Chasing Trains Day 4: Rome Wasn't Built in a Day

Neither can it be toured in a day, but that was all I had left.

The hotel, much to my surprise, provided a decent breakfast spread (by decent I mean they have bacon, and bacon makes everything wonderful). The coffee was unfortunate, though, but enough to get me going.

I had 2-day tickets to the hop-on hop-off bus (which I stupidly bought the day before), so I headed straight to the Coliseum. There was already a bit of a queue by the time I got there, but I was able to skip it by availing of the audio guide which had a separate (nonexistent) line. I prefer them to actual tour guides because I can wander about on my own pace and still get a narrative of the whole place.

Of course me being me, I got lost on the way to the very first stop, so for a while there I was listening to the guide talk about things that weren't even there: This is where they kept the gladiators? Really? But it's just a hallway...

I finally figured it out after the next stop made even less sense than the first, so I had to retrace my steps and redo the whole tour. Ah, well.

Because majority of the tourists are still stuck in the queue (teehee), I was free to sit back and relax and just marvel at the majesty of it all. No elbowing for the best photo angles, no noisy flag-wielding tour guides. If there ever was a motive to wake up early this would be it.

Doggie, bane of all gladiators
Afterwards I headed back to Vatican City to see the museum. This time I whipped out my maps (okay, I used my iPhone's GPS) so I located it in no time. There was hardly any line to enter, which is one of the few perks of Christmastime travel (the other being you don't have to worry about the dress code because you're all bundled up anyway). I hear the queues reach epic proportions come summertime.

The Vatican Museum proved to be a bit of a surprise (clearly I did not do my research). I was expecting a plethora of religious artifacts and things related to the Christian faith, but as it turns out, the "museum" is actually a series of galleries that includes, among a billion other things, ancient Egyptian artifacts (with a couple of real mummies), and countless busts and sculptures of Greek and Roman gods. I keep thinking if they sold it all off they could probably feed Somalia. Just saying.

A tour of the Vatican museum culminates in the Sistine Chapel, famous for Michaelangelo's frescoes and as the site of the papal conclave. The Sistine to me is like that bowl of ramen they sell at the peak of Mt. Fuji - you can't really tell if it's truly the most awesome bowl of noodles you've had, or if it's only so awesome because you had to scale a mountain to have it. The Vatican museum has more than fifty (!!!) galleries - all of which you have to go through before reaching the chapel. I mean, good heavens, I could only take in so much art.

After what seemed like an eternity of plowing through artwork I finally set foot on the Sistine chapel. Pictures are allowed in all of the museum except here, supposedly because NipponTV owns the copyright in exchange for shouldering the cost of the (controversial) restoration. Didn't stop the lady beside me from taking a picture though - her flash even fired. To be honest I don't understand the purpose of taking covert photos, especially here. The beauty of the frescoes - they pop out of the walls and ceilings in some sort of old-school 3D - is something that does not easily translate to JPEG, even when well-lit, so a hastily taken picture in very poor lighting conditions is just useless.

Even the musem's exit has to be grand
Having spent what felt like years in stuffy rooms, I dragged my weary feet to the Trevi fountain to enjoy the crisp winter air. Flipped a coin, so I could come back, as I'm sure I haven't even scratched the surface in terms of what this city has to offer.

It was getting dark as I hopped off the stop at Piazza Venecia, with the intent of going to the Pantheon (which my teensy tiny brain initially confused with the Parthenon). There was a bit of a GPS screw-up and I in my confused and panicked state I ended up boarding the next bus. Once I got my bearings back I decided to hop off the Trevi stop, and find my way to the Pantheon from there. The catch is I have to wait for the bus to make three-quarters of a round, and I only had an hour left before it closes. Yikes.

Piazza Venecia, underneath a not-so-full moon

I told myself that if I get to Trevi by 6 I'll just make a run for it. The bus stopped at exactly 6:05, so I bolted out the door, and ten minutes later I was panting (pun intended ;p) at the entrance of the temple to the gods.

Much like the Sistine, there is no capturing the enormity of the Pantheon's dome on camera. It's massive, and it envelopes you and leaves you awestruck.

On the way back to the bus stop I passed by the cathedral of St. Ignatius and decided to take a peek. It's a gorgeous gorgeous church, and very solemn, too, as there weren't too many tourists. Apparently, St. Gonzaga and St. Bellarmine were buried here (and not in their respective buildings in the Ateneo campus haha :p). St. Ignatius de Loyola's remains, however, are in the Church of the Gesu - the original one, not Camp Big Falcon in Katipunan - which I failed to visit because it's too far from the bus stops, and as such too risky for my directionally-challenged self.

A few minutes later I was back in the Trevi bus stop, clutching a paper cone of roasted chestnuts (overpriced, but I could not resist).

The bus dropped me off at Roma Termini, and I headed back to the hotel to get some rest.

Pope John Paul II, outside Roma Termini

When morning comes, I'll be chasing trains again.

To see all the posts in this series, click here.

No comments