Italy – Vatican & Colosseum

Italy – Vatican & Colosseum

Written by: Jessica
Captions by: Diego

Pro tip: get to the train station early for your choice of seats. The Naples/Rome route ticket prices vary significantly based on how many stops there are along the way— your options are for a more direct and faster service, or it can be slow and meandering. We chose slow and meandering as the price savings were huge (USD$50 vs USD$15, or in that ballpark per person). So huge, that the train company didn’t seem to care who rode the train and never checked tickets during the entire 2.5-hour journey.

We checked into Hotel Morgana.  Despite it being early, they accommodated us with the early check in. Afterward, we grabbed our laundry, dropped it off at a laundromat around the corner and ate an amazing meal at Trattoria Cecio. I had my favorite meal in all of Rome there: a truffle and cheese sauce on pasta with ham.  Although, some other restaurants had fantastic artichokes for me to enjoy…. The meal prices between Rome and Naples is massive. Rome is about 50 percent more expensive than Naples. The wine was still cheap, though! Diego often would purchase a ¼ or a ½ liter of the house wine for us to enjoy with dinner for about 5 euros.

Later that day, we took a walk around the city and photographed the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain. We went back to the Trevi at least one other time during our stay in Rome to get photos in different lighting.

The Spanish steps – it’s a big staircase. I’m not really sure why this is so famous as it has a vanilla history. Though it was featured in an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond and was mentioned in a Bob Dylan song, I guess it has that going for it…
The top of the steps gave you a pretty good view of the city. It wasn’t very crowded that day, maybe due to the weather. Sadly, it was very cloudy/rainy the entire week in Rome 🙁
Trevi Fountain – this place looks much nicer with its detailed sculptures.
Different angle. I was playing with long exposure and an neutral density filter (makes things darker so you can take a longer exposure).

The next day had a packed schedule. We got up and walked the hour from our hotel to Vatican City.  We spoke to the guards and got guided into the city itself (not the museums, or St. Peter’s Basilica) where we met our tour group for a tour of the Necropolis of St. Peter. This was a truly amazing experience and there is so much history within that city.

The Vatican was built on a pagan memorial ground, because that happened to also be where the apostle Peter was supposedly buried after he was crucified. The early Christians built a memorial for him, and then Emperor Constantine leveled the hill so that Peter’s tomb was at the top and built a church right on top. Over the centuries the churches got destroyed and re-done until today we have St. Peter’s Basilica above his supposed tomb. There was no body inside the tomb when it was excavated, instead bones, missing the feet, were found in a wall surrounding the tomb. Scientific analysis has shown that the bones are from the correct time period, and correct age and information about the man—but nothing is conclusive, since there is no historical record of Peter being removed from the tomb. The tour led you through some of the crypts that had been buried, and we were able to see a small portion of what is believed to be Peter’s burial place. If you ever have the chance: Take the tour! Sadly, I cannot show you photos of the inside as we were not allowed to take photos (it is a cemetery, after all).

St. Peter’s square – look at all the invisible tourists! Once more, we were here pretty early and beat the crowd.
I tried to do a panorama but the square is far too big for my poor camera (Sony a6500).
To get to the Necropolis, you walk to the left side of the square and go through security (X-ray machines were covered). Sadly, we didn’t get a cool Vatican stamp, they stopped doing those – I was sad.
The entrance to the Necropolis. Sadly, this was the last photo I was allowed to take before going in as it is a cemetery after all. I highly recommend trying to get an entry for this tour, it is very interesting and has a monumental amount of history beneath the city.

Afterward, we climbed the cupola of St. Peter’s Basilica. There were too many stairs for my taste, but the views were gorgeous. I liked that better than the interior of the Basilica, personally.

About halfway up to cupola with the sunrise. Fun fact, the Vatican Observatory (not shown here) owns a state-of-art telescope in Tucson, Arizona as there is too much light pollution in Rome. A Catholic priest (PhD in Astronomy) proposed the Big Bang Theory and the church accepts it along with evolution, contrary to popular belief.
We’re walking around the dome, literally. This shot is actually perfectly leveled and we had to walk sideways, pushing up against the dome in some areas.
The top has a phenomenal view. You can see the entire city around you as you walk around.
It’s very windy up at the top.
The Vatican gardens.
Inside the cupola is very nifty, lots of detail to the wall artwork. Beneath us and to the right of the grate wall is the basilica.
I tried to get a shot of the basilica below but the grate put a damper on that plan.
The dome at the top is full of incredible artwork.
You walk down the cupola and toward the gift shop within the church and cafe on the left. This left a bitter taste and damaged the feeling of this being a sacred site. 
Inside the basilica, everything is grandiose.
The Necropolis is directly beneath the Dais (the center throne), where St. Peter’s body is supposedly rests. 

