Written by Red Mezz on 09 Jan, 2012
In the little neighborhood area just north of Vatican City known as the Prati area, we found ourselves spending much of our time in Rome. We ended up here by pure chance as our endless search for a not-too-expensive place to stay collided again…Read More
In the little neighborhood area just north of Vatican City known as the Prati area, we found ourselves spending much of our time in Rome. We ended up here by pure chance as our endless search for a not-too-expensive place to stay collided again and again with horror stories of bad stays and filthy rooms. In the end we settled on a little apartment let on Via degli Scipioni in the hopes that the pictures were actually the place we'd be staying, and found to our delight a part of Rome that became a home away from home, and that our visit would have been all the poorer from not having experienced it. More than once we found ourselves walking home in the early hours of the morning from a night of celebrating Roman style - and always felt the comfort and safety of the area once we returned to it. It became a bit of a haven for us away from the more touristed sites, and it didn't take long to realize that some of our favourite moments in Rome were in this area - and so we decided to enjoy it to the fullest. Many of the best eateries we enjoyed were in this area - not least of all for their friendly, homey atmosphere and very cheap prices - but perhaps best of all were the cafes. The apartment we rented did not have breakfast included, but we were advised to try go across the street to the little cafe for a cheap and pleasant Italian breakfast. I was mildly dubious about this suggestion at first - but as I'm not a big breakfast fan myself and was mostly keen on the wonderful Italian cuisine available at later meals, I gave it little thought. However my husband and a friend who shared the apartment with us do enjoy a good breakfast - so the very first morning we set out across the street to see what's what. This very rapidly became one of our favourite traditions in our Roman stay. Every morning we would head promptly across the street to the little cafe at 108 Via degli Scipioni, to sit with our fellow Italians and enjoy a wonderful breakfast cappuccino (something Italians only have at breakfast) and freshly made pastry. The place was always hopping - but never seemed crowded. We took a seat, either inside or at the little outdoor seats and enjoyed our breakfast at a leisurely pace with a local paper which none of us could read but that we could still make out what was happening and see what the weather called for. We were a part of the place in these cafes. The staff didn't speak English - but it was easy enough to remember 'due cappocini' and then point to the pastry of our choice. It's always best to learn a little local language - and the Roman's really seemed to appreciate and enjoy even our worst attempts. And you gotta like that about a city. Perhaps best about these cafes is the price. They serve coffee and pastries as well as sandwhiches and sweets - and the prices were superb. You could have an entire breakfast for the same price as a small latte in the UK. There were many of these cafes in the area - this one just happened to be our particular favourite, and it becamse such a favoured haunt of ours in Rome when I return I will feel obliged to instantly return for my morning fare. Each morning I had a croissant and a cappucinno for about 2 euros. And both were superb. We would sit in the mild October morning in Rome, watching the passers by as we decided where we go for the day - and I can not think of a better way to start the day in such a phenomenal city. Close
I have to say - that on my first trip to Vatican City - I had no idea what to expect. My honeymoon found me landing in the city of Rome on a beautiful, golden October day - and I was soon to find…Read More
I have to say - that on my first trip to Vatican City - I had no idea what to expect. My honeymoon found me landing in the city of Rome on a beautiful, golden October day - and I was soon to find that the city I had been told was overcrowded and hostile was going to become one of my very favourite cities in the world. With the exception of a few very crowded top tourist sites, instead I found the place warm and beautiful - with a relaxed and genteel atmosphere almost unknown to cities these days. I revelled in the city - and even though I had no idea how that would translate over into Vatican City - I was soon to be pleasantly surprised. I'm embarrassed to say - I knew very little about Vatican City before I arrived. My interest was in Rome, and I knew that I would be venturing into the tiny independent state only because I was determined to see the Sistine Chapel. But I had no idea how big an issue it was going to be moving from Rome to the Vatican. I knew it resided within a walled enclave in the midst of the city - but I did not know how much that would impose itself on the visitor. The home of the Pope - and arguably one of the holiest places in the world - I had no idea