If you read the last blog you will know that Melek and I arrived in Rome after our time in Barcelona and the first thing we did was get orientated with Rome and Vatican City. What impressed me the most about Rome is that everywhere you look you will find history, ruins, monuments, fountains, and plazas. What most cities tout as the “must see” in their city is simply another church (even though it is beautiful and over 400 years old) or fountain (even though it was made by an artistic master that people pay good money to see his works in a museum) or historical site.
Take the Servian wall that is outside the Termini Station as an example. If you fly into Rome you will either have to take a bus or subway to the very center of the city and get off at Termini Station. From here you can catch another bus, metro, or taxi where you want to go. Well just outside the door is a segment of the original wall enclosing Rome…..and no one even really looks at it. I mean this wall is 2400 years old and it is one of the first things you will see, but it is nothing compared to what awaits you. ????
Rome is a very big city (4.5 million people), but in order to get orientated with Rome and Vatican City, the part that has the sights most people want to visit are west of Termini Station before the Tiber River. The Colosseum and ancient Rome are southwest, the renaissance area is more in the northwest direction, Old Rome is due west, and Vatican City is across the river. Please use these descriptions as a guide and not a hard fact.
I will talk about each of these areas in the next several blogs, but today I want to start with Vatican City because this is where our hotel was located (La Grotta di Tiberio). We spent one entire day in Vatican City and ended up coming back each evening as we strolled around the town.
Many people know that Vatican City is the home of the Pope and leader of the Catholic Church, but did you know it is a country also? In fact, it is the smallest country in the world with only .17 square miles. Those of that did know that probably think the country is extremely old, but in fact it was only formed in 1929. The Holy See on the other hand (who rules and has sovereignty at Vatican City) has been around since the beginning of Christianity.
It was established here because this is where St Peter was martyred. In fact, the center of St Peter’s Basilica is built over his tomb, but I will tell you all about that in a later blog. It is called Vatican City, because it is built on a hill that has been called Vatican Hill since the Roman Republic (3rd -1st century BC). The first Christian building was built here in 326 and was the basilica build by Constantine (who was the first to legalize Christianity in the Roman Empire). This first church was rebuilt with the current one starting in 1506.
There is evidence of a palace being built nearby in the 5th century, but this was usually not the Pope’s primary residence until about 1870 when the Kingdom of Italy was formed and seized much of the land known as the Papal States.
If you want to visit Vatican City I highly recommend you buy your tickets online and in advance. This will save you several hours waiting in line (we got inside within 5 minutes!). When you book your tickets for the museum and Sistine Chapel you should really consider some of the other options. We chose the Necropolis tour, but there are guided tours of the gardens, the basilica, and others.
Before I leave you for today, I want to tell you a little secret spot we found. Old Bridge Gelateria is the BEST place to get ice cream in Rome and it is just across the street from the Vatican wall between the museum entrance and the basilica entrance. You can get cones ranging from 2-6 euro and the 4 euro and up will be “as big as your head” as Melek stated.
Come back next time and I will tell you about the very cool Necropolis.