Somehow I managed to largely avoid jet lag on this trip. Maybe it was because I slept on the plane (a first for me). Maybe it was out of sheer force of will (likely). But whatever the reason, I managed to wake up at 7am on our second day in Rome and waited around until everyone else woke up at 1pm.
We knew that we wanted to go see the Vatican, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica, so once everyone was up, we set off as quickly as possible.
Though I usually try not to talk things down that I didn’t love on a trip, as I don’t want to sway people from seeing something special to them just because I didn’t love it, I want to give my honest review of the Vatican. Before I get in to it, I should say a few things:
- Seeing the Vatican is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I don’t regret seeing it and checking it off my travel list.
- I am not religious and have no ties to Catholicism, so it is likely that some of the significance of the Vatican was a bit lost on me.
Okay, with that being said, Adam and I walked to the Vatican and decided to pay for a tour, which would help us avoid the several hour long line to get inside. We paid about 55 euro each for the tour that got us inside the Vatican, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica.
The process of getting inside is chaotic and crowded. There are dozens of tour groups ushering crowds inside the Vatican walls, seemingly without any organization. As someone who doesn’t do very well in crowds (especially tour groups), I was feeling a bit stressed about by the situation.
Also immediately upon getting inside, Adam and I decided to split off from our tour and do our own tour. It was, quite frankly, chaos inside. We best compared the Vatican to an Ikea; once you are inside, you have to go through the whole maze to get out. The crowds inside are like nothing I have ever experienced before and it is near impossible to move at more than a crawl.
We finally made it through the maze to the Sistine Chapel. The chapel was beautiful, but we were so overwhelmed by the crowds at that point that we were very ready to see it and get back outside.
Once we got back outside, we headed over to St. Peter’s Basilica (which we had already paid for). Unfortunately when we bought our ticket, they didn’t tell us that there is a strict dress code to get inside. Maybe this is common knowledge, but I had no idea. Since I was wearing a sleeveless dress in the sweltering summer heat, I was not allowed inside. While I understand that rules are rules and I am completely respectful of that, this is something they should have disclosed when they sold us the tickets.
I told Adam to go ahead inside and snap a picture for me.
So overall, my appraisal of the Vatican is this: it was a beautiful piece of history that I am glad I got to see. However, the crowds and lack of information and communication made the experience much less enjoyable. While I am not saying that you shouldn’t visit, we definitely wish that we had used our limited time to see the Coliseum rather than the Vatican. But hindsight is 20/20!
One of my favorite moments in Rome was just after we left the Basilica. Adam and I walked back toward the Pantheon to meet the rest of our travel group and saw one of the most beautiful sunsets have ever seen in our lives.
This was one of the moments in traveling that I love the most. There is something so special about seeing a place in its most beautiful moments not from a tourist destination, but just from a random place.
We finally made it over to the Pantheon, which was beautiful. The square around the Pantheon is bustling and we got to see a marching band, a mime, and a parade!
After the Pantheon we all grabbed some dinner and gelato before going back to show everyone the Basilica. It is even more beautiful at night!
We had an incredible second day in Rome and, despite the Vatican not being exactly what we expected, it was a perfect day of history, food, wine, and happiness. Leaving Rome was a bit bittersweet. Even though we were so excited for the rest of the trip, Rome was utterly breathtaking.
There aren’t many places that I would go back to (just because there is so much to see in the world!), but I would go back to Rome in a heartbeat.