On our first full day in Rome, which was Saturday, we got up early as I had booked us on a private tour of the Vatican museums and St Peters. This was also the first time we ended up using our Roma Pass for the subway there. That was quite easy especially as I had read before that with the Roma pass you just hold it over the yellow sensor, which isn’t at all apparent. So we got a bit dressed up, wearing our nice pants and a button down shirt as you have to dress respectful for the Vatican, although from what I saw later, that doesn’t to seem to be enforced too heavily. I’m guessing that it comes down to really just not wearing a g-string or something!We took the subway though to the Ottaviano stop, which was a stop too early although it didn’t really matter.
After getting our bearings thanks to the iPhone’s GPS, we got to where we needed to go that early morning. Our meeting point was at the bottom of the stairs across from the entrance to the Vatican Museums with the Dark Rome tour guides. We met at 7:55 to get in early and the group was guaranteed not to be more than 10 people, with us it ended up being a group of only 5. Two of us, another gay couple but older, and a seeming lesbian. Awesome group actually. And the tour guide, a beautiful Italian woman, made six. The tour was amazing and lasted about 3 hours, with our guide giving us fantastic explanations about all the rooms and galleries, including the many Vatican museum chambers such as Raphael, the navigation corridor, the courtyards, but of course it all led to the Sistine Chapel. Still so breathtaking, but just very crowded. You can’t take your own pictures, apparently because the Japanese funded the restoration and also own the copyright? Flashes hurt the paint too, and it’s dark in there anyway. Looking at official reproductions of it later will be better than any picture you take yourself.
After the Sistine Chapel you then head into St Peters which is never disappointing. It’s enormous. We didn’t climb the steps up the cupola as I think we both were a little hot, as it was very hot still in the city and we were wearing pants. Also, I had forgotten to bring a second camera battery and the one in my camera was nearly spent from yesterday, so I was sparing with my camera, well, kinda, as if I turned the camera on, took a picture quickly, then turned the camera off, it was fine. Still can’t believe I did that. After the tour ended and we said goodbye to our tour mates, the gay couple actually are on the cruise with us, but we haven’t seen them yet and it’s day two of the cruise. Larry and I went to grab lunch north of the Vatican and had a good but early lunch. We were exhausted as it was effing hot so we took the subway back to our hotel so we could change out of the pants. We ended up also just passing out and having a siesta. A few hours later, and we were then ready to head out for the evening.
Touring the Vatican / St. Peters
Who doesn’t love shadows in the morning?
A quiet Rome in the morning as we walk to the Vatican Museum
The Vatican walls in the distance
There’s the Wall
You’re not wanted in.
Our tour meeting point
Larry & I at the meeting point, along with some cruisemates
The entry archway into the Vatican Museum
Once through the ticket booth, there you are – with St Peters beckoning
Michelangelo’s triumph, although he actually didn’t get to make it himself
yeah, can’t help myself again
Me & St Peters
Larry too, in his nice pants
Inside the Vatican courtyard – along with this piece of modern art
Looking towards where the giant pinecone is
The art MOVES…okay, it rotates, but still
Inside the hall of sculptures and remnants
Looking out the walls towards Rome
This statue was the basis for some of the paintings found later – hence, Renaissance
Might look familiar if you check out the Sistine Chapel closely
Nothing is carved – all that work up there is paintings with tricks of perspective
I think this is the Belvedere crotch, I mean hunk, I mean slab
Quite reminscent of the Pantheon, eh?
Our beautiful tour guide as we ascend into the Hall of Maps
Or maybe it was the Hall of Sculptures again…
Ah, there’s the Hall of Maps…well, at least it’s the map of Civitivecchia, where our cruise would depart from
Where the Pope once kept his prized albino elephants…and the Popemobile!
