Travelling Leila

My impressions about the places I visit

Archive for the tag “Rome”

Adventures of the Azeris in Italy – day 3


We still had a half more day in Rome. Our company had to split as part of it vigorously decided to go shopping. The other part, including me as well, didn’t mind shopping either, but somehow felt the urgent need to verify our own honesty by putting our hands into the Mouth of Truth. Here we were particularly lucky: a whole cavalcade of Japanese tourists arrived in several buses exactly AFTER us and formed a hopelessly long queue, while we reached the Bocca della Verità pretty quickly. It was only allowed to take one picture per person. Having confirmed that our hands remained intact, we left this place without visiting the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin – we weren’t really up for it. We tried to find a taxi to catch up with our shopping companions, but there was none anywhere in sight, so we willy-nilly had to go back to the tour bus stop and spend ages (at least, 25 minutes or so!) waiting for the bus under the scorching sun.

The Mouth of Truth

Between this stop and the one leading to Via Corso with lots of shops, there was a trap awaiting us: the Vatican with its non-visited Sistine Chapel. We looked at each other: “Shall we get off here?” – “Yeah, let’s get off. As for the shopping, the hell with it!”

At the Vatican we were delighted by the virtual absence of a queue. Little did we know then, and only later we could appreciate the full extent of our mistake – this time people were entering the Basilica the proper way: through the Museum and the Sistine Chapel, which is completely the opposite side.

And then we met either a fairy godmother or a snake temptress who was persistently inviting us to join a private tour to the Museum, which would allow us to skip the queue, as there was no way to get into the Chapel other than via the Museum. But the tour was to take at least two hours of pure time (i.e. without all the preparation) and by the time it ended we were already supposed to be on our way to the airport. So we basically decided to waste our money: pay the full price, and then skip not only the queue, but also the Museum itself with this 1000+ chambers.

Our Italian-American guide apparently took after his Italian father in being extremely talkative – he eagerly explained us every single step we would have to make, starting from the purchase of the tickets. For us, however, his every word felt like a sharp knife, as it was stealing our precious time. Somewhere in the middle of his speech he was joined by a compassionate Italian lady, who tediously explained us that there was absolutely no way their company could charge us half price for the tour, even though we were going to skip the Museum. Although we hadn’t even asked for anything like this, we had to nod understandingly.

Eventually, we have our tickets in hand, our guide bids us farewell and starts his tour for the others – and off we rush through the museum chambers, full of sculptures, tapestries, maps, mosaics, etc. We only manage to catch a glimpse of this and that on the run, lingering for literally a second in front of anything particularly eye-catching. Very beautiful indeed, but terribly stuffy and packed with people – by and large we would hardly be able to survive a two-hour tour anyway!

The Vatican Museum


The Vatican Museum

And the Chapel is still quite far, we accelerate and accelerate…  Finally, swathed in shawls once again (it’s also a holy place!) we enter the Chapel. Michelangelo’s paintings on the walls and ceiling are utterly amazing, it is a pity, though, that we can’t appreciate all the details – the unpleasant surprise is that it is so crowded that there isn’t even room to sneeze, therefore no chance to walk around and look. By the way, taking photos in the Chapel is not allowed, but I managed to sneakily take one or two – it is quite blurry, but at least you get the idea.

Sistine Chapel

Still, we anyway felt great satisfaction by the Chapel itself and the fact that we had chosen contemplation thereof over meaningless shopping.

We were lucky to find a taxi right next to St. Peter’s square, and as a result we reached our hotel even before our companions.

Then we headed to the airport where our flight was delayed by about an hour. The transfer in Naples worked perfectly: a minivan took us to the port, where the driver got us tickets for the boat, and on our arrival to Ischia we were picked up by another minivan with a frail elderly driver, who nevertheless famously placed our luggage on the car rooftop.

We had been perceiving Ischia as some kind of a small town – it turned out to be a large island. The minivan drove us for about an hour in the dark until it dropped us at the start of the pedestrian zone of Sant’Angelo, where it took us ten more minutes to drag our suitcases to the hotel.



Adventures of the Azeris in Italy – day 2


The next morning, on Sunday, we confidently walked down the beaten path to the tour bus which drove us off to the Vatican. The queue, twisting, was encircling the entire St. Peters’ Square and looked so long that our very first idea was to turn back and leave. Then we looked closer: it turned out to be moving very fast, so we joined it.

The Vatican

And then it was as if an angel made us ask two Russian girls standing behind us to take our picture, which they did. But what was the most valuable part of this contact is that they told us that we would not be allowed in the holy place with bare shoulders and knees. It was then that we realised why the Square and the whole nearby area was swarming with vendors selling ugly cheap shawls, and we bought a couple.

The forty-minute queue resulted in us finally getting into the St. Peter’s Basilica. This is not the place, talking about which one would want to ironise. It is beautiful with its majestic dome, magnificent paintings and the sound of organ (it was exactly the time of the Sunday Mass). We were walking around, staring and admiring, but our eyes, nevertheless, were looking for the entrance to the Sistine Chapel – was it here at all? Finally we asked someone and it turned out that it was closed on Sunday (right, one should have thought about that!)

