7 days in Rome and Pompei
Walk to the Vatican
We walked from the east side of the old Rome over to the Vatican — a distance of about 1.5 miles. Over the course of our stay, this would be the longest foot trip we took, but we wanted to make sure to see the city in the morning.
Everything we read about the Vatican recommended getting tickets ahead of time to avoid the long lines. We did just that. Turns out you don’t have to worry about that in January. As we walked up, we saw the ropes for where the line would go snake back half a mile from the entrance — but empty. We walked right in, presented our tickets and entered. If we hadn’t had tickets, we still would’ve been able to walk right in.
We opted to not get an audio guide. I’d recommend getting it through. The difficult part for us was discerning what was of historical and cultural significance amongst a museum where everything could be. Much was recognizable for sure, sure the pieces we didn’t recognize outnumbered those we did by 500:1. We started on the Egyptian side, saving the Sistine Chapel for last. I’d recommend doing this the other way though, and starting with the best while you’re still fresh and excited. After you’ve been wandering around the museum for 3-5 hours, you might not get the same level of excitement out of the crown jewels of the museum.
The size and scope of the museum means that you’ll be wondering from one loosely defined area into another one. From Egyptian to a sculpture garden to animals to pagan gods with only a few doorways in between.
Possibly my favorite room in the Vatican (aside from the Sistine Chapel) was the long and narrow Map Room. This room featured maps of Italy towering 15 feet high by 20 feet wide down both sides of the hall. The maps were incredibly detailed and split out to the many different regions of Italy.
The floors throughout the Vatican are their own works of art.
Even more amazing than the floors were the ceilings. To think that many of these were painted hundreds of years ago was awe inspiring.
Stanza della Segnatura
The Stanza della Segnatura was one of the rooms I was most looking forward to. This room is filled with paintings by Raphael including The School of Athens — a painting that includes Diogenes laying on the steps — who inspired my online alias. Every wall, edge and ceiling in this small room is beautiful. There’s no easy way to explain it. Imagine 50 people in a room not much larger than a decent living room decorated like Versailles and you might be close.
The last stop on our tour of the Vatican was the Sistine Chapel. Unfortunately (or fortunately) this is a working chapel and no photography was allowed. We grabbed a seat towards the middle, and plugged in Rick Steves Audio Guide to the room and relaxed as we heard the history behind the ceiling, the murals and the various portraits drawn along the edges of the ceiling. I’d definitely recommend listening if you’d like to know more about the room.
Exiting the Vatican
Even the stairs out of the Vatican were beautiful.
Unlike the Vatican, there was a huge line to get into St. Peter’s Basilica. We didn’t have pre-purchased tickets for this one, and were museum’d out by this point so decided to instead explore St. Peters Square before heading off for some dinner.
St. Peters Square
After our whirlwind Vatican tour, we headed south towards the Trastevere district (<10 Euros Taxi) to explore. This area was recommended as a hip, thriving area with interesting food, shops and bars. Unfortunately, it’s not so around 5pm — an evil time between lunch and dinner. We managed to wander around to the few places open before spotting a highly rated places on Yelp for our first real meal of our trip.