Running around in Rome

By the time we arrived in Rome, we were all starting to show signs of travel fatigue but we continued our gruelling pace for the final three days, in fact, I think our pace intensified as there was so much to see in Rome.  We had another great apartment located  a short bus ride from the historic core.  It was a large two bedroom, two bathroom apartment with a very modern kitchen and a lovely, private patio/garden.


Trevi Fountain

We arrived at the tail end of Culture Week (held each year during the first week after Easter) which allows visitors free access to all the national museums with a few exceptions. Over the course of three days, we saw the following sights:  the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Colosseum, the Arch of Constantine, Palantine Hill, the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel, numerous churches as well as several smaller museums.  We walked everywhere and along the way enjoyed the different squares: Piazza del Popolo, Piazza Venezia, Piazza Navona, Piazza del Campidoglio, Piazza di Spagna, Piazza de Trevi to mention a few.  Rome is a treasure chest of archaeological and artistic treasures, with a rich history that spans two and a half thousand years; it is a melting pot of architectural styles such as ancient, medieval, renaissance, baroque, and neoclassical.  We barely skimmed the surface as we tried to cram as much in as we could; you could easily spend a month in Rome and still have more to see.

The Colosseum
Inside the Colosseum
 Sonja at the Colosseum
Piazza Venezia
The Spanish Steps
Sonja and Christina in a courtyard of a museum.
Street scene in Rome
One of many statues we saw in Rome.
The Pantheon
Inside the Pantheon.

The opening at the top of the dome measures 43.3 m in diameter, which also happens to be the height of the Pantheon at its highest point.

Amongst the ancient ruins.

Piazza del Popolo

While in Rome, Sonja ran another marathon distance – she has committed to running the equivalent of a marathon each week this year.  Why? She thought it was a fitting challenge for her 52nd year of life, thus the name of her year-long event: 52 @ 52.  As part of this event, she is raising funds for the Ottawa Chapter of the Snowsuit Fund.  You can follow her weekly runs from the comfort of your couch via her website:  There’s Something About Running.  Or if you’re a runner, you are welcome to join her Sunday running group most of whom run 20K with her. And everyone is welcome to support a good cause and help her reach her goal of raising $5,200 for the Snowsuit Fund.

Sonja planned to run the Rome Marathon route which proved to be rather complicated and difficult to follow.  I joined her at the beginning with the intention of running the first 10K, but somewhere along the way we took a wrong turn and got off track by a few kilometres.  There was nothing I could do but keep running with her until we got back to a more recognizable neighbourhood and a bus stop.  I surrendered after 20K (didn’t know I still had it in me to tell you the truth) and after enjoying a cappuccino together in a little café, we went our separate ways – Sonja continued on to complete the route a couple of hours later, and I headed back to the apartment to meet up with Chris for another afternoon of sightseeing.  It was a fun run and the route was great passing all kinds of interesting historic sights, even though we got lost for a while.  It was a sunny, dry day, almost too warm by early afternoon, but much better than the miserable weather we had in Milan the week before.

Video:  Running in Rome (before we got lost)

My favourite sight in Rome was our visit to St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel.  We arrived at St. Peter’s before 8:00 well ahead of the crowds.  This was the most beautiful and largest church we have seen to date.   The Basilica is almost a kilometre away from the entrance to the Vatican museums and the lineup was almost as long.  Happily, we had reserved our tickets in advance (see travel tip below) and could therefore walk to the front of the line.  It was only 9:00 when we entered and the long corridors were already clogged with tour groups.  We agreed in advance that we would go our separate ways and meet later in the afternoon – a wise decision given the crowds.

Crowded corridors in the Vatican.

St. Peter’s Dome and Altar

Since I was most interested in the Sistine Chapel, I headed in that direction, elbowing my way through the tour groups that would stop and block the entire passageway – how annoying!  As I entered the dimly lit Sistine Chapel, I felt a twang of disappointment.  The large rectangular room, reputed to be the same dimensions as King Solomon’s temple, was jam packed with tourists – wall to wall, you could barely move.  It felt claustrophobic and seemed almost irreverent the way people were talking so loudly, especially the tour guides.  I walked to the centre of the room and just stood there quietly, looking all around me.  My neck started to hurt as I peered at the ceiling above.  I caught snippets of information from the tour guides. As I started to understand some of the paintings, I wanted to learn more.  After all, here I was standing before Michelangelo’s masterpieces that some authorities deem to be the best in the entire world.

Ceiling of the Sistene Chapel with the famous “Creation of Adam” panel,
one of six that told the tale of the creation and downfall of mankind.

Sistene Chapel – Judgement Day by Michelangelo

Sistene Chapel – View looking towards the back.

Sistene Chapel – View looking towards the front.

I decided to go back to the entrance and get an audio guide and then proceeded to spend the next five hours slowly making my way back to the Sistine Chapel, visiting the many museums along the way.  The amount and variety of art I saw that day was simply astounding. As I made my way back to the Sistene Chapel, I took a “wrong” turn and discovered the four rooms known as the Stanze of Raphael.  These rooms formed part of the apartment situated on the second floor of the Pontifical Palace that was chosen by Julius II della Rovere (pontiff from 1503 to 1513) as his own residence and used also by his successors. The walls and ceilings were covered with frescos painted by Raphael and his school between 1508 and 1524.  Below are scenes from the Raphael rooms.

Back at the Sistine Chapel which was even more crowded in the afternoon, I sat on a bench along the wall and listened to all the audio segments describing every aspect of the Chapel.  I left with a much better appreciation and a deep feeling of gratitude for having the opportunity to witness in person such magnificent masterpieces from the past.

As our whirlwind tour through Italy came to an end, we saw Sonja off at the airport and we spent the the next three days just taking it easy in our apartment in Rome.  Honestly, we were exhausted and tired of playing the tourist.  We were very much looking forward to our next adventure, a month on a farm in Tuscany.

Travel Tip: To avoid insanely long lineups, I’m talking hours of waiting, purchase tickets to the Vatican Museums and Sistene Chapel (one ticket covers admission to both) online in advance.  Buy the tickets directly from the Vatican ticket office to avoid excessive surcharges. The entrance fee per person (unguided) is 15 euros plus a pre-sales fee of 4 euro.  Once you complete your on-line purchase, a voucher will be emailed to you.  Simply print the voucher, and show it to the ticket agent at the front of the line.

Travel Tip:  Avoid the long lineups at the Colosseum by purchasing your ticket at the entrance to Palantine Hill which is just a few minutes away.  Your ticket gives you access to both sites.

Travel Tip: If you are staying outside the historic district as we were, purchase a multi-day bus pass (12 Euro for 7 days).  We used the bus system extensively. Piazza Venezia was a central hub where most bus lines terminated.

Travel Tip:  For better food at more reasonable prices, head over to the Travestere neighbourhood.  It’s a 5 minute bus ride from Piazza Venezia.

Note: We have been at Trove, the farm in Tuscany for more than two weeks already. I have several entries ready to post but a bad storm a few nights ago knocked out the telephone service and we have been without internet ever since.  Such is country living I suppose.  Currently finishing this entry from an internet cafe in a town called Sinalunga.  Hopefully we’ll be back on line within next couple of days and will then be able to post to the blog.

Category: Europe, Italy, Travel Tips
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