On Saturday the 11th, we had our sights set on the Vatican and the Colosseum. Since the Vatican always has crazy lines, we decided to go there first.
When we got to the outside of the Vatican, unfortunately, I started feeling sick for some reason. I started feeling really weak and couldn’t think straight. Katie asked if I wanted to eat something, so we stopped in a sandwich shop, but I couldn’t even process the options enough to order something. It was kind of bizarre. Katie ordered me a sandwich and we sat down outside and I ate it and kind of just sat there for like half an hour until I felt better. Not the best start to the day, but at least I did feel better.
Anyway, then we started waiting in line to get into the Vatican. As I said, the lines there are crazy—about a fifth of the way around the perimeter of the city—and it took us about 90 minutes to get to the entrance. We went straight toward the path into the Sistine Chapel once we got in, because I really wanted to see Michelangelo's frescoes, especially The Creation of Adam. Katie knew basically everything about that one and The Last Judgment, plus a few more of the frescoes that were on the museum path to the chapel. From what I’ve heard, the experience of those who visited the chapel before its restoration (before 1984) is entirely different from that of those who visited after the restoration (after 1994). Just looking at the photos from beforehand, this is easy to see: the un-restored ceiling looks practically black compared to today’s colorful frescoes. If you saw the chapel before the restoration was complete, I strongly recommend seeing it again if you have a chance to do so. Fun fact: in The Last Judgment, judge of Hell apparently has the specific face of some Vatican official that Michelangelo despised for getting on his case too much.
Since the entrance to the Sistine Chapel is itself a long tour of a museum with a bunch of other art, it took us another hour or so to get through that. With the extensive walking and minimal sleep over the last week or so, I was exhausted by the time we finished. We wanted to go inside St. Peter’s Basilica too, but by this time we weren’t sure whether we would have time to see that and the Colosseum. Since the lines were getting even longer now, we walked over to St. Peter’s to see how long the wait was. Part of the area was under construction so it was hard to see where the line went, but it looked surprisingly short. We sat down in St. Peter’s Square and said “let’s take a quick break and then we’ll have time for both the basilica and the Colosseum.” Our “little break” actually became me napping for 15 minutes, right there on St. Peter’s Square. Oops. When I woke up and we were about to get in line for the basilica, we noticed that the line was about 10× longer than we had thought it was just before. Whether it grew dramatically while I slept or it was that long all along, we’ll never know. Oops. Because of the huge line, we would only have time for either the basilica or the Colosseum, and the Colosseum was my priority. We left the Vatican at 1pm or so and got pizza for lunch at another little street-side restaurant nearby. I got some cola to wake me up and we boarded the metro to head across town again.
The Colosseum was the attraction in Rome I was looking forward to the most, and it did not disappoint. It surpassed the Pantheon as the oldest manmade structure I had ever seen by about 200 years. It is also HUGE. The lines were, again, super-long—but this time we had pre-purchased tickets, meaning we got to skip the lines. :^) Inside, we got little pamphlets telling us what was up, and it was largely a free roam (of the open areas) from there. It was fun to explore; to see the views of Rome and of the inside of the Colosseum from different vantage points. It was again amazing how much solid concrete can just deteriorate, given enough time. We spent awhile exploring and then left to see the Forum, the leftovers of ancient Rome that stand across from the Colosseum (yet again surpassing my personal record for the oldest buildings I’ve seen, haha). It was neat to see this ancient part of the city and imagine how actual people lived and worked there, but we were so spent by then that we didn’t get very into it.
We left the Forum to find dinner and head to the hostel, and actually found a little restaurant right across the street from the Colosseum. The Gran Caffè Martini & Rossi had a pretty good view. After dinner we went back to the hostel, but as we got the we had a last-minute spark of inspiration and energy and decided to go to the nearby Palazzo del Freddo Giovanni Fassi, the oldest gelateria in Rome. It was awesome. Afterward we went back to the hostel, had another bottle of wine on our patio, and finally… sleep. Next up: Cinque Terre!