Rome holiday itinerary, day 2: Walking from Vatican City to Trastevere
If you thought we covered a lot on the first day, think again! The second day of our Rome holiday was probably the toughest, but also the most amazing. We walked from Vatican City to Trastevere, starting early in the morning, and finishing after nightfall. However, we took plenty of breaks to enjoy the beautiful views over Rome, grab a bite or have a drink.
Vatican City (Citta del Vaticano)
We left the place we were staying at early in the morning and bought some tasty pastry products on the way. Then, we got on the subway to Ottaviano, walked a bit, passing by Piazza del Risorgimento, and ending in Piazza San Pietro.
Though it was before 8 in the morning, there was already a line to pass the security check for Basilica San Pietro and its Dome. However, it was short and it was in the shadow. While we were waiting for our turn and enjoying our breakfast in line, the queue got larger and larger, all the way to the entrance in the Piazza San Pietro, if you’re coming from Via della Conciliazione.
All in all, I don’t think we spent more than 20 minutes waiting. Then, we went through the security check and decided to start with St. Peter’s Dome.
So remember kids: the early bird catches the worm! It’s worth making an exception and getting there early, even if you’re not a morning person. 🙂
St. Peter’s Dome
We were at the beginning of a long day, so we decided we could afford to be a bit lazy and take the elevator for the first part. After that, nobody has a choice and has to do the morning warm-up climbing the stairs.
It’s a bit slow because the staircase is narrow, so you can’t go around the people who are ahead of you. Therefore, you have to adjust your rhythm to theirs and to take a break whenever they do, as the places to overtake them are few. But, in the end, it’s ok, it’s not like it’s a race.
And you’ll want to slow down once you get into the interior of the Dome and can look down into Basilica San Pietro! It’s incredible how massive, bright, and detailed it all is. We were a bit awestruck. (Even me, though I was seeing it for the second time. )
Then, after some more climbing, we got to the top. You know, we thought we were early, but there were many others who had arrived before we did, so the highest level of the Dome was kind of crowded. However, don’t worry: people are polite and they move as they take a look or take a photo.
Just enjoy the moment and the beautiful views over Rome, Vatican City, and Piazza San Pietro!
And when you get back on the rooftop, don’t hurry down after all that effort you put in. Take some time to look around. Get a hot drink at the cafe. Though the spot would have allowed it, it’s not pretentious and the prices are low. If you haven’t had your breakfast yet, you can also have a panini or some yogurt.
Or go to the gift shop, get some postcards and stamps and share the experience with your loved ones. And use the mailbox from the rooftop to send them via Vatican Post!
St. Peter’s Basilica (Basilica San Pietro)
After descending from St. Peter’s Dome, we entered the Basilica. Everywhere you turn you can see beautifully worked marble, detailed and dramatic statues, or wonderful murals and painted ceilings.
Words can’t do justice to the beauty of the Basilica San Pietro. However, I’m hoping that some photos can help:
St. Peter’s Square (Piazza San Pietro)
Though initially arriving in this spot, we decided to leave the exploring of St. Peter’s Square to be the last thing we visit the area, before heading out to the Vatican Museums.
Before leaving home, while I was still in the planning stage, I found this website. On-site, it proved to be incredibly helpful in identifying everything from the Square. It also provided us with a bit of info on each element or area, just enough to spark up our interest. I highly recommend you use it if you’re going on a self-guided trip.
Vatican Museums (Musei Vaticani)
I strongly advise you to book your ticket online in advance, as we did. You can only book two months in advance via their website app. (So put a reminder if you’re planning way ahead of your actual trip.)
The online reservation allowed us not only to skip a huge line but also to enter earlier than the time we booked. (I thought we’d be there around 11:30, because I estimated over an hour of queuing for St. Peter’s Basilica, which wasn’t the case.)
Once inside, you will have the option to either go on the fast-track to the Sistine Chapel, or you can take the scenic route and explore other beautiful parts, as well. The fast-track is usually chosen by all the guided tours so it’s very crowded, so we really enjoyed the long way because it allowed us to discover new things and admire them peacefully.
The Vatican Museums will not impress only with its artifacts and displays, but also through the buildings. Personally, I loved admiring the rooms, the halls, and all the beautiful details in the ceilings. And staring out every uncovered window, too, to catch a new glimpse of the Vatican.
The largest museum complex in the world, the Vatican Museums are a must-see if you’re in Rome!
The Sistine Chapel (Capela Sistina)
Throughout the museum, the anticipation gets built with signs and images related to Michelangelo’s ceiling. There’s a beautiful teasing campaign for it, in my opinion. But it’s also good that it prepares people to put away their cameras and their phones, to be quiet and to just admire once they get there.