if I would find it an easy stroll across from one to the other, or meet guarded gates where passports were checked and we were made to go through a series of metal detectors. After being in Rome and the Vatican City - I am once again left feeling shamed and annoyed at the overinflated sense of self-preservation I find in so many other places these days - particularly on my journeys home. The easy answer was - the first time I stepped foot into the smallest independent state in the world - I didn't realize I'd done it. All I did was cross the street, and suddenly I realized - I was in Vatican City. And what a city! Not being a catholic myself, I did not feel myself the pilgrim there, nor did I feel any religious tug at the heart strings (but oh, I can imagine what a feeling it would present for those who do!) but I still found myself revelling in the surprisingly peaceful atmosphere that made up the cobbled entry way to St Peter's Basilica. It's hard to think of Rome without seeing the Basilica, glistening in the afternoon sun - even if technically it is in Vatican City. And I can't now imagine the experience of Rome without the pointedly unique taste that the Vatican brings. You'll realize you’re getting closer to the Vatican the more the pope and other religious souvenirs begin to appear in windows. Even the gelato shop we stopped in, I suddenly realized, was plastered all over with postcards and little plastic images of the Pope - and a few steps outside I crossed the street and realized I was standing at the Basilica - an image that no photo you have ever seen will do justice to. We had planned to spend our first night in Rome just wandering around, with a visit to Vatican City on the cards for early the next morning - but if all roads lead to Rome, then all Roman streets appear to lead to the Vatican, because somehow we found ourselves there on that first golden afternoon anyway. Vatican City has a lot to offer inside and out - but even if you don't visit any of the (granted highly touristed) sites inside - be sure to get as many opportunities to view the city and the basilica as you can. Early morning is the best time for visiting the inside - as it's quiet and the crowds have not yet descended - it's almost otherworldly the sense of grandeur that you find there when you are not having to be pushed past each wondrous sight. But the outside view is best in the falling afternoon sun (which sets just behind the basilica) as well as late at night where the stars align above it, and the lights around it's quiet walls let you feel you're seeing something truly spectacular.Close
Written by AnythngArt on 02 Mar, 2010
This small country, with a permanent population of less than 1,000 welcomes millions of visitors each year. Its unique status as center of the Catholic Church and home of Pope Benedict XVI would likely draw crowds of tourists in any case, but its unique artistic…Read More
This small country, with a permanent population of less than 1,000 welcomes millions of visitors each year. Its unique status as center of the Catholic Church and home of Pope Benedict XVI would likely draw crowds of tourists in any case, but its unique artistic treasures (including the famed Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel) are truly what makes this an important place for visitors of any faith (or no faith at all).Independent CountryThe emergence of a new force in Roman history and culture--that of the Church--along with the establishment of the Pope at the location of St. Peter’s tomb in the 14th century-- made the Vatican the spiritual core of Rome. However, it was not until 1929 and the Lateran Treaty (between the Pope and the government of Mussolini) that the Vatican became an independent, sovereign state.Approximately 100 acres in size on a hill west of the Tiber River lies the Vatican. Its complex is separated from the rest of Rome by high walls, except at the Piazza di San Pietro (St. Peter’s Square), where the curved colonnades designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1667 (like arms) reach out to embrace the millions who fill it each year to see the Pope say Mass or give a general blessing to the crowds assembled below.Within its walls, the Vatican runs many functions found in an independent country. It has its own mail system (said to be the swiftest in Italy), its own daily newspaper (L’Observatore Romano), it issues its own stamps, and mints its own coins (although admittedly for collectors). It also has its own administration (with offices of foreign affairs), banks, pharmacy, department store, gas stations, and supermarket. It houses an observatory, print shop, school for mosaics, and institute for art restoration (with plenty of material within its museums).The Head of State is of course, the Pope. Today Pope Benedict XVI (elected in April 2005) holds full executive, legislative, and judicial powers. He is also head of his own armed forces (the Swiss Guards and Vatican police system) as well. Of course, this is largely secondary to his role as spiritual leader to the world’s Catholic community