Does culture, history, turquoise sea and amazing food sound like an ideal combination? If yes, Southern Italy won’t disappoint you! My long weekend in Southern Italy started with a two-night stay in Naples. In advance, I had a bit of mixed feelings based on what […]
March to April is the best time to visit Lapland because the darkness and freezing temperatures of the deepest winter are over and the sun is often pampering the winter wonderland’s visitors. In April the days are long already – if you are lucky the […]
Vatican definitely deserves one day on your trip to Rome. I only had a few days to prepare for my trip but just enough to do a bit upfront research and all the reviews on Vatican warned about the massively long lines especially on weekends. However, it is possible to avoid the long wait if you sign up for a tour. Since my visit was such a short one I decided to rather invest a bit extra to get the most out of my time in Vatican. I signed up for the early morning tour with What a life tours based on their excellent reviews on Tripadvisor. Before you go to Vatican it’s a good idea to check in advance the guidelines on clothing and other useful information for visitors.
Top 5 highlights:
- Early morning walk from Rome to Vatican
- Vatican museums and the Sistine Chapel
- St. Peter’s church – and who was Queen Christina of Sweden
- St. Peter’s dome and grottos
- Sending postcards from the Vatican post office
1. Early morning walk from Rome to Vatican
It was a wonderful, almost magical experience to walk through the quiet Saturday early morning streets and cross the bridge to Vatican and see St. Peter’s church on the way to the meeting point. The tour started at 7.10 am from the What a life tours office and it turned out that today it was just 3 of us participating so we were ready for a real private tour!
2. Vatican museums and the Sistine Chapel
At 8 am we were among the first to enter the Vatican museums (regular opening time is at 9 am) and we got to see a lot and take photos without any crowds – an impressive experience. Our guide Marcello made sure the 3,5 hour tour went quickly while learning fascinating facts and historical insights in a fun and relaxed way.
3. St. Peter’s Basilica and grottos – and who was Queen Christina of Sweden
We had the luxury of moving straight from the Vatican museums to St. Peter’s Basilica without any waiting. Surprisingly there was a church service going on and it was an amazing experience to hear the organs played and see the cardinals.
What deeply touched me was the amazing story of Queen Christina of Sweden (and my home country Finland as it was part of Sweden at the time!), the first female to be buried in the Vatican grottos and have her memorial in the St. Peter’s Basilica.
4. St. Peter’s dome
Once you’ve explored the ground floor and the grottos in the basement and if you still have the energy I strongly recommend to climb up to the Dome. It is 320 steps with elevator or 551 steps via the stairs. Only cash is accepted for the entrance fee (8 euros for the steps and 10 euros for the access via the elevator). I took the stairs as it was a great way to get exercise and in the cold and rainy weather it was a good way to warm up – I can imagine that in the summer it could be really hot though! The views of the dome from the ceiling level are amazing and fully worth the effort.
From there you can continue still further up (no elevator option anymore and beware that the stairway gets very narrow) all the way to the top where you can enjoy fantastic views over the Vatican and Rome – even in rain it was worthwhile.
On the way back, at the dome level there’s a souvenir shop operated by the nuns and I found it much more pleasant than the packed one downstairs. You can buy postcards and stamps here and there’s a small café next to it where you can (if lucky to get a table) sit down to write the cards. I would recommend buying only water or soda unless you’re dying of coffee craving – the coffee was served in a plastic disposable cup!
5. Sending postcards from the Vatican post office
The Vatican Post Office is located to the right on the way out from St. Peter’s and it’s a great opportunity to remember your loved ones by sending them a postcard stamped in the Vatican (it’s not every day you get one of those, right?). I was done with the visit by around 1.30 pm, so the trip to Vatican took in total about 5 hours – still plenty of afternoon left to find a nice restaurant outside of Vatican and see more sights in Rome.
Not everyone minds the lines and if you’re really well-equipped with patience you could save considerably if visiting Vatican the last Sunday of the month when it’s free entrance to the Vatican museums! If after visiting the world’s smallest country you would be looking for ideas on where to go next in Europe, here’s a fun quiz to help you find the next stop 🙂
Pin for later:
Back in school I loved history and felt intrigued by the ancient Egypt, Greek and Roman cultures. As long as I remember, I’ve had visiting Rome in my travel goals and finally it was time to make it happen. Traveling to Rome in the beginning […]
It was Easter holiday when we packed our skiing gear and set off for my daughter’s first skiing holiday. Last year I spent Easter in Finnish Lapland for the first time in my life and it was an amazing experience to be surrounded with snow, yet enjoy sunshine late till the evening and to top it all off, on our last night I could see the northern lights for the first time in my life! I was convinced that I should be back.
We were a bit worried if we’d find enough snow in Salla as Easter was quite late this year, after mid-April. Already at approaching our destination, our worries were gone: there was lots and lots of snow and more was falling down from the sky.
Salla is a less popular than many other places in Finnish Lapland, maybe because it’s not so easy to access it without a car. The closest airports are Kuusamo and Rovaniemi, from where it’s possible to take a bus. However, it is about 10 kilometers from Sallatunturi village to the nearest grocery store, and there’s only a few restaurants, so it would not be the most convenient solution to travel there without a car.
Top 5 tips to Salla
- Peacefulness and lots of space
- Cross-country skiing in pristine winter wilderness
- Seeing reindeer and husky dogs
- Downhill skiing slopes close to the cabins
- Ice swimming with the locals
1. Peacefulness and lots of space
We found the best part about Salla to be its peacefulness. It is about as far from crowds as you can get with still having some services around. Easter is probably the busiest time of the year yet when I went cross-country skiing in around 9am in the mornings I was the first person on the tracks and met only a few persons over a couple of hours.
The quietness in the wide wilderness is amazing – you really feel close to nature and appreciate the opportunity to exchange a few words with people you do come across. People tend to be very friendly and helpful to share tips.
2. Cross-country skiing in pristine winter wilderness
Salla has a good range of ski tracks that are well maintained. My favorite was the ~22km track across Ruuhitunturi. The climb is reasonable and at the top there’s a cafe to buy some refreshments and re-gain energy with hand-made fresh donuts.
3. Seeing reindeer and husky dogs
The way down towards the Reindeerpark (Poropuisto) is really nice. The kids enjoyed the shorter tracks to the Reindeer park and meeting Rudolf and his friends as well as the close encounter with husky dogs. Next time we’ll need to go on a husky or reindeer ride.
4. Downhill skiing slopes close to the cabins
The downhill skiing slopes were located right next to the Holiday Club cabins where we were staying which was very convenient. On the down side, the lifts are quite basic, mainly anchor lifts and some telescope lifts – no nice gondolas or chair lifts. The front slope is quite steep and the easier blue slopes are at the back on the east and north side, which makes it more challenging for beginners. However, my 7-year-old was skiing for the second time in her life and after practicing for a while in the kids slope we were ready to go to the bigger slopes on the east side.
It was amazing to see the little one’s progress – soon I was barely keeping up with her speed! Just as important as the skiing are the breaks and the log restaurant ‘Keloravintola‘ by the front slopes was a nice cozy place to have lunch and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate.
5. Ice swimming with the locals
From my previous visit to Salla a couple of years back I still remember the unforgettable winter swimming experience with Sallan Latu arctic swimmers (Jäämeren uimarit). Highly recommend to try it if you’re up for an authentic wood sauna and dip in the icy lake experience with locals.
It was my second time to visit Corralejo, Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands. The weather was quite windy which seems to be typical, so be sure to bring also warm clothes in addition to sunscreen if traveling there. However, I found the climate to be […]