Have you ever noticed that when you take photos of something, you might end up remembering less than if you just stopped and really looked at things, because that might be the only chance you got to do it ever? I’ve noticed that in regards to my behavior. Just like when I went on the Komani Lake ferry ride, in the Balkans.
Last time I came, I had an audio guide, but this time we had a printed one. I quietly translated to Mathieu all the information, identifying all the parts of the ceiling and its sides.
However, not everybody is quiet, and with the number of people there all the time, it’s hard for the staff to ensure that this place is respected. Though a bit annoying, one should understand why they had to come to the solution of screaming in a microphone every now and then Silenzio! (Silence!)
Despite this small downside, it’s certainly something not to miss when you visit the Vatican Museums.
From Vatican City to Trastevere
After the Vatican Museums, we didn’t go straight from Vatican City to Trastevere. We were hungry, and I knew there was a market nearby which I thought was a good place to find some food. Mercato Trionfale, however, is not that kind of market, as it offers everything you can think of, starting with fish. The food is fresh and ready to take home to cook it properly.
It is good to satisfy your curiosity about local produce, though.
The next option on my list was Pizzarium Bonci, a bit out of the beaten path. Which was kind of the idea, since we wanted to avoid all the touristy places like the ones on Via della Conciliazione, for example.
On the way, we stopped and refilled our water bottle. It was the first time we got to see a machine which was not only free to use, but also to offer both plain and sparkling water!
Just a bit farther we came across Pizzarium Bonci. It was a small and very busy place, offering pizza a tavola (pizza by the piece), with a few high tables outside and everybody eating while standing. Mathieu was dreaming of a nice terrace, where we could also get some good red wine, but, most importantly, where we could sit. Oh, well.
We had a tough time choosing some pizzas from the high variety they offered, then waited for our pieces to come out from the oven. We eventually ended up eating them on the side of a street nearby, where we found a spot to sit down.
Though not ideal in comparison to Mathieu’s idea of lunch for that day, the pizza was delicious and worth the trip and his compromise.
Pizzarium Bonci was visited not only by tourists, but also by Italians, and it had an announcement inside that they also opened up a place in the US. So if you’re in Chicago and you’re craving for great pizza, pay them a visit!
Via della Conciliazione
After the quick lunch, we made our way back to Piazza San Pietro and then continued on Via della Conciliazione.
The street is outside the Vatican City walls, in Rione Borgo. On its sides, you will encounter many important historic buildings (Palazzo Torlonia, Palazzo dei Penitenzieri, and Palazzo dei Convertendi) and religious sites (Santa Maria in Traspontina and Santo Spirito in Sassia).
Mathieu’s attention was caught, however, by the Museum Leonardo da Vinci Experience, and we decided to come back to it closer to the end of our trip.
Castel Sant’Angelo and Ponte Sant’Angelo
When I went to Rome last time, it was September, and I visited Castel Sant’Angelo near its closing time (19.30). It was perfect to go to the terrace and watch the sunset behind St. Peter’s Dome and I got to see one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever had the chance to.
This time, however, being late April, the sunset much later and repeating the experience was impossible. I gave Mathieu the option to visit inside anyway, but he said he’d much rather spend the time walking around than going in another museum after having just been to the Vatican Museums.
Should you decide to do the same, it is nice to go around it to admire the sturdy historic building from the outside, then make your way to Ponte Sant’Angelo. Designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the bridge across the Tiber is decorated with ten angel sculptures. Each of them represents a part of the story of the passions of Jesus Christ and his death by crucifixion.
To avoid returning on the same path, we went back to the other bank of the Tiber on Ponte Vittorio Emmanuelle II and made our way up to Passeggiata del Gianicolo.
Passeggiata del Gianicolo
Though Spring, it was a very hot day and the afternoon sun was burning. We had expected to be defeated by the heat on our walk from Vatican City to Trastevere. However, the Passeggiata del Gianicolo proved to be a wonderful oasis.
You get to walk in the shadow of beautiful, tall trees (“real trees”, as Mathieu would say), away from the crowds, and with very few cars passing by you. And every now and then you come across belvedere spots, with a few benches to take a rest. On one such bench, Mathieu even took a short nap with his head in my lap!
The highest spot of Passeggiata del Gianicolo is Piazzale Garibaldi. This is probably the busiest area, but it also provides the largest opening between the trees.
In conclusion, Passeggiata del Gianicolo is the perfect connection when you want to walk from Vatican City to Trastevere!
If you continue walking on Passeggiata del Gianicolo you will get from Vatican City to Trastevere, the 13th Rione of Rome. Its Latin name (trans Tiberim) means beyond the Tiber. Trastevere is the place we remember most fondly from our trip. Its narrow streets quickly became our favorites in Rome.
