ROMA PT I
We arrived in Rome in the evening, so we just headed to our hotel. We got up early the next morning and took the subway to Vatican City-the Ottaviano stop which is better because then you don't have to walk up a big hill. Most people take the stop after that. We opted for this tour because we wanted to be able to skip all of the long lines in to the museums at Vatican City. We just followed the herds off the subway but then looked at a map and realized we wanted to go to the museum entrance for our tour-not St. Peter's Square where everyone was headed-we were glad we noticed before we walked too far out of our way. The tours all have earbuds and little receivers so that we can hear our tour guide even when walking in crowds of people.
This was my favorite part of the museum tour, it was a long corridor with detailed paintings all along the ceiling. The museums were pretty crowded and I felt like shuffled cattle at some points. But I guess they are always packed. People come from all over the world to see it. There are 30,000 people a day who visit Vatican City-pretty crazy. I thought it was very exciting and interesting.
There were many gardens and one was a private garden for the pope. We didn't see him, but people can go every Wednesday and Sunday to see him-that didn't work with our schedule but I kept looking for him in the gardens :)
Then we headed over to St. Peter's Basilica. It is believed that the apostle Peter is buried under the basilica. Our tour guide (the archeologist) says there is so much evidence that points to that.
It was enormous inside. It was incredible to see the immaculate detail and enormity of these ancient structures.
Then we heard we could pay to go up to the top of the dome and we were so excited. The 500+ stairs were pretty sketchy and worn down. I could only imagine how many millions of people had made the same trek. It took maybe an hour at most to go up and down but the line wasn't long at all. The stairway was curved to follow the inside of the dome and very narrow at some points. So I would not recommend it if you are claustrophobic.
But the views of Vatican City and Rome were amazing!
Can you see the little people at the top of the dome, right where the columns meet the top of the dome. That's where we were.
View from the steps of St. Peter's Basilica. The pope gives a sermon here every week. This is also where the new pope addresses the world for the first time.
Then we were back on the subway headed to the Pantheon, whew! I get tired just remembering how much we were on the go! We did stop at a Vodafone store on our way to buy a sim card. We paid about $40 for a 4 gig sim card with internet access only. We were able to download an app that let us make calls through the internet when we needed to call a hotel. Having the sim card was cheaper than buying an international plan. It only worked while in Italy. It was great being able to use our iPhone for directions and restaurants but we also needed to use a map every once in a while because my phone would die because we were traveling so much and wouldn't have a spot to charge it or sometimes we wouldn't have service. But definitely worth the $40!