Prepare yourselves for a mini history lesson and a massive photo dump!!
We had a very early small group tour of the Vatican this morning. We had to be there at 8:30 and the teenagers were not pleased.
The Vatican is surrounded by a wall except for the entrance to St. Peter’s Square and through the Vatican museums. It provided a nice bit of shade this morning as we waited in the security line to enter. You can only enter the Vatican with a ticket to the museum, for mass or, if you live in Italy and have a prescription! Our tour guide said that the pharmacy in the Vatican is much, much cheaper so lots of people go there to have their medicines filled! The Vatican Museum is the 3rd largest in the world behind the Louvre and The Met. The first three galleries we walked through were crowded, but the artwork was beautiful. The building that houses the museum is the old Papal palace, so the building itself is a work of art. This particular gallery was 120 meters long…
This isn’t a good view of the tapestry, but I was trying to get a picture of just how large some of them are. This particular one took 9 years to complete. Just for reference, the Roman Colosseum took 9 years to build.
There are thousands of statues as well. Some are completely naked and some are wearing fig leaves. At some point one of the Popes decided there was too much “naked” and ordered that they be covered with the fig leaves. Many of the statues were damaged when this was done and now they cannot be removed.
Next was the old papal apartment. Even the floors and shutters are beautiful….
Then she took us into the rooms painted by Raffella. I have never been so claustrophobic in all my life. They just kept packing people in whether there was room or not. It was 7000 degrees and everyone was sweaty and stinky…
I’m certain we were in violation of every fire code ever. I very nearly lost it. Thankfully after that it was time for the Sistine Chapel. This is the stairway up to the chapel entrance…
You aren’t supposed to take any pictures inside the Sistine Chapel. The reason has absolutely nothing to do with art preservation, but with money. The paintings are copyrighted. When you enter there are guards everywhere checking your attire, no shorts, no exposed knees or shoulders, telling you where to stand, and loudly shushing everyone, and then occasionally yelling, “NO PICTURES!” I snuck one of the massive painting at the alter, Last Judgement and Scott took a selfie with the ceiling.
It’s gorgeous. The chapel is small, as it was designed to be the private chapel of the Pope. What I thought was really cool was simply standing in the room where conclave happens. When they choose a new pope they literally lock the College of Cardinals in the chapel until a new pope is chosen.
After the Sistine Chapel we went outside into St. Peter’s Square. We saw the balcony where the Pope blesses the masses. The Vatican is closed to tourists tomorrow as it is the Feast of St. Peter and Paul, so the square was set up for that.
Then, we entered the largest basilica in the world. It takes your breath away…
St. Peter is buried beneath that large canopy structure. Our tour guide explained how Peter had been persecuted and crucified upside down in this area and then buried. Constantine then had the basilica built over his burial place. In the late 60’s they excavated the underground crypt and discovered a very low wall with the words “Here lies Peter” on it and bones nearby. Scientists proved the bones to be that of a man in his 70’s or 80’s, who lived during the time of Christ and ultimately ruled that they were indeed the bones of Simon Peter. Catholics believe that Jesus ordained Peter in Matthew when he called on him to “build my church upon this rock.” Making him the first bishop or leader of the Christian church. Every pope since has been a successor of Peter.
This is the tomb of St. Pius X.
And, this is Michelangelo’s sculpture Pieta. It is the only sculpture he ever signed as he was a fairly young and unknown artist when it was commissioned.
It now sits behind bullet proof glass because in 1972 some deranged geologist came into the basilica with a hammer and started screaming and hitting Mary. It was severely damaged and had to be restored.
I absolutely LOVED visiting Vatican City and would go back again in a heartbeat….in October or April. When it’s cooler and there are fewer people!
After our tour and some wandering around in St. Peter’s Square we took a taxi back to our hotel so the guys could put on some shorts. Then, we walked to the restaurant where we had dinner last night for some lunch! Vito, the owner, recognized us immediately and so happy we came back. He kept bringing us plates of things for us to try. I didn’t get a pic until we had eaten most of it, but the best thing we tried was homemade cheese and traditional hard salami. The cheese had some type of honey and marmalade on the top with toasted walnuts. Amazing.
After a huge lunch and all that wonderful pasta plus the heat and massive crowds that morning we were done! Scott took this as we were waiting for the check!
We went back to the hotel and all took a long nap! About 6:00, once it was cooler, we headed back out. Our first stop was the Spanish Steps…
Then on to the Trevi Fountain!
Scott and Thomas are really good about finding good spots to take pictures without the massive sea of humanity, but just so you can see how crowded spots like this are…
We didn’t even attempt to walk down into all that! Right across from the Trevi Fountain we found the best gelato place yet…and believe me we’ve tried lots of them!
After the gelato, and possibly some shoe shopping for new Birkenstocks, we decided we needed some real food. Everyone was missing home so we had Cokes, pizza and french fries at a sidewalk cafe!
We walked through an open area that was filled with artists. This guy was just starting on a painting using spray paint so we stopped to watch. We ended up watching him paint the entire thing. All five of us were fascinated by how he painted. As soon as he was done, Thomas stepped up to him and bought the painting!
Those are the unexpected moments that I love most about traveling! We slowly made our way over to the Pantheon. This is the best preserved and only structure of Ancient Rome still in use. It was built between 118-128 AD. It was built as a Roman Temple and today is a Catholic Church.
Just chatting about one of the oldest buildings in Rome….
Sweet sisters enjoying the beautiful Rome evening….
We had a fantastic day in Rome. The history here is just crazy. Tomorrow we are seeing the Colosseum. I can’t believe tomorrow is our last day in Europe! This has been the most amazing month!!