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Rome wasn't built in a day...

Inside the Coliseum

But you can visit it in a few days if you know what you're doing. I recommend Rick Steve's Rome 2000 guide to help make the most of a short trip. We traveled from LAX through London Heathrow, barely missing a close connection to Rome. We caught the next plane after about a four hour layover, but our first evening was shot for anything more than getting to the hotel and grabbing a late dinner.

 

Sunday April 9th - Rome Antiquities

We started our walking tour through the antiquities from our hotel near the Pantheon. The Pantheon is a remarkably well preserved structure considering it is 2000 years old (first two pictures below). We walked down to the main Piazza on the way toward the Roman Forum. The front of the building there, the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument, is bright white and makes an impressive background day or night (large picture on right). There was a carnival underway the day we were there and the streets were blocked off from all traffic.

Vittorio Emanuele II Monument

Walking through the Roman Forum (third and fourth pictures above), it is difficult to picture the buildings and streets as they were without the help of a book called "Past and Present", which is sold everywhere . Proceeding toward the Coliseum, Constantine's Arch is preserved in excellent shape (first picture below). The Coliseum is in somewhat worse shape, but is impressive in sheer size as you approach it (second picture below). The view from the outside is interesting, but the view inside is well worth waiting in line for the tickets (third picture below and large picture at top of page).

In the afternoon we walked a few blocks from our hotel to Piazza Navona, where street entertainers gather. Two famous fountains are in the Piazza (fourth picture above) along with several restaurants and gelato bars. In the evening, we walked to dinner past the Trevi Fountain (first picture below), famous for making wishes come true. That was the end of our first day in Rome and the walking tour of the antiquities.

Monday April 10th - Vatican

We set out with high hopes for the Vatican. The plan was to see the Vatican Museum and the Sistine chapel in the morning and then see St Peters when we were done. The weather was a problem with on and off rain and cool temperatures, but the larger problem was the fault of inept facility management by the Vatican Museum. When we arrived we were greeted by an hour and a half line that ringed the Vatican wall. There was no good reason for the line, they just had two ticket booths open.

The crowd, frustrated by the line, was then presented with only one option to navigate the museum. Travel through a series of endless halls and constricted doorways in a hot stuffy building. Every tour group stopped in the doorways, causing a huge crowd to back up behind them (second picture below). 

Most of the visitors to the museum just wanted to see the Sistine Chapel, but there was no way to do that. Toward the end of the trek to the Sistine Chapel some two hours later (third picture above), many visitors were belligerent enough to confront the guards when asked to not take flash pictures. Once we arrived at the Sistine Chapel no photos of any type were allowed, even without flash. This set the crowd off and some proceeded to take pictures with abandon. The Vatican Museum would be a wonderful experience and the Sistine is spectacular, but the poor facility management spoiled it for most. Summer crowds will make it a nightmare.

Saint Peters was a big improvement, but not without problems. For some unexplainable reason tourists were not allowed to take pictures of the Holy Door, opened only in Jubilee years (every 25 years including this one). The size of the church is its first impression (first picture above and first and second pictures below). You can wander around freely and there is a lot to see. Leaving the Vatican you can get a good view of the square. It was raining when we left, but the final Vatican picture gives a view toward St. Peters (third picture below). After a frustrating morning and early afternoon at the Vatican, we headed to the Hard Rock Cafe near the old Roman Wall to unwind (fourth picture below).

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