Rome Day 2 & Vatican City: Country #14!April 1, 2017 in Vatican City
We took a short video in the Vatican City that you can watch here: https://youtu.be/k-M-0cV_AFw
Today we explored the streets of Rome. We began by making our way towards the River Tiber, along which Will had found a cycle track when looking on Maps.Me. The river corridor was below road level and was pleasantly green and leafy, with large trees lining the course on many stretches. We came to Isola Tibernia, linked to each river bank by a bridge. The island itself was small and had been commandeered by street sellers as a place to flog their wares. Ponte Fabricio, the bridge that crossed to the far bank was the only one on the Tiber to remain intact without intervention. It was built over 2000 years ago in 62BC!
Alighting from the bridge we entered the Jewish neighbourhood where we found the the main synagogue and museum. There were a few specialist Jewish shops and sadly, Will noticed 4 golden cobbles set into the road outside a large residential building. We've seen these in many countries. They are inscribed with a name, a date and mark the place from which someone was taken by the Nazi regime.
Moving on, we came to Piazza Farnese where the French Embassy is protected by gun wielding soldiers. The guide book had extolled the beauty of the two fountains in this square, where water spurted out of lilies in bath tubs. Unfortunately Vicky's had set her expectations high and was a little disappointed by the reality. Never mind, just round the corner was the Campo di Fiori (Field of Flowers) market. We love a good market and so had noted this down as a 'must see'. We'd thought we might have a pastry and drink at one of the cafés but having been spoiled by small town prices, we were put off by the tourist rates. The market itself was entirely oriented towards visitors with prices to match. There was a lot of emphasis on presentation, with products such as rainbow pasta made into bows and dried herbs in gift packs. Even the dried ginger and banana slices we bought were placed into conical sweet bags and tied with a purple ribbon! Instead of a cafe snack, we bought a punnet of strawberries, some fresh pea pods and sat ouselves down at the foot of the central statue to munch and watch the people go by.
We didn't like to leave Poppy on her own for two long so walked back to the van for lunch. We'd heard a few familiar squawks emitting from the trees but couldn't quite place our fingers on the type of bird until a flock of brilliant green parrots flew overhead!
For our final trip into the city we took the tandem. We needed to cycle on the roads for a while before reaching the river and its bike track. The traffic was hectic and Vicky's nerves were shot but we probably couldn't have done the journey and the last trip around town on our aching feet. Thankfully we were able to ride to within 500m of our destination before we abandoned the bike and continued on foot.
We approached what would be the 14th country of our tour; The Vatican City, via a long, wide, straight road thronging with people. We'd brought our passports just in case, but all that was required for us to enter this micro state, was for us to step through the line of low stone bollards into its capital.
We found ourselves in the breathtaking Piazza San Pietro. Ahead was the basilica and the balcony from where the Pope would address the Catholic world at Easter, just a few weeks away. Wrapping themselves around either side of the piazza were two huge white stone curving colonnades, figuratively and literally welcoming people into the Catholic church. The plinth running along the top of each 'arm' supported statues of popes and other religious figures, made from the same type of gleaming white stone as the pillared structures they rose from.
We'd planned to visit the basilica but, nearly as long as the colonnades a queue wrapped itself around the square. Will estimated there were over 1000 people waiting so we gave up on that experience and wandered a little way out of the piazza into the residential part of the city. It was normal looking, with apartment blocks and nothing we could see that distinguished it from Rome, the capital city in which this country resided. Returning to the piazza with ice cream we sat and took it all in. Many tourists were milling around but there were also a high number of beggars.
After a bit we cycled home to rest and digest a very memorable day. Rome, together with the Vatican within it were like no other capital we'd visited and our time here had been full and exciting. We did however feel quite full up with the experience and were ready to move on and find somewhere green to relax.
The following morning brought the thunderous drum roll of a storm shortly after sunrise. After a while torrential rain peleted the van and we counted ourselves lucky to have visited the city on the two previous fine weather days.Read more