It has been over 30 years since I last visited Rome. Last time I drove into Rome and grasped the steering wheel with white knuckles. This time I flew into Rome and saved my knuckles and my nerves!
Once we landed at the airport, we got our luggage and headed to the train. The train into Rome was around 14 dollars each for the trip into Roma Termini, which is the terminal station for downtown Rome. There were places to store our luggage, and had facing seats and enjoyed the trip into center city Rome.
We stayed at a hotel Siracusa, just across the street from the train station. It made heading out to Naples and Pompeii really easy. The hotel served a free continental breakfast which was nice and satisfying. And the hotel was centrally located to most locations, including the subway stations.
Because I had my family with me, this trip was geared towards family excursions versus landscape or necessarily travel related photography. Although there were times when I was able to get out and shoot some scenes that I wanted to get (like the Coliseum at night).
So I had setup a series of tours (I used Viator) for the family. We did a “Skip the Line: Crypts and Roman Catacombs Small-Group Walking Tour”, and “Early Access: Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums” tours. Both of which were really good.
The “Skip the Line Crypts and Roman Catacombs Small-Group Walking Tour” was a great tour if you have any interest in Christian crypts and catacombs. However, you would take the tour knowing that you really are not going to be able to take any photographs.
The crypts we visited are the Capuchin crypts at the mother house for the order, and no photography is allowed. There were folks walking among the tours, ensuring that no one was taking any photographs. My daughter was texting a message to one of her friends stateside and the “minder” asked her to put her cellphone away and not take any photographs.
The Capuchin's decorated their crypts with the human bones of deceased members of the order. So you move from crypt to crypt, with human bones decorating the walls, ceilings – you name it – the bones are literally everywhere. Just google the Capuchin crypts to look at photographs of what you will see.
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After viewing the crypts, we headed for the Catacomb di Santa Domitilla, one of the oldest known catacombs. The Catacombs tour also did not allow photographs, and although there were no “minders” to watch over us, there were cameras all over the place, and when we got back up to the surface, there were several security folks watching the video feeds. I really wanted to take some photographs of the catacombs (for personal religious reasons), but I didn’t feel like I could without getting into some trouble.
The interesting thing about the catacombs is that the oldest catacombs are closest to the surface. As the catacombs grew and they needed more space, they branched out as well as dug deeper. So the catacombs that were further down into the earth are the newest!
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The other tour I set up was the “Early Access: Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums” tour. The only part of the tour where you couldn’t take any photographs was the Sistine Chapel. Which, by the way, is spectacular. The art is spectacular. Period. You really have to visit the Vatican Museum. Just know that tripods and monopods are not allowed.
The Vatican Museums are photography friendly. If you don’t mind the numbers of people which grows by the hour. I am not sure how many folks visit the Vatican Museums, but it has to be thousands daily. Of course, we were there during the height of tourist season, so your mileage will vary depending on when you plan to visit.
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Because I am a Roman history buff (I have considered getting a PhD in Ancient Roman History, just haven’t been able to leave my day job to pursue, perhaps when I retire!), I had to visit the Colosseum, or as I know it, the Flavian Amphitheatre, built by Emperor Vespasian and his finished by his son Emperor Titus and the ancient Roman Forum.
The last time I was at the Colosseum, it was packed with people and was nearly impossible to get some good photographs. This time around it was just a busy, but not being part of a tour (like I was last time, some 30 years ago), gave me opportunity to spend some time looking for a good shot. As we visited (remember, I had family with me), it was late morning, and the sky really was not a great sky to work with (all blue and when the sun was in the shot, blown out). But I was able to get some photographs that I like.
And then there was the Roman Forum. The scene of so much ancient history. I was just in awe of the place. Just like I was 30 plus years ago when I visited. Most of what remains are from later Roman history, the Severan Arch for example and then what is from the deep past of Roman history, the temple to Saturn.
This is the place of so much Roman history that I had to go an pay homage to the place, and it was almost spiritual to walk along the same places that other famous Romans of old had walked. The feeling was similar to what I felt when visiting Angkor Wat last winter (see my article on Angkor Wat here).
And I can’t not forget the Trevi fountain and other locations around Rome. I didn’t get a chance to see all the locations I wanted to visit in Rome, but that will be left for another visit at another time. Hopefully it won’t take me 30 years to visit Rome!
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