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Vatican City

Posted by Heliocentrism on April 20, 2018

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

We made a rookie mistake our first day in Rome. We thought we would just go to the Vatican City and stand in line for tickets to the museum. We were prepared to stand in a long line having put a few movies on our phones along with some podcasts and audio books.

But when we got there, the line was so long we weren’t completely sure what the line was for. We looked for the start of the line and got lost. The line was so long it wrapped around the entire country. (I feel like that should have been the punch line of a joke.)

These are just the people who have tickets for a tour starting around 9:30

So, we went home, or rather back to the apartment we were renting, and looked for tickets online. We found some for a tour of the Vatican Crypt and Gardens. That was perfect since they included tickets for the Vatican Museum and we would get to skip the line. We reserved the tickets and then our credit cards got denied. All our cards. Not wanting to lose these tickets, as we could see there were only a few left, we threw credit card after credit card at the website. All denied.

We called one of our banks. Even though we had warned our banks and credit card companies that we would be traveling in Italy at this time, every now and then while shopping in Italy they would deny payment for something they deem suspicious. Mark called his bank and they said that they would allow the payment. He just had to try again. Still the card kept getting denied.

Mark and me in front of Athena, who has been “baptized” as the Virgin Mary.

Mark called again. They weren’t sure why it didn’t work. It must be a default mode for credit-cards used in Italy. “There are a lot of fraud cases coming from that area, you know,” the lady on the phone told him. Mark tried several more times, but the card kept getting denied. Eventually, all the tickets for the Crypt and Garden tour were sold out.

Mark went to the website again, this time with a representative from his bank on the phone to make sure the next payment would go through. A tour of the Vatican Crypt was no longer possible, but we could still see the Gardens. Finally, the card worked and we got some tickets. Three days after making reservations, we headed back to Vatican City.

Pope Benedict’s apartment

The Gardens were lovely. We walked past fountains and replicas of various Virgin Maries. We were told the history of several parts of the garden. We even stood outside the apartment of Pope Benedict, the retired pope. Mark waved at his windows, but there was no papal return wave.

Everything was going well with our tour until the end of the bathroom break one hour in. Our guide did a head count and came up 2 short. Two people were missing. She asked around to see if anyone knew who the missing couple was. No one had 2 missing friends. Nobody could remember who the missing people were. In my head, I went down the list of people I remembered meeting on the tour, the lady with the big camera, the two older ladies who didn’t want to walk too much, the lady with the baby, the couple who kept making out in front of Mary statues, the older guy by himself, the guy with the laugh, they were all here.

“Do you want to make out while we wait?”

Our guide called a security guard. He called someone on his walkie-talkie. A car came by and the man inside talked with our guide before driving off. I assumed to look for the AWAL tourists. It was exciting. Somewhere in the gardens of the Vatican were two people who were not where they were supposed to be. Why? Were they absentminded lookie-loos? Or were their motives more sinister?

I never found out. We continued the tour and they didn’t reappear. I just assumed they are now somewhere in the Vatican crypt feeling truly remorseful for not sticking with their group.

Vatican City

How to get there:

First you have to go to Italy. Once there, you can just walk right in. No passport needed.

  • visa information (for Italy)
  • Most of the information below is for Rome, which incorporates Vatican City.


  • 113 – police
  • 115 – fire
  • 118 – first aid






  • Get your tickets online and ahead of time.
    • If you don’t make sure to bring a book or put some movies on your phone, because you will be standing in line for about 3 hours.
    • There are lines for EVERYTHING!
    • If you think, “I’ll just go there really early in the morning and be the first in line,” then stop being so foolish.
      • Everyone thinks that. (It only works for the first 50 people.)
  • If you find a bathroom with a short line, use it whether you need to or not. Those are unicorns!
  • Watch out for pick-pockets.
  • Get the free Rick Steves Audio Guides.
  • Make sure to dress properly, or you won’t be let in.
    • Not shorts. Make sure that at least your knees are covered.
    • No sleeveless shirts.

Vatican Gardens &
Vatican Museums

Basic Information:

  • Entrance (if you’ve already bought your ticket)





  • 9:00 – 16:00



Don’t Miss:



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Al Italia

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 21, 2010

April 01 – 07, 2005

All Pictures

Young and sassy

He’s going to die, so we should leave the city.

I planned this trip… well, sort of. This was when I learned backpacking motto number one: things very rarely go as planned.

We were supposed to stay in Rome for most of the trip. I wanted to see every square inch of the Italian capital and Vatican City. When we were finished with them, maybe we would move south to some little Italian town. Or we could just stay at the beach near Rome.

The first and second day we toured Rome. We visited the Colosseum, Spanish Steps, and many more must-sees. At the end of the second day the clerk at our hostel told us that if we wanted to see any of the museums in Vatican City we should go tomorrow. “The Pope is about to die and when he does everything will be closed.”

The night before Pope John-Paul II died

The next day we ran through several churches and museums in and around St. Peter’s Square. It all happened so quickly that I didn’t have time to take in much of it. That night we caught a train to Naples.

My guess is that the Pope died that night because there was a lot of chaos on the train. We tried to buy tickets, but the counters were closed. We boarded the train anyway because someone told us that we could buy our tickets on the train. Normally there is an official who comes by to check your ticket or sell you one. No one came by that night and we rode for free.

Just laying in the middle of the road taking a photo.

See Naples and die

We didn’t actually do much in Naples. We planned to, but never got around to it. Other things just called out louder for our attention.

First we went to Pompeii. It was very sad. There are many casts made from the bodies of victims. Looking at their very expressive body language you can see how afraid they were. There was one of a child who made him or herself into a ball. I could almost hear that kid crying.

