Our second day in Rome was for the Vatican City.
I made reservations for the Vatican Museums two months in advanced, it is recommended to reserve in advanced; otherwise, you will be waiting in line for a long time.
The Vactican Museums are vast, to say the least. The Vatican Museums originated as a group of sculptures collected by Pope Julius II (1503-1513). As the decades passed, more popes added to the already impressive collection of diverse artworks owned and displayed by the Vatican. Today, there are thirteen museums in the Vatican Museum complex. The building complex is worth a visit in itself as all rooms and hallways are lavishly decorated with marble and frescoes.
The view of St. Peter’s dome from the museum.
Yay! More scaffolding! 😉
Randy said that this was one bust-y room! Haha! He is so adorkable!
View of the Vatican city and Rome.
The famous statue of Laocoön and His Sons also called the Laocoön Group, has been one of the most famous ancient sculptures ever since it was excavated in Rome in 1506 and placed on public display in the Vatican. Finding this statue was a defining moment in art history. Michelangelo and his protege/friend Guilio Romano where two of the first people to see the statue and it was one of the defining influences of Michelangelo’s life.
The circumference of this basin is 13 meters. Historians believe that this basin had once embellished one of the large public spaces of imperial Rome.
There in the distance, the Vatican Observatory, one of the oldest astronomical research institutions in the world! I was in nerd heaven!
There are four rooms known as the Stanze of Raphael, once the residence of Pope Julius II, feature the works of Raphael and his assistants.
The most famous fresco in these rooms is the “School of Athens”, a masterwork of perspective painting.
After the Raphael rooms, you are then lead to the most anticipated room of all the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel!
My first thought when we entered the chapel was, “This is it? It is so much smaller than I imagined!” But it was still amazing.
The chapel is long, skinny, poorly lit and packed full of people. We fought our way to the center of the room and started our Rick Steves audio tour.
No pictures are allowed of the chapel and they are Nazis about it! There are cameras located throughout the chapel watching for tourists taking photos. If they catch you sneaking in a photo, uniformed officers come to you and watch you delete pictures of the chapel. If you refuse to cooperate, you will get a one way ticket out of the Vatican city! One italian was escorted off the premises screaming at the officers in italian. That was exciting! 😉
Standing in the middle of the chapel; my shoulders and back touching strangers; it was easy to forget where I was as a feeling of quiet respect wash over me. Standing here you know that you are standing in a place of unquestionable significance.
I leaned my head back and lost myself in the swirls of color. Michaelangelo painted this chapel between 1508 and 1512 under the orders from the Pope to tell the story of the “creation, downfall and salvation of humankind.”
After spending over an hour standing still ,on marble flooring with our heads leaned back as far as they could go; we were sore and exhausted. So we made our way to the exit of the museums.
The way out is by this beautiful staircase. The Vatican commissioned Giuseppe Momo to create this staircase.
The Spiral Staircase, also called the Momo Staircase, is made up of two wrought iron stairways – one going up, one going down – that curve in a double helix. Ironically it was created in a time before the double helix became a symbol for science, DNA and subsequently, all human life.
We had lunch after this tour in a small, hole in the wall pizzeria. After lunch we started towards St. Pete’s Square. We noticed that as we made our way to the square that the crowds were getting heavier. Little did we know what was awaiting for us at the square.
The square was packed full of people of all ages. Tour buses, policemen, camera crews, barricades – all of this with people pushing and tugging and yelling in Italian.
We finally made our way up to a barricade to get a glimpse of St. Peter’s basilica.
And we saw a bride.
I told Randy that this didn’t seem like a normal day for the Vatican. He didn’t believe me at first until he zoomed in with his camera and he saw a podium, lights and large TVs. We were tired, hot and nervous with all the people around us. So we left the Vatican City planning on returning the next day.
Little did we know, two hours after we left the Vatican City, the Pope came out and gave a speech. It would have been really neat to hear it and see it, but there was no way we would have lasted another 2 hours waiting for the pope in that blazing sun. We were just too exhausted.
We had intentions on returning to the Vatican City to properly see St. Peter’s basilica. But we just never made it back.
For next time we return to Rome, (since we threw coins into the Trevi Fountain), I would like to tour St Peter’s basilica and climb to the top of the dome. Also, I would love to get a private tour of the Sistine Chapel. I think it would be worth every penny to see the chapel again after-hours.
After a quick rest we explored Rome by night. This city is beautiful at night. It is a total different atmosphere at night. It feels calmer and tranquil. People leisurely walk around the city, take their time eating dinner and drinking wine and watch the world go by.
For dinner we stopped by a restaurant that Rick Steves went to in his show called, Il Gabriello. It was a neat place. The entrance is at street level, but you climbed down some stairs to get to the restaurant, just like a wine cellar.
Our appetizer was mozzarella cheese. We were addicted to this stuff! The best cheese ever!
We each ordered filet mignon, cooked, of course! It had peppercorns, arugula, shaved cheese and drizzled with balsamic. It was delicious!
For dessert we had strawberries and cream crepes. Man, they were out of this world! My mouth is watering just thinking about them!
After dinner, we joined the crowds strolling around Rome. Here is the Trevi Fountain at night.
And the Pantheon.
It was so romantic walking around the city at night, with all the beautiful fountains and buildings all lit up and people playing music. *sigh* I miss it already!