Raphael’s masterpiece, The School of Athens, in the Raphael Rooms in the Vatican
What you see as you leave the Sistine Chapel – unfortunately, no pictures allowed in there
The hall connecting us to St Peters
The view from St Peters into the Plaza
Michelangelo’s masterpiece, the Pieta, unfortunately behind glass after a demented man chipped away at it back in the 1970s
The tomb of Pope John Paul II
Seriously unbelievable is the size of St Peters
You can see the bottom of the dome and how majestic it is over the rest of this majestic church. The bronze superwork there is a baldacchino on top of the tomb of St Peter.
Me, not getting crucified
Looking up into the dome – this picture does it no justice. Blow the photo up like 100 times and then slam your face up against it. Then you’ll understand its scope.
Closer to the Bronze Baldacchino
Larry and the Baldacchino
Larry and the plaza
Me too – it’s starting to get super hot for us at this point as we’re in pants. And Rome is 90 degrees and humid. Ugh.
The front entrance to St Peters – you can’t see the dome from here as we’re obviously too close
Larry wisely filling up his recyclable water bottle. Go environment and hydration!
The obelisk which is considered the “witness” to St Peter’s crucifixion as it was present in Nero’s palace when it happened.
A little further out now with a clear view of the obelisk, the dome and pretty much everything.
It’s truly a stupendous view and quite an impressive monument to Catholicism
Larry in the restaurant we retreated to for lunch in order to recharge before heading back.
Larry wanted to eat in Trastevere and I still wanted to see the Circus Maximus so we took the subway south to the Circus Maximus stop. Amazingly enough the Circus Maximus itself is right there and while they haven’t done anything to preserve it, it is still kinda impressive. We walked from there across the river Tiber into Trastevere, a stunningly beautiful section of Rome that is medieval and quaint and picturesque. It’s all cobblestone there too and you just can get lost wandering around its little streets filled with restaurants and merchants and squares. After walking awhile around the town, we found a little place that when we got there was decently crowded but by the time we left was packed. Very charming outdoor seating with the lights above, great food and all for a great price. Larry finally had his flora di zucca friti.
After an afternoon siesta, we ventured south on the Metro to the Circus Maximus. That’s it in the foreground with the Palatine hill behind it (where we were yesterday)
Larry on the edge – this arena allegedly held 250,000 spectators at one point. Sort of a super Nascar thing of the ancient times.
Not sure when I decided to puff out my chest like that – I blame Larry’s timing
That’s more my style
A closer view of the Palatine ruins from the Circus Maximus
We decided to walk the length of it, without the aid of any Ben-Hur style chariots. Luckily the weather was delicious at this time of day.
Such a beautiful expanse and surprisingly untouched.
The endpoint Cypress tree
Looking back from whence we came
The Cypress tree we just passed
As we left the Circus Maximus and headed towards Trastevere, we passed this. No idea what it is.
Looking back towards the Circus Maximus
the River Tiber!
Not sure what this is…but it was a beautiful sight
Now on the Trastevere side of the river Tiber
Entering the utterly charming section of Rome called Trastevere. A MUST for anyone who visits Rome. It’s simply….magical.
Lots of quaint, colorful buildings, cobblestone streets, and outdoor shops and restaurants. So unlike the main part of Rome, but still so Italian
Larry has his happy face on. That means he approves.
The sun was deliriously golden at this time of day as sunset occurred. Ah, I can still remember it. Oh, and there’s my shadow.
Larry in the Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere
A very charming place indeed
Whassaa matta you?
I liked the cobblestones
More of the Santa Maria church
So colorful at this time of day
A fleeting glance towards St Peters, which was north of us
Larry at the fabulous restaurant we ate at – our bill was like 31Euros and we had lots of wine. Amazingly cheap compared to other dinners in Rome we had.
