This morning we got up a bit earlier than we had been as we had to be on the bus by 7:30am. Rome traffic can be something of a zoo. Not to mention I can’t even imagine trying to drive in it, but we had an 8:30am appointment at the Vatican, so we didn’t want to be late. We headed off and met our guide Francisco who gave us a very informative tour of the Vatican museum, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica.
We started with the museum. Francisco led us out to a beautiful courtyard where he could tell us all about Michelangelo’s work. There is no talking in the Sistine Chapel, so the guides have to talk about it before you enter. The work was amazing and what is even more amazing about the ceiling is that was his first painting ever. He had worked mostly with other medium for art, carving, etc. The ceiling represents his impression of Genesis. The sides of the chapel were actually painted when the chapel opened originally as a private chapel for the Pope and I’ll have to look up when I get home who painted those. (Brain overload at this point!) Then 25+ years later he returned and painted the front with the last judgment. Apparently the lack of clothing on the virgin Mary and Jesus was quite scandalously at the time, but no one was willing to tell Michelangelo he had to change it. He did whatever he wanted. So, after his death clothing was added later. We weren’t allowed to take photos in the chapel either because a Japanese television station actually owns the copyright until 2020. This was the trade off for them paying for the complete cleaning of the room that took almost 18 years. During this process they discovered the images were much brighter than anyone amazing.
Following his talk, we walked through the Vatican to the chapel. Along the way we saw beautiful pieces of Roman art/sculpture. An entire room of amazing hand-made tapestries, and finally to the chapel. It was breathtaking. As Francisco said, he was a genius!
From the Chapel we headed out into St. Peter’s Basilica. This is a beautiful church and the largest Catholic Church in the world (by decree of the Pope!). It is built on the burial place of St. Peter who is buried under the church along with many other Popes. Apparently that is very hard to get to them as they only allow 100 down to the crypt a day. However, there are many buried on the church level as well such as John Paul II. There was amazing art work, a wedding going on, and it was full of people. From there, we headed out to St. Peter’s Square. We met at the obelisk which was taken from Egypt and marks the place where St. Peter was killed. We found out the light we saw on in the apartment of the Pope was his dining room and so meant he was just up and working or eating or meeting!
From there it was time for lunch and shopping. We found some more treasures and had a nice relaxing lunch. It was good to have some extra free time.
After lunch, there were options. Many of us went to see the Catacombs, while others went off to do their own thing. I opted for the catacombs. They were just amazing to think hundreds of years ago this was how the Christians were laid to rest. There were 4 levels underground. Many Popes and other important people as well as countless slaves, etc. were buried in this particular catacomb. At the time of its rediscovery in the 1800s, 90% of them had been broken into….assuming the people were buried with treasures, which of course was not the case. The Pope’s and other important people were moved to other places and 90% of the tombs are now empty. There are fragments of the marble or stones that covered them, so you can figure out some of names and what they did, but most have been ruined. This was another place we couldn’t take pictures.
From here, we headed the Pantheon. This is the oldest structure left in Rome. We saw it the other night, but we didn’t have time to go inside. So, we headed inside where we say the graves of the first Kings of Rome as well as the artist Raphael. Then we spent a little more time shopping, wandering around, and just taking in the city. It was amazing. Dinner was down a little road where we got some pizza, some appetizer (that I admit I didn’t know what they were and didn’t try) and ended with our last bit of gelato. Our leader Jim had made our tour guide Anna a beautiful neckless on a domino and we all signed a card of thanks for leading us on. It was a wonderful way to end the evening.
Back to the hotel, packing up (whew….it all fit!), and then we chatted in the lobby for a while. Went to bed as we had to be up early for the drive to the airport. We went through a ton of security lines only to find our plane was delayed an hour or so, which means we’ll be back to Indy later than we thought. But, it was an amazing trip. I loved every second of if….wonder where we might go next???
Waiting to board the last flight home (just had a Burger King cheeseburger! Yum!). No time to get pictures in, so will add those maybe tomorrow!