and his (perhaps less accepted) role as peacemaker worldwide.Visiting the VaticanDespite its small size, the Vatican is one of the most jammed sites in all of Rome, and a little pre-planning would benefit any visitor. Anyone who has waited in long lines at the Vatican at opening will tell you that this is not the time of day to begin your tour of the place. Perhaps the best hours to enter the Vatican are between 12 noon and 2 pm. Another good time to schedule a visit for touring is on Wednesday when crowds gather to hear the Papal Mass. While everyone gathers outdoors, the Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Sistine Chapel will be pleasantly open and free of the usual crowding.Another way to avoid long lines is to reserve a guided Vatican tour, which are offered and can be booked at the Vatican itself. These tours offered by the Vatican Museums guarantee a designated entrance time, as well as offering great insight into the treasures within.Finally, with the abundance of religious days of observance, it is critical to make verify that the Vatican Museums will be open at all. The Vatican’s website (http://mv.Vatican.va) provides helpful information.What to See While Visiting the VaticanVisiting the Vatican can be overwhelming. The sheer size and number of things worth seeing means that to truly get the most out of a visit, any traveler would have to spend more than a single day there. No doubt the two biggest attractions are the Basilica di San Pietro (St. Peter’s Basilica) and the Vatican Museums, which includes the Sistine Chapel. The Vatican Museums truly contain some of the finest works of art ever created. These Museums cover about 4.5 miles of displays. In addition, there are almost 40 acres of Vatican Gardens, which make a refreshing respite from all that walking.Top Five Sights at the VaticanWhile there are easily more reasons for touring the Vatican than these top five, this list is a good starting point for any visitor to this independent country.Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel - Not only is this one of the world’s most famous artworks, this 10,000 square foot fresco tells the history of the Church. Just as interesting is the struggle to create the ceiling, something the artist resisted but eventually undertook in a fight of wills with the Pope.Vatican Museums - This is truly one of the Western World’s most stunning art collections, with works by Renaissance Masters, such as Raphael, and amazing sculpture, tapestries, and more. Look for the Egyptian Museum or Map Collection for a break from the overload of religious art.St. Peter’s Dome - Those who can overcome feelings of claustrophobia are in for a treat. By climbing the twisting Renaissance stairway to the top of St. Peter’s Dome, tourists are rewarded with breathtaking views.St. Peter’s Basilica - Visitors are awe-struck when they see the High Altar, a true Renaissance masterpiece. Be sure to seek out the nave, lined with sculpture, including the famed "Pieta" by Michelangelo.Wednesday Papal Blessing - Don’t miss being part of the flag waving, singing joy that overcomes visitors to St. Peter’s Square every week when the Pope makes his appearance.Despite its small size, visiting the world’s smallest state is rich in rewards. It takes some planning to make the most of a visit (and avoid the overcrowding), but the riches on view are well worth any hassle.Close
Written by Europe_lover on 19 Sep, 2000
My wife and I were on a very strict budget so we often skipped many of the places to eat right outside of the Vatican walls. Many catered to tourists which usually means high prices and low quality food. Any place that says…Read More
My wife and I were on a very strict budget so we often skipped many of the places to eat right outside of the Vatican walls. Many catered to tourists which usually means high prices and low quality food. Any place that says 'We accept credit cards' or 'Engish spoken' is probably a waste of your money.Vatican City itself offers no dining options.My wife and I found the market on Via Andrea Doria prior to visiting the Vatican Museum. It was an open air market and had plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and some meats. We grabbed some bread and sandwich options and a carton of juice from the nearby Meta supermarket for our lunch that day. We interacted with some locals and spent about $5 each. We ate it while looking at San Pietro from the square. Couldn't get that view from any restaurant. =)Close
Written by Europe_lover on 10 Sep, 2000
The Pope called 2000 A.D. a Jubilee Year and many improvements were made to ensure that the thousands of pilgrims would be taken care of. Hundreds of volunteers in blue vests are willing to point you anywhere. Not all speak English so be…Read More
The Pope called 2000 A.D. a Jubilee Year and many improvements were made to ensure that the thousands of pilgrims would be taken care of. Hundreds of volunteers in blue vests are willing to point you anywhere. Not all speak English so be prepared to be tossed between a few before you get your question answered.
