Journal entry from Rome Trip – Nov. 7, 2017
Today was Vatican day! And that pretty much did take the entire day. We left after breakfast (left the apartment around 9:25) and by the time we got back home, it was dark.
We decided to take the metro to Vatican City. It’s the underground train that services much of the city. It’s really fast, and since we’re so close to Termini, it’s really easy to get to.
Sarah warned us that pickpockets were pretty prevalent on the metro, and in the station, so we should keep everything in zipper pockets, and try not to be too close to the doors when we were on the train (a pickpocket might grab something while the train is stopped and run out the door).
So we were well prepared. Everything was zipped up and secure. And we had no problems at all. Rome has basically no violent crime. It’s a very safe city. But there are still some scoundrels around, and you just have to be aware, and careful.
Well. We got to the metro, the train arrived, and we got on.
Actually, the better way to say it is we “shoved” on. That train was more jam-packed full of people than anything I’ve ever seen in my life. No wonder pickpockets can get away with it! I could barely even fit when we first got on, it was so packed. Say goodbye to the concept of “personal space” when riding the subway. You’re just completely pressed in from all sides by strangers. And then each stop, some leave, but some get on as well, shoving you in further. It was quite the experience!
Luckily, the metro is reeeeally fast! You zip along nice and quick. The trip we took on the train would have taken almost 20 minutes by car. It took less than 10 on the metro. It was faster, more direct, and didn’t have to deal with traffic. So although you’re pretty jammed in, you’re not jammed for long!
Anyway! We got to Vatican City no problem. And what a day it was! We wandered through the Vatican Museums, which are extensive. We didn’t spend a ton of time in each one, and we didn’t see all of them. It was just too much. We saw a really neat Egyptian museum (with real mummies), many sculptures, beautiful paintings and frescos (paintings on plaster walls and ceilings), and mosaics. We went to an exhibit of paintings by Raphael, an amazing painter of the 1500’s. There was an amazing large painting on display of The Transfiguration. Rafael was working on this painting up until his death. It’s a huge painting, and really amazing to see. There were also some really neat tapestries in the exhibit.
We also saw great big hallways with sculptures lining the walls. Those were pretty neat.
We had lunch within the museum area at a small restaurant. The prices were pretty good. Had some paninis, and some coffee! Have I mentioned that I’ve been enjoying my Italian espressos? 🙂
Then we started taking the path to the Sistine Chapel. There were several neat museums along the way. We didn’t spend a ton of time in any of them, because we were anxious to get to the Chapel, and Saint Peter’s Basilica. But we did see some cool things along the way. Sculptures of Greek gods, a full room of animal sculptures, a domed roof similar to the Pantheon, to name a few. We went into one room that had an enormous basin in the centre, several meters in diameter. There were also some really big sculptures of people around the edges. Some of them were a little creepy. The bronze statue of Hercules was pretty cool though!
We also went through Raphael’s rooms, where there were amazing frescos on all the ceilings and walls. A fresco is a painting that is done on fresh plaster, while it is still wet. So it dries with the plaster, making it very permanent, and even washable. The rooms were just lined with these paintings.
We went through a hallway of maps, and some more artwork, and then finally, the Sistine Chapel!
This was a highlight. In terms of visuals, I think it’s the most amazing thing I’ve seen in Rome so far. It’s a large room lined with paintings. The ceiling, and one full wall are paintings (frescos) by Michelangelo. The painting on the wall is the famous Last Judgement, and the ceiling has a ton of paintings, including one of the two most replicated religious paintings of all time: The Creation of Adam (the other is, of course, Da Vinci’s painting of The Last Supper). It was surreal, and a bit unbelievable, to look up and see the original iconic painting above my head.
I don’t have any pictures of the inside of the Sistine Chapel because we were not allowed to take any. But Google will show you plenty of images of all the paintings. We were asked to be very quiet while we were in there as well. At one point, a priest came in and led us in a prayer, in several different languages!
We exited the chapel, following advice that Sarah found online, through a door that was “for tour groups only”. We weren’t a part of a tour group, but we walked out the door with one and nobody asked any questions! This exit skipped some of the last of the museums, but took us directly to our final destination: Saint Peter’s Basilica!
Saint Peter’s Basilica is the largest church building in the world. And it is absolutely huge! We went to see a big basilica last night, and it sure seemed big while we were there. Well, Saint Peter’s dwarfed it. And it was decorated everywhere. The floors had beautiful mosaics, the walls had sculptures, there were six domes over the aisles with paintings and mosaics on the inside. And then there is the main dome over top of the altar, which is 137.7 feet (42m) in diameter, and rises 448.1 feet (136.57m) off the ground, making it the highest dome in the world. Saint Peter’s is also the tallest building in Rome, as no other building is allowed to be taller.
There were so many amazing things in the basilica. One was another piece of artwork by Michelangelo. A sculpture this time: the Pietà. It was breathtaking.
After wandering around the basilica for well over an hour, taking it all in, we climbed to the top of the dome. The staircase got skinnier and skinnier as we got higher and higher. We came out at one point into an inside ledge where we could see down inside the dome to the altar below. Then we went higher and higher, up tiny spiraling staircases. I’m not terribly claustrophobic, but even I was starting to feel a bit of claustrophobia at times!
Finally, we arrived at the top. What a view! We could literally see the whole city of Rome and the mountains beyond. We could see parts of the Roman Forum, the Colesseum, even the basilica by our apartment. We saw the beautiful Tiber River snaking its way through the city. It was an amazing sight!
Finally we headed back down, and went out to Saint Peter’s Square. This is a pretty famous part of Vatican City, as it is where people gather for events involving the Pope. It’s a large space, with an obelisk in the centre, and a colonnade frame around the outside, with sculptures on top. The square is believed to be the place where Peter was martyred. Thus why his square and basilica were built there. It was pretty cool. It was dark by the time we got to the square.
Finally, it was time to go home. My phone was dead because I was using it as a camera all day, so Sarah and I swapped out SIM cards and I used her phone to guide us home. We took the metro, so really I just had to lead us to the nearest stop, which wasn’t too hard. Vatican City is surrounded by a big wall, but we pretty easily found a way out and were on our way. The metro was crazily crowded again, but we got home with no problems.
We sat down for a bit because we were exhausted and our legs were killing us, then we went back out again! This time for supper. We may have been sore, but more than that, we were hungry! We went to a cozy restaurant that our host had recommended, and had some delicious pasta, and chocolate mousse for dessert. It was splendid!
And that’s about it. It was an amazing and exhausting day. But I’m so happy that we did it!
Tonight is my last night at this BnB. Tomorrow I’ll be joining with my team, and starting our weeklong work meetup. It will be a change of pace, but it will be good. I’ll have to get all my stuff packed up and sorted out tomorrow. We’re also planning to get full-day bus passes and hit a bunch of sites that we’ve been wanting to see, like the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, and some others.