We reached Rome at the conclusion of first day of our Italy trip, from Pompeii. Rome can be reached from Naples by train. Depending on the type of train it can take 1.15 minutes to 2.45 minutes. We took the IC (Inter City) train and reached Rome in 2 hours. The tickets are cheaper if it can be purchased a few days earlier, the discount may vary between 10 % to 15 % of the regular fare. There are different methods of payment, including an option of booking the ticket and paying within 24 hours of it. The payment can be done at any Trenitalia counter or at the ticket machines in stations. That was the way we did.
After reaching Rome we took the Roma Pass from the tourist information centre in Roma Termini by paying € 23 each .
Roma Pass has multiple benefits. With it first two sites are free and there are discounts from the third site onward. The pass is valid for 3 days from the date of first use. Along with it comes “Roma Pass Transport”, which provides free transportation in all public transports. It can be used independent of the Roma Pass and is also valid for three days. Tickets must be validated in the yellow machines in buses after purchase, if not done it might attract fine.
We looked for the location of our hotel from the map, which comes with Roma Pass. It was three blocks from the station and we easily walked the distance.
Day 2: 19th May, Tuesday
Obviously, we started our day with a visit to Colosseum. First we walked till Termini and then took bus. Bus number 170 and 40 express from Termini will go via Colosseum. Though time taken will depend on Roman traffic, but typically it should take 15-20 minutes.
In front of Colosseum there are people dressed as ancient Roman soldiers. You can bargain for a photo opportunity with them and they will oblige with different poses.
In the ticket counter we got our entry tickets by showing the Roma Pass, our first and only use. It was easy for us with the stroller, as there is an elevator inside which took us to the upper level of the Colosseum. From the top, with a little imagination we could easily visualize how it might have appeared in ancient times. How men have fought wild beasts. How gladiators showed their valour. And how thousands of spectators cheered from the gallery.
We walked round the upper level and took pictures from the vantage points. Roman Forum is just opposite to Colosseum and got a glimpse from the top. Then we came down to the ground level and went to the viewing area from where we marvelled at the architecture.
There is a gate opposite to Colosseum, which appears to be the entrance to the Roman Forum, but it is not. Mistakenly we went that way, only to return after wasting time and energy. There is the Arch of Constantine which stands in the same vicinity. We took the straight road from there and found the entrance of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill on our right.
We did not have to take a separate ticket as these two sites share the same ticket with Colosseum. From the entrance, left takes you to the Palatine Hill and right to the Roman Forum. We took left.
Roman emperors and nobles had their palaces built on Palatine Hill. It is a vast area and you need a lot of time to cover all of it. We walked through the ruins for two hours and managed to cover some of the sites. It was 35 degree and we got exhausted with the stroller, had to take rest for some time. We took a path which led us to Roman Forum.
Roman Forum was the epicentre of business and public life from the time of Roman Kingdom through the times of Roman Republic. This was the place where temples were built and senate met for business. The tomb of Julius Caesar is also here. The place is much smaller than the Palatine Hill and we could see all of it, though the pathway is laden with stone and pushing the stroller was a pain.
Finding the exit from the Forum took some effort, just as finding the entrance. Finally we found it beside the Temple of Antoninus & Faustina.
From there we walked till Complesso del Vittoriano in piazza Venezia. It was closed, so we sat in front of the adjacent fountain. Looking for the direction to Trevi fountain, we asked some policemen standing nearby, were guided to take the road across Piazza Venezia and then to take a lane to the right. We walked through the narrow lane and surprisingly found the fountain surrounded by houses. Popularity of the fountain was evident by the crowd gathered. Making way through the crowd, we managed a place to sit. We saw people throwing coins in the fountain as per popular believe that if visitors throw a coin into the fountain, they are ensured a return to Rome.
We spent nearly two hours there and then took a bus to reach Termini. From there walked to our hotel. Thus ended the first day in Rome.
