Our List of Best Little Known Places
This is a list of things we really enjoyed that were not part of the major tourist attractions or had smaller crowds because it was right there all along, but no one seemed to look at and read the signs to see the additional features at a major site.
Crypts of the Popes
On the right side of the Basilica, on the outside is the access to the crypts of the Popes. The crowds are much fewer than inside the main basilica, and it is kept very quiet. While some are very ornate, the crypt for Pope John Paul II is very simple and moves many of the visitors to tears.
The Dome of St. Peter's Basilica
While visiting St. Peter's Basilica with thousands and thousands of others, there are a few places you can go to that fewer people seem to know about. Tickets can be purchased on the right side of the Basilica for access to the Dome and Roof of the Basilica. It is a slow line going up, and the passageway is thin. It is very exposed when looking down from the dome. it is extremely Impressive
Vatican Garden Tour
We got a scrap of paper from the offices at the Vatican with the following information about booking a Two Hour Garden Tour: To reserve, you can reserve only by fax at 06-6988-4019. The fax requires the following information: Specify that you are requesting a Tour of the Gardens, The Number of People, Names of All Participants, Return Fax Number for Confirmation. Now I am going to take a wild guess and say that you have to tell them when you are going to be available to do this tour, though the paper they gave me does not actually indicate this, but what do I know.
We saw some people with a tour guide go through a glass sliding door and head down below the crypts. We went to the information office to ask what was going on. Unfortunately you had to reserve for this tour months in advance. We would have to try this on our next visit which we did do. The Scavi Tour was most impressive thing we did in Italy, this tour dive down under the Basilicas to an excavated Necropolis that is two thousand years old. Visiting this site is a *privilege* and can be requested months in advance of your visit.
When in Rome
The Pharmacy of Santa Maria Novella
A friend of mine told me to be sure to visit Hannibal Lecter's favorite pharmacy while in Florence. She sends all her friends who visit Italy to this site. Since 1612, on Via della Scala, 16, in Florence, this shop is both beautiful in structure and in products. It was a close distance from the train station, and our first stop when we went to Florence. It is in some tour books, and many people do visit this place, but it is far less crowded than seeing the Statue of David.
Secret Tour of Doge's Palace
We discovered this one when we saw a door with a tiny sign on it saying something like "Access for Secret Tour only". We went to the ticket office and found out you could sign up for a tour that brings you into the back rooms of the Doge's Palace and a guide tells the story of Casanova along with the history of the judicial system of the time. Financially it works out best if you buy a ticket for a morning tour and then visit the Palace/Museum for the rest of the day.