Italy - Days 1-3
I just got home from being in Italy for 10 days. It was great. We did everything we planned to do, walked lots of miles and had an awesome time.
Since i took over 3,000 pictures (13Gb) i decided to split this up into 3 parts. Here's days 1-3.
Day 1 - FlightSeptember 26
Our first flight was from Flint to Chicago. Then had a 5 hour layover. After eating lunch at the airport we got on the bigger Boeing 767 and flew directly to Italy. It was a long flight and we flew all night.
Day 2 - Vatican
We landed around 9am at the Leonardo Da Vinci Airport, it was about an hours drive west of Rome. Karrie and i reserved a van to pick us up and take us directly to our hotel. The driver was crazy fast, we almost got into about 9 accidents on the way to the hotel. We had decided on the van because it only cost €80 for all 7 of us, €12 per person, which is about the same as the bus or train, without having to carry all our luggage with us.
The hotel was in a great location, it was right in downtown Rome. Although there was some slight problems with the hotel. Just know that Italians think a cot means a baby's crib, they had a Pack-n-Play in the room for me to sleep in. So after first paying the €2 per night per person fee because of some city tax, i then had to pay an extra €40 per night to stay there. It was a bummer at the time, we were all tired from the flight and just wanted to get in the rooms.
It was still only 11am in the morning and happened to be World Tourism Day. Which is why we scheduled to go to Vatican City and St. Peters Basilica. When we were making the itinerary two months ago we were looking up the hours for the Vatican and noticed that it was free entry on World Tourism Day, September 27, the first day we arrived.
First though we had to figure out what bus to take. Just outside of our hotel was the Barberini bus stop. We bought 1 ticket, good for 75 minutes of bus riding for €1 from the machine then waited for bus #62. The signs were really confusing at first and we had to run across the street after realizing that the stop we were at would take us in the wrong direction. But we got on and arrived at St. Peters Square after only 8 minutes.
(click for full size)
I think that the square and the basilica was one of the best parts of the trip. I could have stood outside or in the church for hours. The square was huge but we were surrounded by walls, statues and columns.
We decided to climb to the top of the Vatican's tower. There should be a sign that says "be prepared for 5,000 tight spiraling steps to the top!" It was a really tough "climb" to get to the top. First big spiraling steps then a pathway to tight steps. From there you got to see down into the basilica and got a view of the dome from the inside. Then another flight of stairs, to an angled stairway where i thought i was getting dizzy, but it turned out to be the steps that were curving.
Then more spiral staircases, steps and finally a spiral staircase so tight that they had a rope in the center for people to hold on.
Once at the top though, the view was great. We could see down into the square and all of Rome.
We had to hurry back down because we still definitely wanted to go in the basilica and they stopped letting people in at 4:30pm. The walk down the steps was as bad as going up, very dizzying.
But inside of the church was awesome. Huge ceilings, tons of great statues and artwork. The pictures don't do it justice, it was just an amazing feeling in front of St. Peters Tomb.
After all of that on the first real day i knew the trip was going to be great. Then we got back on the #62 bus and went back to the hotel.
Day 3 - Rome
Day 3 was a lot of walking. Our first stop was to get to Campo de Fiori (the outdoor market) before all the vendors left. So we decided to walk, it was about a mile from our hotel. The market was great, a little smaller than i thought it would be but great. I bought some bananas and apples for breakfast and put them in my backpack.
Another 5 minute walk and we were in Piazza Navona. It was alright, there were 2 fountains and lots of people selling artwork. It was cool but after being in St. Peters Square the day before any place would seem smaller.
Following the signs on the buildings, we headed east towards the Pantheon. The best parts of the trip for me was coming out of these small, dark streets with buildings on either side and having it open up to these great places. It's the same feeling you get when you come out of a tunnel and into an arena like at Joe Lewis or Tigers Stadium. That's what it was like for the Pantheon.
It looked a lot bigger than i though it would from the outside. The inside was nothing special. But i did like the light shining down from the hole in the ceiling.
We stayed for a few minutes then kept heading east to the Trevi Fountain, always stopping into stores along the way. It was only a 5 minute walk from our hotel and it was great. The sunlight reflecting off the water and all the people made it one of the best places in Rome.
We walked around for a while and Karrie and her mom threw coins in for good luck. We all agreed to come back at night.
Yesterday we had to leave the Vatican without seeing the Sistine Chapel, they stop letting people in at 4:30pm and kick everyone out at 6pm. So we decided to take the bus back and go see it. We walked around to the back of Vatican City, then stood in line for about an hour. Once we finally got in it was ok, but way too crowded. The ceilings and artwork was great but the entire time we were sandwiched in between hundreds of people.
After being pushed around by the crowds through the somewhat boring parts of the museum, the modern art wing especially, we finally saw Michelangelo's ceiling. Everyone was told to not talk and no pictures. But i was sneaky and took this picture holding my camera down at my waist, that's why it's so blurry. You can see The Creation of Adam down at the bottom. I expected it to be a lot bigger, but it was just one of the many paintings on the ceiling.
After leaving we rode back and had dinner near the hotel. Then we walked up the hill, to the north toward the Spanish Steps. There's lots of people just sitting around, and lots of guys selling the usual tourist junk, forcibly handing roses to all the ladies to buy.
The view looking up at the steps is definitely better than from the top.
Before going back to our hotel we walked to Trevi Fountain again. It was just as awesome at night as it was during the day.
As we were standing there we got some gelato from a shop nearby. Although our favorite gelato was at the shop near our hotel, across the street from Piazza Barberini.
This was the street in front of our hotel, ours was the one with the scaffolding in front. During the day there's mopeds, cars and buses that fly down this street.
We walked several miles that day and it was all great. Although the most annoying part was all the guys selling the usual tourist junk: fake purses for €20, scarves for €8, roses for €8, then random goo balls for €3. Any big attraction you go to, or busy corner you walk by, is bound to have these guys trying to sell you stuff.
Tomorrow we would be taking a train to Florence.
- The buses in Rome are pretty good. Sometimes they are overcrowded and uncomfortable, but after a few days you can figure them out. I knew that bus #62 took us from our hotel to The Vatican and bus #175 took us to Termini train station. Those were mainly the only 2 we rode.
- In hindsight we probably should have bought the bus pass good for 7 days for €16. Although it was cheaper to buy individual €1 passes each time we rode it definitely wasn't easier. We either had to run to the machine or find euros in our pocket each time. One pass might have been more expensive but it definitely would have been easier. And no €50 fines to worry about...
- I was the person in the group with the backpack. I carried maps, water and food for anyone that needed it. I also had a money belt that i wore inside of my pants with Karrie's and my passports and money. Karrie also had a leather bag that she wore in front of her. Lots of people warned us about pick-pockets but we didn't really have any problems. But i'm definitely glad we had the money belt, i didn't have to worry about my wallet being in my back pocket.
- One of my favorite things in Rome are the drinking fountains. There's lots of them in Rome (none in Florence) and i always stopped to get a drink and fill up my water bottle. The cool thing is that if you put your thumb in the end, the water shoots out of a hole in the top so you can get a drink.