November 2010: As part of a larger trip to Libya, and Lebanon, I visited Rome and the Vatican City on an 8-hour layover. With little time to spare in my trip I planned out every minute to ensure I had enough time to visit the two major highlights the Coliseum and Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City. The visit was easily done via train from the airport. The most difficult part was trying to figure out the train connections. 

About the Vatican City

The Vatican City is considered a micro-country located within the city limits of Rome. It is a United Nations observer country and but not a fully-fledged United nations member country. It is the headquarters of the Catholic church and home of the Pope and packed with history and influence over the current state of the world and its people. 

Location of Vatican City and Rome

My first stop was the coliseum, the ancient Roman gladiator arena built to house thousands of fans as they observed men battling each and beasts to the death for sport. The coliseum was not crowded during my visit compared to peak tourist season but the line to enter was still 30 minutes long and during my visit I had to fend off one scammer after another. The inside of the coliseum was less interesting than the outside, but it felt surreal to be standing in a famous monument that I had seen on television hundreds of times in such an ancient and well-known place. 

Roman Coliseum  

After spending an hour in the coliseum, with too many other people to really feel a true reverence that the location deserved, I decided to move to the Sistine Chapel. I headed back to the train station and ended up getting off at the wrong station and needing to walk a few miles, getting lost before finally finding the entrance into the Vatican City. I entered the city through the Vatican Museum and paid my entrance. The Vatican is less a city and more a series of churches, museums and residential buildings for Catholic clergy. Luckily, I was visiting during the off season and the line was not long to enter the Vatican. I didn’t have time to fully appreciate the exhibits so i tried to rush to the one place that I heard was simply spiritual, the Sistine Chapel. I was amazed by how small the Sistine was but not disappointed in the immense beauty of the interior with its dazzling display of murals on the ceiling. The artwork of its creator, Michael Angelo was awe inspiring. It is maybe one of the most beautiful and magical rooms I have ever stood in. The rule was no photographs allowed but I just couldn’t simply walk away without one. Security staff was very vigilant and quick to pounce on anyone taking a photo and delete their photos. I had a plan. I waited for the inevitable moment when another tourist would take a photo of the ceiling and when the guards were distracted discipling the poor sap, I would snap a quick photo. My plan worked perfectly, and I was able to snap a few photos before exiting with my prize. 

Inside of Sistine Chapel

Famous Mural by Michaelangelo

St. Peters Basilica

I didn’t spend as much time as I wanted in the Vatican exploring all of the chapels and museum exhibits, but I did stop to have lunch and to have a beer. Afterwards, I raced off back to the train and back to the airport to catch my evening flight to Libya. 

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