Wednesday, July 6, 2011

r o m e p t I

Living in London has its benefits. Being able to travel to Rome for just the weekend is one of them. Not often do we North American’s get the opportunity to travel to Rome let alone just pack up one backpack and head on over to Italy for a few days. But since a friend from back home in Vancouver was doing her eurotrip, I thought I would join her for a couple of days as we trotted around one of Europe’s most historical cities.

Rome was the place that I went to during the weekend of July 2-3rd, 2011. It is a hot time of year to go but it wasn’t unbearable by any means. It was between 28-30 degrees Celsius during the day but with humidity, it feels like 34-35 degrees or so. Luckily for us, there was a bit of a nice breeze too so it didn’t feel too hot but don’t get me wrong, it was still sticky and steaming with the other tourists around us.
With only two days there is a lot of walking to be done so I’ll just get right down to some of the places that I went and saw:
Day 1 Itinerary – The Vatican City
I flew from London Stansted at 6am and arrived around 9:45am at Ciampino Airport in Rome. From there, it is an easy €4 bus ride straight into Rome Termini station (Terravision). I highly recommend anyone flying into this airport via a budget airline like Ryanair take this route. If you wanted to train, you would have had to take a bus to Ciampino train station before connecting on a train to Termini. Don’t even think about a taxi as this would cost you more than €40 one way.
By the time I met up with my friend it was 11am (fairly good time). From the Termini station, we then took the metro towards the Vatican City. It was interesting to see but this was actually a city that is enclosed by high walls to the west of Rome (still within the city). The entirety of the Vatican is classified as a World Unesco Heritage site so much of the structures and layouts are preserved. The first thing you will see is the piazza which sits in front of Saint Paul’s Basilica. It is enormous and you really do feel small in the midst of it. Seeing the Basilica in front of you is another site that will leave your jaw dropping... but just hold your excitement until you are actually inside.  To get inside the Basilica, you will have to go through the queues for security and then go through a clothing check. Guys and girls alike, you need to have your shoulders covered and your legs covered up to your knees. So it doesn’t matter how hot it is, you will need to bring a thin cardigan or something similar before you can go in.

The Basilica is enormous... the level of detail and the colors within this church is incredible. The ceilings are so, so high and it really makes you marvel at how the people in those days were able to not only build such a grand structure but to also put in the level of detail that you see all over. The paintings and the details on the walls and ceilings just leave you breathless. The interior is the largest that I have ever seen inside a church and it is in fact the largest Christian church in the world. As a photographer that already sounds like an incredible sight to see but in reality, there is something that will catch your eye even more so. The Dome which sits in the middle of the basilica is enormous and so high up. The natural light it lets in is stunning and I guarantee that you will just stand there and stare at the rays of light as it flows into the church.

Panoramic View of Vatican City – From the Basilica, you can actually go up to the Basilica’s cupella either by walking up the 500 stairs or by taking a lift. It is not free to go up to the top of the dome but it is worthwhile. I needed the exercise even though it was already steaming hot outside so we walked it and it only took about 15 minutes to get up. From there the view is iconic and seen through so many tourist photos – still, it is something else to see it through your own eyes.

That afternoon we also went to the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. There can be huge line-ups to buy tickets so I highly suggest that you either purchase tickets online or sign up for a tour. This way you can skip the line-up and basically just head in. The Museum itself is gigantic, you can really lose yourself in there. Too bad I didn’t have more time otherwise I would have definitely spent much more time here. Still, it was cool to see the art work and detailed, historical architecture all over the ceilings and what not. Don’t forget to take a look at the iconic winding staircase!

The Sistine Chapel is connected to the museum and is a natural place to progress to as you walk on through the museum. The Chapel does not allow you to take any pictures but I saw multiple people do it anyway. The guards will likely shout at you but that will be all. Lol. There is a montage of paintings on the ceiling (scenes from the Book of Genesis) that tell the story of the creation of man (Adam), all painted by Michelangelo.  Of the paintings on the ceiling includes the famous scene of god’s finger touching Adam’s finger, giving him life. The sanctuary wall is the scene of the Last Judgement. It was incredible to see that in person and to just see how incredibly large a canvas that was used by Michelangelo, it is really one of those things you just have to say, “What? How in the world can someone paint such a iconic scene on a canvas this large and still keep the original perspective and vision in mind?”

By the time we walked around the Vatican, it was 6pm (and this was with us breezing through the sites). So it was time for our first meal of the day (we had gelato for lunch :D). Since we had 3G on my vodaphone, I googled a recent blog that told us to go to this place called Glass. Obviously being in Italy, this place was Italian and we were told that the gnocchi was some of the city’s best. With that in mind, we walked down the river and passed by the Castel Sant’ Angelo. It is essentially a fortress that was built way back in the olden days. Apparently, it was used for Popes that needed protection when they feared for their safety. The walkway leading up to this fortress was littered with newly weds who were there for their wedding photos, pretty epic location if you ask me :)

To work up an appetite, we kept walking south along the river until we reached a district with lots of little bars and restaurants (one of the best aspects of Europe). When we found the restaurant, Glass, we were surprised to see that it was quite fancy - especially for Rome standards. Very nice decor and presentation, we hoped that the food would also compare to its outward appearance. And you know what? We have some great dishes - easily the best meal I had in Rome while I was there. We started off with the beef tartare and some risotto with mantis shrimp. I've always had a thing for risotto but not many places cook it that well - this was good though. Following the appetizers, my friend ordered a fried soft shell crab dish which came with chorizo powder and I ordered the lamb (perfectly cooked I might add!). Overall, it was a great meal and with great company. What more could I ask for? 

So that does it for day 1... by the time we got back to the hotel it was almost midnight and we were just knackered... and we still hadn't even taken a shower yet! I almost collapsed in there lol.


  1. Love this set! Such a beautiful place

  2. beautiful shots :) gosh i really really like that first spiral picture. love how you processed it

  3. gosh i envy you.why are you always everywhere all the time? come on let's switch life for a month.that will do hahaha

  4. Holy moly you get to travel a lot. Loving the spiral staircase photos man, keep 'em coming!

  5. great images.
    Rome is a great city.
    i like the pictures in the church.

  6. Wow, Kelven! You definitely have an eye for landscapes and architecture! SERIOUSLY!! Love all your shots, especially the staircase one where you see movement. So cool you get to travel the world... Keep the photos coming!

  7. Pure envy. Whenever I take pictures of architectures, I would ask, how would Kelven frame this.

  8. These pictures are so beautiful! Makes me miss Rome and Europe so much!

  9. you are so lucky you get to visit these places! you've taken such stunning photos of the vatican, too. gorgeous.

  10. absolutely in love with the spiral staircase ~ esp that steely grey one with the tourists

  11. ack! i almost forgot to buy tickets online for the Sistine Chapel! good thing i visited your blog. will be off to Rome this weekend XD