven, a painter’s paradise and a traveller’s treasured dream place to go to. Let me share my experiences in the magical city of Rome and the Vatican.
When you go to Rome, it is advisable to stay close to the Vatican, since that is the centre of the city, all the tourist points are around the area, and most importantly, the hop-on hop-off busses begin their tour from the Vatican. Plus you also save on expensive taxi rides. I visited Rome with my friend Daphne and booked ourselves in a small boutique hotel which was a 5 minute walk from the Vatican.
We walked to the Vatican and signed up for a Hop-on-hop-off tour. It was priced at 14 euros per person, which was valid for 5 days. (This was in February 2013). These buses stop every half hour at each touristic hot-spot, and are the easiest way to cover the important points. Once you are in the bus, you are given a map and an audio guide which guides you as you drive through the historically rich city of Roma.
The first stop was the St.Peter’s Basilica. It’s best to go here early in the morning, when there is no queue. If not you’ll have to wait in the queue for hours together. Once we entered the Basilica, the pure splendour and magnificence of it enraptured my senses and I was speechless. I stood and breathed in the essence of the church, the high ceilings covered completely with intricate carvings and paintings, the exquisite flooring and the overwhelming beauty of the church. It was huge! We then walked up to the top of the dome, which was around 700 steps, and once we reached on top, we could see the entire Vatican City and its gardens in all its manicured glory.
On our way out, we stopped at the famed Pieta, a masterpiece by Michelangelo, depicting Jesus on his mother’s lap, after his crucifixion. The pain on Mary’s face is so evident that it grips the viewer with a sense of sadness. This was the only signed piece of work by Michelangelo.
One of my favourite stops of the tour was the Fontana Di Trevi or the Trevi Fountain. While some say that throwing a coin into the fountain ensures your deepest desire becomes a reality, others say that it guarantees your return to Roma. Regardless of whether these legends are true, the Fontana Di Trevi is a magical place and one of the most beautiful fountains in the world, with magnificent carvings and clear blue green water. An interesting fact I heard about this fountain is that the coins thrown in amounts to 2000 to 3000 euros daily, and this money is then used to provide groceries to poor people at subsidised rates.
Another must-see is of course the colosseum. One of the greatest examples of Roman architecture, it happens to be the largest amphitheatre of the Roman Empire, It was initially used for gladiator fights.
Spend at least a couple of hours inside the Sistine Chapel. Dripping with history and the most admired paintings, it’s truly a painter’s paradise. The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was painted by Michelangelo over a period of 4 years and it is covered with one masterpiece after another. It is indeed unfortunate that you are not allowed to take any pictures inside the Sistine Chapel. Nevertheless, we sat and absorbed the beauty of the chapel enough to last us a lifetime!
There are so many wonderful souvenirs you can get home from Rome. Don’t miss out on a photo opportunity with the Gladiators. Although they charge a bomb of 5 euros per person/picture, it is indeed a memorable memento to treasure. You can also buy beautiful paintings of the most famous sights in Roma. A printed copy of the paintings cost around 3 euros while an original painting would cost you 125 euros. I also bought a bottle of olive oil- how could I come home to a mother who loves cooking with olive oil, without a sample from Italy! Italian leather ballerinas were a great buy too. They’re supremely comfortable and long lasting. Other lovely mementos I picked up was a beautiful rosary from the Vatican museum. It is the very essence of Rome and the Vatican city.
The cappuccino in Rome is to die for- creamy and delicious, but beware of a strange Italian norm. If you stand in the café and drink the cappuccino it costs you 1 to1.50 euros, but if you sit down at a table and have the same cappuccino, you’ll end up paying 5 to 6 euros.
You are in Italy, an you can’t come away without trying their pizzas and pastas, can you? You can step into any café on the street and be sure they’ll serve you tasty pizzas. Enjoy it with a glass of wine, or beer, or your choice of drink! It’s the perfect way to relax after all the walking and the shopping.
No matter what your interests are, Rome is one place you won’t come away disappointed. It has something for everyone!