Vatican Exploration and Rome Food Excursions
Probably one of the most compelling reasons to go to Rome is the other country situated within its boundaries: the Vatican. Our second day in Rome was to be spent in the holy seat of Catholicism. We got up to a pleasant breakfast facing the Pantheon in our hotel.
Before taking the bus to the Vatican, we decided to stop by the Pantheon. It was different during the day, when you could see more detail in the interior. The Pantheon was truly grand, and its dome was massive, you would wonder how it was built in the early days.
We took a public bus to the Vatican after getting instructions from our hotel's concierge. We got off a street that led to the Vatican. You won't get lost, since most of the crowds are headed in that direction. As soon as we caught a glimpse of St. Peter's Cathedral, we were mesmerized. The Vatican Square was as expansive as its historical significance.
The line to the cathedral was so long, so we decided to head to the Vatican Museum first, which was a pretty long walk at the back of the cathedral. The line was also long, and we've been hearing that it was an hour wait. Good thing we booked our tickets online, thus, we moved up to the front of the line, without hassle.
The Vatican Museum was amazing. Similar to Lourve, it had historical wealth that was unimaginably rich. We took our time passing by the popular chambers, but we knew we were there for one place: the Sistine Chapel.
The murals on the ceilings themselves were already works of art. It was grandeur, gold and God all over. Thousands of years in the making, the Vatican Museum housed the Catholic world's most important artifacts.
Walking through the towering halls were a spectacle itself. And you get different genres and techniques in paintings in every hall. Finally, we made it to the gem of the museum, the Sistine Chapel.
The Michaelangelo masterpiece was packed with people, and I was surprised to find out that it was small. The chapel was also the venue where all the cardinals of the world elect a new pope. I wonder how they can be locked up here for up to a month.
The Sistine Chapel was indeed a masterpiece. I was awestruck with the majesty of the paintings, especially the Last Judgement. It was forbidden to take photos, but I managed to take a few. We probably spent 30 minutes inside the chapel, looking up at the amazing murals.
After the Sistine Chapel, we headed fast to the exit, since we wanted to visit St. Peter's. The exit of the Vatican Museum was spectacular as well, a spiral staircase with intricate carvings on its railings.
It was 3PM, and there was still along line, but shorter than the one that welcomed us when we arrived at the square. We took several pictures of the saints perched on the rooftops. After a passing the security scan, which was the cause of the long line, we finally entered the cathedral.
And I almost fell to my knees. St. Peter's was indeed the epitome of Christ's kingdom here on Earth. I was left speechless at the unmatched grandness of the cathedral. It was both humbling and intimidating. But also, I felt a sense of divine presence that made me feel at peace.
The Pieta was the most beautiful sculpture I have seen in my life. I was teary eyed when I took this picture. I couldn't believe how a piece of stone mass can move me so much. My experience with The Pieta was definitely a highlight for me for the entire trip.
I didn't know if this was the main altar of the cathedral, since there were so many smaller areas for prayer. I remember though that this was where Ewan McGregor burned himself at the climax of the movie Angels and Demons. We wanted to go to the crypt of St. Peter himself, but children weren't allowed. So, after praying, we left the Vatican with the best feeling in the world - peaceful.
We were hungry, and the sun was already setting. It was also our last night in Rome, so we decided to pass by Campo di' Fiori, for supposedly one of the best pizzas in Italy. Forno was an Italian bakery, that sold oven baked pizza bianca and rosso (that's white and red pizza).
And yes, as simple as the description is, it's just superb plain pizza bread. I went back for a lot of seconds, after instantly devouring the first.
After a satisfying snack at Forno, we walked all the way back to our hotel, which only took us 15 minutes. We passed by Piazza Navona, where a bustling night market and carnival was happening. The piazza was the site of the Fountain of 4 Rivers, where again, in Angels and Demons, the 4th cardinal was drowned for the sign of water. I didn't know that until I recognized the statues of the gods.
We made it to our hotel and prepared for our last dinner in Rome. We wanted to have great food, since we really haven't eaten well in Rome. We searched for recommendations online while walking, and stumbled upon the number one restaurant in Tripadvisor. The restaurant was called, Il Boom, located further away from the city center. After getting lost in finding it, we entered an empty restaurant. We were feeling suspicious, but eventually other customers came in.
In summary, the restaurant was the biggest mistake we had for the trip. The spaghetti vongole above was the worst we've tasted in our entire. trip. The rest of the food was unacceptably unsavory, the ingredients of low quality and the wine, well, just plain bland. The service was good though, and we were even given a bottle of their house wine when we left.
Feeling cheated and misled by Trip Advisor, we went back to our hotel and had another meal in a restaurant in the Pantheon grounds. We had better vongole and became finally satisfied with gelatto for dessert. Our day of Vatican exploration and Rome food excursions was truly a rollercoaster ride. We were very tired at the end, but still, we had one more place to go, the Colosseum. That's next on Day 3 of Rome and the beginning of our escape to the best part of our trip, Venice.