Instead of the Chapel we were led to a grotto, where many popes are buried. I would say this was the least interesting part of our visit to the Vatican. On the way out, as an act of kindness, we gave the shawls to some other unfortunate barelegged and bareshouldered girls, who faced an unpleasant surprise after waiting in the queue: the guards were inexorable and wouldn’t let them in.

The bus took us further, following the same route at yesterday, but didn’t bring us anywhere close to the Trevi Fountain, which we were planning to visit – again because it was Sunday – but left us in what seemed a bit of a remote area not far from Villa Borghese. It looked like the only solution was to take the taxi loitering nearby. But the driver turned out to be a decent chap (or maybe simply too lazy to move), so he told us that it would literally take us a couple of minutes walking down the street to reach the fountain. Well, let’s say, he exaggerated a little, but in any case the steep narrow road took us where we were intending to get. We diligently pushed our way to the fountain, threw some coins and made wishes.

Fontana di Trevi

Fontana di Trevi






On our way back I started feeling unwell because of the heat, so had to go back to the hotel, where I just lay on my bed, like a beached seal, for a good two hours, although duty was calling me to continue sightseeing. The next item in line was the Mouth of Truth, where Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck’s characters put their hands in the unforgettable “Roman Holiday”. Unfortunately, when I got better and checked  the Internet, I realised that it had relatively short working hours and was closing at that very moment! In that case we decided to follow the example of the “Dolce Vita” characters and head to Via Veneto. The guide in our bus had promised we would spot celebrities and paparazzi hunting for them, we saw neither though.

Colosseum by Night

Adventures of the Azeris in Italy – day 1


The Italian embassy can essentially be considered the territory of Italy. Therefore, our Italian adventures started from there. First impressions: disorder and outdatedness, colloquially speaking, looks like a Mickey Mouse organisation (later, our stay in the “Big Italy” only confirmed this impression). Simplest things like online appointments, electronic filling of application forms etc. seem to be unheard of here. Their own regulation, posted on the wall of the embassy, saying ​​that documents must be submitted no later than five working days prior to departure, is totally misinterpreted by the embassy workers, who would not accept the documents any earlier than five days before departure (as one might imagine, this allows virtually no time for any changes or corrections). Those who come to apply for visas know none of this, of course – they arrive decorously, queue and wait… The consul, with the face of a gendarme, appears at 9.30 am and begins to check the documents himself. All those who have naively came in advance are mercilessly sent off, receiving a mark in red ink on their application, with the date they should come and the consul’s signature. Others are kindly accepted, but are picked at for every little thing (like a photo being stapled and not glued, or lack of the zillionth stamp, etc.)

Everyone’s faces carry this I-don’t-feel-like-working-but-definitely-feel-like-acting-all-bossy expression. Quite a lot of the “mainland” Italians look and act exactly the same.

As it had been forecast, Rome greeted us with a 40°C heat, thankfully, a dry and therefore, bearable one. The hotel receptionist was a Russian-speaking lady from Moldova, and she worked well and efficiently. We basically had two days to spend in Rome (one full and two halves), so the most reasonable thing to start with was a city sightseeing tour, and we rushed off to find one. It was a pleasant surprise to see that the Colosseum was just around the corner – right until we remembered that we had booked the hotel with this thought in mind, so it was actually no surprise at all. As we approached the Colosseum, we were literally attacked by sellers of all kinds of stuff like hats, umbrellas, water, as well as “gladiators” and other “ancient Romans,” offering themselves for photos (for money, of course). Unfortunately, all of this merchandising fraternity could express themselves only in Italian and had absolutely no clue where the bus stop was (as we’d been told in our hotel, it was somewhere near the Colosseum). Everyone knows that the Colosseum is a round and a rather large building. We diligently walked all around that whopper – there were no signs in sight and people passing by continued to know nothing about this. Finally, we managed to find the stop ourselves, caught the bus, perched on its upper deck and indulged in the journey through the Eternal City.

Posing "gladiator"


It’s all very beautiful – the sculptures, the ruins, the palaces. Everything is covered with the spirit of antiquity, you feel yourself in a huge museum under the sky. But somehow it didn’t touch the delicate strings of my heart, like, for example, London or Hong Kong.


Via Leonina


Roman ruins


St. Peter's Basilica


River Tiber



As our tour tickets were valid for 48 hours, we decided to do a full circle without hopping off, and completed the tour with a Colosseum visit. It certainly is a fascinating feeling when you think of these stones being about 2000 years old. There were world wars, and they were standing there; there was Napoleon, and they were standing there; there was the Holy Inquisition, and they were standing there; there was the fall of the Roman Empire, and they were standing there… We climbed to the top and saw part of the arena and the maze beneath it, imagining a defeated gladiator and a crowd of spectators, roaring “Finish him! Finish him!”




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