So finally the 'not so anticipated' day dawned; the last day of our European tour, but that didn't dampen our spirits of exploring as we decided to check out 2 countries on the same day. Swati and I are in the capital of Italy, Rome and within the city lies another city and country in itself, the Vatican city. Vatican city is a sovereign country completely surrounded by the city of Rome and the Pope as it's head of state.
After having a frugal but satisfactory breakfast of muesli and milk bought from the in-campus store, we took the shuttle for the Vatican from our camping grounds. After a mere 15 min drive we were outside the great 40-50 feet tall wall, stretched for kilometers. Vatican city is surrounded by a great wall, demarcating it's boundaries and hence also referred as the walled city. As we began circumnavigating the wall we came across a gate where tourists had gathered and over the gates was written 'Vatican Museum'. Intrigued and since it was the last day of the trip and we had some spare cash we decided to check out.
Vatican museum is so big it cannot be covered in one day whereas we had barely 3 hrs. As we entered, the first gallery was the ancient Egypt. For the first time since learning about Egyptian mummies in history books, we saw a mummy. There were many mummies infact, some wrapped, some exposed, while others embalmed. The next 2 hrs we were mesmerized by the collection that museum had. Basically all the Popes over ages were gifted treasures from conquered lands which they had got to Vatican. There were carpets the size of a wall depicting various events of Christ's life, thrones of different kings, complete bedrooms of some palaces, bath tubs the size of today's entire bathroom, painted and carved ceilings by masters such as Michaelangelo and the list was endless as was the museum.
We left the museum mid way to check the other attraction of Vatican and that's the St Peter's square which is the foreground to the the St Peter's basilica. I have vivid memories of watching black and white smoke rise from this building during the election of a new Pope with thousands of Christian devotees waiting eagerly in the square, all on TV of course. As everywhere there were serpentine queues for entry, making our decision easy as we left to explore the rest of Rome.
I was told by someone that Rome is an open museum and so we decided to take the grandest seat to view what Rome had to offer. We took tickets for the 'hop on hop off' bus which gives you the advantage of viewing all the major tourist attractions, with audio guide and the leisure of spending as much or as little time you want at any destination, as the buses go in a circle and for a limited time period you can board any of them. The open roof view is an added advantage.
We spread the route map on our laps and decided to check out only three sites for short of time. The first place we got off was the piazza Fontana, which is basically a water fountain but huge in size and aesthetically made with statutes of Roman gods and goddesses. It became more famous for getting depicted in a major Hollywood film of the past. Unfortunately all we could see were scaffoldings and a trickle of water. Disappointed at the sight we decided to not to get in the line and do the customary throw off the coin and instead settled for a small road side cafe for lunch of pizza and ravioli.
Renergized on a hot day we took the next bus and off we were for the Colosseum. We were in college when the Russell Crowe starrer Hollywood blockbuster Gladiator got released and am sure every boy who had watched it would have wanted to visit the Colosseum once in their lifetime. As the bus passed several piazzas and many monuments and structures, I waited eagerly to strike off one more article from my bucket list.
As the bus turned at one of the piazzas, in a neighborhood which had ancient ruins and modern society living together, I saw the massive circular structure of the Colosseum. It grew in huge as the bus closed in. We got off and soaked in the sight. The Colosseum is a huge structure even in modern times, I can't imagine it's magnanimity during the ancient days. It's presence would have scared the s*** out of any novice gladiator. But today it's not so scary with so many tourists around and the many souvenir vendors. We took a round of the Colosseum from the outside which also gave glimpses of the inside every now and then. The area around it is surrounded by ancient ruins and open spaces. We loitered there a bit longer than we should have and so when it struck us we caught the next bus and were off to catch our shuttle back to the camping ground.
The shuttle was supposed to leave from a designated place where it has dropped us by 1700 hrs and here we were getting off at the st Peters square at 1650 hrs. The designated spot was at least 20 min away and there were no taxis in sight. Once more in the trip it was a race against time as we ran around the great Vatican wall past the Vatican museum to finally the place where the bus had dropped us in the morning. We ran for almost 20 min and were completly out of our breath. But it was the first instance when we had lost the race. We reached at 1705 hrs and there was no trace of the bus. The first thing we did was catch our breath and let heart beats come to near normal. Then after playing few games of dumb charades with few locals we got in to a city but which took us to our camping grounds.
The camping grounds have a daily airport shuttle which proves cheaper and easier. We booked ourselves into a shuttle which was to leave an hour hence. As we waited there in the green and young surroundings the thought struck us, its over! But more then being sad we were satisfied as the trip has gone much better than anticipated with lots of travel, adventure, camaraderie, fun and laughter. All we wanted was to get back to our home and have some simple Indian vegetarian home cooked food.