Monday, March 11, 2013

Weekend in Rome - Day #1

As a Christmas present to ourselves last year Roma and I decided to spend a weekend in Rome where neither of us had even been before. We arrived late on Thursday evening and immediately went out for pizza - when in Rome...!

Our first full day was very wet - rain almost all day. We headed to the Vatican (photo to left is on the Victor Emmanuel II bridge over the Tiber) and took one of the tours (€25/head) from the numerous touts that greet you at the entrance to St Peter's Square - the queues were very long. I have to say that our guide was very good, knowledgeable, and entertaining. St Peter's Basilica is everything you expect it to be - very big and awesome. Bodies of Popes, wonderful frescos and mosaics everywhere. It was packed with people of all nationalities, and perhaps different faiths. The highlight for me was the magnificent Pieta by Michaelangelo.

It was raining quite hard when we came out (see photo in front of Basilica), so we decided to take in the Vatican museums while we were there. Once again we were hooked by a tout - this time our experience was not so good. We were kept for nearly an hour before the tour started ("Just a few more minutes....") as the touts argued over/discussed us. Clearly they wanted some more tourists in our group and we stupidly waited. There was no queue to the museum and at €40/head we very much overpaid. Our guide this time did not have great English and she certainly wasn't nearly as good as our previous guide. The museums are definitely worth seeing, but avoid the touts and enjoy it on your own. The highlight should have been the Sistine Chapel, but it was closed for the Conclave to elect the new Pope.

On our way back towards our hotel we stopped for a very expensive coffee and a glass of wine at the Piazza Navona. It too was very busy, but it was nice to be sitting outside and watching people go by. Close to this is the Pantheon - a magnificent Roman building with a hole in the roof.

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