Our plan for today was to go and visit the home of the Pope, Vatican City. At just 0.44 kilometres squared in size, Vatican City is actually the world’s smallest country. A city state surrounded by beautiful Rome, Italy, Vatican City is most famous for being the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. This tiny and unique country also hosts a plethora of fascinating historic art, sculptures, and architecture. Many visitors come Vatican City to see the iconic Sistine Chapel with Michelangelo’s world famous ceiling, and the Raphael Rooms.
Finding Food in Rome
There’s nothing quite like having breakfast al fresco when the sun is shining and you’re in Italy. Particularly at the Hotel Quirinale we were staying at, which you might have seen if you follow me on Instagram. Look at the adorable courtyard. We coupled it with a tasty buffet breakfast. In itself, breakfast was pretty awesome, and much better than those we’d had in Croatia. We had a full range of San Pellegrino juices, continental options, fresh pastries, jam-filled croissants, and fresh fruit and yogurts. We stocked up for our busy day ahead.
This is Italy, let’s remember, so there’s always room for more, right? En route to Vatican City, we stopped off at Campo dei Fiori, the city’s famous food market. It was hard not to stock up with bags of goodies as we ate tasters of truffle, oils, sauces, and more. Restraining ourselves with a few bags of crazy coloured pasta and sauces to take home as gifts, we carried on until we came across Roscioli.
Famed for its carbonara, pizza, and wine, Roscioli has a number of different branches across the city. These include a salumeria and a pizzeria and I can only belittle it to Carluccio’s with its deli-style restaurant. Trust me, it’s a lot more authentic and delicious. We came across the pizzeria and couldn’t resist. Just check out these incredible pizzas. So good we had to share a few – we picked delicious heritage tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella. It was a little expensive at 5 euros for a can of San Pellegrino, but when in Rome.
Walking to Vatican City
We continued our trek to Vatican City, passing some beautiful scenes along the way. Thank goodness we wore trainers with all the walking. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. You can see why with all the ornate architecture and detailing that you pass wherever you go.
The Vatican Museum
We bought tickets for the Vatican Museum, and as you get allotted a time slot, we didn’t have much time to hang around. I highly recommend avoiding the long lines and buying your tickets online beforehand. Out of respect, guests need to cover up shoulders and legs above the knee. Do note you also have to go through a metal detector as part of security.
We started our tour of the museum. It’s a pretty long tour, but there are lots of cool things to see including plenty of art and sculptures. Make sure you try out a face swap with your favourite sculpture. Today, the Vatican Museum boasts one of the best art collections in the world.
The museum takes you through a labyrinth of impressive gardens and rooms. In fact, the Vatican Gardens are so large, they cover around half of the city and are bordered by historic sixteenth century walls. The exhibits are displayed along around four miles of halls and corridors, from Egyptian mummies to modern paintings.
Palazzo Apostolico Vaticano
The museums are located inside the elaborate halls of the Palazzo Apostolico Vaticano. This itself comprises two palaces, both the original Vatican palace near St Peter’s, and the fifteenth century Palazzetto di Belvedere. The two palaces are connected by these galleries. Inside, you’ll also find three different courtyards, all of which are beautiful. There’s plenty of ground to cover, so see as much of it as you can in one day.
Enjoy walking the labyrinth of galleries and their elaborate artwork and sculptures. Some key highlights include the papal picture gallery with works by Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci, and the Museo Chiaramonti with its many statues and busts.
This room was our favourite – how beautiful is this ceiling? On the walls are historic artistic maps of each region of Italy to represent the country’s unity in today’s age. Even the tiling on the floors of the Vatican Museum is exquisite.
Sistine Chapel, Vatican City
The main feature of the Vatican Museum is, of course, The Sistine Chapel. Don’t expect to see it straight away! The museum takes you on a winding tour of all the other art first, promising the glory of the chapel all the way to the very end. It’s the place everyone wants to see, and during peak season you can expect to share the room with around two thousand other visitors. Here’s a sneak peek for you.
