HostelLife: Conversations with guests – Adam & Anna

Adam & Anna are brother and sister, on their first trip alone together and first time to Europe.  This time I have a special guest helping me interview them – Viola (my youngest daughter)!

30 April 2016

The Vatican Museums & St. Peter’s Basilica with Through Eternity

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The last time I had been to the Vatican Museums was on our honeymoon in 1998 and to the Basilica in 2006.  In 1998 we went to the museums before there was an option to book on-line, but I don’t recall standing in a queue or if we did, it not lasting very long.  It was September, but so incredibly hot.  I remember being overwhelmed as well as underwhelmed inside the museums as a sweated from room to room.  Weeping Madonna, weeping Madonna, weeping Madonna.  I just didn’t understand the appeal.  I missed a lot and understood even less.

Fast forward to 2016 and this time Through Eternity invited me and my husband Steve on one of their tours.  We work with several long-standing reputable walking tour companies in Rome and Through Eternity was one of the first we worked with.  Despite very positive reviews from past guests over the years about their tours, we had never actually been on one so I happily accepted their offer.  After looking at their many tour choices, I decided on the Vatican.  We have many guests who have the Vatican on their “to see” list and so I thought I would like to experience it again, but this time with a well-informed guide.FullSizeRender-7

Of the two Vatican tours they suggested, one was an extensive 5 hour tour and the other was a 3.5 hour tour.  I wanted the full experience so I opted for the 5 hour tour.  Mario was our tour guide, a Dutch transplant who has been living in Rome for about 10 years and has a background in art history and theatre.  He was knowledgeable, easygoing and friendly.  He immediately made everyone feel at ease.

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Tickets are available in advance on-line, but it’s amazing how in 2016 people still queue up to purchase tickets.  The queue for this is extremely long and you’ll find yourself standing for at least an hour if not longer before you’ve even entered the museums.  Thanks to Mario, we passed all the queues and went straight in. We only had to wait a few minutes while he went to pick up the pre-arranged tickets.  After that, we followed the masses up into the museum.

The Vatican Museums are not just one museum, but many museums within a museum.  It’s simply impossible to see each and every work of art here.  Mario explained that if you were to just spend a few seconds in front of every work of art in the museums, it would take you several years to see everything!  I could have easily spent an hour alone just in the The Gallery of Maps seen here:

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Mario led us through to the more important artworks in the museum and even so, it still took us 4 hours to get through the museum and we even bypassed several areas such as the Egyptian Museum.   The Vatican Museums receive an average of 25,000 visitors a day, but its rooms, doorways and corridors were not constructed for this kind of traffic so in peak season when the place is packed, it’s slow-going.

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There are several outdoor courtyards throughout the museums including the Cortile della Pigna seen here. These are great spots to get some fresh air and escape the close quarters of the museums.

 

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The Sistine Chapel is found within the museums and it took us at least an hour to get there from this courtyard.  It’s very difficult if not impossible to make a direct bee-line from the entrance to the Sistine Chapel, so keep that in mind.  I don’t have any photographs here of the chapel because it’s a no-photograph zone.  I still saw people trying to take photos and who were probably able to get away with it because of the crowds, but don’t be a jerk and respect the few rules they have.

From the museums, you are able to go directly into the Basilica.  Despite being the largest Catholic church in the world, it still felt manageable.  Mario explained that this effect was due to perspective and that in fact the statues and lettering in the church were incredible large.

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Our 5 hour tour ended 6 hours later and my husband and I were utterly exhausted, but despite that we immediately were eagerly thinking about a future Vatican tour we would like to take.  Once was definitely not enough.  Although next time I think we’ll opt for a 3 hour tour so that we can also fit in climbing the dome again – something we didn’t have an opportunity to do this time around.

Some of my tips on touring the Museums & Basilica:

  1. At the very least, order your tickets on-line.
  2. Better yet, take a small group tour – a small group tour at the minimum consists of 6 people and at the most 15 people.  We had 8 people on our tour.  A small group tour allows you to actually listen to and interact with your guide and the others in your group.  There are several reputable companies in town including the long-established Through Eternity company with whom we did our tour.  Guests of The Beehive receive a 10% discount on most of their tours.
  3. Cover knees and shoulders.  You will not be allowed inside the Basilica if you do not have them covered  – this goes for men, women and children.
  4. Bring a bottle of water and rest when you can.  It gets hot in the museums especially in the summer – no AC in the museums and very few places to sit.  There are several outdoor courtyards throughout.  Take advantage of these spots to sit and rest and fill up at the outdoor fountains that are marked “Acqua Potabile” (Potable Water).
  5. Bring a picnic-style lunch.  There are a couple of cafes at the Museums, but the food is terrible and overpriced.  At The Beehive, we’re happy to prepare a healthy and delicious picnic-style lunch for you to take with you.  Orders must be made at least 2 days in advance.  For more information, ask at our reception.
  6. Reconsider bringing children to the Museums if aged 0-12 years old.  I saw several very young children while we were there and my heart went out to them and their bored and tired little hearts.  No fun for the whole family!  The museums are just too much for little children  – it’s an exhausting day for the parents and if grown adults want to throw a tantrum after hours at the museum, you can imagine what the kids will be like.  Either hire a babysitter or plan on coming back to Rome and visiting the museums when the kids are in their teens.  This doesn’t apply to the Basilica which is much more do-able with young children.
  7. Give yourself time to climb the dome – it’s an incredible experience, but reconsider if you are overweight, suffer from a heart condition or are claustrophobic.

