In the afternoon we had a flash rain for around 30 minutes. We found some shelter on the edge of a piazza, and once the rain had stopped had our mid-afternoon treat—gelato! I went for a combination of my three favourite flavours: pistachio, chocolate-hazelnut, and strawberry. It was fantastic!
We continued our ride, dodging puddles and pedestrians, winding through the narrow alleyways and onto the main streets of Rome. We cycled past the Vatican and again past the Colosseum as we made our way back to the bike shop. It was around 17:30 and I was still eager to explore more of the city. So I walked and walked the entire evening, admiring the European architecture, historically rich sites and bustling city squares. Eventually I settled on a place to eat dinner, Al Balestrari, where I had a most delicious pizza—fresh basil, tomatoes, and cheese, on a thin crust, baked to perfection! The waitress was pretty cute so didn’t have to try very hard to convince me in following up with a dessert. I took her recommendation on the chocolate tarte. No disappointment there.
It was getting late and time to find my way back home. But as I had already cycled 25 km around the city and walked another 20 km or so, I was pretty familiar with the layout. Even to the point where I ended up giving directions to some lost tourists on my way back home!
My host Andrea was still up when I got in around midnight so we had some tea together and got to know each other somewhat. He’s a producer for the TV network that covers the news of the Vatican City. It was interesting to hear about his job and life in Rome. We probably would have stayed up later talking but I had to get to bed so I could be up in time for the tours I had booked for Thursday.
At 08:15 on Thursday morning I met a group outside the Colosseum for a three hour tour which took us into the magnificent stadium, down below where the gladiators used to prepare for their battles and where they kept the exotic animals. From there we went up to the middle and top levels of the building as we heard all about the history of it.
By time the Colosseum tour finished I had limited time to make my way to the Vatican City, so had to walk at a brisk pace to cover the approximate 4 km between. I arrived hot, thirsty, and hungry, and had 5 minutes to down a veggie panini before starting the next tour.
The Vatican tour included the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. Both of which were impressive sights with a long history—at times too long… Some parts of the tour felt long-winded to me, but Michelangelo’s artwork on the ceiling made up for that. To think that one guy who wasn’t even a painter to being with accomplished such a feat (against his own will!) is astounding. And being obligated to return for more monumental painting years later is remarkable. There were no photos allowed and I respected that, but there are still many ignorant tourists who try to take photos despite the numerous signs stating otherwise, not to mention the security who have to tell them to put their camera away.
Walking into St. Peter’s Basilica really exceeded my expectations of the place. It looks big from the outside but from the inside you really get the picture. It’s so massive and highly detailed. Obviously it serves its purpose as a place of worship but I could also sense the bleeding power and authority. Quite a site and worth the visit, but accessing it via skip-the-lines tours is the only way to go. The queues stretch for blocks! I’m sure glad I didn’t have to wait around all day in a line-up.
In the evening I continued my long trek throughout the city. I was tempted to return to the same place for more pizza but decided I’d try a pasta dish at some other place down a back alley. I had a mushroom & tomato fettuccine which was alright but didn’t compare to the pizza from the previous evening. I followed it up with another gelato. This time I tried apricot, pear & cheese, and salted peanut, but it wasn’t as good as the previous day’s either, however I wasn’t disappointed. I had just had two amazing days in Rome and am thrilled with everything I was able to experience. I walked back to my place for the night with tired legs but satisfaction in a full, enriching day.