My mum is from Rome. My grandparents are from Rome. I am Italian. And in 25 years I had never seen the Sistine Chapel. #fail – Time to change that! Here’s my itinerary for a quick day in Rome exploring the Vatican, visiting the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel and shopping in Italy’s top department store, La Rinascente.
Yes, ok, I get it. I’m a failure of an Italian. I have travelled the world and I haven’t seen my own country. Blah blah. You are right. So I’ve now decided to make up for that. During the Epiphany holidays, just after New Year’s, I went to visit my grandparents AND I took a chance to visit some major Italian artistic and historic landmarks I’ve studied at school.
Top tip: buy your museum tickets online. The queues are ridic. Luckily, my mum remembered round-the-block queues just outside the Vatican Museums and suggested we booked them a day early instead. It was a good plan: we arrived, swiftly moved through the ticket holders’ queue, obtained our paper tickets after going through the metal detectors and we were in pronto.
Joint tickets to the Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums are €17 for adults and €8 for concessions – students up to 25 years old pay €8. What you see is up to you. You can visit the whole museum, which according to Italian newspaper Il Corriere Della Sera might take you 88 days if you were to focus on each artwork for as little as one minute, or you can pick what you’re interested in and be quicker.
My mum and I chose the quicker option, taking the long way round to see the Sistine Chapel but avoiding all the Saints and religious stuff from the Vatican Museums to see ancient Egyptian and Greek exhibitions.
Before you get to the Sistine Chapel, you will walk through stunning rooms with frescos covering the walls and the whole ceiling, such as the Galleria Delle Carte Geografiche (The Map Gallery), which features ancient maps of Italy. Here’s me in front of the map of my homeland of Sardinia, because I had to:
Other rooms include the Immacolata Room, in honour of the Virgin Mary, painted by Raphael. I also really enjoyed the Borgias’ apartment, hosting a collection of modern art by Salvador Dalí, Fernando Botero, Edvard Munch, Max Ernst, Henri Matisse and many more painters you wouldn’t exactly expect to see in the Vatican.
The Sistine Chapel itself is nothing short of stunning. I can’t believe I had never seen it before. Even though I’m not Catholic, seeing the Chapel had a powerful effect on me: I studied art history and history in high school among other things, and seeing years’ worth of my study curricula before my eyes was incredible. Plus, Michelangelo, Botticelli and Raphael’s paintings on the ceiling are so perfectly dynamic they actually look like they’re about to start moving and re-enact The Creation of Adam, The Final Judgement and The Fall and Expulsion from Garden of Eden over and over again for tourists’ viewing pleasure.
Just round the corner is St. Peter’s Square, totally worth a visit just to admire its marvellous architecture… and get selfie-sticks injuries. It happens.
Shopping and Eating
A proper day in Rome isn’t complete without a shopping trip and a good lunch. The Vatican is within walking distance from Rome’s main centre near Via Condotti and The Spanish Steps, so taking that walk is a must.
My mum and I made a stop at Subdued, one of my favourite shops, in search for a warm jumper. Subdued has everything from party clothes to underwear, from knitwear to accessories. The post-Epiphany sales were on, so I bought myself this soft, cosy red jumper for €49 (£40).
For lunch, my mum and I sat down at San Gregorio, on the top floor of La Rinascente in Via Del Tritone, near the Barberini underground stop. La Rinascente is Italy’s historic and most famous department store, which was named as such by Italian poet Gabriele D’Annunzio. The store has recently gone through a re-vamp, leaving the Galleria Alberto Sordi in Via Del Corso in favour of the new building, featuring high fashion, accessories, Italian food and history, too.
In the basement of La Rinascente, builders found the ruins of a Roman Aqueduct, which had now been incorporated into the building. The top floor of La Rinascente now hosts a variety of restaurants, some of them with a beautiful terrace facing the Roman roofs and domes.
I sat down at San Gregorio for some wine and a cheese and charcuterie board (€14) featuring exclusively Italian produce. Sadly, the Gucci dresses and Dior bags were slightly out of my budget, but the day itself was worth a million. Going back to my country is always a pleasure!
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