Wednesday 7th May
Our plan for the day was to visit the Colosseum and the Forum, we caught the Happy Bus into the train station, caught the train into Rome and then the Metro to the Colosseum. We were fortunate that the line to visit the Colosseum was not very long and it took us about 20 minutes to buy our tickets allowing us to explore the Arena and Museum. We walked up the steps to the top level, stopping to take photos and marvel at the size and imaging how it would have been in its heyday. Then we looked at the exhibits in the museum and wandered down to the lower level where you could see the corridors that were under the stage area, by this time we had spent a good couple of hours inside the huge tourist attraction. Now it was time for lunch and we wandered off to the nearby streets where we found a small shop selling pizzas, piadinas and calzones which were good value for money.
Satisfied, we went to explore the Forum including the Palatine. These ruins are spread over a large area and we took several hours walking between the sites following uneven paths, dodging photo mad selfie takers and steering a wide berth around the tour groups who think it is their right to take over the whole foot path. Exhausted and ruined by so much to see we exited the Forum and walked around to another Roman monument. Il Vittoriano is a huge while marble building that commemorates Italy’s first King, Vittorio Emanuele and is a grand edifice overlooking a very busy roadway with a huge roundabout. This was another place that huge groups of people where gathered and spend most of the time taking photos of themselves to prove that they had visited the city. Now we really had enough of being sightseers so we made our way back to the Metro to catch our train back to camp.
Thursday 8th May
After 3 days in Rome we had decided that a day off was needed. We did need to get a bit of washing done and as the weather was nice and warm, it was a chance to strip the beds and make the most of the sunshine. Our days off usually end up being a jobs day, when we can catch up with the usual household chores and spend some time doing maintenance. We also use this opportunity to get out the Barbeque and cook a meal outside and sit at our picnic table to enjoy it.
Friday 9th May
Our last day in Rome and the climax of our visit we went to see the Vatican Museum and St. Peters Basilica. Leaving early with the same ritual, happy bus, train and then the Metro we arrived at the entrance to the Vatican Museum. Well not quite near the entrance as we were in a queue about a 500m long lined up with lots of other tourists from all nationalities and pestered by guides touting tours, souvenir sellers and beggars looking for money. We moved along at a slow steady pace being amused by the goings on around us, watching the traffic chaos that ensued and generally talking between ourselves about our adventures so far. We finally made the front of the queue and entered the Vatican museum where we had to go through a security check and then it was up the steps to the ticket office. The crowd was quite aggressive until you passed into the main area where they gradually filtered off into the different parts of the museum. We though headed for the café for a cup of coffee and a toilet stop to prepare us for the arduous task of seeing all the museum had to offer. As we started the tour the crowd surged along through the different rooms almost taking us along with them in their wake and making it hard for us to stop and really spend some time enjoying the artwork and sculptures. There were few opportunities to find a quiet spot and enjoy the magnificence, it became very tiring and with no other route that the one that someone had planned for us we finally entered the Sistine Chapel. With hundreds of other tourists that jostled to find a spot to sit or stand, we found a spot in the middle where you could raise your head and examine such a masterpiece. Even with a recorded voice in many languages asking you to be quiet and not take photos it was amazing to see many people taking sneaky shots of the artwork and the noise level steadily rise. We couldn’t handle the crush for long so we made our way out the exit and along the hallways back to the services area where we could sit and have a piece of pizza in one of the quietest areas of the museum.
Moving on from the Vatican museum we walked back around the roadway to St Pauls cathedral where we were again greeted with crowds of people lined up to enter the monumental building. At first there was the security gate where you are scanned for anything that is not allowed, which was a slow process. Scanned and passed we finally were able to walk into the huge doorways into Christendom’s main attraction. A huge marble edifice that glories in being the flagship for the Catholic Church. You can’t help being awed by the grandeur, the size and detailing which are beyond belief and everywhere you look there is something to draw your attention. We wandered around like all the other sightseers and finally came to a barrier on the side where we were stopped. Not long after that a door opened and a procession of priests and cardinals walked out leading what looked to be newly appointed priests heading for the main alter for a religious ceremony. We believe that the main person in the procession was the Pope himself, we couldn’t get a good look but he held his crook and on his head was his big gold embroidered head piece. It’s not every day you get to see this kind of thing so we thing we were pretty lucky and it may have explained why the area was so busy that day.
Awe inspired and magnificence overloaded we felt it was time to start heading back to camp. The day was long and it gets to the stage where you cannot take anymore sightseeing and appreciate it. We finished with the grand finale and felt we has seen enough.