Monday morning before our Colosseum tour we ventured out to St Peters Square to try and obtain Papal Audience tickets for Wednesday. He does a Papal Audience every Wednesday that he is in the city, completely free of charge. You can see his schedule usually a couple of months out at the Prefecture of the Papal Household. There are several ways to get tickets and this romewise post explains the best options if you live in the USA. You can request them directly by fax from the Vatican or via email if American from US based churches. For those of us in Canada fax was the only option unless trying through your Church. We don't have a fax machine even though we have a business as there is zero need based on everyone scanning and emailing things these days. Our local business center which we use for printing has one so I tried that a couple months in advance. After 20 tries I gave up. We and everyone else in the world who wanted to see the pope was trying the fax method. Next up there appeared to be several tour companies that would provide tickets and a guide for the Papal audience at the price of about $50 each. I refused to do that as everything that I read said they should be free - and with four of us I was not willing to shell out for that (money does not go to the church but the guide in that case). Finally I asked the boys if they wanted to try and get tickets when we were in Rome and we all agreed - I didn't want anyone to be disappointed if we couldn't see him.
I used the romewise advice and we ventured out to try and find the Swiss Guard at the bronze doors in St Peters Square and ask for 4 tickets. When we were trying to find the bronze doors a man who appeared to be trying to sell tours asked us what we were looking for. We told him Papal Audience tickets. Instead of trying to sell us something he said go to ANY Swiss Guard around the Vatican and ask for the tickets. As we had just accidentally tried to walk in one of the entrances to Vatican City that was blocked off and been stopped by a Swiss Guard a few minutes previous we back tracked and asked that same guard for tickets - and just like that we had four! No need to find a special guard, any of them carry tickets! The Swiss Guard are easy to spot as they wear an interesting and colourful Elizabethan looking uniform (pictures of the guards later in the Pope picture).
CLICK ON ANY PICTURE FOR MUCH LARGER VIEW
|Large lineup for Vatican Museums - those without tickets prepurchased (500 people long)|
|Gate to St Peters Square|
|Papal Audience Ticket|
|Police at St Peters Square on Papal Audience Day|
|Crowd starting to build at 8am St Peters Square|
|Entrance to St Peters Basilica and the stage where the Pope would be|
|The Pope! Yes, he is in that tiny white robe, no closeup shots - Swiss Guards either side|
|View of Rome from Vatican Museums|
|ceiling at the Gallery of Maps Vatican Museums|
|Entrance to Sistine Chapel|
|Rodin's Thinker (there are many casts of this in museums around the world)|
I didn't realize this but if you pay for the Vatican Museums instead of standing in line to see St Peters Basilica at the end you have a separate entrance straight into the Basilica with no waiting. That was the most amazing Church and is apparently the largest Catholic Church in the world.
|St Peter's Basilica|
|St Peter's Basilica|
Ok, so now I have to ask the question - how much money does the Vatican take in from the Museums? A lot. Probably enough to wipe out Italy's debt to the EU in a three month timeframe. I will not get into the politics of that but - I don't necessarily agree with that. Over 6 million people visited the Vatican Museums in 2017 - it is the 4th most visited Museum in the world. As Vatican City is considered a different country than Italy none of the money it intakes goes to Italian roads/infrastructure. There are only 500 actual fulltime residents of Vatican City.
Anyway, it certainly was something to see and one of my favorite days of the trip. Next up - high speed train to Salerno including a tour of Pompeii and ferry ride to Amalfi.
Rome has a garbage problem. Too much garbage generated by tax payers and tourists, not enough pickup. Every trash bin we saw was full to bursting which means if it gets windy it blows garbage around. Some areas have recycling, some like the area around the Vatican do not.
Rome and Vatican City have many amazing free attractions: The Pantheon, St Peters Square, St Peters Basilica, many fountains and monuments - expect lineups at all of them though
We enjoyed our visit to Rome much better than I thought we would. It was always one of those places I was hesitant to visit with a lousy reputation for ripping off people and being nasty to tourists. Neither happened, we all thoroughly enjoyed our visit. The only drawback at all was the crowds. If you want better accomodation prices with great metro connections I highly recommend staying near the Vatican. There are many religious groups who stay near there so there are far more family type properties available much cheaper than near the Colosseum. The Colosseum had far more vehicle traffic in that area. I am glad we stayed where we did. Also - Rome and the Vatican are busy noisy cities. You can't get away from that no matter where you stay. Take ear plugs.
Graffiti - I expected far more. The only grafitti we saw in Rome was near the train stops, not on buildings. Far less than other cities plagued with it like Athens.
Food: It was expensive but not nearly as expensive as Paris. One of the cheapest things you can eat in Italy is Pizza, I tried several but the margherita was my favorite. Very basic but the best mozzerella cheese you've ever tasted. In Rome they usually went for around 8 -10 Euro individual sized (fairly large though). In Salerno you could get the same for five Euro at a nice waterfront pizza place.