A complex routing from Nairobi, Kenya to Terceira of the Azores of Portugal presented dozens of options with one jumping out: Rome.
I have yet to visit Italy. With several transits of its airports I have had certain full-throated Italian experiences though not a proper visit.
The Ethiopian Air flight from Addis Ababa arrives 05:20 am and my TAP Portugal connection is at 13:35.
I looked at the map of Rome and first alighted on a visit to the ancient Roman sites at Ostia. It is near Fiumicino Airport, though without obvious ease of public transport I would probably need to a rent a car or pay even more for taxis. Strange as it seems for a Roman history buff, I have visited so many Roman sites in North Africa and the Levant that I am less keen to visit the tourist crowded sites of Rome.
I looked at the Lonely Planet Rome section on getting to/from the airport and the mention that the SIT Bus (6€) stops at the Vatican (the station by Castel Sant’Angelo at Via Crescencio 2) jumped out.
SIT’s first bus from the airport is not until 08:30 too late for me to make a proper start, yet would work for others. The returns are frequent, I can be on the 11:10 or 11:30 bus back to the airport with a cushion.
The airport Leonardo Express Train (14€) train to Stazione Termini starts at 06:23 am and even with a required metro/bus connection I can hope to be at the Vatican around 7 to 7:30 am. There look to be earlier, slower REG rail and bus options to consider as well.
Airport luggage storage at Terminal 3 opens at 6:30 am, again too late for me, while useful for most. From what I can tell there is baggage check at points in the Vatican to stow my backup, which is preferable to checking my backup through.
Logistically, then it is feasible even with this half-day.
The next question is if it is possible to have a quality visit.
This is the point where people decry short visits as too rushed and not able to appreciate the accumulated treasures of a church of two millennia. I doubt many visit more than a full-day, and probably less if crowds don’t grind things down.
I want to see St Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum, which includes the Sistine Chapel.
St Peter’s opens at 7 am and is free to all so I can scurry through on arrival.
The Vatican Museum has a bewildering array of progressively lavish entry tickets. With short time there is no option to show up ticketless and queue. My visit will be on a Monday which I read is popular with tour groups since many other museums are closed.
My Monday in June does not show any base tickets for sale for entry before 10:30 am (16€ + all add 4€)
There are two early entry with breakfast options to consider. The breakfast is described as an American Buffet, just what I hoped to sample in the Vatican. If that is the price of early entry, so be it.
The early, more expensive option at provides for museum entry at 7 or 7:15 followed by breakfast (65€ total, part of that is the required audioguide). That’s a steep price and timing very tight.
The other is breakfast first with entry at 8:45 or 9:00 (31€ total). This I chose.
If all goes well I will be at St Peter’s by 7:30, tour that, have a quick breakfast or skip food, and get in to the museum just ahead of the crowds to have 2 hours in the Vatican Museum.
For other days of the week, Wednesday looks tough because St Peter’s holds a Papal audience in the morning, while the Vatican Museum is closed Sundays except the last of the month.
Readers, what do you think? Workable? What are your highlights that I might miss?