Mike and I are going to Italy in a few months so we have been following the Papal election with great interest. We’ll be in Rome for 5 days and had planned on spending an entire day at the Vatican. When the surprising news of Pope Benedict’s retirement blanketed the news media, we eagerly focused on all the news footage and every photo knowing that we would be in those exact same places in a matter of weeks. We were fascinated with the quick renovations to the Sistine Chapel as it was modified for the election. We waited patiently, along with the massive crowds in St. Peter’s Square, for smoke to appear out of that little chimney. All this made us even more enthusiastic, if that was possible, for our first visit to the Eternal City.
One of the tours we’re especially looking forward to is the Vatican Museum, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. I’m sure there are many disappointed tourists who were not able to view the spectacular murals on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel when it was closed during the Conclave.
Besides the Vatican, there is plenty for two visitors from New England to see in Rome. We’ll spend most of a day in Ancient Rome, visiting the Coliseum, the Forum and Palatine Hill. We discovered that Rome has a Municipal Rose Garden that is open daily from early May to late June while the roses are in bloom; it then closes for the year. (It may open again during the second bloom cycle, sometime in August, but this is not always the case.) From what I can find out about this rose garden, it was built in 1931 and open in 1932. It was Rome’s first roses-only garden and has over 100 varieties. It’s opposite the Circus Maximus near Palatine Hill, although my understanding is that it’s on Aventine Hill.
We’ll let you know after we visit and will share some of our photos. We will also keep an eye peeled for small intimate gardens that are nestled into courtyards, churchyards, and tiny public spaces. In the past we have discovered these little gems by chance but now we are on the look-out for this sort of matchbox horticulture in our travels, especially in old European cities. If anyone knows of any special gardens we could visit while in Rome or Florence, please let us know.
We will do all the “touristy” things when in Italy and take in the must-see sites such as the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. We’ll also visit the famous Borghese Museum with Bernini’s iconic marble statue of David and works by Caravaggio, Titian and Rubens. We’ll shop at the Campo de’ Fiori, a fruit and vegetable market that opens every morning. In the evenings, we plan to stroll about town eating ice cream – excuse me, gelato – and then have delicious meals in small cafes. We will be Romans for a week.
Now that the excitement generated by the selection of the new pope has started to abate, Vatican City and the rest of Rome will be back to normal when we arrive and we’ll have it all to ourselves – well, almost all to ourselves. We’ll post details of our Roman Holiday after we head off into the Tuscan sun towards Siena and Florence through the vineyards of Chianti onto the second leg of the trip.