Italy travel diary/travelogue

A visit to the Vatican

Day 5, 27 Aug 2001

A piece of modern art - in the grounds of the Vatican And the downpour stories continued at breakfast. But enough of that, we had a Papal republic to visit.

It was another very hot start to the day - no sign of clouds today, but plenty of tourists. Roberto was once again our guide as we weaved our way through the throngs of like-minded tourists inside the Vatican City buildings.

Decorated ceilings inside the Vatican We passed through countless corridors of some of the most ornate decoration. Oil paintings and gold leaf were everywhere - so much so that when we did eventually reach the Sistine Chapel we were almost blazé about it all.

Silencio, per favore!

Many times before getting to the chapel, we were informed, either verbally or by the numerous signs on the walls in may different languages and imagery, that cameras were not to be used inside the chapel, nor video cameras. Silence was also expected of visitors. In short, a little respect. However, as we entered the general hum of people chattering, only occasionally broken by the guard's call for 'silencio' and the intermittent flashes of cameras proved that respect was in short supply here.

St Peter's Basilica (Basilica di San Pietro)

The dome of St Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, RomeThe view over St Peters Square, Vatican City We continued on to St Peter's Basilica with all its ornate, and colossal sculptures. The church can quite easily fit the major churches of the capitals around the world inside it, and this is marked at various stages along the polished marble floor. Outside is St Peter's Square, most famous for the Pope's public addresses (the balcony he appears from is easy to spot).

But don't stick at ground-level - like many buildings, you can pay a little extra to get to the top for views across the city that are unrivalled. Thankfully, half of the altitude can be covered in a lift, but around the domed area itself you have a walk through the ever-more tightly angled passageways. Not one for people of a claustrophobic (or bulky) nature!

Castello St Angelo

Castello St Angelo and bridge, Rome Following the road down from the square, we found ourselves on a great-looking bridge opposite the Castello St Angelo. It was lined with statues and was very reminiscent of Charles Bridge in Prague. A few snaps on the camera, then we headed back to Piazza Navona where we had briefly stopped the day before.

Area Sacre was next, and is another area of ruins like the Roman forum, only with extra added cats! The feline contingent was very much in evidence here - any empty space of stone had been taken by a cat of one colour at full stretch in the sun.

Night-time shots, worn out feet

Night-time shots of The Pantheon, Arco di Costantino and The Colisseum The remainder of the evening in Rome was spent hot-footing it around sights that we had already seen, but purely to get some night-time photos, beginning with the Collisseum. As we arrived, we noticed that the building was not lit up as we had expected it to be. A street vendor told me that sometimes they just don't bother. As Roberto had said earlier, sometimes the fountains are not switched on - in his words, "the fountains were on strike". Perhaps the lights were too! Regardless, we managed to get a decent shot using just the nearby streetlights.

The Pantheon, likewise, was not brightly lit, but a photo was possible. Trevi Fountain was not lit either, but it was very busy and I didn't attempt a photo here. Besides, we needed to head back to meet others for a taxi back to the hotel. We had opted to forego the early coach back and arrange our own transport back later, but predictably the two minibus taxis failed to turn up, so we grabbed what we could - a few minicabs between 13 of us. Our taxi driver didn't even know where Fiano Romano was - which shows just how far outside of the city our hotel was!