Travelling has allowed three important measures to come into my life: Amsterdam cold, Venice hot, and Paris pain. Day two in Rome didn’t quite reach Paris pain or Venice hot, but it was getting there.
After the relentless heat of the sinking island, it was nice to feel a Roman breeze on my skin as I stepped out of the Airbnb into the graffitied street. Like obedient tourists, we had decided to brave Vatican City. I am not any kind of religious; a church to me is simply a building with art. Mine is the open sky, the infallible stars, the vast expanse of the earth. And so I couldn’t help but find myself somewhat let down by the holy city. Dare I say that Michelangelo’s masterpiece is merely adequate? Call me sacrilegious, but I have seen far more impressive things than the Vatican on this trip. Too many tourists, no talking, photos, benches or room in the Sistine Chapel, all the while being shushed by security guards if you so much as sneeze.
If you are looking for an impressive ceiling and God, the church of Chiesa di Sant’Ignazio di Loyola is far more impressive, far less crowded, and free. There is also a tray of scarves that you can help yourselves to if you need to cover up.
Films like Roman Holiday and When in Rome also fail to mention that Rome is crawling with more ticket sellers than vermin in a dustbin on a hot day. With the vehemence of vultures, they peck at the vulnerable and beaten down. Squawks and shrieks of fast track tickets and skip the line follow the carcasses of their pray. Escaping these predators requires nimble footing and knowledge of an obscure language to yell in confusion if one is captured. It’s every man for himself, with stragglers abandoned to their vice-like claws.
I realise this statement sounds as though I disliked my time in the city eternal. But I loved the feeling of getting lost amongst two-thousand-year-old architecture; of watching the sky turn from pink to purple to midnight blue on a bridge dangled over the Tiber; of drinking ice cold water pulled from an aqueduct built when the Colosseum saw fighting more exciting than who was positioned where in the queue. Yet, never have I ever been more accosted by people trying to sell me stuff than when I was in Rome.
Venice was fled with a sunset, and Rome with a sunrise. It seems fitting that my final hours in Italy are coated in the hazy blanket of dawn.
Things To Know, Things To See
Ignore every single ticket seller. It’s really not worth it.
Buy tickets for the Vatican online to skip the queues.
Shoulders and knees need to be covered if visiting the Hand of Truth, which has its exit through a church.
There is a great tourist shop on the way to the Vatican museums where every item is €1.
Save yourself money by taking an empty water bottle with you. Rome has thousands of free water pumps that are clean, cold and refreshing.