We woke early and headed down to the provided breakfast. This consisted of a voucher which we took down to a local patisserie for coffee and a croissant which we would soon discover was the breakfast that is provided in Rome. After checking out we jumped on the metro heading to the hostel we would be staying in for the next two nights. We arrived at a high rise building, walked the five flights of stairs up to the hostel where we were greeted by the owner and his gorgeous dog, an affectionate boxer that had a run of the place and gave it a homely feel. The hostel consisted of an apartment with extra beds, another trend throughout Rome, which although limiting the space available in common areas, provided more of an opportunity to interact with our fellow roommates.

After stowing our gear, then being provided a comprehensive list of places to see by our host we hit the streets to start our exploration of this ancient city. After exitting the metro near the Vatican city, we took a step forward and immediately became lost. It was fantastic! Initially we were aiming at heading to St Peter's Basilica but along the way we were confronted by a tour seller eager to get our business. Unbeknownst to us the Pope had made an address to the public earlier and as a result the line to the basilica was over a mile long, pointed out by the salesman, and the selling point for us due to the fact the tour would take us through the Vatican museum (or parts of it) into the Sistine chapel and onto the basilica, bypassing the lines. We headed off to the tour office, flyer in hand, to book our ticket only to be asked how much we had been quoted by the salesman. Not wanting to show our hand at this stage we asked them their best price where they quoted us 47 euro, much higher than the 35 euro the seller on the street had quoted. Thankfully he had also written this on the flyer and we got through on student prices.

Entering the Vatican museum we became one group among many as thousands continually entered. Our guide advised us that 5 million tickets are sold a year (8 euro for students or 16 euro full price) providing the Vatican with an average income of 60 million euro a year (over $75,000,000AUD) just for ticket sales. Our tour ended up walking past much of the Vatican museum, which was reportedly second only in size to the Louvre, heading instead to the square connecting the museum with the halls leading to the Sistine chapel. Here we stopped for awhile while the guide explained some of the history and meaning behind the chapel (due to silence being required within the chapel), giving us a greater level of appreciation for the influences of the Rennaisance and Medici family over not only the paintings in the chapel but the church in general. We then begun the paced walk through the intricately painted corridors leading up to the chapel before entering the small room. We were packed in with other tourists while being watched over by the Papal police, regularly advising all that no photos were allowed but unfortunately not providing us with the entertainment of evicting someone who had tried. Our time appreciating some of the greatest art, both in quality and depth, ended far too quickly with us being ushered out a short 15 minutes later to head on to the basilica.

At the entry to the basilica we paused shortly to learn about the deceptive scale of the place, from St Peter's square with it's slight curve giving the illusion of distance (but could stand 300,000), to the statues overlooking that seemed almost regular in scale until someone walked past them. All this in preparation for what we would see within the basilica (which itself could stand 50,000 people). Our first stop within was to appreciate the Pietà statue, carved by Michelangelo, then wandering throughout taking in the grandeur of the place. Having become overwhelmed with what we had seen over the past hours, we headed off for dinner before stopping into buy Rome Passes, providing us with free public transport plus free or discounted entry into the sites of Rome, before heading back to the hostel where we collapsed in our bunks to recharge for the coming day.

Having a lot to see we started our day early beginning first at the Colosseum. Our guided tour was short but informative giving us time to wander the ruin ourselves. It was unfortunate seeing the damage that had been inflicted on the place, especially after seeing how well kept the arena in Nîmes was, but it's size was impressive. From here we visited the ruins of the Palatine and Roman Forums before taking the metro closer to our next destination, the Museum of Contemporary Art. We arrived a short walk later and spent the next few hours within the museum where we were subjected to pieces of art ranging from amazing and ingenius to weird and gross, the later mostly by an artist called Jimmie Durham whose pieces included a glass table that had been smashed by a rock as well as a canvas that had been smeared with dirt and human hair. Thankfully his work was only a small part and the rest of the display, although not always understood or awe inspiring, appeared to take a bit more talent than dumping a pile of rubbish on the ground... With the day starting to draw to an end we walked too the Villa Medici only to discover, after the long climb up the steps passed the Trinitá dei Monti, that it had closed for the day. Exhausted but not wanting to miss any chances while we were in Rome, we walked along Via Condotti, passed the shops filled with the world's top fashion labels until we crossed the river Tiber to see the Palazzo di Giustizia. With the sun now set, our stomachs full we returned to the hostel and spent the evening swapping stories and advice with the other backpackers.

Having only been able to book two nights at the hostel we spent the morning researching our coming days before heading off to the hotel we had booked. The short walk up to the 6th floor brought us to the little hotel and our delightful host which was everyones Italian mum. Back down the stairs, we hit the pavement intent on walking the streets of Rome passed seeing all the monuments on our list and a few hours later we came to the steps of the Capitoline museum, the oldest in the world. Presenting our Rome Passes (which offered free entry to the first 2 sites, which had been the Colosseum then the Contemporary Art museum) we were delighted to discover that one of the previous free entries hadn't registered so we got this one free as well. We spent the next couple of hours walking the many museum exhibits, although often the more amazing exhibit on display was the museum itself with numerous amazing frescos and sculptures surrounding us. Once again exhausted, we left the museum in search of a place to eat before heading back to do some late night laundry. Finally we dragged ourselves up the 6 flights of stairs before collapsing into our beds.

After a dreamless night we awoke refreshed to a knock on the door and were provided a simple but welcome breakfast in bed.  A short time later we were headed to the metro station, with a slight detour for some gelato, before heading on the train south where we planned on visiting the Planetarium and Astronomical Museum for the guided tour at noon. What the tourist information hadn't told us, which had been printed first in Italian then in English, was that everything would be in Italian, guided tour, interactive movie, the lot. So back onto the train we got headed onto the city. A few stops in a trio of musicians, 2 violinists and a guitarist, boarded the train and began their excellent performance which was even more impressive due to them doing it standing up on a moving train while making our train trip south far from wasted. The remainder of our last day in Rome was spent casually walking the streets before visiting the Castela Sant' Angelo which provided us with a nice mix of history, art and panaromic views of Rome. With a final walk back past St Peter's Square we headed back to our hotel for an early night, ready for the train ride to Napoli the following morning.