Exploring Italy: A weekend in Rome & the Vatican City

As you saw in my last post, we travelled to Rome to celebrate my birthday a couple of weeks ago. I won’t disclose how old I am this year, but all I can say is I’m still in my 20’s… Ahem, moving on.

Tourists in Italy for the weekend

The obvious destination for us to visit was of course, Vatican City. We heard about the notorious tourist traps (waiting to lure you in outside), along with the endless queues. But were told by everyone not to be deterred by the queues and that it would be worthwhile.

That brings me onto the first highlight of our trip, the first night when we arrived we decided to end it with a nightcap in the hotel bar. We ended up meeting another couple (S & L), who were also from London. They were the sweetest and funniest people we have ever met and the night ended up bringing a range of great conversation.

It was the boy, my 3 cousins and I, and our new found friends. We drank into the wee hours of the morning talking about literally everything. I won’t go into too much detail as a lot of the conversation was very personal, but it made me so happy to have been able to meet such generous, kind and thoughtful people. It was actually S & L who told us not to be put off by the queues.

The Vatican, St. Peter’s and… McDonald’s

So the next day we had an early start and headed to the Vatican. We wanted to get there as early as possible as we wanted to miss as much of the queues as possible, so opted for an Uber there. My friend back home actually recommended using Uber, as it was really easy to use. However the cab system in Rome was really reliable as there were official taxi ranks everywhere. And cost-wise was just as competitive.

We didn’t buy any tickets and didn’t plan on visiting the Sistine Chapel or museums as we didn’t think we’d get the time. So we queued up for entry into St. Peter’s and after 45 mins, we were in! (When we told S & L the next time we saw them, they were funnily annoyed as they recalled how they had spent over 2 hours in the same queue the day before!)  Entry into St. Peter’s Square is actually free and you can walk around and see all beautiful architecture and history within the church this way. (The only tickets you have to pay for is entry into the museums, Sistine Chapel and the Dome).

We opted to at least head up the Dome. There was a lift to take you to the top but then there are still over 300 steps to climb. This doesn’t sound like much to the average healthy person, however it’s a whole new experience when the staircase is only wide enough to fit one person and the walls seem to curve sideways. If you’ve visited the towers at Sagrada Familia, this is a bit similar. We eventually made it up to the very top (after 4 breaks) and it was definitely worth it. The views were breathtaking. See for yourself below.

We then took a tour around St. Peter’s Basilica which was just as breathtaking as the views from the top! I’ve been to Duomo in Milan, La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and a few others I can’t remember now… But the beauty of St. Peter’s is indescribable. You simply have to visit it for yourself. I’m catholic and to be honest I’m a little out of touch with my religion. But to be in such a holy place surrounded by so much beauty does make you feel like there has to be more to life than what we live on this earth.

After a few hours walking through St. Peter’s, we walked down towards the river where we also passed Castel Sant Angelo. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to visit that, so I’ll be sure to head back there again on my next trip. That’s one thing I learnt on this weekend trip to Rome, was that 3 days is definitely not enough! I’m sure I’ll head back in the new year.

We ended up in Piazza di Spagna, where we did a bit of shopping, although I was rather tame as I decided to do the bulk of my shopping on the last day. It came to that awkward time in between lunch and dinner, and as we knew we had dinner plans we just wanted something quick to give us a bit of energy. So I hate to admit it but we did go to a McDonald’s in Italy! It was actually really good, they have a good ordering system, where you can order via a machine and pay at the till. To save the embarrassment from that failed attempt of ordering in a foreign language or being rude and simply pointing at the numbers on the menu. And if I’m honest, I actually wish we had a Crispy McBacon here in the UK.

Wine, Risotto, Gnocchi and more wine

Now for the real food! If you’re on a diet, there’s really no point in visiting Italy. As it is carb-heaven! (Or hell if you’re on a low-carb diet.) I indulged in a seafood risotto the first night and a seafood gnocchi the next. Unluckily I didn’t get time to visit the top pizza place (as ranked on TripAdvisor), but I will be sure to check it out on my next visit.

After dinner, we found our way walking around the town and randomly found ourselves at the Trevi fountain! We had planned to go there the day after, so it was nice to see it lit up at night also.

My cousin treated us to gelato, sorry no pics as we devoured it within minutes and had no time for photos – it was that good!

The one thing I definitely already miss is the red wine. We bought two bottles of Chianti and have already got through it. So if that’s not reason enough to go back then I don’t know what is… All this talk of food and drink is making me hungry, can’t wait to go back now.

There’s still so much to see and do in Rome that I don’t think I’ve even touched the surface. What do you recommend to go see next time?

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