This is a story back when I was doing study abroad in Paris, 2015. We took a weeklong trip to Italy, with our third stop being Rome and Vatican City. We stayed a few nights, touring, walking around for probably a marathon’s distance over that time, and checking out some watering holes. Two of the folks on the trip, Matthew and Nick, are Italian-Americans so we had the joys of experiencing it through their lens, as well. This bit’s somewhat lengthy so I divvied it up into five parts; three in Rome itself and two in Vatican City. I know that the Vatican isn’t part of Rome, technically, but it feels cheating to put it outside the Rome section. So it’s included in both to be fair and pragmatic. Hope that helps; enjoy!
The basilica is hands down the most beautiful church ever constructed, at least its interior. Starting from the bottom, the basement has a series of tombs for several Popes and you can see their monuments, coffins, memorial, etc. Upstairs, it just occupies an absolutely massive amount of space. Each of the chapels off the side are seemingly bigger and more extravagant than any church we have in the States, or even elsewhere to be honest. Red marble and gold adorn every nook and cranny.
The church itself is buried on top of St. Peter’s burial ground, and is not actually the original. Around 1500 it was decided the old one was in absolute disrepair, and the new one was constructed and probably for the best. I actually got lost in there, because there was just so much to see: a huge altar, massive domes, chapels, confessionals, sculptures of angels and popes and biblical figures. I think the most stunning part was the very back, beyond the altar is a piece called Gloria, with brilliant orange stained glass, and a dove in the middle. Gold appears to shoot off every which way suggested the rays of the sun, and the brilliance of God. Google it if you want as my pictures don’t do it justice. In person it’s just awesome. We decide to head out after a while, and Nick met up with a cousin he hadn’t seen in forever, who was actually a nun in Rome.
We headed back to the hostel. We had reached out to some friends who got us in touch with their friends, and we headed out for a final dinner in Rome. We got fried artichoke as an appetizer, and me and Nick got buffalo mozzarella and truffle pizza, which apparently is a very Roman dish, and my god it was delicious. The amount of olive oil used in this one meal could have killed a man, but somehow we stayed alive, and the girls afterward drove us up to the highest hill in Rome behind the Vatican.
Although trees somewhat obstructed our view a bit, it was beautiful, and we got our bird’s eye view of yet another city. (Something I regretted from China, was that it was so smoggy at times, it wouldn’t have even been worth it to pay to go up a tower or climb a mountain, because you wouldn’t be able to see anything.) It was interesting talking to the girls as they actually said at times they don’t feel that safe in Rome.
For me the verdicts not out yet. I simultaneously loved it and was disappointed by parts, but I guess that’s why you travel. The monuments and ruins were awesome and mind-boggling. The history of the whole place leaves you dumbstruck. But in terms of modern conveniences and expectations, it falls a bit short. A lot of the buildings just look shabby. Some trashed parts. Nothing you wouldn’t really expect from a major city, nothing you couldn’t find in, say, New York City, but it’s just not what you read about from Rome, capital of the ancient world. If someone offered me a job there, I certainly wouldn’t say no, but Rome doesn’t necessarily top my list of living destinations. I would certainly come back given the opportunity.
Last few things. The pizza and pasta there in general was just so much better, obviously, but do we need another Yank giving praise to Old World food? They had pizza by the slice there, which I think they have in New York, but it’s different. They have long strips of rectangular pizza. They take a knife and slowly move it above the slice. You say “when,” they then cut it, weigh it, and charge you. We had simple things like basil, mozzarella and grape tomatoes and they were scrumptious. We also had another restaurant that we loved and went back to a few times. Great owner, great food, great broken English. One of those places you try and find if you come back and hope the guy recognizes you.
Anyways we had a 7am flight, so we tried to get a commuter train there, but as stated, Roman transit is awful and couldn’t get to it. We tried to get a bus, but it broke down. We tried to get a cab, and third time’s a charm. In the airport someone was smoking e-cigarettes, which I’ve definitely never seen. [At least not in an airport in early 2015 that is.] We saw a group of 10 men chanting and jumping up and down and screaming. Odd. On the plane the stewardess reminded us midflight that we weren’t to smoke. I’m hoping nobody actually tried, but let’s be honest, someone probably tried to light up. And the man next to me elbowed me in the ribs for 2 hours as I tried to sleep. Italians know food, but the verdicts not out on their airport etiquette.
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Like what you’re reading on Vatican City ? Check out some other related articles in: The Vatican City Chronicles!