On our first full day in Rome, we decided to get up fairly early and head to the Vatican before the crowds. We found out that on Sundays multiple services were held at St. Peter’s Basilica throughout the day and set our sights on attending the 10:30 am service, in which the mass was sung by the choir. To be respectful (and because the Vatican enforces a dress code), after our morning coffee and croissant delivery by Naomi, Bowe, and Lena, we dressed up a notch, and headed out.
Thanks to our location, the Vatican was only a 5-minute walk away! When we arrived at the Basilica, it still was not crowded, which made it much more enjoyable for us.
After exploring the Basilica, we wanted to get inside the dome, since it offered beautiful panoramic views of the city. We decided to have the full experience of climbing 551 steps (there is an option to take an elevator to skip climbing the first 320 steps, but after that it’s you and your legs).
At times straightforward, at times windy, and at times quite leaning and narrow, the stairs definitely worked us well! At the top, we enjoyed breathtaking views of the city of Rome and stopped by a little cafe on the rooftop of the Basilica to get a snack and some water. The stairs down then led us back to the main nave – how convenient as we arrived right in time for the 10:30 mass.
After we came back down, we attended a sung mass in the Basilica. The deep part of the nave is normally closed off to the tourists, except during the services, and attending the mass allowed us to see the altar, organ, and inside of the nave from up close. We had high expectations but neither the nor the organist were extraordinary. Bowe and Naomi also remarked that the organ was slightly out of tune.
The choir was amplified, but I don't think it was especially flattering. You could hear the rustling of the pages and whispering projected throughout the entire cathedral! However, the program was very nicely laid out and easy to follow - we tried our best at following the Gregorian chants. The entire mass was in Latin, except for the scripture readings, homily, and prayers.
On our way out, we noticed an enormous crowd formed in the square. It turns out that when the Pope is in the Vatican he address the crowd and say a prayer at noon. When Pope Francis peered through the window, the crowds went wild. Soon enough, thousands of phones were out and everyone was pushing each other in a most un-Christian way in order to get the best shot. Naomi and I could not stop giggling at how ridiculous the entire situation was!
Finally, when we broke free from the crowds, we briskly made our way home to change into more comfortable clothes and freshen up. We then set out to walk to the Pantheon and the Trevi fountain - but made a lunch stop first, of course! After lunch, Naomi asked our waitress where her favorite gelato was, and we ended up making a stop at the “Fata Morgana” ice-cream shop before continuing on.
We finally arrived at the Trevi Fountain – it was a quite long walk, with much winding around little streets of Rome. It felt a little bit like a scavenger hunt. Some small streets were extremely crowded, while others barely had any pedestrians in them. I would have loved to see an aerial view of all the human ants "attacking" the major tourist attractions.
Once we arrived at the Pantheon, there turned out to be an extremely long line and we decided that we did not want to wait in the sun. Instead, we walked around a bit and made a stop at an “Irish” bar where we watched Mexico face off against Germany in another World Cup match!
After the game, we walked to the Colosseum, and just admired it from the outside. After lubricating during the game, Karol began experiencing nature’s call and we all felt quite tired – we have already walked almost 10 miles at that point – so we decided to take the metro home. The quick-thinking Bowe has researched a return route to our apartment. After two metro rides connected by a simple transfer and followed by a 5 minute walk, we found ourselves back at our front door.
Back at home, Keane, Lena, Naomi, and Bowe made a quick grocery run, and Keane began cooking pasta, while Michał and Karol were the first ones to commence their ablutions. Before long, Keane, Naomi, and Karol fell asleep in their beds, while Lena, Bowe, and Michał caught the second half of the Brazil-Switzerland World Cup game, which ended in another surprising tie! After the game it was definitely time to turn in for the night!