Europe tour day 1: Rome

12:00:00 PM 0 Comments A+ a-

The beautiful and majestic St. Peter's Basilica, Rome
I had quite the day planned for our day in Rome, but as they say, everything that can go wrong will go wrong, and our timing was off when we landed in Rome...

We're the type of travellers who don't rest once we arrive at our destination. We love to maximize our vacation time, so we almost immediately leave the apartment once we check in. But when we landed in Rome, our luggage took too long to arrive. Then the airport was farther from our accommodation than we thought, so we only had about thirty minutes before our first appointment -- and it was an appointment we had to keep.

St. Peter's Basilica really is a work of art!
One of the things I quickly discovered in Europe is that the locals walk really fast. When they say it's about ten minutes, it usually takes us twice as long to get there. Our accommodation was literally behind the Vatican City, and we thought the entrance to our destination was just around the corner.

Our appointment was at 10:30am. We arrived at 10:45am. They almost didn't let us get thru the gates, but the Swiss guard must have seen the desperation in my eyes (and all the huffing and puffing) because he let us in.

When we got to the entrance of the office, we were told we cannot be accommodated anymore. My mom asked if they can accommodate us at a different time. After checking their schedule for a few minutes, we were told they can accommodate two people at 1:30pm and two people at 2pm, so we would need to separate. We immediately agreed. They rescheduled us with no extra charge, but we were oh so willing to pay up.

You see, getting to enter that museum was the major highlight of our trip to Rome. The museum I'm talking about is the Vatican Necropolis...and what we believe to be the tomb of St. Peter (I say believe because there are those who dispute this). And very few people are granted access because they only let 250 people per day, and by special permission from the Vatican office.

It was raining when we arrived -- mum said we were being blessed. It was a wonder we didn't get sick!
And I literally begged for this, because they initially turned down my application. In desperation, I gave them the date of our arrival, and they granted us a tour at 10:30am. Sometimes, I still cannot believe that I walked on the old roads of Rome and saw the very old Vatican, and was able to visit the tomb of St. Peter. It just felt so surreal.

Pictures are not allowed. Carrying big bags are also not allowed, so we just brought our ticket, phone, passports, and money.

After a wonderful and informative tour by our guide named Laura, we were all surprised because we were told we can enter the St. Peter's Basilica without having to line up outside! And let me tell you, the line was really long.

It felt like we spent all our time at the Vatican on our first day, but it was worth it.

Since we were there by 11am, we decided to have lunch in one of the numerous cafes in the Vatican.

My first gelato!
And of course, fulfill my plan of eating gelato every day we were in Italy.

Of course it was expensive! The panini was priced at 5 euros, but it was huge and can be shared for two. The gelato was also priced at 5 euros and the serving was substantial. I actually didn't get to finish my cone, which is a first.

This is also the first time I ever drank San Pellegrino, you know, that super expensive water sold in the Philippines, which I bought for only 50 euro cents (or about P25). And we found we don't like sparkling water at all.

It felt so surreal eating a chocolate gelato while looking at the Vatican.

When I took my first bite, I closed my eyes to savor the whole experience. Then I said, "This is a gelato." It wasn't too sweet, and definitely didn't have that cloying aftertaste. Sigh. Memories.

We were thinking of lining up with the people to get into the Basilica while waiting, but the rain soon stopped and it became too hot to wait in the sun. Also, it would take us hours to line up, so we just took a lot of pictures.

Fun fact: Rome has a lot of fountains where you can refill your water bottle for free!

Finally, 1pm came, and we went up to the guards to enter. But they didn't allow us. They said we can only enter at 1:20pm. So we waited, antsy, then asked to enter again at 1:20pm. The first guard allowed us. When we had to pass by the Swiss guard, he barred us, saying our appointment was at 2pm and we had to wait.

We were panicking, let me tell you, because it was a five-minute walk to the office. He was talking to another girl who kept asking a lot of questions. The girl turned to me and looked at my paper then dismissed me. I persisted in talking to the Swiss guard, and he finally realized he didn't see the 1:30pm appointment, and let us in.

Sigh. We were in!

After the tour, which lasted about an hour or so (we had a lot of questions!), we finally went inside the basilica, where we, of course, took a lot of pictures. By accident, we found our parents roaming inside the basilica as well, so that was another hour of taking pictures.

