7th April (Wednesday): Travelling to Rome (Roma)
We left for Stratford Bus Station early in the morning and took the National Express to London Stansted airport. From there is a 10.55am Ryanair flight to Rome Ciampino airport and it is scheduled to arrive at 2.25pm. The single trip flight cost 34.50pounds (S$105) including taxes and fuel charges. We are now in Rome, the capital of Italy!
There is an undeniable beauty surrounding Italy; its language, food, people, culture, arts, history and geography. It is the seat of the ancient empire of Rome. The Vatican City, where the pope resides, who is the supreme head of all Catholics, is also in Rome. Roma houses many of the greatest works of the Renaissance and the Baroque in its museums. The largest basilica and dome can be found in St. Peter. St. Peter (San. Pietro) is the patron saint of Rome. The Tiber River (Tevere) runs through Rome. I arrived in Italy armed with slightly over 100 Italian words, learned over a period of 1 month at the Queen’s Belfast language centre.
Rome Ciampino airport is located at the outskirts. From the airport we have to take the COTRAL bus to the Anagnina Metro stop. At Anagnina, it is a direct 30 minute metro journey to the Termini station.
Finding our accommodation took some time as Pensione Kenzo signboard is not noticeable initially. During check-in, we were told that our hostel room in Kenzo is temporarily unavailable and they relocated us to a hostel 10 mins walk down the street. Pensione Kenzo is run by Japanese as the owners converse amongst themselves in Japanese. The other hostel is much brighter and beautiful. After checking in, we decided to take an evening walk round Roma.
The first place we stop by was Santa Maria Maggiore. It is the first Italian church we saw for the trip. Stunningly beautiful, with gold paintings and figurines adorning the sides and top of the church. They were having messe then, so we have to leave in order to avoid interrupting the service.
Thereafter we proceeded to the Colosseum. The sight of the majestic building from afar was impressive! It was coming close to sunset and the golden sun light simply sparkles off the ancient ruins of the Roman civilisation. We took lots of photos there.
We finished off our day with dinner from a shop we walked by earlier. It is opened by Filipinos. They serve pretty good barbeque chicken. Yummy.
8th April (Thursday): The Vatican City
We went to the Vatican City on this day. Arrived at the designated Metro stop and came upon a long queue to the Vatican Museo.
We joined in and is just in time for the English guided tour round the Vatican Museo. The guide was outstanding and we learnt much of the interiors from her.
Our breathe were taken away when we entered the Vatican Museo. It has art paintings spanning the entire breadth of the corridor.
Here are works by Raphael. I love this art piece which depicts 'The School of Athens'.
The tour is 2 hours long and it ended at the famous Sistine Chapel. It is here where we marvel upon the famous works of Michelangeo. Since no photos are allowed in this hall, I have not posted any. Postcards of the photos can be bought after the chapel from the museum shop.
Next we made a brief stop at the Vatican gallery where there is this fine picture of the ‘Ascension of Christ’ by Caravaggio.
We went on to St Peter's Square (San Pietro Piazza) and is again astonished by a long queue outside the Basilica. We found out that the queue leads to a Thursday evening messe and is especially led by the Pope himself. Entry is only permitted by tickets and tickets are reserved as early as 6 months back.
Here starts Operation Basilica!!
There are people giving off tickets around the entrance to those who are entering the basilica. Josh managed to get his hands on one. Security was tight around the basilica and the entrance was heavily checked by security personnel. We waited 15 mins before time and joined in the crowd into the quadrangle to the basilica. That's when tickets were not required. We waited outside for a while. Elizabeth went in first. She passed the tickets to Josh who joined her shortly. They were successfully in the basilica now. The pope has just arrived and those waiting around the quadrangle were given the green light to go into the basilica but they can only stand at the edge of the messe and not enter. Si Yu signaled to Josh / Eli who had successfully entered the messe to pass the only ticket over. He got in. I was monitored by the security guy as we were found to be in suspicious locations. Gonna change place, Josh and me went to the back and he passed the red ticket over. I got it and the ticket got me through. Now 4 of us are together attending the Thursday messe by the Pope. Where tickets are gotten 6 months before, we entered through proper coordination and determination. Mission Successful!!!
Here is a photoshot of the basilica in the evening.
We left at the end of the Messe and bought pizza from Santa Maria Maggiore. We had dinner back in our rooms. Let's take a sneak peek into our room below.
9th April (Friday) – Central Rome
We went down again to St Peter Basilica. There is a guy giving free guided tour this morning, he was simply fabulous!! He has a great sense of humour, and gave a great deal of information on the history of the Basilica. Here is a sculpture of Mary embracing Jesus.
A station of the cross is going on outside the basilica at the square. A video has also been recorded down below.
We walked down Tiber River towards the Spanish Steps.
Along the way, we had lunch at a cafe next to a walkway. With Italian music playing in the background, the ambience was really perfect.
A bit of shopping was done after the Steps while we were walking towards the Pantheon. Here is the shopping district leading to the Pantheon.
The Pantheon - it is a temple dedicated to the roman gods. The engineering design of the pantheon is simply magnificent.
From there we made a brief stopover at Piazza Venezia and was amazed by the grandiose building, The Tomb of the unknown soldier (Vittorio Emanuele II monument)
We went down to the colosseum to enquire on the Friday Messe which we heard the day before. The event is call the Good Friday Station of the Cross. The Italian name is Dodici Stazione (12 Stations of the Cross)
A closeup photoshot of Pope John Paul II.
10th April (Saturday) – Roman Ruins
We visited St John (San Giovanni) church in the morning. Stumble upon the prayer stairs and the holy of the holiest. The church is the residency of Popes in the past. Here are the prayer stairs.
The holy of the holiest.
There are many fountains all over Rome. And the water from these fountains are safe to drink.
We proceeded on to the colosseum. A long queue span the entrance.
The colosseum interiors. A place where gladiators competitions take place.
Here is Palatine Hill where the Roman Ruins and Roman Forum can be found.
From there, we walked down to the Trevi Fountain. It is said whoever flip a coin into the fountain with his/her back facing towards it will be coming back to Rome again in the future.
11th April (Sunday) – Ostio Antica
We went down to the ruins of Ostio Antica in the morning. It is said to be an ancient port city in the height of the roman empire.
In the photo below, three statues of gods and goddess were supposed to be there.
A painter spending the peaceful Sunday morning painting.
A group photo of us together.
In the afternoon we visited Gallery Borghese. It is only open from 3pm to 5pm with 30min admission to the second floor. It has some very fine art pieces and sculptures there. Works by Bernini includes the Rape of Persephone, Apollo & Daphne and vibrant David.
Thereafter we walked down the park to Santa Maria del Popolo church and Piazza Navona. While at the park, we visited the entrance of the zoo and played with dogs lazing around there.