Thanks again to Mario and Through Eternity for their generosity and for allowing us to see the Vatican with new eyes.

 

24 April 2016

HostelLife: Conversations with guests – Mary Ann

Over a cappuccino in the cafe, Mary Ann revealed her secret identity to me (she’s a sarcastic, sassy yoga teacher in disguise) and told me a bit about men her age who she meets on-line just wanting to network.  She agreed to do a “conversations with guests” and tell me about the last time she was in Italy, 30 years ago.

14 April 2016

HostelLife: Conversations with guests – Hattie

Hattie is a young and brave Australian girl, living in Rome on her own.  She had a long stay at The Beehive (about 2 weeks in total) while waiting to move into an apartment.  I ran into her at a food event, Easter Pop-up kitchen, at the Latteria Studio in Trastevere, where she works and got a chance to talk to her about her stay at The Beehive and how it compared to other hostels, as well as her interest in philosophy (which in Melbourne they don’t teach in girl’s schools for some reason).  Here she is telling me a bit about what she’s doing in Rome.

21 March 2016

HostelLife: The Beehive family – Yuli Novita

 

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The Beehive wouldn’t be The Beehive without our beloved manager, Yuli Novita.  She’s been with us almost since the very beginning and is an integral part of every aspect of our daily operations.  No job is too big or small for Yuli and she is an incredibly hard worker. Like everyone at The Beehive, she doesn’t have a perfectly formulated job description, but just does what needs to get done in order for The Beehive to run smoothly and for our guests to be happy.  Yuli often goes above and beyond the call of duty for our guests – the stories I could tell!  Yuli has a wonderful smile and an easy going personality – she has a memory like a steel trap.  Return guests will walk through the door who haven’t been back in years and she not only remembers them and often their names as well, but can also remember personal things about them.  I truly envy and admire this about her as it’s a wonderful skill and gift that I sorely and embarrassingly lack.  Without Yuli, things would not be the same at The Beehive, she is truly a treasure!

Yuli is the first interview in a series I’m doing about our staff so people can get to know them a bit better.

Where are you from?  Indonesia

What brought you to Rome and how long have you been here? I married an Italian.  I worked as a nanny for an Italian family who worked at the Italian embassy in Jakarta.  They brought me to Rome to take care of their 8 year old son.  It was May 1999, I still remember the smell of spring and wondering why Italians had such small cars (in Indonesia it’s all about the big family car).

How long have you worked at The Beehive?  16 years, since the end of 2000

Do you remember how you heard about The Beehive and how you got your job? I heard about The Beehive from a former employer who was also friends with Linda & Steve.  Linda & Steve were looking for a housekeeper after just having had their first child and so first I worked as a housekeeper for them at home and then Steve offered me a housekeeping position at The Beehive.

Tell us about your most memorable experience/guest at The Beehive.   I have had so many good experiences working at The Beehive!  Recently one of our guests asked for directions to Stadio Olimpico where Real Madrid & AS Roma football teams were playing the champions league. I gave her directions and  afterward she mentioned that she had three free tickets and if anyone wanted to go with her.  Steve and Linda couldn’t come so my daughter & my partner and I ended up going with her.  It was like a dream!  We were welcomed by a symphony orchestra into a big ballroom full of food and lots of wine (even though I don’t drink), beautiful, fashionably dressed women in high heels showed us where our seats were.  It was more like going to a fashion show instead of a football match.  I had made a mental note to get us a slice of pizza after we watched the match, but what I found instead was a huge buffet with all kinds of food and drink and we found ourselves with all these famous and beautiful people while I came in just my gym clothes.  We had so much fun with Cristiano Ronaldo & Francesco Totti just a few steps away from us.  We had no idea that we were going to be in the VIP area!  It turns out our Beehive guest works for the owner of AS Roma!  My daughter was just in awe of the experience – she’s quiet, but  I could tell how was she was feeling from her twinkling eyes. 

What is your favorite thing to do in Rome?  Rome is so beautiful, it’s almost a sin if you don’t enjoy it!  One of my favorite things to do is biking along the Tiber river with my family.

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