We had heard that a reservation is necessary for the Borghese Museum, but we forgot, so we thought we would try our luck really early in the morning, since we're still waking up at 4am. They were indeed sold out for the next 3 days, so we took a long walk around the lovely gardens (the park is huge--lots of joggers), pausing to listen to a military band and watch the horse brigade practice their maneuvers. We made our way to St. Peter's Square, passing the Spanish Steps on the way. They don't allow people to hang out and eat gelato on the steps anymore, so although it's pretty, it's not a great hang-out anymore.
It was almost lunchtime when we arrived, and Morgan wanted to look for Bonci Pizzarium, another place we had seen on Tony Bourdain's show.
It was in a neighborhood behind St. Peter's. A tiny tiny hole in the wall, with the most delicious pizzas...the toppings were incredible. Purple cauliflower, eggplant, different sauces and herbs and fresh greens...not just your standard tomato sauce and mozzarella. We grabbed 4 different slices and sat on the bench outside to eat. Fantastic.
St. Peter's was a zoo. I've been here twice (once with my college semester abroad, and once with my ex in 1996), and I just don't remember it being this packed. It wasn't a "pope day" - he wasn't going to speak or anything, but they still had the Christmas creche displayed and a huge Christmas tree in the square. We got on the immense line, but it moved pretty fast (maybe 45 minutes), and St. Peter's is still an impressive site.
More fantastic deliciousness at Bonci Pizzarium
I still love seeing the Pieta, and there's a statue I love of Pope Alexander the #? (can't see what number he is - it's facing the back, and that part of the church was closed off). It's in the back of the church and Pope Alexander is sitting on top of this undulating blanket of pink marble (it looks like cloth the way it's sculpted). Death (as a skeleton) is emerging from under the blanket holding an hourglass.
After an hour or so, we went to a nearby bar for espresso and tiramisu to get some energy for the Vatican Museum (which is a good walk around the entire Vatican grounds, and we were already feeling the effects from all the walking we've been doing). We had signed up for a 2-hour tour, based on all the research I'd done. I had been through the museum when I was in college, but I didn't remember anything except the Sistine Chapel, and the only photo I have of it was through a window looking at the living Pope's apartments (I'm not Catholic, but we were all fascinated with Pope John Paul II, and apparently, so is everyone else.
..there is John Paul II stuff everywhere...and no Pope Benedict paraphernalia anywhere.) All the internet reviews said they got a lot more out of the Vatican Museum when they took the tour. However, both of us have a much shorter attention span for museums, so after 2 hours of all the ins and outs of the popes and their living quarters and all the art they commissioned, and which one didn't like this one, and how many years each artist took to finish which room...we were dragging. Not a lot of places to sit and rest either, and the guide kept us at a quick pace.
Little known fact: there are exactly one million rooms in the Vatican Museum, and they're all intricately painted with trompe l'oeil, and they all have scads of precious, rare and historical works of art all .
..AND there are several museums within the museum...modern art (including Dali, etc.), sculpture, the Sistine Chapel, several rooms which were former popes' quarters and all decorated by famous painters of the time, and then, just when you think you're done (they lead you to believe the Sistine Chapel is the end, but it's a trick!)...there are like 8 more museums you have to pass through until you get to the absolute last gift shop and are able to get out. It was like museum jail.
We agreed that our brains were so overloaded, that we couldn't retain any of what we learned, or remembered what we saw. Makes sense why I don't have any memory of going through this museum before. My brain had probably exploded.
A bigger issue was that over the last two days of walking the entire city, I developed tendonitis in my heel, so stairs and walking in general was getting pretty painful.
Statue in the Borghese gardens
We took the metro back to our hotel at Re Di Roma area, and went to a restaurant that Morgan had looked up. The proprietor said they weren't open until 8pm. It wasn't quite 6pm and we were starved, so we went to a bakery/deli and bought a few things to tide us over: artichoke hearts, olives, marinated sardine (just one - it was huge), some fresh ricotta cheese, and a couple of rolls. We ate everything back at the hotel room with the intent of going back to the restaurant in a few hours...but of course, we passed out watching TV before 8pm rolled around. Now, if we could only stop waking up at 4am so we can stay up later...
Rome Hotels & Accommodations review
Modern, Inexpensive Hotel, 10 minutes to center by Metro
Super nice staff, modern, clean and stylish, especially for the price, and very convenient to the Re di Roma metro station, and just a 10 minute ride … read entire review