Well, we did not waste any time getting to the big stuff here in Rome. As we sat in our place last night doing some planning for our time here, we thought we should just do the Vatican Museums right away. We had been told that the way to go for this was to take a guided tour. The benefits of a tour are that you get to cut in line in front of those just going on their own and you have an informed and experienced guide to tell you where to go and what to look at and add some background info. to what you are seeing. We had gotten a recommendation for “Walks in Italy” so we got on line and signed up. We had also heard the afternoons were less crowded than the mornings so we decided on the tour beginning at 1:30pm.
We had a quiet morning exploring around our new neighborhood and found a terrific little coffee and pastry shop less than a block away and our cafe lattes and Jack’s cream croissant only came to 3 euros total. We’ll be back!
One unusual occurrence was that we heard a series of what sounded like church bells right by our building at 7:45 am. I thought that was an odd time to ring church bells. I found out why when we left for coffee and saw what our next door building was.
This is the elementary school next door! I guess we not need to set an alarm during the week since the bells will be ringing at 7:45. 🙂
After a little lunch in our apartment, we took off to do our tour. Vatican City is about two miles from our place so we opted to go with a cab so we weren’t tired when we got there and we didn’t want to figure out the busses when we had a set time to meet. We were put in a group with about 15 people and a very nice and competent guide, Marta, who had been doing this for about 8 years. We were given an earpiece so we could hear her even with the sometimes loud crowd noise.
The tour lasted 3 1/2 hours and Marta talked almost every moment of it. Luckily she had a nice voice to listen to and she was full of really interesting information about what we were seeing. They don’t call it the Vatican Museums for nothing, there are several museums in a huge complex and honestly I don’t know how people manage without a guide. We went through paintings, statuary, frescoes, mosaics, and St. Peter’s Basilica as well as the Sistine Chapel (no photos allowed in the Sistine).
We walked the whole time with no stops, and there was no place to sit in any of the areas for viewing. There are so many people that go through there (20,000 per day) that they clearly don’t want anyone getting comfortable, they just keep you moving. Today was a pretty warm day in Rome, it was in the low 80’s and only one gallery, the tapestries had air conditioning. Marta said that through August it had been as hot as the low 100’s in Rome and with the summer crowds, it was almost unbearable. I was about at my limit heat-wise today so I was glad it wasn’t August.
I took photos the entire tour and there is no way to post them all so I’ll just put a sampling here.
Beautiful mosaic floor from the 1400’s.
Another example of mosaic work.
This is the hall of maps. It is lined with various maps of Italy. The ceiling is paintings. This gallery was completed in two years and dates to the 1700’s.
St. Peter’s Basilica.
St. Peter’s is really visually stunning. It is baroque style and just so over the top in every way that it is jaw dropping. I prefer a simpler, more modest style in my ancient churches but it is hard not to appreciate the work that went into making this place. When you consider that it was built from 1506 to 1626, it is a pretty impressive feat of engineering particularly since it remains the largest church in the world.
The Sistine chapel was crazily beautiful, so sorry I could not take any pictures in there. The colors are amazing since the restoration and we learned some fun facts such as that there was an important man of the time making a fuss about how Michelangelo always painted nudes and he didn’t like it. Michelangelo’s response? He put his face on the figure of Minos from Dante’s underworld in the “The Last Judgement”, the full wall fresco behind the altar, and his figure is nude and there is a snake biting his penis.