Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pope: Denied

No Pope today: Out of Town...

Day 2 in Rome was dedicated to a visit to Vatican City. I decided to hire a personal guide to take us around the Vatican. It was definitely an expensive luxury. It was really great, however, as we could ask him any question, on the spot, and get an answer. There was just the 5 of us in our little group on the streets of Rome and we asked a lot of questions. The guide suggested we do the Vatican in the afternoon to try and avoid the crowds. I am not sure what the crowds would have been like in the morning, but there were sure plenty of people in the afternoon, so who knows.

We had read that Rome is wonderful in the morning and it is true. We got up early and headed for the Spanish Steps. So peaceful in the morning compared to the party atmosphere the night before. The temperature was comfortable and we headed in search of some breakfast.
We figured restaurants would be open serving breakfast, however, that did not seem to be the case. We stumbled upon a small farmers market about a block from our hotel with delicious looking fruits and vegetables.

We opted for some breakfast pastries, coffee and tea, and farmer's market fruit...

It was delicious although Sammy and Michael were still hungry and also ordered a grilled ham and cheese sandwich

Our guide met us promptly at 11:30am at our hotel and although we had decided to take the subway to the Vatican area, he talked us into walking so he could talk casually about the streets of Rome and anything interesting we might find along the way. He chose the path of the pilgrims. The streets had been constructed by Popes of the past to lead people straight to Vatican City. We meandered along shady quiet alleys taking in the sights and talking about repurposed sculpture, via del Coronari (the antique street), Rome school schedules, Roman life and just about anything we could think of.

Here we are approaching the bridge heading into Vatican City with Castel Sant' Angelo visible in the distance. This is the location of Hadrian's tomb and was also a fortress used to help protect Vatican City.

A view from the bridge of the St. Peter's Dome in the distance
Our guide took us on the route of the pilgrims oh so many years ago... not a straight path with an obvious view of St. Peter's Basilica, but the original route which enters from the side, under Bernini's marble pillars so that when you do reach the Piazza, it is a surprise, an ominous sight to behold.
St. Peter's Square with one of the 13 Roman Obelisks in the background
St. Peter's Square

On our way to the Vatican Museums, we passed back under Bernini's pillars. Here is a view of three different architectures coming together as one... Bernini's columns, The Vatican Museum and the beginning of the Pope's Quarters
Inside the Vatican Museum, there were so many amazing artifacts, gorgeous frescos, paintings, sculptures and murals, however, our time was limited and we could have spent weeks in there. Our guide stopped us periodically to explain just some of the significant elements relative to Rome's history, Baroque and Renaissance Sculptures, a room full of animal sculptures from many different centuries, gorgeous mosaic tile floors....

When we got to the original Pope's Quarters between the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel, we spent a great deal of time in discussion regarding the murals and frescos in the Pope's Quarters. So fascinating.

Below is a small section of a fresco painted by Raphael at the same time Michelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel many floors below, known as the school of Athens.
There was no photography allowed in the Sistine Chapel, but it was amazing to hear the history of Michelangelo's struggle with doing these paintings and at two different & distinct junctures in his life, first as a young man painting the ceiling and then later as an older man painting the large "blue" wall. It was wall to wall people chattering on in many different languages. Such a sight to see.

We then venture into St. Peter's Basilica. There is no way for pictures to even begin to describe it. THE largest church holding 60,000 people. Unlike Westminster Abbey, it is open with huge wide walkways. Again, inside there are thousands of pieces of art and Bernini had his hand in designing some of the most over the top pieces inside.

After our visit to Vatican City, our guide dropped us at a little restaurant to grab a late lunch and then we strolled to Piazza Navona. As it was so hot and we were tired, we decided to come back to this most amazing Piazza at a later time, but we did capture a picture of the cutest horse and buggy with the cutest little hat.
Back at our hotel, yay! Air Conditioning, yay!
Everyone congregates in our room to relax and use the wifi...

Another great day....

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