I said this before and I will say it again – “Rome was not built in a day, so it was not possible to see Rome in 3 days either!” Essentially Rome for 3 days was possible but you have not seen her properly. If you are rushed for time, like we were and you have only got 3 days – you have to plan your time and sights carefully!
Hotel – through last minute.com we found a 5 star hotel (Hotel Aldrovandi Palace, by Borghesse park in the quiet and affluent neighbourhood of Parioli) with a decent deal, where you stay 4 nights you get one night free. So on an average night it came out to be about €210 per night including taxes and breakfast. The hotel’s location although a little far from downtown where the action and sights were, is still alright. We had a car with us and the hotel has its own parking complimentary for hotel guests and that was mainly the deciding factor. The hotel provided free shuttle bus ride to the Spanish Steps each day every 30 mins. Driving in downtown Rome can be rather nail biting especially if you are unfamiliar with the roads. Smart cars everywhere , they are worse than the scooters/mopeds. Decision made, hotel was ok for our needs.
Verdict: By the way it also has the 1 michelin starred restaurant called ‘Baby’. The hotel room is of a good size, clean and comfortable. The breakfast buffet was good.
Day 1 – Vatican City (22/10/2009)
I wasn’t sure if there will be long queues for the Vatican museum and the Sistine Chapel – it is October after all, but I did not want to take the chance as we were on a tight schedule, I bought the admission tickets online (€28 ticket + €8 booking fee for 2 adults) through the official vatican website http://mv.vatican.va/3_EN/pages/MV_Home.html . As it turned out, on the day itself, the queues were not bad – probably a 15 minute wait all in all. So you could take the chance and come and queue up instead of buying them beforehand. I read that it is alright to do so if you are visiting on Tue-Thurs, but for Fri, Sat and Mon, the queues can be longer and crazier.
Some guidebooks say you will spend at least 3 hours , you can easily max out to 6-8 hours. We spent 6 hours plus a little more. So I suggest to make it a full day trip to the Vatican if you want to savour and really enjoy the Vatican’s art collection to your heart’s content. Although there are cafes in there, it may also be wise to bring some little snacks with you as we forgot to eat! Hahaha – yes but then suddenly we were starving, late in the afternoon – luckily we had muesli bars with us. We happily ate them and when our blood sugar level was up to normal again, we were refreshed and could continue on.
Here are some of the fantastic art pieces awaiting you especially by the Renaissance masters.
Laocoon, 1st AD – studied by Michelangelo the human form and copied them inthe Sistine Chapel frescoes
Raphael’s Transfiguration in Pinacoteca
The ceiling of The Map Room ( I was most fascinated by it) . Coordinated by Giralomo Muziano and Cesare Nebbia, together with a large group of artists, they made the ceiling frescoes. The decoration depicts a series of 80 episodes taken from the history of the Church and the lives of the Saints ; each episode is linked geographically to the region represented below it on the walls.
The Last Judgement by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel. If you look at the bottom right hand corner, you will see a man with his genitals bitten by the snake, that is Biagio , a contemporary of Michelangelo who complained that there were too much nudity in the Sistine Chapel and insisted that these exposed parts should be painted over. Tongue in cheek, and fed up with Biagio’s complaints, Michelangelo painted Biagio with the snake mouth covering his private parts!
We ended the tour by entering the St Peter’s Basilica – impressive as it is, the church itself besides the size and the grandeur, is an art piece herself! I went over to rub St Peter’s foot as it is believed that the Catholic pilgrims rub his foot to give thanks for having arrived in Rome safely. As a show of respect too, I went over and continued that tradition.
Here you can also see the humongous work of Bernini – the Baldacchino – a baroque canopy , which marks the holiest part of the basilica. Under it is the papal altar, where only the pope may celebrate Mass and straight beneath that is the site of St. Peter’s tomb.
Beneath the Baldacchino, my attempt to take a photo of the papal altar…
Also in St Peter’s basilica, you must not miss Michelangelo’s Pieta – he made this when he was 23 yrs of age – you can see why he was one of the best in his time.
By the time we finished with the Vatican city (we started at 11am), it was already 1745hr. We headed back to the city – towards Piazza Navona . We had dinner at a charming but small vinoteca called Mimi e Coco on Via del Governo Vecchio, 72 (close to Piazza Navona).
NB: Keep in mind many proper restaurants are opened late, from 7.30pm onwards. Quite likely places that are opened all the day long are very touristy and Rome restauranteurs (the more scrupulous ones) are known to also cheat tourists.. so just keep your eyes and wits around you when ordering making sure you ask the price for what you order if they are not stated in the menu.