The Jubilee door on San Pietro is open and you can walk through it. It will be closed at the end of the year and will stay that way for another 25 years.
Even with all the pilgrims trying to see the Pope, who shortened his traditional summer-long vacation to give mass and entertain pilgrims, Vatican City has done a marvelous job moving people around. It will be crowded, but not overly crowded, and nothing unusual compared to some of the other sights in Rome.
If you aren't interested in seeing the Pope, ask at any of the TIs for information on when he will be appearing and plan around his appearances. If you have a chance, go to Vatican City in 2000 before the volunteers go home and the fabulous art is hidden by scaffolding.
Written by jwagner on 27 Aug, 2000
I converted to Catholicism last year, a careful decision I made after a spiritual journey that last for nearly a decade. So when my wife and I began planning our trip to Europe last March, we made inquiries about seeing the Holy Father, sure to…Read More
I converted to Catholicism last year, a careful decision I made after a spiritual journey that last for nearly a decade. So when my wife and I began planning our trip to Europe last March, we made inquiries about seeing the Holy Father, sure to be a highlight of our trip.
Our trip, as you can see from other journals I've written, was a fast-paced two week tour through three countries and five cities. We would be in Rome for two full days, long enough to see all the main attractions, eat a little bit of classic Roman cuisine, and get a feel for 'doing as the Romans do.'
The Pope offers public audiences on Wednesdays. Reservations are practically impossible (unless you are a head of state or a huge benefactor of the church); the only way to get a ticket is to stand in line.
Our trip took us to Rome on a Wednesday-Thursday, so we knew we had a chance for an audience. But while in Munich, I read in the International Herald-Tribune that the Pope was on his way to the middle east for a groundbreaking visit of the Holy Lands and meetings with Jews and Muslims. Our hopes dashed, we planned on making the best of our time in Rome (and Vatican City) minus the papal experience.
We left for Vatican City on the Number 64 Bus from the train station, a busy bus that is reknowned for an interesting cross of pickpockets and Nuns. (Undoubtedly the same people).
But 64 was even busier than usual, a mild curiousity but nothing that piqued our interest.)
But as No. 64 got closer to Vatican City, the number of people on the bus approached bone-crushing levels and the streets were filled with people walking towards the gate. Finally, we heard another American tourist ask what was going on.
'Papa!' someone said. The Holy Father was delivering a special mass for pilgrims for the Kurdish region of Northern Iraq.
St. Peter's Square was jammed by the time we found passed the Swiss Guards, dressed in the colorful uniforms designed so many years ago by Michaelangelo. A long line of people waited patiently in one line for one of the good seats. We decided to stand next to the barriers about 300 yards back. An inspired decision, we would later discover.
A Mass in St. Peter's Square has all the trappings of a rock concert or a Sunday afternoon football game. The crowd is in a frenzy, chanting and cheering long before the ceremony begins. Organ music fills the air. Two jumbotron screens show the happy faces of excited worshipers.
And then, suddenly, the crowd hushes and then emits a loud cheer. Somewhere far off in Vatican City the Pope has climbed aboard a white jeep and a camera is broadcasting his approach to the square. As he approaches, and the landmarks become for familiar, the noise grows and then, the car enters the square and the place erupts.
The jeep makes a couple of passes through the crowd as people reach out to touch the passing vehicle. Finally, it begins its ascent up a long ramp and the Pope climbs out and moves toward his chair on the stage below his apartment.
On this day, a few weeks before Easter, the Holy Father's message was one of reconciliation. He asked the western governments to end their paralyzing sanctions against Iraq, just as he called for the Iraqi government to end their campaign against the Kurdish people. As the Easter seaon approached, it was a beautiful, simple message of living a Christ-centered life, and practicing the same kind of forgiveness that Christ taught his disciples. It was the kind of experience that makes travel so memorable, so worthwhile.