Going to the hot spring!

For most of the vacation we were on Ischia or Capri, but mainly Ischia. At Sorgeto beach on the island of Ischia there is a most wonderful, free hot spring. I soaked there for hours at a time.

Water comes from a volcano and leaks out of earth boiling hot then it mixes with the ice cold water of the Tyrrhenian Sea. The big rocks at the beach can be used to make seats and to form a tub. Bathers move the rocks around to create higher or lower tub walls and let in more or less sea water. This adjusts the temperature of the natural tub.

There was a restaurant nearby that sold overpriced food, but it had the only shade for miles. If you go, make sure to bring plenty of water, food, and maybe a beach umbrella.

2 more days in Italy!

No, no, not cancelled… transferred

We bought our round trip tickets on Ryan Air. It’s a great airline for cheap flights around Europe. The trouble with this no-frills airline is that there are no guarantees.

The day before our flight back to Manchester (well Liverpool, then we would take the train into Manchester) we spent the night at Ciampino Airport. We tried to stay in the arrival area because it had better seats, but it was closed off. No one would say why, but we figured that it had something to do with the Pope’s funeral.

As we were moving over to the departure section my travel partner thought he saw John Kerry. At that time John Kerry was running for President of the US. I thought my friend was just being too wishful. Why would John Kerry be in a tiny run down airport like Ciampino?  Later I found out that Ciampino was where all the heads of state flew into Rome for the Pope’s funeral.

The following morning, when it was time to check-in, we were told that we wouldn’t make the flight.

Me – Why not?

Clerk – Because it’s too far away.

Me – What?

Clerk – You are at the wrong airport.

Me – But this is the airport in which we arrived.

I looked at my flight confirmation paper. Sure enough, it said I would depart from Ciampino. “Look,” I showed the guy my paper, “it’s says Ciampino.”

Clerk – Yes, but that changed. Ciampino is closed for the next week. See the sign?

He pointed to a small white board sign that listed several flights and stated that they are now leaving from some other airport. We had spent the night at the airport in the departure section and we never saw this sign.

Me – How long has that sign been here?

Clerk -I put it out 5 minutes ago.

Me – Where is this new airport?

He took out a little map of Italy and pointed to a city… on the other side of the country.

Me – That’s not in Rome!

Clerk – No. That’s Pescara. You’ll need to take the train.

Me – So. I’ve missed my flight! How am I going to get back to England? I have class on Monday.

I asked the man if I could at least get a refund on my flight so that maybe I could have some money to pay for another one. He told me that RyanAir only gives refunds for cancelled flights.

Me – But the flight was cancelled!

Clerk – No, ma’am. This flight was not cancelled. It was transferred.

My friend and I asked to speak with the manager. We explained that we were at the airport since the evening before and there was no indication of the change. The manager, in his Italian fashion, said, “No problem. I’ll put you on tomorrow’s flight.” He printed out new flight confirmations for us and even gave us directions to find the train station.

I was very mad until I got on the train and looked out the window. Italy is a very beautiful country and now I was going to be able to see the other side.

All Pictures

The Colosseum

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 41°53’24.8″N 12°29’32.3″E

Go to Colosseo on Linea B



  • €12 (including a €3 exhibition charge) standard,
  • €7.50 reduced rate.


  • 8:30 –  one hour before sunset,
  • Open every day except Christmas day and January 1st.

Saint Peter’s Square

How to get there:

  • 41°54’07.9″N 12°27’26.4″E

By Bus –

  • From Central Rome take bus #64
  • Once in Vatican City, everything is in walking distance.



e-mail: stpetersbasilica@gmail.com


  • Free
  • The Museums and tours will cost money


  • St. Peter’s Square is always available.


  • Some of the churches and attractions in this city have a dress code.
    • Please have your shoulders covered,
    • Don’t wear shorts or shirts that are too short,
    • and take your hat off


How to get there:

By train:

By Boat:



  • Naples is the city that we used to get to Pompeii, Ischia, and Capri.


How to get there:

  • Coordinates 40°45’02.8″N 14°29’22.1″E

By Train –

Phone: +39 081 8575331



  • If you are an EU citizen and you are under 18 or over 65 you can get in for free.
  • € 11.00


  • November – March, 8:30 – 17:00 (last admission 15:30)
  • April – October,  8:30 – 19:30 (last admission 18:00)



  • Drink lots of water. It’s a lot of walking.
  • Bring your own toilet paper.


How to get there

By Boat from Naples:



There are many hot springs on this island.

  • I went to the one called Sorgeto Hot Springs in Panza.
  • Boiling hot water from the volcano mixes with the freezing water of the sea to make a very nice natural hot tub.
  • To get there take a bus to Panza and follow the sign towards the beach. It’s about a 1km walk. There many steps that lead to the beach.
  • The hot spring is free to use.
  • Bring your own water and food. There is a restaurant there, but it doesn’t have a wide selection, it’s quite overpriced, and it’s not always open.
  • I read somewhere that people sometimes bring potatoes and eggs to cook in the hot water.
There were many movies that were filmed or partly filmed on this island. Among them are:


How to get there:

By Boat from Naples –



  • The Blue Grotto, though really beautiful, isn’t worth it if you pay too much. The whole thing will last about 5 minutes.
  • The Chair Lift to the top of Monte Solaro is completely worth it. Even if you, like me, are afraid of heights the view is just too good to pass up!


How to get there:

By Plane –

By Train –



  • Every July Pescara holds an International Jazz Festival called Pescara Jazz.


Posted in Capri, Ischia, Italy, Naples, Panza, Pescara, Pompeii, Rome, Vatican City | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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