Day 3: 20th May, Wednesday
We had kept this day reserved for Vatican. The Pope gives public appearance on this day of the week from the podium outside St. Peter’s Basilica. From all around the world followers come in groups for his audience. There is an area barricaded in front of the Basilica for these people, where they can sit and watch Pope speak on various religious matters. The Basilica remains closed during this time.
Our entry time to Vatican Museum was 1 pm; hence we left St. Peter’s square for the Museum. It is better to purchase the ticket for Vatican Museum in advance to avoid the heavy rush at the ticket counters. Tickets can be purchased online from the Vatican website www.vatican.va. The price of the ticket is € 14 and for purchasing online there is a service charge of € 4. The time of entry needs to be specified while purchasing. We collected the tickets by showing the booking voucher at the counter designated for online purchase.
We took the audio guide by paying € 5. We had to deposit a passport as photo identity proof and got a token against it, which needs to be shown while taking it back.
The Vatican Museum is vast and we spent half a day visiting one gallery after another and yet thought that some more time would have been nice. Here it needs to be mentioned that we had to carry the stroller up and down the stairs many a time.
At the end of the sequence of galleries comes the Sistine Chapel. There are masterpiece frescoes by the masters like Michelangelo, Raphael and Bernini et al. It includes “The Last Judgement” by Michelangelo. We were mesmerised by it all, but sadly photography is not allowed inside the Chapel.
After returning the audio guide and collecting the passport we headed towards the St. Peter’s Basilica.
By the time we came back to St. Peter’s square, Pope’s audience had ended and the Basilica was open to public. It remains open till 5 pm. First thing we did was to take the ticket to the Cupola (The dome at the top of St. Peter’s Basilica). To climb the stairs till the top, ticket is € 5. To take the lift till the first level and then climb the remaining 372 steps, ticket is € 7.
We took the lift till the first level, and went inside the cupola. From the high up we got a close view of the frescoes on the dome and the top view inside the Basilica.
From there we started climbing the stairs. At the beginning it was okay, soon after it became difficult and then finally a sheer madness to climb, with a baby in the lap. We started with narrow stairs which became so narrow and tilted that we had to bend inside to avoid a brush with the wall of the dome. And then the final test was to climb holding a rope in one hand and carrying our son in the other. But the view and pictures that we got from the top of the Cupola was rewarding enough.
And then finally it was time for us to enter the awe inspiring St. Peter’s Basilica. By the time we entered we were not left with much time. We quickly took a round and decided that we need to come back again the next day. Our evening was spent in St. Peter’s square sitting on the base of the Obelisk.
Day 4: 21st May, Thursday
We started our day with a visit to the “Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli”, near Termini. There are some unique mathematical and astronomical designs inside the church, including a meridian line.
From there we went straight to St. Peter’s Basilica. With ample time in our hand and having finished visiting the other places in Vatican, we saw St. Peter’s Basilica to our hearts’ content. We cannot do justice by describing the Basilica, hence we refrain from doing so.
Castel Sant’Angelo is walkable distance from St. Peter’s square. We crossed Ponte Sant’Angelo on the river Tiber to reach the castle. There are statues of angels on either side of the bridge. Upon reaching the castle we found that we could not take the stroller in and hence dropped the idea of going inside.
We took a bus to reach Piazza di Spagna. After getting down from the bus we had to walk a long distance through the winding lanes to reach the Spanish Steps. We sat on the rim of the boat shaped fountain at the centre of the piazza. It was mid day and the Sun was not too kind to us. People were sitting with their feet in the fountain and the police were warning them not to do so.
We found the way from the map and walked till Pantheon from Spanish Steps. Went inside the Pantheon, took some snaps and sat on a bench for few minutes before everyone was asked to go out as there was a program scheduled to be started. So we relaxed a bit sitting outside the Pantheon, waiting for the sun to go down a little.
Our last attraction in Rome was Piazza Navona. We wanted to spend the evening there till sunset. Hence we started walking in pursuit of it. Upon reaching we found the place to be quite crowded. And settled on a bench in front of the “Fountain of the four Rivers”, a masterpiece by Bernini. There are two more fountains on both the side of that fountain.
We walked around the piazza and enjoyed the last evening in Rome.