Due to time constraints, we had to eat right next to the church. This is an awful idea in general as restaurants near major monuments tend to be too expensive and serve terrible food. We hurried over for our scheduled entry to the Vatican Museums. We had purchased “Skip-the-Line tickets” online, for a small extra fee, because sometimes the line to enter wraps around the entire Vatican City. February is low-season for tourists and this proved to be unnecessary as there was barely a line to skip in the afternoon. Diego experienced the wait years ago during the summer months, it took about 1-2 hours to get in.

The exit, I sadly thought this was the entrance when I took the photo. Oopsies.

We spent a few hours going through exhibits on Christian history as presented by paintings, sculptures, tapestries, and other works of art. It’s not all Christian in the museum, however; there was a hall of Greco-Roman statues. I particularly liked that.  Most people are aware that the Sistine Chapel is within the Vatican Museums, but I think fewer people know that there is also artwork by Leondardo Da Vinci and Raphael. I looked for art by Donatello, to round out the Ninja Turtles, but I didn’t see anything. The Sistine Chapel is massive, and gorgeous, but I personally enjoyed the rooms by Raphael a bit more. Perhaps it was because they came first, were less crowded (and pictures are allowed!), and I was better able to appreciate the views. The Sistine is one of the last rooms to tour in the Vatican Museums, and by then it was getting toward dinner time.

LOTS of tapestry artwork. Most of which are hundreds of years old and donated to the museum.
THE CLAW, I meant BALL! I have no idea why this monument was put on museum garden, it’s very jarring compared to the other pieces.
Lots of statues, busts, and other pieces of Greek and Roman pieces of art. It’s really cool to see some of the Greek gods in the museum – that it’s not 100 percent about Catholicism.
Art is EVERYWHERE in the museum, you can easily spend a full day here trying to appreciate it all. The walls are tapestry maps of the known world, several hundred years old, of course.
All the Ninja Turtle paintings and other pieces of artwork are here.
You lose sense of reality in some areas, every single room is meticulously and beautifully painted.
We treated ourselves to some premium custom-made ice cream bars on the way back to our hotel. They’re expensive but delicious.

The next morning, it poured.  We had purchased hideous lime green ponchos at Machu Pichu, but had never used them, and pulled them out when it started raining right before we got to the Colosseum. Within 5 minutes we knew the things were absolutely useless. There were no arms, the front and back were loose and the wind kept pulling the front up, since it wasn’t connected to the back, except at the top, and the hood kept blowing off.  The Colosseum is an amazing place, and really interesting, but due to the weather our trip there was a bit shorter than we’d have otherwise planned and not as enjoyable.

The Colosseum is a great experience. Though the digital guide is bland and lacks fun facts, it’s still better than Pompeii’s counterpart (it’s great for insomniacs). The guide is worth getting it for $8.
I might as well have been wearing a 50 gallon trash bag, the Shrek plastic was almost worthless.
The Arch of Constantine, right next to Colosseum. It was erected by the Roman Senate to commemorate Constantine I’s victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312. Dedicated in 315, it is the largest Roman triumphal arch – emperors took this path when they entered the city in triumph. Thanks, Wikipedia!

We went back to the hotel for a while to dry off and wait out the rain. Afterward, we walked to the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano. This is THE technical seat of the Pope and ranks higher than St. Peter’s Basilica in official church organization. However, in reality, the Pope is almost never there and it’s less grandiose. What really hit me was this: I had expected the souvenir shops at the top of the cupola of the Basilica, and in the Vatican Museums, and in the Vatican City. But here, within the main chapel itself, there was a room to sell souvenirs in the number one Catholic church in the world…I was appalled. Diego, who has been to Rome before, tells me this is fairly typical at the major basilicas. Jesus must be very upset considering he flipped sellers’ tables in front of Christian churches.

Another incredibly grandiose and magnificent building. To be fair, this is the Pope’s official seat, not in the Vatican.
It’s beautiful inside, though smaller than the Vatican basilica. Surprisingly empty, seems like most people don’t know about the actual purpose of this church.
The entire history of Popes and their crests. I wish I had purchased the poster as it’s quite interesting from a historical perspective.
The Pope’s literal seat. It’s actually made out of wood and much less flashy than his predecessor’s.

Afterward, we spent our evening back outside the Colosseum, taking some night photos. If it hadn’t been for a need for dinner, I think Diego would have stayed there a lot longer! As it was, we probably took photos for an hour and a half that evening, between sunset photos, and after-dark photos.

Night shot of the Colosseum, I finally got a small reprieve from the rain during for a few hours!

Tune in again soon for the rest of our journeys through Rome!

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