Our first stop was strolling around the Via Marsala area near our hotel (Hotel Stromboli), where we encountered the Fountain de Naiads as the sun shone over and engulfed Rome. We rose early to absorb the area as much as we could, and boy was it worth it!
Our next stop was visiting the Basilica di St. Maria degli Angeli, which was approximately a 5 minute walk away from our hotel. If I was intrigued by the exterior, which looked magnificent standing as a rough, almost broken but not quite battered building, then I was absolutely astounded by the interior of this church.
When we headed into the building, it truly hit me how small I was in comparison to the large structures I was surrounded by. When I looked up at the ceiling, I saw a beautiful dome-shaped ceiling, intricately designed to creep into the centre and then release a spectrum of colours out onto the floor of the church. This created what could only be described as an ethereal atmosphere!
Here’s a funny picture I took of my brother looking rather small in the grand scheme of things…
As we headed further into the church, I heard the most soothing yet haunting Italian hymns playing throughout the building. Combined with the silence of the church and magnitude of the space surrounding us, this created quite an emotional visit for me – I was nearly on the verge of tears. A silent prayer was made all the more lovely while looking at the architecture framing the walls of the church, where a picture of Jesus Christ in the centre sent my heart soaring and left me in awe as a ray of sunshine shone straight onto his face.
After a short rest back in our hotel, we purchased day passes costing 6 euros and travelled on the Metro (Line A) to Ottoviano station to visit Vatican City and see the Vatican Museum.
TIP: Book your tickets for the Vatican online and in advance. The queues to enter the Vatican were stretching right down the road outside, and honestly, when it’s hitting 35 degrees in Rome, you do not want to be waiting in the sweltering heat to get tickets for an attraction which is essentially, a must-see. Don’t waste your time and energy even before you’ve got in. We had our tickets, showed security and were inside within a few minutes.
The Vatican was definitely one of the more finer places I have visited in my life. I was mesmerised by the intricate, attentive and simply awe-inspiring architecture and art that surrounded me as I walked through each of the rooms. I learned that walking through the Vatican is equivalent to a 4 mile walk, and I can definitely say that my body suffered the after-effects of this throughout the day and right until I got back to my hotel later that evening.
TIP: I heavily regret wearing flat sandals with a slight heel while sight-seeing in Rome. It’s definitely a place for wearing comfortable shoes, so your best shot is take a pair of trainers with you or simply, wear them! Yes, it can get really hot, but your feet won’t suffer from wear and tear and you’ll actually feel better walking around this way.
The Vatican – although astounding – is also never-ending, and I found myself wandering when I would actually be out into the big wide world again. Our visit quickly became a very rushed and pilgrimage-like tour of the museum and became evident that myself and many others were just rushing through it all. There is simply too much to see, and I for one felt extremely overwhelmed as someone with little knowledge of what I was in fact looking at. As intelligent as I wanted to be, I did find myself becoming quite frustrated as I couldn’t quite read what I was looking at as a lot of people hogged the displays and it became really loud inside. Mixed with the heat and crowded atmosphere, the Vatican can become tough for some.
Regardless of the this though, the Vatican is definitely a site of cultural and historical explosion and one you absolutely have to experience. Many of the things I saw were a joy to see and things I will probably remember forever. The painted ceilings, the complex and intricate architecture, the vibrant colours bouncing off the ceiling all illuminate the interior of the building – with the sunshine blasting through the windows, you really do feel the holiness of things. The sheer work put into making the Vatican what it is, the Renaissance feel as well as the art, culture and history all combine together to make you open your eyes and really think about the works you are viewing.
However, there is only so much the mind can handle before everything starts to blur and appear the same, so don’t wait around if you’re getting a tiny bit bored! If you start to feel the strain of the museum, then don’t worry, you’re not alone!
There were some beautiful views of Rome from the windows of the Vatican museum, so be sure to have a look outside and take it all in:
The Vatican ends with the final and most sensational room in the entire building: the Sistine Chapel.
The above image is blurry, but this is only because the room is considered so sacred and exclusive that people are not allowed to take pictures or even talk too loudly. We managed to take a sneaky picture anyway. Another downside was that we were rushed out by security and were not allowed to stand still in one position for too long. If I’m honest, the Sistine Chapel was something I really wanted to absorb, but the security guards were pushy and insistent that look and leave as soon as possible. Nevertheless, the beauty of Michelangelo’s paintings are displayed in all their glory, showing the height of Renaissance art with the famous depictions of The Creation of Adam and Perugino’s The Delivery of Keys. Standing amongst this really made me feel as though I was amongst something remarkable. If you skip the Vatican, do NOT skip this!
After finishing up at the Vatican, we headed outside to a small garden and sitting area, complete with a restaurant behind us. As you can see below, I had a lot of fun there…
TIP: There was a guy selling ice-cream here, and it wasn’t that good. Don’t buy it from him.
After relaxing in the garden, we walked over to St. Peter’s Basilica. It looks as though it’s just behind the Vatican, but it does take about 15-20 mins to get there too after a long and winding walk…
St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest church in the world and naturally, the site attracts many, many visitors. As such, it can often be difficult to get inside to view the free entrance to the ground floor of the church, and this is what we encountered upon arrival. As we found it difficult to get in, we could only view the exterior of the building as just like the outside the Vatican, the queues for St. Peter’s Basilica kept growing steadily. Despite not entering inside, we were still exposed to glorious weather, blue skies and stunning architecture yet again…
Day 2 brought with it another burst of hot weather as temperatures reached around 35 degrees and we found ourselves heading out in the sizzling weather.
Here’s where the real downside occurred on my trip: my family and I were pickpocketed on the Metro line B from Termini to the Colloseo station.
