Day 4 – The Villa d’Este fountains in Tivoli
After the failure of our first trip to the Villa d’Este gardens, we headed back out of the city again to the town of Tivoli. The train journey offered up a change of scenery from the built up apartments and busy streets to sprawling towns and small, rural stations the farther we traveled out. The station in Tivoli itself is quite unassuming, in fact to get to the main platform we had to literally walk across the tracks (a lot more lax on the health and safety side here).
After passing through the town to thankfully find the place open, we wandered through the actual villa building (which was really lovely with old fresco ceilings) to the top of the gardens. I have a secret love for elaborate landscaped gardens and being here was like entering a little oasis. This place is known for its numerous fountains of all types and sizes and as we weaved our way from the top down, we kept discovering more around every corner. Despite the heat, the shade of the trees and being surrounded by water features made the air nice and cool. Being placed upon the edge of a hill also made for some lovely views of the town below.
Day 5 – The Pompeii ruins
Our next day would be spent travelling south along the coast to Pompeii. We ended up leaving Rome later in the day and after around two hours of train travel, we arrived in the early afternoon to be confronted with a lengthy waiting line. I’m not sure how long we waited but I believe it was just under an hour before we finally passed through the gates into the ruins. This is a warning to all of you to either arrive at these places early or buy your tickets in advance! Also, don’t be swayed by those walking around offering to get you in straight away on a tour – they usually charge you almost double the ticket price and then I’ve heard they rush you through.
The Pompeii ruins are quite large and vast. We ended up only seeing a small portion of the whole area and missed out on some of the more prominent buildings like the amphitheatre on the northeast side. What we did get to see was quite fascinating, the place really feels like a large city with long streets lined with ruined buildings, bathhouses and temples. Meanwhile in the distance you can see Mount Vesuvius like some ominous presence of what could happen again (you know, being the one of the most dangerous volcanoes and all).
I would also like to note this was one of the many places we saw people walking their dogs. Even ancient ruins in Europe appear to be much more dog-friendly than Australia, it made us miss our puppy at home even more.
Day 6 – Vatican City
For our last day in Rome, we decided to go to the Vatican city, starting off at St Peters. Being one of the holiest christian churches in the world, it definitely feels like it lives up to this title. It is filled with beautiful sculptures and there’s Latin painted on gold strips running along the top of the walls leading into golden ornate ceilings high above. The baldachin that sits under the basilica with dark twisted columns towers above you and makes you really feel you are in a holy place. There’s also this great sense of calm while walking around, even when you are surrounded by tourists. We were also able to go underneath the church and view the Vatican tombs of the many past popes.
Our last spot for the day was the Vatican Museums, which thankfully we had bought tickets to in advance (you can buy them on the official website). No way am I standing in a line for 3 hours in the heat!
Unlike St Peters, the museums were so full of tourists and tour groups that it was a little overwhelming choosing where to go. Sometimes you’d have no choice but to move with the crowd through the rooms and it was hard to admire anything for too long. That said, we still saw a lot of beautiful and interesting artworks, sometimes the rooms alone were impressive enough. Our only main thing we went to see was the Sistine Chapel which we slowly worked our way towards before being ushered in to see the fresco above. You just have to remember to look up (unlike some people aka Callum :P)