After our little detour to Portugal we were reunited with Fanny and back on the roads into Rome to see some more of the remarkable attractions we failed to see in our rushed one day tour before our unplanned holiday. As we had to pick up a friend from Venice airport the following day it was time for another rapid sight see, this time around the smallest country in the world- The Vatican City. I’m still amazed that it gets to be its own country with its own monarchy, passports and even its own licence plates. It’s even called the Vatican City. City. Not country. Some hotels have a larger residency and they don’t get a national anthem. It’s roughly one eighth of New York’s central park and the majority of its citizens live abroad yet the tiny city state has been independent since Mussolini signed it into existence in 1929.
However, the city state nestled in the heart of Rome is a treasure trove of culture, history and religious significance and provided Bani with a great chance to show off his GCSE religious studies knowledge, which was rather limited. The queues into St. Peter’s Basilica were very lengthy so when a seemingly shady local said he could get us in for a few euros we quickly accepted and managed to get in an alternative way which was much appreciated due to our time restrictions. Inside the grand building is where Bani’s facts got a bit more interesting as we wandered through the corridors towards the Sistine Chapel, although I’m sure he learnt most of them through films starring Tom Hank’s rather than in the classroom. The chapel itself was as cool as expected but still impressive, as it should be being the official home of the Pope. Arguably the most famous ceiling in the Vatican, and possibly the world is Michelangelo’s (the real one not the Ninja Turtle) ‘The Last Judgement’. Personally, it would be more impressive if it was painted by an adolescent reptile in an orange bandana but the man didn’t do a bad job. The rooftop, like Pisa’s tower, was perfect for more tourist watching as on entrance to the main chamber you are greeted by a crowd of people staring upwards like they were all sat at the front of the cinema. I was unaware that taking photos was prohibited until I saw one of the guards snatch a phone away and delete some photos from it but luckily, I got away with a few quick snaps and some flattering selfies featuring the grand ceiling. Luckily the smallest standing army in the world were only outside as the highly trained Swiss Guard may have been a bit more perceptive and being arrested by men wearing some extravagant renaissance uniform would’ve been a bit more embarrassing.
It was lucky we took a quick break in Portugal as the drive to Venice was a long one. On a map Italy, famously, just looks like a boot, unfortunately I failed to pay attention to the size of that boot. It’s a very large boot with the shin from Rome to Venice stretching just short of 350 miles along the motorway, which when combined with the Italian traffic and a slow-moving shed on wheels makes a very long drive. A drive lengthened by the horrific start on the outskirts of the capital. We have never settled on whose fault it was (Bani’s) but when we were packing up to get on the move someone (Bani) may have forgot to tie down the kayak oars to the roof. When we heard a loud bang on the motorway and looked in the mirrors we saw these oars led in the middle of the lane. There was nothing we could do once it had happened, it’s not like we could get out into the middle of the highway and pick them up so we just inconspicuously plodded on in the big red van. There were many angry drivers passing by with many angry hand signals especially the car which was directly behind and had to swerve around the paddles. The rest of the drive was spent in fear that we could have caused a major road incident as Bani checked the road updates and I nervously kept an eye out for police cars, picturing the offending sculls on the Italian news featuring a photo of the van next to my face. So when we finally pulled up to our campsite it was a very relieved arrival, and we could relax just a short ferry ride away from the heart of Venice.