On our third day in Italy, we visited Vatican City. This is the part of the trip I had been most excited for, and I think I may have overhyped it in my mind because it ended up being a bit of a disappointing morning. First, we underestimated how far VC was from our hotel. We decided to walk since it was still early and not too hot, but it took us almost an hour, and we ended up on the complete opposite side of the city from where our tour started. That meant a straight up run to the tour starting point. We got there in time for the tour, but the heat had started to come in full force at that point. Between the heat, the running and being dressed for the Vatican (long skirt, long sleeves), I was super hot by the time the tour started, and I never really cooled off. I never realized how cranky being hot makes me. I hate the cold too, so I guess I’m just a pain about temperature.
Booking a tour was absolutely the right call as the lines were already 3 hours long by 10 am. With our group, we breezed right in and toured the extensive grounds and museum.
It really was beautiful, but it was also incredibly crowded. We sorta felt like cattle being pushed through a chute. The problem is that visitors have to pass through the museum to get to the Sistine Chapel which is, understandably, the big draw. As a result, the museum tour feels like a mad dash. An un-air conditioned mad dash. Anyway, enough complaining!
We did make it to the Sistine Chapel, and it was beautiful and not at all what I expected. I got dizzy from staring at that famous ceiling so long. It was fantastic. From there, we moved on to St. Peter’s Basilica. I didn’t expect to be quite so moved by that experience, but it ended up being my favorite moment of the tour. It was wonderful. So beautiful and full of history. Besides, being in a room with the remains of several Popes is pretty crazy.
After the tour ended, we headed outside to figure out what to do for lunch as we had a tour of the catacombs later that afternoon. I sat down on some steps to get something out of my purse, and the Swiss Guards came running over yelling in Italian. I couldn’t tell what they were yelling at me for, but eventually I figured out I was not supposed to be sitting on those steps. I got up quickly and started walking through the square. I felt something on my back where my cross-body purse was slung and quickly whipped it around. Only then did I notice that in my haste to follow the rules, I had forgotten to zip my bag, and in under a minute a pick-pocketer had snatched my sunglasses. It ended up being a blessing since my sunglasses were covering my much harder to replace wallet and phone.
Still, that kind of put me over the edge. I had expected this austere, reverent mood at the Vatican, and it had turned out to be mostly hot and loud and sort of like Disney World. Then, I got robbed right outside of the world’s biggest church. So, I did something I am not super proud of and just started crying. I just felt so naive at that point. Of course it was a tourist trap! It’s a major attraction for so many people. I just felt like a dummy. Chris was sweet and very angry about our little thief, so he suggested we get out of there for lunch. I happily obliged.
Lucky for us, Chris’ brother had visited Rome before our wedding and had given us a list of recommendations, so we headed over to one. It was blessedly air conditioned, so I ordered a pizza and a huge beer and felt immediately better.
Hot cheese cures all ills.
We hung around a bit before it was time to head back to the Vatican. I wasn’t super eager to return, but we had booked the tour. We found the Swiss Guard station where we were to check in, and they told us we couldn’t come in because Chris wasn’t wearing pants. Long shorts were acceptable for the Sistine Chapel, so we just assumed they’d be fine for the catacombs as well. We were wrong. They told us we could go buy him pants at one of the local souvenir shops, but after popping into a few and finding only vestments for the ordained, we decided it wasn’t worth the stress. We decided to just go reset at the hotel for a bit. We were both a little disappointed, but the day had been sort of frustrating, and we didn’t want to muscle through just because. It is a vacation after all.
The walk back to the hotel felt extra long and grueling, but we made it, and I indulged in a long, cool bath (I was still SO HOT!) which made the whole day so much better. We looked up tours similar to the Catacombs an decided to visit San Clemente before leaving to get a similar experience.
The rest of the night was wonderful. We walked back to the city for dinner and found a Sicilian restaurant so good that we ended up going back before the trip was over. I had a tuna pasta dish that was stellar. Their tuna is so flavorful! We walked over to the Spanish steps and hung out by some high schoolers getting legally drink outdoors. It was a bit of a culture shock. We also watched some German high schoolers chant a million soccer cheers much to the chagrin of the Italians.
Obviously, we ended the night with more gelato. We had to fuel up for another big tour the next day.