The restaurant we ate at
After dinner, it was nighttime and it was time to do Rick Steves’ nighttime walk across Rome. Such a great thing, as he even tells you how to link up from a dinner in Trastevere and start the walk at the Campo di Fiore. It was a beautiful night to do this as at that point it’s dark but the temperature has fallen enough from the heat of the day that it is now perfectly comfortable. It was also a Saturday night so everyone was out and about. I took a ton of pictures from the walk but we ended up going to the Campo di Fiore, the Piazza di Navone (an amazing and huge plaza with lots of performers and vendors), the Pantheon (which at night is dramatic, but when you add an opera singer becomes stunning), Giolitti’s (apparently one of the best gelaterias in Rome – I accidentally got mango and chocolate in mine….chocolate was great but mango was a bit strong), then to Trevi Fountain (amazing to see in person and quite crowded, but Larry and I both tossed coins in the fountain), and finally the Spanish Steps. It was a huge itinerary and well worth it but exhausting. So we got a cab for the ride back to the hotel. If we had made it there faster and by 11, we might have caught the metro, but this way we got to experience a car in Rome, and those guys especially in tourist areas, feel like you are driving on the sidewalks at some points as the road is so narrow and pedestrians and cars alike are sharing the way.
Rick Steves has a nighttime walk through Rome – and it coincidentally can start from Trastevere. Yay! So we crossed the Ponte Sisto to begin.
Larry might be a bit nervous, but he had nothing to fear.
I’m ready to go…..and check out that hot guy walking my way. Multiply that by lots and that’s Rome for you. Yowza.
St Peters at night
This may have been the spookiest part of the walk as we headed toward the Campo di Fiore. Not many folks walking here….
Larry sensed people so his anxiety slowly ebbed
The French Embassy in the Piazza Farnese, which has a Michaelangelo-designed facade
These fountains are actually Roman hot tubs from the ancient Roman Baths of Caracalla
The path from Piazza Farnese to the Campo di Fiore
In the Campo di Fiore, with Larry and the statue of Bruno, an intellectual heretic burned right there on that spot!
Campo di Fiore, a quite active and exciting place to hang out. But hanging out was not for us!
If we hadn’t eaten in Trastevere, I bet it would have been lovely in Campo di Fiore
One of the surprises of the walk was to emerge from a path from Campo di Fiore and emerge on the Piazza Navona. It is a huge open area that is utterly magical.
Walking further into the Piazza Navona
Me in front of the church of St Agnes – apparently made by a rival of the guy who made the River fountain seen later
Piazza Navona – once a racetrack in ancient times, now one of those centers of hanging out every city has, like the Third St Promenade in Santa Monica
The Fountain of the Four Rivers – The Danube representation is on the left, gazing at the Obelisk, while the Ganges on the right holds an oar.
Larry loves river fountains
So do I
A fairly good self portrait of us!
Further north on Piazza Navona as we head away from the fountain
LOTS of pizzerias and gelaterias
But by far, the most dramatic reveal was the approach to the Pantheon from Piazza Navona. Holy moly – at night, this just makes your jaw drop.
We’d go inside the next day – but for now, seeing it from the outside was quite enough.
A little bit closer
Larry & the Pantheon
Looking back out from under the portico
Yeah, Rome at night is Spectacular
An optional detour on the Rick Steves tour was a visit to one of Rome’s best-known gelaterias, Giolittos. We of course went.
Larry happily indulged
I got chocolate…and mango. The servers didn’t quite speak English and apparently I mumbled. Ah well….it was still mostly good!
Further along on the walk….the Trevi Fountain!
A relatively new construction from 1762, it was a cinematic backdrop for the figure of Ocean
The superstition is you toss a coin over your shoulder into the Trevi fountain to get your wish – we certainly weren’t going to mess with tradition.
I swear a coin had just been tossed.
As you can see, it’s quite a popular attraction. And no, this isn’t the one in Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas!
After a nice little distance, we finally got to the endpoint of the walking tour: the Spanish Steps
Called the Spanish Steps since they lead to the Spanish Embassy, and now quite a popular place to see and be seen. Lots of attractive people here too
I remember coming here back in 2001 and it was insane as there was some ridiculously crowded concert going on. Magical then, magical now.
And there we are, taking a load off our feet. The Metro was now closed so we ended up taking our first and last Roman cab ride. Good (scary) times!
We got back and promptly passed out. It was a long day!