It seemed like everyone had an excuse not to go to Rome with me, no time off, no money, rather sit home and write a novel etc. I was in a position to travel there cheaper than I probably will ever be able to again and Rome has been on top of my travel list for a decade so I decided to just go for it.
I had travelled quite a bit but never by myself so this trip was already an adventure before I left for the airport. I had a window seat so I was able to watch the city appear beneath us as we approached. It was incredible, I could make out all sorts of landmarks. I could not wait to get started on my adventure. I arrived at the discount Ciampino airport. There seemed to be only one way out for those unwilling to pay for a cab: a bus at the end of an impressively long line.
I finally made it to the train station and set out on foot for my hostel nearby. I only had time to check in and grab a slice of pizza at a nearby cafe before it was too late and too dark to do anything else.
It seems a universal rule that everyone gets up at 8 in youth hostels and this was no exception. I was out by 8:30 and headed out on the subway to the Vatican. The line looked interminably long but moved quickly and wound up being only about 20 minutes. Apparently the line is shorter later in the day but I would imagine it's also much much hotter. Getting in finally I went to the right when it seemed everyone else veered left. This was a good call because there is no return once you head left toward the Sistine Chapel. The other gallery that I was completely alone in had all kinds of artifacts and interesting Roman history. Compared to the human crush of the rooms on the way to the Sistine Chapel this place was deserted and I took my time exploring.
Once I set out with everyone else towards the Sistine Chapel I had to keep moving forward with the crowd and it was hard to take time and appreciate what I was seeing. The sheer energy and enthusiasm of the crowd was impressive, however and I got the feeling that this was a real dream fulfillment for a lot of the people that were there. None of what I saw inside the Vatican was disappointing and much of it was inspiring. Worth the high ticket price.
What I learned this first morning was that you should wear very good shoes as Rome demands a lot of walking. This was the only time that I bothered with the subway. Rome is very walkable and city maps are available everywhere. I also got the feeling that riding the subway was a great way to make sure you were pickpocketed.