Day 7- Vatican City

Gold leaf crowns and jewelry

Rome day 2 was all about the Vatican. After getting off the subway, we were bombarded by people offering tours in every language possible in order to skip the lines to get into the Vatican museums. We had to refuse at least 10 very insistent people in order to wait in the line to get in. Once the museums opened, we were able to get in within a few minutes. I had read about how overwhelming these museums were to visit, and they did not disappoint. The view we take when going to museums is that if we are spending the money, we want to see as much as possible. I had prepared myself to not see everything, because it has been calculated that if one took 1 minute at every exhibit in the museum, they would be in the museum for over 1 year. We started in the gallery that we knew would be the hardest for us to get through- the painting gallery. We saw works by many famous artists, and then took a peek at some of the gardens down below.

Austin in front of the map depicting San Remo (his favorite
place in Italy)

 We saw Greek and Roman sculpture, Etruscan pottery, and more sculptures. There was even an exhibit about all the boats different people have used all over the world, which was fairly interesting. There was a tapestry hall and a map hall with different topographic maps of Italy. We stopped and took pictures by the one featuring Liguria and San Remo, because that is Austin’s favorite place. These all led to the Sistine Chapel, with famous frescoes by Michelangelo including the Last Judgment on one of the walls and the Creation of Adam on the middle of the ceiling. He almost did not agree to paint the Sistine chapel because he considered himself more a sculptor than a painter, but he did a wonderful job. We looked at before/after pictures of them restoring the frescoes in the chapel, and it was amazing the difference.  Although it was a beautiful little chapel, the thousands of tourists taking pictures when no pictures were allowed, and 10 tour groups and others making lots of noise kind of took all of the sacredness out of it. It was definitely more of a tourist attraction than an actual spiritual place.
Cool ceiling of map room
We ate a snack, saw the Pope’s different carriages and some of the cars he has used over the years, and explored yet some more Greek and Roman sculpture before getting some pizza by the slice close by. We ate it in St. Peter’s Square, then got in line to get in to the Basilica. We decided to go up the dome first to see what we could see. Since we have been getting the student discount, we nominated ourselves for a discount on getting to the top of the dome by buying the tickets to climb the stairs instead of taking the elevator. The stairs weren’t that bad, and we had amazing views of the dome of the basilica from the inside (and realized that all the things we thought were paintings were actually mosaics!) and then an incredible view of all of Rome from the top of the dome on the outside. It was one of the most incredible things I have done, to ascend a tiny sloped staircase and come out literally on top of the city. We were able to see for miles and we got a great view of all of the pope’s gardens. When we decided to come back down, we wandered through the basilica itself. It is the 2nd biggest church in the world, and I heard a tour guide say that 80,000 people could fit into it at a time! It was amazing how high the roof was, and how big the pillars were. There is no way to describe how huge it was except to just experience it. Unfortunately, the grottoes were closed today so we did not get to see those, which I am sad about, but still it was incredible to see St. Peter’s in person.
Our view after reaching the top of the cupola at St. Peter’s
Bad picture… but just to give an idea of what it looked like from the top of the  inside of  the dome.. about half way up to the top of the cupola
One of the original popemobiles
St. Peter’s from down the street. 
 After St. Peters, we walked around the square and sat in the middle for awhile just enjoying it. The square has curving columns going around both sides that are supposed to represent the open arms of the church to greet all who enter. We then headed over to Castel d’Angelo, where the popes fled by underground tunnel when there was civil unrest in the city or nearby. They had doubled their prices, and we decided it wasn’t worth it to go in anymore, but then we embarked on an epic wild goose chase to find a bathroom. Our little guy had woken up and was kicking my bladder, and the public bathrooms that we initially found were closed. We ended up walking up to the metro station, buying really good gelato (although the scoops were small), and taking the metro to the train station before we found a bathroom. Austin hates paying for bathrooms, but I was so happy to find one that it didn’t matter. That effectively ended our time in Rome, and we waited in the train station waiting room for several hours for our next night train to Palermo! 

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