I was pretty excited for Rome mainly because of its historic significance and the weather. When we landed in Rome, I took off my jacket and scarf without delay. The weather was so much like in Kathmandu, that it made me a little nostalgic. Ciampino airport (used by budget airlines mostly) is about 40 minutes from the city center. At the beginning we were a little confused and kept on walking in search of public buses (we thought they were numbered like anywhere else in Europe). But turns out that the buses were right outside the terminal and were not coded by numbers, but just the destination written in a small card.
As the budget airlines such as WizzAir and RyanAir always fly during the inconvenient hours, we were sleepy and tired. But since we had only two days in Rome, we decided to drop the bags at the apartment and not waste the day by getting rest. The way to the apartment was quite long. We had to change to metro, then to train and finally to bus. I found the train and metro network in Rome to be quite confusing. Often the direction of the train and the timetable were not displayed on the platform monitors and we had to wait indefinitely. The same was for bus, even worse, because the schedules were not specified on the bus stops and for tourists and people new to Rome, it’s a hurdle. We wasted about 3 hours in just reaching to the apartment, because of confusing train schedules and bus delay. The traffic in Rome also seemed much different and chaotic from Northern Europe, as we saw that drivers rarely stopped for pedestrians even at the zebra crossings.
The apartment we booked via airbnb was very clean and well equipped. The hosts were very nice as well. The only drawback was the distance from city center (40 minutes without counting the delays but we always experienced delays). After dropping the bags we decided to see the Vatican city for the day. I was excited and energetic after a bit of rest and shower at the apartment. The most fun part was to experience summer in October. It was 27 degrees that day.
Getting to Vatican wasn’t so difficult. I couldn’t believe that I was entering to a different country. There were no cars but a lot of walking visitors. There was a huge queue for entering to St. Peter’s basilica. We got offered by a “company” that would provide us direct entry to the basilica, tickets to the top of the dome and a historical museum inside the dome. But the price of 40 euros was too high and we went ahead and joined the queue. We got through in about half an hour as the queue was moving too fast. The interiors of the basilica were magnificent. I was awe-struck with the massive amount of work that must have put into the designing the interiors (as well as the exteriors). I didn’t really understand the stories portrayed by wall paintings and didn’t really recognize the characters from Bible, but nevertheless it was equally enchanting. We then went to the top of the dome. We took the elevator to go up. The fees were 7 euros for elevator and 5 euros for stairs, quite reasonable. The views from the top as expected were spectacular. We could also get a closer look to the dome of St. Peter’s designed by the famous Michaelangelo from the terrace one floor down from the top. The stairway was quite narrow and steep and hence not recommended for claustrophobic, children and old people.
We saw the Swiss guards after coming down from the top. Quite interesting that the guards protecting the pontiff are from Switzerland. They wore very colorful attire.
We then walked around the beautiful St. Peter’s square and walked on the main street lined with embassies, restaurants, consultants and such leading to Rome. How could Vatican City, so small and with only 800 inhabitants be an independent country?
We then reached to the Castle of the Holy Angel (Castel Sant’Angelo). The cylindrical building in the warm October evening looked beautiful. We stayed there for a while overlooking the Vatican City and the bridge with the statues of the holy angels.
We had to now get back to the apartment. Even with the map, we got a bit lost but eventually made it to the train station. The train was delayed and it was further tiring when we got off one stop earlier by mistake and had to wait another 40 minutes for the train, which I assumed was delayed too as they were announcing something in Italian. Then we waited for the bus for another 30 minutes or more and finally got to the apartment. It was an end to the busy, tiring yet a very nice day!