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Rome and The Vatican

Rome is, of course, the capital city of Italy and of the Lazio region. The city has just under 3 million residents (4.3 million in the metropolitan area) and lies on the river Tiber. Within the boundaries of the city lies The Vatican which, as an independent country, exists as an enclave. Rome  is more  than two and a half thousand years old and is one of the oldest continuously occupied sites in Europe. The city has world renowned historical, architectural and cultural attractions and receives an average of 7–10 million tourists a year, making it the third most visited city in the EU, after London and Paris. This might sound a bit long winded, but the 'Historic Centre of Rome, the Properties of the Holy See in that City Enjoying Extraterritorial Rights and San Paolo Fuori le Mura' is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On this page, I will describe a little bit about my visit and why I may, or may not return one day.

I have to admit, the hotel I stayed in (Residence Turistico Le Torri) was not of superb quality and a relatively long distance from the city centre, although the atmosphere was improved because at the time there was a big Lazio football game on and the neighbouring residential balconies were noisy. It felt like being in the stadium itself at times and was an insight into the passion that the Italians have for the game. Also, there was a great view of a rather eye-catching office building from the hotel room (Palazzo Esso - See Here). Public transport from the hotel to the city centre is via a bus to EUR (Esposizione Universale Roma) and then onwards via Metro line B. The Rome Metro opened in 1955, making it the oldest in Italy and has three lines – Line A (orange), Line B (blue) and Line C (green). A word of caution - take care on the Metro (and indeed in Rome) because it is notorious for pick pocketing. The first stop on the Metro we took was at the station Colosseo. A bit of an obvious choice really - to see the nearby Colosseum (or Coliseum). The Colosseum is, of course, world famous; considered one of the greatest works of architecture and engineering, it is an elliptical amphitheatre built of concrete and stone and the largest amphitheatre ever built. Construction of it began under the emperor Vespasian in 72 AD and was completed in 80 AD under his successor and heir Titus.

My photos on this page are somewhat limited as they are pre-digital days during a time when camera films were used sparingly; more of an issue in those days when a moving vehicle 'photo-bombing' your snap could cost you money! Believe me, traffic is an issue in Rome. After looking around (and inside) the Colosseum, a walk followed to the (again world famous) Trevi fountain. I threw a coin into it, which allegedly means that I will one day return to Rome. I later discovered that you should throw the coin into the fountain over your back and mine went in forwards. So, I am not sure if that still means I will return or not. Now I have a digital camera, I hope I do. [For more on the coins that are thrown in, see here]. It is not hard to see why the Trevi Fountain is so famous. Completed in 1762 and designed by Italian architect Nicola Salvi, it is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and stands an impressive 86ft high and 161ft wide. We then walked to the Trinità dei Monti, a Roman Catholic late Renaissance titular church best known for its prominent position above the Spanish Steps, which walking up and down involved navigating the various young and beautiful people sitting in the place to be seen.

Our time in Rome was fairly inadequate and so the next day meant taking a 2 hour coach tour around the city to see the main sights, which included the following: The Roman Forum (Foro Romano), a rectangular plaza surrounded by the ruins of several important ancient government buildings; The Colosseum (again); Circus Maximus, an ancient Roman chariot racing stadium and mass entertainment venue; and the Fontana dell'Acqua Paola ("The big fountain"), a monumental Baroque fountain built by Pope Paul V in the late 17th century and located on the Janiculum Hill. The Janiculum Hill is one of the best locations for panoramic views of central Rome. Although it is the second tallest hill in modern Rome, it is west of the Tiber and outside the boundaries of the ancient city, which means it doesn't actually count as one of the proverbial Seven Hills of Rome.

After the tour, we spent some time looking around The Vatican. Vatican City (officially the Vatican City State) is a walled enclave within the city of Rome. It is the smallest internationally recognized independent state in the world by area and with under 1000 people, by population. First off, we went to look inside some of the museum galleries. There are 54 galleries (salas) in total with the Sistine Chapel being the very last sala within the museum. The museum boasts some 13km of galleries, which is somewhat disproportionate for a country of only 44 hectares (110 acres). Naturally, we paid a visit to the Sistine Chapel to see the famous ceiling painted by Michelangelo. Speaking and photography are not permitted inside the chapel and so every now and again a PA announcement reminds the hordes of tourists of this. The crowds appeared to behave a bit like a classroom of noisy children when the teacher leaves the room for 5 minutes and then returns, restoring the silence. After the Sistine Chapel, we went into St Peter's Basilica (the Papal Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican). Consecrated in 1626, St. Peter's is probably the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture in the world and is one of the two largest churches in the world (the other, of identical approximate gross volume being the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil). Further reading on St Peter's Here. Also, whilst at The Vatican we saw the changing of the Pontifical Swiss Guards in their traditional uniform - a somewhat casual affair noted.

A final photo below, which I have included because it seems to have so many things in it typically seen here: A Vespa moped, an ice cream vendor, somebody eating ice cream, an old fiat car driving on the road, an Italian businessman, a tour bus and tourists looking at a map.

Of course, Rome and The Vatican have plenty more to see and do than is mentioned here and so this popular destination is definitely a place I would consider returning to, if my coin that went into the fountain the wrong way lets me, that is.

Suggested Further Reading:

1. Rome and Latium (Cultural Guides) by Marianne Mehling, Phaidon Press Ltd (1987)

2. Rome and the Vatican City (Art & Architecture) by Brigitte Hintzen-Bohlen, published by Könemann

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