Plan for three days
From Orvieto we would drive straight to our guesthouse near Vatican City, that would be about a distance of 124 km and would take about 1.5 hour. Since the journey was not very long we planned to spend some time exploring Orvieto Town in the morning before setting off to Vatican City. We had allocated three nights for Vatican City/Rome which should give us plentiful of time to explore.
By the end of the three days.
Vatican City was stunning and Rome was all about historic building and architectures. We visited many standard “tourist attractions”. Trevi Fountains, Colosseum, Altar of the Fatherland, Janiculum Terrace, Piazza Popolo and walked around town drifting from one historical place to another. Three days were definitely enough for visiting Rome and Vatican City.
Rome Public Transportation System
The center of Rome was off limit to non-resident car so we parked our car on a street just below our guesthouse and used public transport to explore Rome. Our first trip was to Piazza Navouna, from our “stay” we walked about 50 m to the nearest bus stop. Using google map we had already identified the location of the bus stop, which bus number should we take, the route, duration and the number of stops of the bus journey.
Bus 46 route from Pope’s Bridge Guest House to Piazza Navouna
The bus came almost immediately and we boarded the bus. We thought we could buy the bus tickets from the bus driver (like how we did in Florence) but was told by the driver that he did not sell tickets and we had to purchase the tickets prior to boarding.
We got our ticket from a convenience store near the bus stop and was back to the bus stop to wait for the next bus. Each ticket costed €1.50 and it was suppose to be usable on or metro for 100 minutes after first validation.
At the bus stop was a big board with the bus numbers with detailed stops information. We waited and waited and waited and there was no bus after 15 min, after 30 minutes after and 45 minutes. What happened to the bus 46 which was suppose to arrive at every 15 minutes? Finally after an hour the bus arrived!
In our three days in Rome we found that buses and light rails terribly unreliable. Those that we needed just did not turn up and we wasted many hours waiting. There was a time that we gave up waiting for a particular light rail and walked on to seek other means of transporation. Another issue we encountered was the ticket, it was supposed to be usable for bus and metro but we found out at the metro staton that the ticket was not accepted.
Day 1 of rome
From our “stay”near Vatican city we took bus 46 to Piazza Navona (public square). Around the square were were many “old/historical buildings”. The one that stood out was the Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone and in front of the church was a fountain with an obelisk and surrounding it were four figures, each representing the great rivers: Ganges, Nile, Danube and Rio de la Plata.
It was after 7 pm and the piazza was crowded with visitors. All round the piazza was shops, restaurants and cafes and many people could be seen relaxing in their chairs with drinks in their hands. It would be a great place to have our dinner and wait for the sun to set and the lights around the Piazza to brighten up, unfortunately we had no luck finding an empty table. In the end instead of dinner I settled for an gelato at GROM.
From Piazza Navona we took a short walk toward Tiber river. It was a 300 meters walk and that brought to a road bridge across river Tiber. Across the bridge was the Supreme Court (Corte Suprema di Cassazione). This baroque style building was very grand.
On the road-bridge we saw stairs that led down to the river banks. The banks were wide and we could see some people strolling on them. So we also went down to explore. From the bank we saw a huge dome, it was the Dome of St Peter’s Basilica of Vatican City. Against the backdrop of the setting sun it looked magnificient!
From the river we walked about 1.2 km eastward to Fountain Trevi. From the many photographs of the fountain, we knew it would look magnificient in the evening and that would be the best time to see the fountain. We did not expect so many visitors to felt the same way too because by the time we reached the fountain the place was packed with people.
The fountain could be view from three multi level decks that half circled the fountain, and every deck was packed full with people. There were a lot of pushing and shoving just to be infront so as to get a nice shot of the fountain.
We waited until the sun went down before we left the fountain.
On our way back to our stay near Vatican City we passed the “Altar of Fatherland”. This building certainly looked more impressive in the night light.
The Altar of Fatherland (Altare della Patria) also known as National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II (Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II) was built to honor of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy.
Vatican At Night
It was close to 11 pm when we started our walk from our “stay” to Vatican city. We want to see the Vatican City in night light. The route was about 850 m to the front entrance of the Vatican City.
Our route took us through the main road which was still busy at 11 pm, there were many cars and buses plying the road. It was well lighted so we felt pretty safe. Near the Vatican City we saw a couple of vagabonds sleeping on the ground under the building columns of the Vatican City, we wondered if these were the immigrants that we heard so much about.
The Vatican City was beautifully lighted up at night and surprising there were many people coming in especially to see the night beauty of the Vatican City.
It was way past midnight before we left the Vatican City and retraced the route we had earlier taken. We enjoyed our late night out, if we had not stayed within walking distance of the Vatican City we would probably not visit it at night.
DAY 2 – Vatican city
Our day 2 was entirely dedicated to the Vatican City visit. We had bought our tickets online from the Vatican Museum website (www.museivaticani.va) some two months ahead of our visit and had chosen a guided town. During the booking the earliest timing for this selected day was 2 pm. The cost of a guided tour for the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel was €33 per person.
We arrived at the Vatican City one hour before our guided tour and found the place crowded witn people and there were queues everywhere. In was rather confusing. We knew that we needed not join any of these queues as based on the instruction on our online printed voucher we were to go to the ticketing office to exchange our online printed voucher for the actual entry tickets.
We went into a ticketing office on the left side of St Peter’s Basilica but was told that it was the wrong ticketing office. We were instructed to go to the one on the right side. To get to the right side was not to walk directly across but to walk a big loop round the external wall of the Vatican City to the other side. It was a long 1.3 km walk under the hot sun!
