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A quick tour of Rome & Vatican City

Having spent our first evening in Rome till late (click here if you’ve missed my earlier post), we had every reason to wake up late at the hotel the next morning. Except that some parts of Rome is best captured during sunrise. So after our Subuh prayers, with little sleep, we head off through the streets of Rome to start our day 2.

Despite being out early, I miscalculated the timing and we missed out on the blue hour which is a period of twilight in the morning that would look pretty on photos. By the time we reached Ponte Umberto, another bridge crossing Tiber River, the sun is ready to shine.

Nevertheless, we would not complain with this next-best-thing view of Vatican City as seen from Ponte Umberto bridge.

View of Vatican City

Just at the end of the bridge, Palace of Justice with its more modern era kind of architecture became our first “photo-stop” for our short walk to the nearby Vatican City.

We were the only few tourists out on the street at this hour which makes it quite a nice morning stroll. Walking towards Vatican City, it is impossible to miss the unique towering cylindrical building of Castel Sant’Angelo.

Built in the year 139 this military building was first intended as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian and his family. Interesting to note that in the year 590, the Pope Gregory I had a vision of Saint Michael the Archangel on top of this castle, announcing the end of the great epidemic of plague that had gripped Rome at that time. Hence the status of an angel can be seen on top of the building until today.

While the ladies enjoying their hot chocolate (by the way I had the best hot chocolates ever throughout the Italy trip!), I went on to curiously explore some of the stairs from the street level. Spotting some early morning joggers, I went on to check out the Tiber River up close.

And just like in any other cities, street art is a city’s unofficial outdoor museum, giving a glimpse of city’s political, social and culture concerns.

Approaching Vaticans City with the sight of its most popular landmark St. Peter’s Basilica.

If there is one building in Vatican City that we really wanted to admire both from far and up-close inside, it would be the St. Peter’s Basilica. After all St. Peter’s Basilica is the MASTERPIECE of Vatican City.

Thanks to tips online, we know a quick and fun way of doing this is by going through the DIY “St. Peter’s Basilica Dome tour”. Once again, the trick of starting the day early turned out to be a good decision as the queue for the dome was not too bad. Within 10 minutes of queuing at the security checkpoint, we were all set to take the elevator (yes, we paid a bit more, 10 euros, to avoid climbing all the way up!).

The elevator brought us to the base of the Cupola giving us a good close up view of the beautiful dome.

And what we never knew is that before continuing the climb up to the dome via stairs, visitors will first emerge inside the dome on a balcony overlooking the main altar of St Peter’s Basilica.

Giving us a great bird’s eye view of the church and activities happening for the day.

Pretty nicely decorated balcony.

And then the real hard work begins. From this point is where the last portion of the stairs climbing starts. About more than 300 steps. It is lots of steps, some are quite steep and narrow but it is very much possible.

I actually enjoyed the stairs so much that would consider it as part of the whole visiting St Peter’s experience.

The view from up above is quite lovely and I’m not exaggerating to justify the number of stairs we took to get there. It was quite a view, also thanks to good weather we had during our visit.

From the dome, we went straight inside St Peter’s to experience the interior of it. It is worth admiring the beauty of the art inside St Peters. It contains a number of priceless work by the greatest Renaissance sculptors including Michelangelo himself.

Vatican City is worth a day by its own so I actually regret of stretching my itinerary by quite a bit on that day. We missed out on the museum and other parts of the City.

Post office.

From there (after a quick stop at Hard Rock Café in Vatican City), we went on to Spanish Steps, another famous landmark of Rome. I don’t quite get it when I was told this place is special upon reading this (http://romeonsegway.com/7-facts-about-the-spanish-steps/) it makes sense:

The Spanish steps unique design and elegance has made it a popular place for artists, painters and poets who were attracted to the place which inspired them in return. The artist’s presence attracted many beautiful women to the area, hoping to taken as models. This in turn, attracted rich Romans and travellers. After a short time, the steps were crowded with people of all kinds of backgrounds. This tradition, of the Spanish Steps as a meeting place, has lived on ever since.

It is indeed a popular meeting place, it is full of people hence taking a nice photo is tricky.

Modern era street performers. Beautiful!

Another good thing about Spanish Steps is the location of high-end boutiques that surely will excite shoppers and wives.

For me, I would just settle for a packed lunch at the famous Pastificio (opt for vegetarian or Tuna option) by the steps.

And delicious dessert – Pompi’s signature Tiramisu (choose the non-alcoholic variant)

And finally, no trip to Rome is complete without a visit to the one and only Colloseum.

Unfortunately we did not made it to one of the tours but I have a feeling that we will be back in Rome one day. So for now, we just admire the exterior of this beautiful structure that was built between 72 A.D and 80 A.D under the Emperor Vespasian, in the heart of Ancient Rome.

Despite two-thirds of the colosseum has been destroyed due to natural disasters, fire and vandalism, it is still that iconic landmark of the City.

Next to it, the Arch of Constantine, a triumphal arch erected by the Roman Senate to commemorate Constantine I’s victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312.

A beautiful day in this lovely city and a perfect way to end our brief stop in Rome before we head to Venice!

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