Vatican City, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Piazza Navona
18.07.2014 - 21.07.2014 18 °C
We were advised that the best time to visit St. Peter's Basilica is between 7-7:30 AM or after 5 PM to avoid the crowds. Hence, we started the day early. We had breakfast at a lovely little cafe called as Vice Cafe near the B&B. We had cappuccino and a variety of croissants which forms the mainstay of Italian breakfast.
We walked to St. Peter's Basilica which was around 1 km from our B&B. Actually going out at this time gave us a different view of the neighbourhood with not many people on the street, people getting ready for the day and cafes setting up their tables.
We had downloaded the Rick Steve's audio guides for Italy before our trip and they were very informative. When visiting any ancient monuments or archaeological sites, lot of things make more sense when there is some explanation associated with it, and the audio guides did just that.
We reached the St. Peter's Basilica at 7:45 AM and could go in easily without any crowds. St Peter's basilica is one of the largest churches in the world. The visit to St. Peter's was overwhelming.
St. Peter's square is a spacious, oval shaped piazza in front of the church with a tall obelisk in the middle of the square. There is a large statue of Peter in front of the church holding keys. It is believed that Peter was Jesus’ right hand man and had come to Rome to spread Jesus’ message of love. Peter had been recognized as the first pope of Rome and the altar and the dome in the church mark the spot of Peter's grave.
There are five famous bronze doors leading to the church. Once you enter the church, you will be mesmerized. It is a very huge and beautiful church with sculptures and paintings all around. There is a bronze statue of Peter in the church. In one hand he holds the keys and the other he blesses us. Michelangelo's Pieta is another world famous sculpture in the church that depicts the body of Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after the Crucifixion.
The main alter is directly beneath the dome, topped with bronze canopy.
We had reserved the 9:30 AM slot to the Vatican museums to skip the crowds. The booking can be done at the following official website of Vatican museums. We walked to the Vatican museums and were glad we had advance bookings after looking at the queue. We were not particularly interested in the museums, however wanted to visit the Sistine Chapel. Hence, we just walked quickly through the museum.
Sistine chapel is a very beautiful chapel famous for Michelangelo's painting depicting the entire Christian history from Creation to Last judgement. Unfortunately taking pictures inside the Sistine Chapel is not allowed.
After the Sistine Chapel, we walked back to our hotel. We had lunch at a local trattoria called as Ragno D'Ora which was recommended by our B&B. Had a first taste of local food with the house wine, Seafood Pasta, Gnocchi in tomato sauce and of course Tiramisu. Everything tasted so amazingly tasty, and very different compared to the Italian food served back home in India.
After resting in the rooms for some time we took the metro to the Spanish steps. Taking the metro was an amazing experience in itself and once we got a hang of it, we preferred that means of transport to any other. Spanish steps is a very famous attraction in Rome and is a monumental staircase of 135 steps climbing a steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Trinità dei Monti church at the top. There were lots of people just sitting on the steps and watching the world go by. I could not really understand what was so spectacular about the steps but it served as a tick mark on my to-do list in Rome. Unfortunately the fountain at Piazza di Spagna was closed for restoration work.
After the Spanish steps, we walked to the Trevi fountain (800 mt from Spanish steps) , which was again half closed for restoration. This was a major disappointment as I was looking forward to it. It is believed that if you toss a coin into the fountain, you end up returning back to Rome someday.
Our next stop was the Pantheon (650 mt from Trevi fountain) which is a temple dedicated to all Roman Gods. It stands on Piazza della Rotonda, which is complete with obelisk and baroque fountain. We had a Rick Steve's audio guide for the Pantheon which was very useful for understanding the history of this ancient monument.
I had read about an old cafe near the Pantheon called Sant'Eustachio which Romans claim serves the most superior coffee in Rome. We stopped here for a coffee break. It was nothing out of ordinary and we quickly moved to our next destination, Piazza Navona.
Piazza Navona is the most beautiful square in Rome. In the evenings, the entire place comes alive with music, art shows and live performances. It is a wonderful place to just sit down for a while to soak up the atmosphere and people watch. Isha had a lovely time chasing the pigeons and playing in the water. The fountains are also beautiful specially the Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers which is floodlit at night.
We took the bus back to hotel. We had dinner at a restaurant close to the B&B called Osteria Centouno. Food was okay, nothing great to talk about.