Another day, up early, in Rome and the goal was to walk from our hotel to the Vatican City. We got a bit off track, ending up crossing a different bridge than we intended, but it worked out great to give us the best view of St. Peter’s Basilica, with smooth green water trailing towards the great city’s dome.
Once we had crossed into the Vatican City, we settled for a moment to get our bearings, and gazed up at this museum (the line to get in was long, but the building itself was awesome – a mix of newer looking and finely sculpted carvings ringed the exterior that was sitting on a crumbly old base. There was also a merry go round, tinkling music and a street lined on both sides with giant oak-like trees that were patchy brown and very tall.
We passed lots of little booths and vendors selling goods, postcards, purses, magnets, and more, into the steady stream of people all heading in the same direction – towards St. Peter’s square. In hindsight, we should have forced ourselves to wake up early again, rather than take our time and walk down leisurely and end up at the square around noon, when the sun was at it’s hottest and the crowds at their fiercest, and this kind of took away from the experience. I suppose any Saturday (or Sunday) is going to be a madhouse, but I have never seen so many people in my life, anywhere. We got as close as we could to the basilica, and admired the great buildings, pillars, fountains, and statues crowning the stone, but the crush of hot, sweaty people was a bit too much to handle. There was some kind of parade going on through the square, and a choir singing and band playing right up under the dome, and it must have been tens of thousands of people, waiting in three hour longs line to enter the church for a closer look. Not for me!
I’m glad we went, and it was definitely a memorable sight, but there was no way I wanted to wait all afternoon in the blistering sun to gain access to the basilica or even the museums (I’d hoped to have a bit of a walk through and check out the Sistine Chapel) so we walked slowly back through towards Rome, back over a different bridge, and wound our way towards the Spanish steps, bustling with people, and then a pizza at a nearby eatery while sheets of rain started to fall.
That night, I’d hoped to walk down to the Trevi fountain and maybe check out the Coliseum at night, but the steady rain vetoed that plan so we tried to go back to the trattoria we’d eaten at the night before (Tyler wanted to order the exact same pasta since he loved it so much) but it was closed (at 7:30pm on a Saturday night?) so we went to another restaurant close by, called Il Golfo, and enjoyed another great meal – the server greeted us with a fried seaweed appetizer on the house, then I had homemade gnocchi with tomatoes, and wine. This place was fairly empty but the food was delicious, well-priced, and probably the quickest service we have had in any city in Italy so far.
After, we sought out a gelato joint called I Caruso and oh my god. The ice cream was unbelievable. They make it freshly in house (you can see the steel tubs and machines to the left through glass) and the lad there explained each flavour to us – they had interesting ones like amaretto, liquorice and pistachio, and I settled on a chocolate/ hazelnut cup while Tyler had strawberry and banana with a dollop of handmade whipped cream. This was by far the best gelato we had on our while trip. The strawberry especially was so, SO good!
Next morning found us packing up and eating one last Italian breakfast (pastry and 2 cappuccinos each) before we set out to walk to the Roma Termini train station from our hotel. The amazing I Caruso place was closed, or I would grabbed one last delicious icy treat on the way! The sun was bearing down and we got to the station, walked around looking for the shuttle bus to the right airport, went to a couple of info stops, then finally bought bus tickets. We made our way to Via Marsala and waited in front of the Best Western hotel there, and look around for the SIT bus that we wanted to take. We were accosted by 5 women as we walked down the sidewalk, one with a blank cardboard sign and 3 of them pregnant, asking for money I think, but after we shook our heads politely they started grabbing at us, kissing their hands and trying to touch us and Tyler finally bellowed out, “NO!” as I trundled my luggage right over someone’s foot trying to move past. In hindsight I think they were actually trying to distract us and try to pick our pockets but our wallets were wedged tightly at the bottom of my big yellow purse and clamped under my arm so, no luck for them. We’d seen quite a few beggars and peddlers throughout our trip, but these ones were the most aggressive for sure.
The bus to the airport took about an hour, and stopped in Vatican City giving us one last look around as well as some time to reflect on all we’d seen and done. Once we found the right terminal, then the check in desk, got our boarding passes and went through security, we shared one last caprese salad while we waited.
I love you, Italy, with your bubbly prosecco, your bidets to soak my aching feet after a long day of walking, the continual games of chicken trying to cross your streets with no traffic lights, your wine in all shapes, sizes, and variations of flavour, your crispy, chewy, cheesy pizzas and your delectable pastas, the indescribable beauty in the trees, carvings, monuments and landscape, and your art, buildings and ruins steeped in history and meaning. My only consolation as I sit here in the airport is that I am heading to another country with a few more days of adventure awaiting me: Paris, here I come!