There were many people walking along the same direction to the entrance of the Vatican Museum. At the entrance we had to walk past some security check/scan door way. Once into the building we went up a landing to the “Guided Tour” counters where we exchanged our online ticket voucher for the actual Vatican Museum tickets. We still had 15 minutes to spare before our guide arrived.
Soon our guide arrived and we were each given an audio receiver with a ear piece. Our guide gave us some pre-tour introduction of the Museum and Sistine Chapel with the help of a large digital video screen. He was pretty informative, he highlighted many interesting details in some of the paintings that we should looked out for. After about 20 minutes of explanation we were finally ready to enter the museum.
One of the interesting exhibits in the museum was a humongous golden globe. It was a “fractured” golden sphere housed inside a bigger “fractured” sphere, an interesting piece of modern art within a historic space.
The amazing thing about this sphere was that it rotated easily when pushed! We guessed the artist was trying to show the “fragility” of the earth.. how easily it got fractured?
There were plentiful to see in the museum, scruptures after scruptures, paintings after paintings. What I found most captivating was the colourful paintings on the ceilings. The place was so crowded with visitors that we kept finding ourselves in a tight squeeze. Our guide was also walking too far ahead! It was a good thing that we had the audio ear pieces or we would miss out most of his explanations.
Our final stop for the museum guided tour was the Sistine Chapel where no photography was allowed. There were many guards around and everytime they saw someone photographing the place they would walk directly to the offender and yell straight into the offender’s face. It seemed like a technique to shame the offender.
Our guide had reminded us many times that after we entered the Sistine Chapel there were two doors at the far end. We were to take the right door and it would lead us to a route that bring us to St. Peter’s Basilica. If we did not use this route we might end up exiting the Vatican Museum and would have to join another long queue to get into St Peter’s Basilica.
The basilica was huge and very beautiful and again packed with countless visitors.
By the time we were done with Vatican city it was already close to 5 pm. We were only too glad that our stay was nearby and we could get back easy and had a good rest after a hot tiring day.
Day 3 in Rome
Actually two days in Rome would have been enough to cover all the major sights but since we had three days we spaced out the sightseeing. On the the third day we took a bus from our guesthouse to Janiculum Terrace to have a panoramic view of Rome.
We took bus 46 again and changed to bus 870 which brought us right to Janiculum Terrace. It was a Saturday and the place were crowded to many visitors. From the terrace we saw a panoramic view of Rome.
From the terrace looking to the right we slowly scanned the buildings looking for the Colosseum! Not easy as all the buildings had similar colouring but we found it. Its circular structure was still pretty obvious from far.
We saw groups of parents with their children crowding on the two sides of a cannon and wondered what was happening. So we waited too and at 12 noon sharp the cannon was FIRED!
It seemed that at noon everyday the cannon would be fired with blank of course. The history behind this cannon firing was that in the old day people relied on midday church ringing, unfortunately every church would ring their noon at different times, so in 1847 Pope Pio IX introduced this “cannon firing” at noon to regularize all the churches’s bell. This practice though obsolete today still carried on and on a quiet weekend the “boom” of the cannon could be heard all the way to the center of Rome.
From Janiculum Terrace we went on to Colosseum, on bus 870 then bus 87 taking about an hour.
There were many beautiful colosseums all over Europe but whenever a colosseum was mentioned everybody thought of the one in Rome. So finally we were here to see it. The colosseum was partially repaired so one side the facade was nicely done up while on the other side the facade was full of holes. We walked round the entire colosseum took a couple of pictures and were done.
After the Colosseum it was still bright and shiny so we decided to “bus” to Piazza del Popolo. This Piazza was an impressive square. There were two churches that looked onto the square they were Sata Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto. In the center of the square was an Egyptian obelisk dedicated to Ramesses II.
From the square were three streets, each street were filled with shops, cafes and restaurants. The left most street took us to the Spanish Steps. This was a set of steps up a steep slope between Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinita dei Monti at the top where Trinita dei Monti church stood.
The “Spanish Steps was our last sight for the day. Though the day was still young and bright we were tired after all the “bus-ing” and “walking” and were all ready to get back to our guesthouse for a good rest.
One of the restaurants where we had our dinner was the Goose Ristorante Pizzeria located on the ground floor of the block of building housing our guesthouse. It was most convenient as it operated very late into the night. Our first dinner in Rome was at Goose at 10 pm after returning from exploring Rome central. We ordered pizza for two and cafe latte and the bill was about €16.
On the second day we ate dinner at Hostaria Restaurant which was just a short walk from our guesthouse. We were coming back after picking up some fruits from a Carrefour outlet when we stumbled upon Hostaria. The waiter was very persistent at getting us to patronize the restaurant so we gave it a try. We had pizza and lasagne which were both pretty good. The cost of the pizza and lasagne came up to €18.
All round our guesthouse were cafes and restaurants. Every morning we had our breakfast at II Papagallo. Our guesthouse room cost included a breakfast every morning. Our host gave us breakfast vouchers and directed us to II Papagallo cafe to claim our breakfast. It was freshly made cappuccino, freshy squeezed orange juice, freshy baked crossiant and a sandwich. This was one of the best Italian breakfasts we had tasted.
Our Accommodation for 3 nights
We booked our double room at Pope’s Bridge Guest house Hotel from booking.com. The cost for three nights was €216 and an additional tourist tax of €21. The room had an ensuite toilet and the cost included breakfast. The room was not very big, but it was very well furnished and felt and smelled very fresh and clean.
The ensuite toilet was very big and clean and the hot water pressure was very good. There was no cooking facility but we had a kettle and a coffee maker in the room. Breakfast was at a nearby cafe and the food was better than our expectation.
One of the major reason we chose Pope’s Bridge Guest house Hotel was its proximity to Vatican City and we wanted to see it at night. Other reasons like available street parking and it not being in the car restricted zone were a positive push too.