In the last blog entry about our trip to Rome, I covered what we did on our first full day. This entry will cover day two. The delay in getting this written can be explained by my US trip and the fact we’ve been massively busy getting a wedding sorted out.
There were two aims for day two. The first and foremost was to visit the Vatican. Now neither of us are Catholic, so this was not a desire born out of any specific religious intent, but more to admire the architecture and works of art, and to get some good photos of course. The second aim was to try and find an engagement ring. We’d visited Tiffany’s on day one, and whilst they were lovely, they were also expensive for what they were. Whilst Lana made out that she would be happy to go back to England and find one there, I was on a mission to get one from Rome. In my mind it would make the whole experience complete to propose and sort the ring whilst out there. To that end I’d been reading up in the guide book to find out likely spots to search in. We’d done the areas around the main shopping district, and found a little jewellers on the Via Dei Corso, but they didn’t have anything Lana liked. I’d read about the fact there was a Jewish ghetto area somewhere around the River, near to Campo Dei Fiori. Thinking that it would be nice to find the Roman equivalent of Hatton Garden, that was my aim. Of course the guide book also told me that the Italian equivalent of VAT on jewellery was 35% Maybe we should have gone to Amsterdam…
We took the metro to a stop nearby The Vatican and arrived safely, despite deciding to get some shots of the graffiti covered metro trains and incurring the ire of a policeman on the busy platform. After a short walk we arrived at St. Peters Square. Again we were treated to a beautiful warm sunny day which provided good light for photos, though we were a bit late in getting there so it was quite harsh as well. For those who don’t know, there are essentially two must-see things at The Vatican. St. Peters Basilica, and The Vatican Museums. The museums consist of six miles of galleries packed to the brim with artwork by countless masters. At the end of it all is the Sistine Chapel, with Michelangelo’s famous frescoes. Whilst it would be great to do this, I didn’t want to spend all of such a nice day inside. In any case, the museums were closing at 12:20 on this particular day, so our decision was made for us. We queued up to get into the Basilica instead.
The Basilica is the central church in the Roman Catholic faith there therefore of course presided over by The Pope. There’s more historical information on Wikipedia than I could hope to put down here, so I’ll concentrate on the visual aspect of it. It is truly stunning. There are a number of monuments, sculptures and frescoes by the likes of Michelangelo and Bernini. The central focal point is the Papal altar, covered over by an impressive baldachin designed again by Bernini.
The alter is also directly underneath the most famous part of the Basilica, namely the dome (or cupola) which served as a model for most of the other famous examples such as our own St. Paul’s Cathedral. Once outside again, my desire to climb up to the dome itself won favour from Lana, and we paid the €7 to get a lift halfway up, followed by about 350 stairs. As you neared the top the stairs became steeper and narrower, twisting around the inside of the dome. The view from the top however was well worth it.
After our descent (interrupted by a visit to the souvenir shop on the roof of the basilica) we walked back across the river to have lunch in a restaurant in the lovely Piazza Navona. The food was awesome, and being able to sit outside and just take in the atmosphere was lovely. We asked the hostess and a waiter about where they would go to buy an engagement ring, but neither gave us any concrete locations or advice. As such we headed off on something of a wild goose chase down to Campo Dei Fiori, across the river and then back again. Just as we crossed back over the river at about 5pm I was ready to give up hope. We ambled down a side street back towards the way we originally came when I noticed a small jewellers on the right. We had a look at their diamond rings but nothing took our fancy. Luckily however this was just the first in a whole street of small jewellers, and it appeared that in a moment of serendipity we had found the little Jewish quarter we were looking for. For reference the street was Via Dei Pettinari. One one particular shop we found the ring, and after some bartering with the owner, who spoke no English, it was sent away for resizing and was ours by 7pm. We’ve since had it valued in the UK and it appears we got a good deal. Not that the monetary value of it is the important thing. I was more happy with the fact that we had now sealed our engagement whilst still in Rome, effectively rounding off our trip in the best possible way.