Day 2 – Part 1 – 10/1: The Vatican
This morning we got up early and had breakfast downstairs at the hotel before setting off to The Vatican. We heard that getting a guided tour is the best way to experience it and assigned a full half day to go there. We took a cab across the river because the metro was on strike that day, so it was kind of funny we got a roma pass. We were let out at the front, which is not the entrance, the entrance is very far away from where the cab dropped us off, but we took a couple pictures and then walked around till a tour person found us and we went with them, Tickets4Less. Not the best, certainly not the most affordable group, but we didn’t know any better.
Quick note on the cabs in Rome – out of the three cities we visited, Rome’s cabs were the most honest and affordable. We even had some really friendly drivers who spoke to us in Italian about all the things we were driving past and we couldn’t understand anything, lol. Most often, it was easy to explain to them where we wanted to go and all the ones we had went off the meter and we never had any trouble with any scams.
We waited while our tour group gathered as many people as they could, which was more than the stated maximum for the tour and our guide was knowledgeable but the information she gave seemed a little canned. When you go in, they give you radios and an ear bud so you can hear your tour guide in all the crazy crowded rooms of the Vatican museum. It can get really crowded in all the little rooms, so sticking with your group is key.
You start out in this very modern lobby and go up a big staircase and out into a courtyard where you can see the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. I took pictures of all the people standing at the top and wondered if Chris and I would make it to the top.
From there, you move into the pine cone courtyard where a large golden globe with a rip in the middle stands revolving. The artist meant for the sculpture to represent Catholicism bringing the world together, but it looked darker to me. I don’t know, what do you think?
We moved through the rooms of the Vatican museum taking lots of pictures. We saw Hadrian’s lover’s statue and a whole room full of all kinds of different crazy animal statues and a hall of beautiful geographically accurate maps of Italy from way back and a tub made of this incredibly valuable red marble and so many other things I can’t even remember them all. You could spend years in these museums and not see everything there. The whole trip through built up to the grand finale, the Sistine Chapel where our tour ended. You aren’t supposed to talk or take pictures, but everyone does both. It is so crowded and huge that no one can really tell you are doing it.
The Chapel was breathtaking, but not what I expected, of course. It really is one very very large room with the most amazing painted ceiling. I suppose I thought it would look more like a little church room than a huge, well lit, empty space.
When you leave the Sistine Chapel you are outside and dumped right in front of the line to climb St. Peter’s Basilica. You pay extra to go up, but it is worth it. Bring water! I’ve never been so thirsty in my life. I didn’t have water that whole morning and then didn’t think the climb would take too long. Also, I was afraid of having to go to the bathroom at inconvenient times. Halfway up the more than 500 stairs there is a resting point with a bathroom and fountains and a nice place to sit and get some air so I really should have drank some water!
As you can see, the view from the top is well worth the climb up the claustrophobic stairs.