The obelisk in St. Peter's Square, which is said to be the sole witness to St. Peter's death.
The Jubilee doors!

St. Peter's chair by Bernini
Seeing La Pieta in the flesh made me realize why Michelangelo is a master of the arts

St. (Pope) John Paul II's tomb

We were at St. Peter's Basilica!
Afterwards, we all trudged home to make the thirty-minute long (which stretched to an hour's worth) walk back to the apartment because we didn't know how to get back via the bus.

And when we got to the apartment, my body finally gave in, and I slept a solid 12 hours, only to wake up at 5am the next day, fully clothed in yesterday's gear. I was exhausted from working for a solid 31 hours straight (we were finishing a major magazine!), travelled for 19 hours, and was on my feet for 8 hours. It was a wonder I didn't get sick! Thank you for blessing us, Lord! Surprisingly enough, I was the only one who didn't get sick (my sister while in Rome, my mother while in Munich, and my dad when we got home).

Our trip could have been better, sure, but the first one was rocky. Still, I believe that everything happens for a reason. And still being able to enter the Necropolis and the Basilica was enough for us that first day.

We experienced so much in Rome and my parents, who are used to having a tour group and guide, were overwhelmed by the trip and not having a guide. My sister and I, who have travelled on our own without tours, were more relaxed. But here are some tips that will hopefully prepare first-time Europe travellers like us.

1. If you're taking public transportation, buy a train pass at Termini station, or online. We were only able to buy tickets the next day. Read up online on how to use Rome's public transportation or ask your friends/relatives who have been to/work in Rome. We didn't know anyone at all.

2. If you're a Filipino (or even a foreigner, I suppose), don't be shy to ask for help from Filipinos, especially if they work there. I only met one snobbish Filipina (and that was in Austria). The Filipinos who work there are so friendly and helpful.

3. Bring a refillable water bottle or flask with you. It will save you a lot of money. Don't let yourself get dehydrated!

4. Bring euro coins with you in case you need to use the toilet. While there are free toilets, you may find yourself needing to use the bathroom, and most toilets have a fee, ranging from 50 cents (the cheapest we've encountered) to 3.50 euros (in Switzerland).

5. If you don't speak Italian (or French or German), install Google translate (or some equivalent app) on your device and prepare to translate your questions. The Italians didn't speak English very well, and some don't speak English at all. I had to speak French, and they responded to me in Italian. That was both challenging and a marvelous experience!

6. Even if you're going during summer, it's best to bring a hooded jacket you can tie around your waist when it's hot, and cover yourself up when needed (i.e. in Churches). If you're not planning on bringing or buying an umbrella, make sure you bring a cap. Even if it's not raining, the heat can be pretty intense!

7. Lather on some sunscreen!

8. Be prepared for cigarette smoke. The Italians, compared to the other European people we met, smoked a lot. We even saw people lighting up as soon as they stepped off the train.

9. Bring your most comfortable shoes that can withstand all the walking you'll be doing! And if you're buying new shoes, make sure you break them in thoroughly before your trip. I could barely use my P3000 pair of Hush Puppies because it kept bruising me. Thankfully I brought a pair of flats, which was supposed to only be a back-up, but which I ended up using 90% of the trip. And it only cost me P299. :)

10. Beware of pickpockets -- and this is something locals and your fellow Filipinos will keep warning you about.

11. Arm yourself with detailed maps of Rome as well as their transportation system. Find out which bus or train station is closest to your house, as well as all alternative buses or routes you can take.

Most importantly, relax and enjoy every minute. A lot of things can happen, so learn how to let go of what's not important. Rest when needed. Splurge a little. Communicate with your group if you have any concerns. Don't lose your cool.

You're in Europe. Relax. ;)

I hope you'll enjoy your trip!

All photos are unedited. I don't know how to use Photoshop! Please don't use my images without permission.

Read about my Eurotrip!
Rome day 2
Florence day 3-4
Pisa day 4
Venice day 5
Innsbruck day 6
Munich day 7-8

Other links you might find helpful:

Getting ready for Europe  |  Preparing your Schengen visa requirements  |  Booking your hotel and plane fare  |  Filling out the Schengen visa form  |  How to apply to the Italian embassy thru Via  |  Cross-country train travel in Europe

Thank you for not leaving spam on my posts. :)