The Sistine Chapel contains two of the world’s most iconic works of art. These are Michelangelo’s ceiling frescos, dating back to 1512, and his Giudizio Universale, of 1541. The ceiling design covers the entire 800 square metre ceiling, and is full of biblical characters telling stories from the Bible’s book of Genesis. The fascinating Giudizio Universale pictures Christ either saving or damning the souls of the dead as part of the Last Judgment. The walls of the Sistine Chapel also depict stunning artwork. These are the creation of Renaissance artists including Botticelli and Perugino from 1481, reflecting the life events of Moses and Christ. As well as a beautiful display of art, the Sistine Chapel has a significant religious role, as the room where the conclave gathers to choose a new pope.
St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City
Having finished with the Vatican Museum, we headed back out into St Peter’s Square in Vatican City. It was incredible to see St. Peter’s Basilica – you can only imagine how full this square is when the Pope appears on the balcony for Papal Mass.
St. Peter’s Square is the Vatican’s main public area, where crowds gather for appearances of the Pope. Inside the opulent marble St. Peter’s Basilica is a sculpture by Michelangelo. It’s also possible to climb up to the iconic dome for incredible vistas across Vatican City, Rome, and beyond. Equally, the Basilica’s grottos are full of saints’, popes’, and monarchs’ tombs.
The Vatican Museum does get very busy, so be prepared to cool off with a drink afterwards. We opted for an Aperol Spritz in the beautiful Piazza Navona that we visited the previous day. When in Rome!
We walked past the Altare della Patria at dusk on our way back to the hotel to get ready for the evening ahead.
Dinner at Roma Sparita, Trastevere
After a quick costume change, we set off to Trastevere once again in search of a restaurant we’d heard all about online. It’s even recommended by the legendary Anthony Bourdain on his No Reservations series.
Roma Sparita is set in a secluded courtyard and buzzing with locals. I’m pretty sure we were the only tourists in the restaurant, which is always a good sign in my opinion. Our waiter was an adorable old Italian man who reminded me of a grandad. He was so happy to see two English girls there and wanted to feed us everything.
We gorged on stuffed, fried courgette flowers, mozzarella and tomatoes, with breadsticks and fresh bread. For our main, we picked the restaurant’s famous dish, cacio e pepe. It’s a simple pasta dish made in a big wheel of cheese, consisting of spaghetti, parmesan, and freshly ground black pepper. It’s even served in a parmesan bowl, and it it’s so delicious.
We finished off with a pannacotta and also sipped away an incredible bottle of white wine. Ah Italy, I love you.
Trevi Fountain, Rome
If you think Rome by day looks cool, try Rome by night. It was amazing walking back through the city and seeing iconic buildings like the Pantheon in the darkness. We sat and thought about all the people that must have seen this magnificent building over the years. It’s hard to think it’s been around since 125AD. I’m sure it has some stories to tell.
Just around the corner was one of my favourite attractions – the Trevi Fountain. Arguably the world’s most iconic water fountain, it stands twenty six metres high, and boasts a stunning Baroque style. After several attempts at its creation over the centuries, the Trevi Fountain finally took its current shape in 1629. Recently, it has undergone a restorative clean courtesy of Fendi, the designer label, making it prettier than ever.
If you visit, you also have to do the obligatory coin toss over your shoulder. They say that it will ensure another trip to Rome for you in the future. Don’t do what I did first and accidentally miss the fountain – not too sure how I managed that either.
We managed to meet some American friends at the fountain. They tried to race us up one of the steep streets, and frankly we weren’t going to let them win. We all went to a nearby bar to sip limoncello in true Roman style. Another awesome day in Rome – bring on our last day in the capital tomorrow.
Have you visited Vatican City? If so, what are your recommendations to go and see? Let me know in the comments below.