Fontana del’Acqua Paola
At the other end of the Passeggiata del Gianicolo, you will come across Fontana Del’Acqua Paola. It is also known as Il Fontanone (The Big Fountain) and its white marble was taken from the ruins of the Roman Temple of Minerva.
It is a wonderful and refreshing spot, which also offers a stunning view of Rome.
From here, you can make your way down the road or the stairs to reach Chiesa di San Pietro in Montorio. It closes really early (12.00 pm), so we didn’t get to visit inside, unfortunately.
Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere
Santa Maria in Trastevere is one of the oldest churches in Rome. It is famous for the impressive 13th Century mosaics of Pietro Cavallini.
I do hope you will excuse my obsession with the ceilings, but the one we saw in Santa Maria in Trastevere impressed me not only through the paintings but also through the detailed carvings.
In front of Santa Maria in Trastevere, there is a fountain with the same name. This fountain is believed to be the oldest in Rome, dating back to the 8th century.
Sangria break at Cave Canem
On the way to Chiesa di San Francisco a Ripa, we passed by some lovely, green terraces. We had plenty of time left and we were kind of tired, and they all looked so inviting. But we easily made up our minds when we saw one offering Sangria.
It was the perfect treat to cool down. And it came with some delicious chips, which arrived towards the end. So we decided to order another round. And the waiter brought us yet another round of chips on the house.
To be honest, I was getting a bit hungry, but it was too early to eat dinner. So the home-made chips really hit the spot!
Chiesa di San Francisco a Ripa Grande
With our batteries charged again, we continued our quest. Thus, we arrived in the front of the humble-looking Chiesa di San Francisco a Ripa Grande.
Don’t judge a book by its cover: the interior of the religious site hosts one of Bernini’s last works. Bernini’s Beata Ludovica Albertoni is also one of the most controversial of the artist.
Chiesa Rettoria di Santa Cecilia in Trastevere
If you’re not short on time, it’s worth stopping at Santa Cecilia in Trastevere for a while, too. It has a tranquil courtyard, where you can rest on the side of the fountain.
Inside, it is much simpler than other churches in Rome, but I consider this part of its beauty.
Wandering on the streets of Trastevere
Santa Cecilia in Trastevere was the last thing we had planned to visit inside for this day. We also wanted to see the interior of Villa Farnesina, but it was too late. So we spent the next couple of hours just wandering the streets, turning wherever we thought it looked interesting.
Our steps carried us also to two nice bookshops in Trastevere: Open Door Bookshop and Almost Corner Bookshop. (I adore the name of the latter!)
And, before dinner, we had also made our way on Pons Cestius to the other bank of the Tiber, and stopped for a strong, delicious coffee at Gitano.
We loved the terrace and the interior, the staff was friendly and their menu looked very inviting. Later, around dinner time, though, you can only get a seat if you have a reservation.
After this lovely break, we went to Isola Tiberina and returned to Trastevere on Ponte Sisto. We then went up the Tiber’s bank and some other streets of Trastevere, heading to Pizzeria Dar Poeta.
Dinner at Pizzeria Dar Poeta
We were initially discouraged by a large number of people outside, waiting to be seated. The place is so popular it doesn’t need to make reservations. It always has people inside, and a crowd outside.
We got incredibly lucky and got a table in under 10 minutes, though. Mostly because we were just two people, and the rest were larger groups, harder to fit. And the couple waiting before us decided to bail. 🙂
We soon placed our order, and we didn’t have to wait long for our pizzas, either. However, at no moment do you feel rushed to eat and leave.
The pizzas we went for were simple: crust, tomato sauce, mozzarella di bufala and basil. Pizzeria Dar Poeta proves that food doesn’t need to be complicated for it to be delicious and satisfying.
Largo di Torre Argentina
Ok, this isn’t on the way from Vatican City to Trastevere. We left Trastevere in search of a bus stop to go back to our place. The best option was the one from Largo di Torre Argentina.
On the way, we also saw the Tiber and Isola Tiberina at night, as we crossed the river on Ponte Garibaldi.
Then, at Largo di Torre Argentina, we admired the ruins of four Roman Republican temples and what was left of Pompey’s Theatre in the ancient Campus Martius. And we searched for cats of all shapes and sizes while waiting for our bus to arrive. How many cats could there be? Well, lots, as there is a Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary!
Thoughts at the end of day 2 of our Rome Holiday
Like I said in the beginning, it was a long and tiring day. My phone said we had walked 27,225 steps, the equivalent of 20.07 km. But, boy, was it worth it!