Vatican City – Day 4

Last day of our trip in Rome! We checked out our bags from our hotel in Frascati and took the local train to Roma Termini. After checking in the bags at the Deposito Bagagli (left baggage) in Roma Termini, we had breakfast and took the metro to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.

St. Peter’s Basilica

The line to enter the basilica was so long that we thought it would take us at least 2 hours to get inside. Luckily, the lines moved quickly and within an hour, we were entering THE MOST gorgeous structure that we had EVER seen – Basilica di San Pietro. Just before entering the basilica, there is a benign security check.

Basilica di San Pietro
Basilica di San Pietro
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As we entered this colossal basilica, there were camera lights intensely flashing at La Pieta, the world-famous Renaissance sculpture done by Michelangelo himself.

La Pieta
La Pieta

And then we walked around the entire basilica, gaping and admiring every statue and painting. Never seen something SO extravagant. It was hard to believe the insurmountable amount of talent that existed in these legends.

Statues inside Saint Peters Basilica

It took us about 1.5 hours to leisurely enjoy the architectural marvels. The basilica also hosts grottoes of several popes; entrance to St. Peter’s tomb is always flooded with people capturing pictures, reading the informational placards and simply sinking in the profound history.

In front of St. Peter's tomb
In front of St. Peter’s tomb
St. Peter’s dome

Just near the basilica entrance is the line to go to the cupola (dome). For 7 EUROS, one can take the elevator to the roof, where there are restrooms, gift shop, water fountain. There is a Square from which one can get a beautiful and closer view of the dome. The large statues nearby are also well-worthy of the visit. One can also access the gallery inside the dome to look down into the basilica.

View of the basilica from the gallery on the roof
View of the basilica from the gallery on the roof

From the roof, we had to climb 320 steps, through a narrow and sinuous stairway to reach the cupola. There is no elevator that takes you from the roof to the cupola. A breathtaking view awaited us on the top.

View from the St. Peter’s cupola

I don’t think I’ll do a great job in explaining how mind-boggling it was. I could go on and on and on, but no adjectives in the English dictionary will do any justice to how beautiful the Basilica di San Pietro and the view from the cupola are.

Few things to consider before climbing to the cupola:

  • You need to climb 320 stairs from the roof to the cupola; there is an elevator that takes you to the roof, but no elevator from the roof to the cupola
  • The staircase is very narrow and winding in a few places; made my head spin a few times
  • Bring lots of water with you, or fill up your water bottles using the water fountains on the roof
Swiss Guards just outside St. Peter’s Basilica

It was late afternoon by the time we got out of the basilica and obviously we were burning with hunger. While walking to the metro station, we came across a roadside flea-market and I wanted to check out the beautiful accessories. That’s when we ran into a small hole-in-the-wall pizza shop.

Through the course of 4 days in Italy, we learned that the best and most authentic Italian foods are found in hole-in-the wall restaurants crowded with the locals. The moment you see tourists flocking in, don’t even give a second thought; just walk out!

There were a variety of pizzas displayed by the counter and the price is by weight. You just tell how much you want and the lady will slice it up for you using scissors. That’s how thin and soft the crust was!

The best pizzas that we had in Italy during this trip

First, we tried one variety and finished it up in no time. Then ordered another one, again gobbled it up. And then again another one! It was so good! Ok, now we knew how different American pizzas are from the Italian pizzas. Like chalk and cheese! Just like Indian food in India versus Indian food in the US. Most of the time, I go “Really? Is this what you call Indian food?”

Unlike the pizzas that we get in the US, cheese is not the primary ingredient in the authentic Italian pizzas. They have just the right amount of cheese that you will actually enjoy than the gooey US pizzas that have an overload of meat and cheese.

After a gratifying meal, I told the lady “molto bene”. With a smile, she replied “Grazie, arrivederci”.

We were now ready to leave to Firenze! After collecting our bags from Deposito Baggali in the Roma Termini, we took the train to Firenze. While the train was departing from Roma Termini, an emotional part of me kicked in, as I was leaving the Eternal City and prayed that I get a chance to return to this beautiful place again. Another part of me was excited to visit Firenze, the place that most people love about Italy.

An hour and a half train journey took us to Santa Maria Novella train station in Firenze. With the popular Duomo di Firenze visible somewhere behind the buildings near the train station, this place looked very different from Roma.

From here, we had to take Bus 30 from Stazione San Benedetto Bianco bus stop and nobody even heard of that bus stop. Fear creeped in when even the taxi drivers couldn’t recognize this bus stop. We crossed checked multiple times to see if we got off at the right station.

Luckily, one passerby directed us to the bus stop, which was a couple of blocks away from the train station. A LED display board at the bus stop showed that our bus was arriving in 30 minutes. We assumed that we need to buy the bus tickets from the bus driver, but when a couple of buses passed by, we noticed that people were swiping some card and nobody was buying the tickets from the driver.

I asked a couple of people in the bus stop, but nobody could understand English. And I couldn’t understand enough Italian. Luckily, one of the guys said he knew a little English and I learned from him that bus tickets are bought from coffee shops and he said there is just around the corner.

Just 3 minutes for the bus and the next bus was after one hour. I didn’t give a second to think before running to the café shop and buying two tickets. Phew! Just on time. After we got off from the bus stop near the hotel, we had a hard time finding the hotel. It was dark and there were not too many people on the streets.

We ran into a little boy and asked him, “Dove hotel centro?” and he gave us directions in Italian, which we partly understood by his hand gestures and familiar words. He then said that he would accompany us all the way to the hotel and he did 🙂 He walked with us for a few blocks. A sweet little boy that we will never forget!

After checking in, we walked to an Indian store nearby to get a cold soda and went to bed. The next day we were going to go to Cinque Terre, the place that we were so looking forward to visit during this trip.

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