We'd filled out the form at our hotel to say that we wanted our breakfast at 08.30 on Sunday morning. Sure enough, when 08.30 came there was a knock at the door and a man appeared with two trays of croissants, bread and coffee When we checked out a while later we were surprised to learn that the tourist tax in Rome is €3.50 each per night. That was fine for us with only staying for one night, but it could be quite a bit to add to the cost of a holiday if you were planning to stay for longer!
Our first plan was to return to the Vatican, as we needed to post our postcards. We'd bought the cards and stamps in a shop just outside St Peter's Square the day before and so they were Vatican City stamps, which we assumed we needed to post in a Vatican postbox rather than a normal Italian one. As we walked towards the Vatican, we were surprised that the level of security seemed to be higher than it had been on Saturday. There were soldiers with very large guns on the outskirts, and then partway along the approach to St Peter's Square we had to stop and have our bags opened and searched by a policeman. Finally when we got to the square itself, we had to queue for a few minutes and put all our belongings through a scanner again.
It seemed like a lot of effort, but eventually we got to the post office and were able to post our postcards
It was then that we realised why the security had been some so tight this morning; the Pope was saying Mass inside the basilica, and we were able to stand and watch some of it being broadcast on the big screens inside the square.
The weather forecast wasn't very promising for Sunday and the sky looked quite grey, so made our way back into the centre of Rome to try and make the most of the weather.
As we walked through the little streets in the town centre, there seemed to be a church around every corner. We kept looking for the names to try and work out where we were on the map, but there were so many churches that ones like this weren't even marked on the map.
Navigating in Rome was quite difficult. There are some signposts for tourists which indicate the directions of the main sights, but when you follow one you often find that you end up in a small square with five possible exits and no more signposts to indicate which directions you ought to take. After a while we found our way to the Piazza Navona where we had been the previous evening...
...and from there we eventually managed to locate the Pantheon.
The next sight which I really wanted to see was the Trevi fountain.
The tourist crowds around this were somewhat reminiscent of the hordes around the mermaid statue in Copenhagen when we there in August. But, fortunately, the Trevi fountain is a lot bigger, so there was more space for everyone! If we come to Rome again, I think this would be a good place to try and visit early in the morning before everyone else arrives.
Not far from the fountain is the Piazza di Spagna, so-called because it is home to a large Spanish Embassy.
At the edge of the square are the Spanish Steps, an enormous staircase which leads up to the church of Trinità dei Monti.
We didn't climb them because no sooner had I taken that photo than it began to pour with rain. We hurried off down a side street and found a nice restaurant where we were able to shelter from the weather and have lunch. We both had a plate of tortellini in ragu which was absolutely delicious
By the time we had finished eating, the rain had eased off. I was anxious to get to our main destination for the afternoon - the Colosseum - before the rain started up again, so we set off to the other side of Rome.
On our way we passsed the Altare della Patria and were able to get some pictures in daylight this time.
From there we were on the main street which leads down towards the Colosseum. We knew we were getting closer as we began to pass the remains of ancient Roman forums.
Soon we got our first glimpse fo the Colosseum itself. Unfortuately there's some work ongoing on the nearby metro line at the moment, and the yellow railings fencing this off got in the way of the view a bit.
Once we got a bit nearer we had a great view without the railings though
I knew the Colosseum was always going to be busy, but I had thought perhaps it might be a bit quieter on a Sunday afternoon, especially on a slightly wet Sunday afternoon. There were still masses of people though!
We walked in a circuit around the outskirts of the Colosseum before we attempted to get inside. One of the things which struck me was that it was nowhere near as white as I had expected! The bits that have been rebuilt in particular are made of a reddish sort of brick.
It was absolutely enormous, though!
We had bought the tickets to get into the Colosseum online in advance and theoretically this meant that we had a reduced queuing time. There were two queues - one for people with tickets and one for those without - but to be honest the with-tickets queue didn't seem to be moving any more quickly than the without-tickets one. It was a much more claustrophobic queue than the one at the Vatican and it began to rain slightly while we were waiting too, which wasn't ideal! Once we got under the arches we realised the reason for all the delays though; everyone had to put all their belongings through a scanner again.
Eventually we were in and able to admire the inside of the Colosseum too.
Some very steep steps took us up to the upper level from where we were able to walk around and appreciate just how huge the Colosseum really is.
We were able to look out through the windows too and see the Arch of Constantine, which we had been admiring from outside the Colosseum.
Unfortunately by this point the rain was becoming quite torrential, so we had to give up on the idea of exploring the Palatine Hill.
We took shelter inside for a while and emerged when the weather seemed to have dried up a bit.
There was about an hour of daylight left now. We walked back towards the Colosseum and around the archway.
Our destination was about 15 minutes away. It may not look very exciting, but this is the Circus Maximus where the chariot races used to take place.
It's now a public park that you can stroll around. We walked along one side of it, back towards the city centre. By this time twilight was starting to fall, but there were still some interesting sites to be seen. This building looked like a small amphitheatre which people were now living in the top of!
We came full circle to the Altare della Patria again.
It looked beautiful in the darkness...
...as did the rest of Rome.
Looking back at these photos the sky doesn't look particularly stormy, but within about 10 minutes of taking the one above we were sitting outside at a restaurant just about to look at the menu when the weather went crazy. Thunder, lightning, and wind so strong that one of the restaurant tables was nearly blown over. The rain was torrential and we got soaked just in the few steps needed to get inside the restaurant. We'd definitely chosen the right moment to call a halt to our sight-seeing!
Happily, by the time we'd finished our pizza the storm was over and we were able to walk to the train station and get a train back to the airport without getting drenched. It was a tiring weekend, but a really exciting one, and I think we will definitely be coming back to Rome at some point in the future