A Visit to Vatican City, Rome

Recently a friend and I decided to go to Vatican City for five days because we had never been to Italy together. My trip was a last minute booking. I got a room in a Vatican City apartment on Airbnb.com for four nights and a two hour flight from Dublin, Ireland to an airport 20 kms away from Rome for approx €70. My friend got separate accommodation a bus ride outside Vatican City. We arrived into the airport not far from Rome, laden down with luggage having booked a taxi coach from a separate taxi rank. My friend was staying at a holiday apartment a bus ride from mine.

I had to ring the landlady to let me into the holiday apartment. She spoke no English, only Italian. Most Italians I met that weekend spoke no English. The holiday accommodation was really a two bed-roomed unit set up as a small bed and breakfast with the breakfast, continental style, available on order gratis at the café in the basement of the building. I had one room, which was adequate for my needs and was clean and tidy.

We woke early next morning in our separate accommodation and Julie came to visit me at the basement café at approximately 10am which was perfect timing, as we were both just rested enough to start the day. By this stage I had scoped out the information about the local area and found the local Italian restaurants where we might dine for dinner, the local buses, the local markets, and the location of the Underground train station.

My mind was caught up with a tourist guide office which said three hour walking tours to St. Peter’s Square took place that day from twelve noon and would tell us everything we needed to know about Vatican City.

The entry fee included entry to the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Museum and it also paid a tour guide to talk to us for three hours and walk with us, escorting us the entire time, telling us of the history of the little city state in the middle of Rome. How ironic, the home of the Catholic Church, a tiny city state with its own bank, police and rules of law and order, located just east of the Roman Forum, the massive stone amphitheatre which was commissioned by Emperor Vespasian of the Flavian dynasty as a gift to the Roman people.

It was opened eight years later by Vespasian’s son Titus opened the Colosseum with 100 days of games, including gladiatorial combats and wild animal fights. After four centuries of active use, the magnificent arena fell into neglect, and up until the 18th century it was used as a source of building materials.

But today was not a day for the Colosseum. Today was a day for Vatican City.

First our group gathered in the tour guides office and had our identification taken as security for the head sets, then we walked across Vatican City into St Peter’s Square. The tour guide led us to a spot where we could see everything clearly and hear over our headsets because there were a number of tour guides operating in the same area.

We heard all about the history of the Church, the role of the clergy throughout the ages, the role of the lay members who had responsibilities, the popes of the past that inherited their titles from previous Popes from the time that the Popes were allowed to marry. We learned many things we did not know, including about the most famous and powerful popes of the different ages.

There was a point on the tour taking photographs of fine art in the museum that Julie got sidetracked from the group and ended up having to find her own way back to the start of the tour. The handover with the headsets and her passport had to take place back at the tour guides office, and there was minor drama because she was convinced she wouldn’t see her passport again.

The most important event of the day, in the end was being told that Pope Francis would say the Angelus at the window of his apartment and speak in Italian saying prayers for approximately twenty minutes near noontime on the Sunday. Thankfully, the exact window was pointed out to us. How lucky were we, only one day in Rome, and already we had figured out how to get an audience with the Pope!

We slipped back across St. Peter’s Square to have lunch because by the time the tour finished around three we were starving. A small Italian pizzeria and bar on the sidewalk which had most of the tables as street furniture behind a small barrier seemed to beckon to us the loudest as the place to eat lunch.

It certainly served a purpose and the waiter was friendly enough to answer our questions about which other sites were the best to see on our five day excursion. The rest of the days were filled going to the Colosseum, a trip to Trevi Fountain, an open-topped bus tour through Rome and lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe Rome. Mealtimes on the weekend were made up of some very fine pasta, pizza, chicken dishes, bruschetta and carafes of wine.