Rome. Italy

Vatican Museum & Sistine Chapel

On the road again. Today Richard needed to rest his bus according to the EU transportation laws, so Giacomo drove us to Rome. Some hawks were flying beside us on our way to Rome. At least we were being watched over. We dropped our bags and were lucky enough to take the same bus to the Vatican museum. We got into the museum, and this was the most crowded place we have seen on the tour yet. Wall to wall people. It was hot, and I can only imagine what it’s like in the summer. We met our local guide, who was so passionate about art and history.

We could tell we were getting closer to the entrance to the Sistine Chapel, as everyone was crowding together, and I had a good idea what a sardine feels like. Finally, we entered the chapel, gazed to the ceiling and it was amazing. I can’t imagine being handed a project like this: 43 feet by 130 feet long and 44 feet in the air. Michelangelo had to build his own scaffolding and stood painting for 4 years.

The project is a cornerstone work of High Renaissance art. Michelangelo was commissioned to paint the 12 Apostles, but he negotiated to paint biblical scenes instead. He painted 9 main scenes from the book of Genesis, the most famous being Creation of Man, which is on par with Leonardo da Vinci’s, Mona Lisa.

Overall, he painted 343 figures on the ceiling including 12 Old Testament prophets, 5 Sibyls (fortune tellers), the ancestors of Christ, the Ignudi and the shields. Michelangelo also incorporated the illusion of architecture to go with the existing architectural features in the chapel. This was all done as Fresco paintings, paint over damp plaster.

St. Peter’s Basilica

We took the group path to St. Peter’s basilica and passed the holy doors that are only open every 25 years. The group entered the basilica and it brought tears to my eyes to see it in person. Seeing the crepuscular rays coming down from the windows along with all the beautiful art and architecture just made it feel like a holy place. As a group, we went to Michelangelo’s Pietà in one of the chapels nearby. It is made of Carrara marble. How young Mary looks in this sculpture has been host to debate. The Pietà is behind bullet-proof glass because someone took a hammer to it in 1972.

We split up as a group and explored. I prayed at St. John Paul the Great’s tomb, saw the entrance to the grotto, and went to confession. After confession, part of the roped-off area was opened, and I was able to get up close and personal with the Throne of St. Peter’s. I wanted to just stay here and see more and climb to the top of the dome. But the group was meeting in the square soon, and it was time to go.

The Heart of rome

We went to supper together and took an evening tour of the squares and fountains. It was a variation of Rick’s “Heart of Rome” walk. We saw Piazza Navona, where I thought I had broke my camera — it took a while to sort out, but it was fine. Dad kindly bought us some Gelato. We saw the Four Rivers fountain by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. There were so many people selling toys who kept coming up to us. Together with my pick pocket paranoia, doing night photos here didn’t seem wise.

Then off to the Pantheon. It was closed, but impressive. We then walked to Trevi Fountain. It was a quick stop there, and I threw my coins in. We decided as a group to walk back to the hotel. We conquered one of the hills of Rome in the process.

The Four Rivers fountain in Piazza Navona
The Pantheon
How many tour members does it take go around the Pantheon pillars?
Trevi Fountain


You mean The Flavian Amphitheater

Today we were out to conquer ancient Roma. However, everyone was looking tired at breakfast from a long day yesterday. We took the Metro to the largest Amphitheater ever built. It’s an understatement to say it was really big. We met our local guide, Alessandra, and she gave us good background on ancient times. I kept thinking about the movie Gladiator and what it would have been like to fight in the arena.

Roman Forum

I seem to be at a loss on the Roman Forum. I do love history and exploring, but the forum didn't do much for me. I spent more time researching many of the other places for our trip. I think spending more time wandering with an audio guide might have been more interesting.


Temple of the gods

To conclude our group tour for the day, we finished off with the Pantheon. It used to be the temple for all of the gods and is now a Catholic church dedicated to Mary. That shaft of light coming in from the oculus is the only source of light. The artist Raphael is buried here.

After the group tour, I thought it would be good to see the city from on high. The Victor Emmanuel Monument had an elevator that would take you to the top. So we walked back there and found our way up. It was interesting to see the sights that we thought were so large were dwarfed by the city itself. It was past time to eat, so we enjoyed a big midday meal.

We made our way to St. Peter in Chains church to see another Michelangelo statue… this one was of Moses. This statue is a bit strange as Moses is depicted with horns. This comes from an older translation of the Bible where they mistranslated “shining” or “rays of light” as “horns”. I was surprised to see how many people were there to see it.

We went back to the hotel so Dad could have some down time. I was pretty tired too, but a short distance away from our hotel held another famous sculpture. So off I went. At school and at church we have had some lively talks about the “Ecstasy of Saint Teresa”. It was such a beautiful sculpture that glowed. On the way back, I think I escaped a pick pocket who was trying to get me to sign a petition. He got pretty mad at me. I went in search of trinkets and was approached by more people trying to sell me things.

Moses by Michelangelo
Ecstasy of Saint Teresa by Bernini
Time to relax and enjoy the Ligurian sea in the