Written by EJKellar on 10 Oct, 2008
It was an interesting experience to say the least. When we got to Rome from Naples at 8:30am there was already a line around the huge wall leading to the museum. Along the side of the line there were people trying to sell…Read More
It was an interesting experience to say the least. When we got to Rome from Naples at 8:30am there was already a line around the huge wall leading to the museum. Along the side of the line there were people trying to sell stuff. Once we got about half way through the line there was an older man, who was lying on the ground, he looked very sick, yet no one did anything. None of the tour guides seemed to care, and everyone refused to look at him. Later in the day we saw another interesting character, it was an older woman. The best way to describe her is that she looks like the witch off snow white and the seven dwarves. She was slumped down, had long dangly hair, and was walking around with a cup in her hand. Once you get outside the museum there are many stands to buy souvenirs, I thought this was wrong in a way. I just say this because it is a holy place yet, it is being treated as though it is some kind of Disney world or something but I guess that kind of stuff happens a lot now days. In the end even with these weird experiences the Vatican is defiantly worth going to see, the most amazing part of it all is Sistine chapel it is a must see in person. No picture could ever replace the real thing.Close
Written by Andiamo on 20 Mar, 2001
While you're here at the Vatican, you will, of course, see the major attractions. Some lesser-known "sights" are located here also. One is the post office. Italian mail service is notoriously slow, so the efficient post office offered here is the place…Read More
While you're here at the Vatican, you will, of course, see the major attractions. Some lesser-known "sights" are located here also. One is the post office. Italian mail service is notoriously slow, so the efficient post office offered here is the place to send off your postcards if you would like them arrive home before your next trip to Rome. (This is not much of an exaggeration. My sister sent me a postcard from Italy and it took 6 weeks after her return home to reach me!) I know people in Rome who will take the Metro to the Vatican solely to utilize the postal service here instead of using the one in their neighborhood.
Another is the bathrooms. Okay, I know you're not going to head over to the Vatican solely for the bathrooms, but in a city where public restrooms are scarce, you may as well enjoy it while you're here! Nice, clean, large, free....enough said!
And, then there is my favorite part of coming here. Watching the people. I like to stand in the wide piazza and observe the people - a multitude of nationalities, backgrounds, faiths, languages, making pilgrimages for a multitude of reasons. It always brings to mind the verse in Revelation "you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation."
For an alternative to hotels, especially if traveling with a family, a self-catering apartment may be a nice (and roomy) alternative to a hotel. There are several located within the immediate vicinity of the Vatican, providing a comfortable and furnished home at a reasonable…Read More
For an alternative to hotels, especially if traveling with a family, a self-catering apartment may be a nice (and roomy) alternative to a hotel. There are several located within the immediate vicinity of the Vatican, providing a comfortable and furnished home at a reasonable price.
Visit www.guestinitaly.com. Click on the Rome apartments and check out their nice selection. Look for the apartments listed at Vatican or Prati, the neighborhood next to the Vatican. We were amazed at the prices for some of these flats - only 180,000 to 300,000 for many. With that you get all you need for a comfortable stay - linen, cookware, dishes, nicely furnished, many in historic buildings...and a lot more space!
In addition, it gives you and your family a chance to spend a few days living like a Roman, surrounded by Romans. Enjoy la dolce vita in a Roman home!
--Get to the Vatican museum early to avoid long lines of bus tour groups that often get preference for entrance into the Vatican.
--Visit the post office near the entrance to the museum to send post cards home to your priest. You're probably not the first…Read More
--Get to the Vatican museum early to avoid long lines of bus tour groups that often get preference for entrance into the Vatican.
--Visit the post office near the entrance to the museum to send post cards home to your priest. You're probably not the first the think of this, but he won't wonder why you haven't been in church lately.
--St. Peter's has a strict dress code: no shorts, skirts above the knee, no exposed shoulders. If you mess up and forget to dress appropriately, a souvenir stand will sell you a shawl that you can wrap around your shoulders or exposed legs.