We made a huge mistake in getting onto a packed carriage, and just as the doors closed, my dad dragged me and a lady with a baby into the carriage so she wouldn’t be harmed. I remember looking at this lady and thinking “wow, she must be really desperate to get somewhere if she put the life of her baby at risk!”. Her baby started crying in distress – after all, we were on a hot, sweaty and extremely busy carriage. When I looked down on the floor, I spotted my sister’s wallet and assumed she had dropped it, but once I noticed this, my brother and mum noticed that their bags had been opened – my mum had a zip but my brother had buckles (which I’d assume were harder to open!) which were UNDONE. The wallets containing both euros and pounds and credit cards had been snatched, but once we raised the alarm and frantically started looking, the wallets ended up on the floor and we retrieved them quickly, everything still intact. As we got to the next station, the lady with the baby got off the train, as well as others, and we attempted to recover from the horror of knowing that we’d been pickpocketed so cruelly.
It was without a doubt the innocent-looking mother who had stolen from us, and we later realised that two other men (or at least one) had also been working with her. Once they saw that we were aware of our pickpocketing, and because my dad has grabbed the lady onto the train as she tried to escape, they dropped the wallets and remained silent.
So here’s a warning from me to other people travelling to Rome: only take what you really need, and whatever you do take, guard it with your life. Be suspicious of everyone, for everyone looks like they wish to do some damage to you. This may sound harsh, but it’s the truth – Rome is glamorised for being a beautiful and exhilarating city offering the best of the world’s landmarks. Indeed, it does live up to these expectations, but many choose to ignore the increasingly terrifying problem of pickpocketing and the poverty and rough areas that surround the city centre. As much as I liked Rome, I wasn’t able to fall in love with it because of this frankly traumatic incident that massively scared me and my family.
After this harrowing incident however, we got ourselves together and headed off to see the Colloseum.
TIP: Do not use the main ticket purchasing area for the Colloseum, otherwise you will be queuing forever. We arrived at 10.45am and went to the ticket counter for the Palantine Hills to get a combined ticket for the Palantine Hills and Colloseum. This was a ticket counter which is located a short walk away from the Colloseum – and it was well worth it. We waited in the line for around 15-20 mins (the queue was not growing too much) and the ticket cost us 7 euros upon presenting our British passports – as EU citizens we got a discount of 5 euros where the ticket cost 12 euros otherwise.
The Colloseum was absolutely AMAZING. Describing the monuments in Rome can become difficult as each and every one is outstanding in its own right. The Colloseum stands tall and proud and basks in its own glory, and seeing it in right in front of my eyes was just a dream come true. Even though it is now a ruin and had some unattractive scaffolding on the left of it when I visited, I was in awe when I thought of the cruelty which took place here – the fact that man and beast fought here and that criminals were slaughtered and put to death inside is a little troubling and daunting, but the Colloseum still oozes status and pride, despite its murderous past.
The Palatine Hills and Roman Forum are uphill, quite strenuous yet spectacular areas with greenery, rocky pathways and ancient, hidden caves and ruins offering the most fantastic views of the city. Although tiring, these are monuments which you must see to fully absorb the Roman culture.
TIP: There is a man standing outside the Palatine Hills selling ice water for 2 euros – buy it! It will refresh you in the heat as you walk.
In the evening of our second day in Rome, we visited the Trevi Fountain, which was closed for refurbishment and so a massive disappointment. Although the water was not running and there were cages surrounding it, it was still worth throwing a coin in and making a wish!
We finished off our trip in Rome by visiting the Spanish Steps. However, the beautiful flowers were nowhere to be seen and tourists sitting on the steps took away from its beauty. I also felt the steps were overrated – but at least I can say I went!
Overall thoughts on Rome:
Pickpocketing: I would definitely come back to visit Rome and finish up on seeing the monuments I missed out on, however, the pickpocketing incident and rough areas containing suspicious-looking people have distressed me enough to make me loathe the city a little. Travelling in Rome is stressful, and if you’re looking for a relaxing holiday then Rome is not the place to be. You must remain vigilant at all times.
Food: As someone who eats Indian food on a daily basis and so someone who indulges in spicy, flavoursome food, I really struggled to find Italian food any good. I found a lot of it very lacklustre and boring, and felt that every other eatery was either a pastry-orientated shop or selling different varieties of pizza and pasta. This just didn’t do it for me, and I found myself disappointed with the local cuisine!
People: It was extremely to find any nice Italian people who genuinely wanted to help. I have returned back home praising the British for our helpful and friendly attitudes and our ability to answer questions properly. I felt that a lot of Italians were quite socially awkward, using facial expressions to convey their feelings in a manner which seemed extremely impolite. Even when they did speak, it was to cause confusion or answer in riddles. This didn’t help us at all. There was also an increasing feeling that many people in Rome hadn’t witnessed an Indian family before – my mum, who was wearing a traditional Indian suit, acquired many strange looks from passers-by, and in general, people made comments and gave us weird looks that were unsettling and uncomfortable. Thank God for London and our multicultural society in Britain! At least I return back home feeling grateful for accepting and reserving judgements on people of all colours and races.
Atmosphere: Rome is a noisy, bustling city which does not quieten down. If it does, it would be around midnight that people finally get into their homes and unwind. I quite liked how busy it was and the fact that something was always happening, but again, if you want some quiet time, then don’t visit Rome!
Rome was a mixture of emotions for me, but it provided a fantastic 2 day trip which I will never forget. All the highs and lows are welcome in my books, and this trip has definitely opened my eyes to a lot of things!
Thank you, Rome, I hope we can meet again.