What. A. Day. We got up to our room service breakfast, which was included in our hotel price. I had ordered hot chocolate and Mallory had ordered coffee. We also each had a funny tasting OJ. For food we had prepackaged croissants, shortbread cookies, and round toast bread things. I don’t know. I had a croissant, half the OJ, and two sips of hot (lukewarm) chocolate and called it good.
We had no hot water last night or this morning, which I didn’t realize was a real problem until I tried to take a shower. Mallory went down to ask and we found out it had went out last night (which is why I had to wash my face in cold water) and was still being fixed. So I had a cold shower. We then went to the train station to buy our Rome Passes, which are good for a free admission (we’ll use it tomorrow at the Colosseum), free public transportation, and other concessions that we won’t use. Then we went to Vatican City for the day.
We started at the Vatican Museums. Wow. We spent 4.5 hours there! Our tickets were for noon and we left as it was closing at 4:30. There was tons of art. I think we spent too long on ancient Roman busts and statues. But it was fun because some had been added to during restoration, some had other people’s heads on the busts, and some were done up like plaster of Paris (seriously, like an arm added that you could tell was just muddled together, different colored marble stuck on someone’s cheek, etc.). But then some hadn’t been “fixed” at all. One was missing a nose and I took a photo of it just so I could caption it “I’ve got your nose, I’ve got your nose!” I don’t know. It was the first thing that popped into my head when I saw it!
Then we moved into the building more and got to see some other statues, more famous ones, and some seriously huge bathtubs. I said one looked like a giant bathtub before reading the information on it and, yep, it was the Pharaoh’s bathtub! There were also some very cool rooms, with awesome ceilings! Mallory commented that she was taking a lot of ceiling photos and I said, join club! Some of the rooms were called Raphael’s rooms because he painted all of the frescoes. They were very beautiful.
We also saw some of the most stunning tapestries, which the info said were the Vatican’s 12 most valuable tapestries. They were gorgeous and had such intricate detail! We didn’t see as much of them as we had wanted, because we were trying to stay ahead of a tour group, which caught up to us in the next room, the map room, and turned out it was like 25 tours that came streaming by us. It was crazy.
I kept getting annoyed that we weren’t at the Sistine Chapel yet because the signs kept changing. It would say there were two things until the Chapel and then you would go into the next room and the sign would say 4 more things before the Chapel. So I was getting antsy. We pretty much blew by the “Contemporary Art” section because, really? Modern art? No thanks.
So. The Sistine Chapel. Wow. So incredible. I just cannot even fathom painting something like that. The whole place is amazing, but the ceiling is just, wow. I just don’t have words. And I just read that Michelangelo did not, contrary to popular belief, paint laying down; he painted standing up. Yikes. Talk about a crick in his neck. The bigger ceiling panels were easy to decipher, at least I think: God throwing Lucifer out of Heaven, the famous Creation of Man, the Fall of Man, and the Flood. But the 5 smaller ones that are in between the larger ones were more difficult. But it was just stunning. Another one of those, pinch me, I can’t believe I’m here type of things.
The paintings that go around the room on the walls were interesting as well. I didn’t know that they depicted the life of Jesus and the life of Moses, but I was able to identify most of the happenings in the ones that I paid attention to. I could’ve sat in there for hours. I don’t know how to take all of that in. It felt impossible. And I was disappointed that the staff had to keep yelling at people “no photos!” Seriously, it’s posted everywhere. And in pictures in case you can’t read. But apparently some people can’t read pictures either.
We had a quick stop in the bookstore so I could get some postcards of the Sistine Chapel before making our way to St. Peter’s Basilica and Square. I didn’t know how long it would take us to go through the Basilica, so we didn’t get photos of the square during daylight. Of course, it turned out we would’ve had time, but it was more important to me to get inside the church as soon as possible. We had less than 2 hours before closing and I just didn’t know what to expect in there.
Vastness. That’s what I should’ve expected. I have no other words for it. It is tall, cavernous, but so beautiful. Not gonna lie, got a little choked up in here. The history and the fact that we were standing above Peter’s grave was just a lot to take in (I don’t know what I will do when I finally make it to Israel). Not to mention the Popes entombed here. I first saw JPII’s. People were very reverent there, even kneeling before his tomb. But then there were three other pope’s whose remains are on display. The first one we saw, Mallory saw it and pointed it out, was a pope in his garb, laying in a glass coffin essentially. And he was very white and his skin looked almost normal but not quite. It was creepy. I’ve now looked it up and he died in 1963 and was placed in a normal coffin in the Basilica. 38 years later they opened it up and his body was still intact, causing many Italians to declare it a miracle. The pope had been embalmed, but a doctor of anatomy at a Catholic university said that he injected the pope with a “special liquid” to preserve human remains that was invented in Switzerland. Well, it worked!
It was interesting because Mass was being said way up at the front of the church, so we were not allowed up there (if visitors are ever allowed up there). But we were able to see the high altar and St. Peter’s Baldachin, the canopy that covers the altar. It symbolically marks the place of St. Peter’s tomb. It was just so very cool. This is another place that I could’ve stayed for hours. Just sat and taken everything in. The soaring marble columns, the gold vaulted ceilings, the various statues. Just so incredible. It wasn’t hard to believe that it took 120 years to complete! I was just so overwhelmed with history today. Which is why I was looking forward to Rome! Glad I will have some downtime on the Greek Islands next week before tackling Athens!
We got dinner at a little place on our way back to the metro. It was great, but it was food! I got a “sampler platter” of pasta! A little piece of lasagna, a couple ravioilis, and small bit of spaghetti! And then we set out in search of gelato on our way home. Of course when you’re looking for it, they’re nowhere to be found, but when you don’t want them, gelaterias are around every corner! We finally f found one near our metro stop by our hotel. It wasn’t great, but I wanted something sweet. I promised Mallory we would find a better one!