So the next day we met up with two canadian girls who we'd seen at the hostel the night before and headed off to explore Rome.
Off to the metro system to catch what we thought would be a smooth ride underground to St Peter's square.
If you ever remember that rugby ad on TV where the aussie guy is forming a scrum to get into the japanese train then you may have an idea of what it was like.
The train pulled up and you had to force your way into a sweaty, smelly mess of people and find a bit of something to hold onto. The smoothness of the ride is about as good as the mighty mouse roller coasters you see at local fairs and the drivers accelerated like aarton senna and decelerated just the same. Like hitting a brick wall. This meant that these sweaty, smeely and halitoses ridden people were being pushed up against you. Add this to the pick pockets always feeling up your ass looking for your wallet and it was quite an enjoyable ride!
So off at St Pietro station and a short walk down the road leads you to the square. The only round square in Italy, it's size has to be seen to be experienced. Surrounded by a triple roman colulmned monument atopped with sculptures of saints it leads o one side to St Peters and the other to the road forming the main part off the keyhole design of the whole area.
After passing through the metal detectors, we were off into the Vatican and just managed to sort of stand near a tour group before they were heading indoors. Turns out it was a free tour and we jumped on. The Vatican is the whole complex and St St Peters is the church.
St Peters (St pietro) is the most beautiful building in the world. If you are only ever going to just one place in the world, go to Rome. But only go in late winter/early autumn.
As you walk in you are met by huge 14-15th century sculptures and reliefs and the size of the place is astounding. Sculptures and artworks abound at every step. Dead popes on view for the world to see in thier glass boxes with the wax mask faces and hands.
I won't try to decribe it more because I can't. I am not religous and still it is the most beautiful place I have seen. So good we went back twice!!
After this we headed back out pass the funky looking swiss guards with uniforms like a circus peformer and back into the square. We went to have a rest and the vatican police came up and told us we had to move. Nothing like being approached by coppers in a golf cart. quality.
The next stop was the vatican museums so we could see the Sistine Chapel.
The sistine chapel is not just a small church with a few artworks scattered here and there. It is a mammoth building compromising about a million or more artworks and takes about two hours just to get through at a reasonable pace. The tour guides were saying if you stopped to look at every artwork for one minute each it would take you about 10 years to get around. It is amazing. Every wall, ceiling and door is a work of art of some description. The 'normal' meals room is decorated with great paintings by Raphael.
There are 500 year old tapestries, charts which I love and ancient egyptian, roman, greek and byzantine sculptures everywhere.
There is a room which will always stick with me. It is about 100- 150m long. It's walls are covered in ancien maps and the roof is covered by artwork. I mean every metre of room has about ten artworks across with artworks on the corners of every one. Multiply this by 150 and you'll see what I mean.
The actual chapel itself is true testament to the lack of control security staff can have. As you walk up a computeried voice says no photo's are allowed. When you walk in you are amazed at how many flash burns you are getting from the cameras snapping around you.
If you do me one favour in your life, let it be that you never use a flash around artwork of any description. It ruins it and if it is more than a metre and a half away it's just going to wreck your photo.
The paintings surrounding the wall and the roof are some of the greatest classics of all times and quite exciting to see.
So after that head hurting exercise we offed to some back streets and found a great little trattoria where we sat on wooden deck chairs on the footpath and watched the world go by.
The we went back to the st Peters and lined up to climb to the top of the cupola.
After paying our €4 each, we started up the staircase. Standing at 163m it is a mission to get up to the top. After climbing about 200 steps we were then greeted with the news we had only 300 to go!
A bit of a challenge for our yong kirst, but woth it in the end. The view over the popes residence was great and surrounding rome was beautiful though smoggy.
We got some photo's next to some statues and took photo's of the same statues in the square to try and show the height we were at. Then it was another stroll back down and some serious hunting for the 'popener', which is a beer bottle opener that one of the girls was after.
After this we strolled back to the hostel via the Trevi fountain, Pantheon, Colloseum and about 4 million other ancient sites that abound in Rome. Rome is just one big, beautiful open air museum full of so many wonderous things that you need at least a week there to appreciate.
All in all, a great day finished off with a few drinks back at the hostel with the girls and yet another dinner of pasta made by the hostel staff