I did find that Vatican City tour I was looking for in a Dark Rome Tour which was a “Highlights of Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica.” I really wanted to see the Sistine Chapel but after reading a little bit about Vatican City and that whole circus I was having major anxiety about doing it on our own. I wasn’t worried about being able to do it, I just didn’t want to spend all day figuring it out. I wanted to see the highlights and walk through the Sistine Chapel in less than twelve hours without standing in line for a million years. I know we only have so many hours in our tourist reserves and for that reason I wanted to be in and out and on to the next thing. We did it on Monday, our last day in Rome. We went for an 11 hour walk that included four hours in Vatican City. We started with our tour and if you are headed to Vatican City, I strongly recommend a tour just because it is so huge (nine miles of museum hallways) and so many people. A tour gets you in and around and at least you get some bearing as to where things are situated in case you want to go back for round two.
We saw highlights of the museums. Enough said, except the view of the St. Peter’s Basilica was beautiful. We went through the Sistine Chapel and while the mini history lesson we got pre Sistine Chapel was really cool, the actual Sistine Chapel was underwhelming (please no haters here, only my humble opinion). I absolutely loved though, the stories our guide told us about Michelangelo. She was an art history buff and I think secretly in love with Michelangelo, but I think I might be too. She said that Michelangelo was not a simple person. He spent four years in a back breaking position with paint dripping in his eyes to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. He didn’t even know how to paint frescoes when he started and so he had a few assistants when he started, but soon he sent his helpers away and did it all himself.
His vision and creativity as he illustrated Genesis on the ceiling was more interesting to me than the actual art, but again, I am not an art person. I loved the story of the front wall of the chapel which he painted thirty years later. It is a depiction of the Last Judgement with more hunky nudes than a Playgirl, Jesus included. There is a lot of interpretation as to what was going on at the time and in the painting, but suffice it to say that it was a lot of drama. The Pope’s master of ceremonies, Biagio da Cesena, was really upset about all of the hunky nude bodies and constantly complained to the Pope. Surprisingly, the Pope ignored him and allowed Michelangelo to continue with his vision. Well, his vision included some payback, and in his depiction of Hell, Michelangelo painted Minos, the mythological king of Hell, with the face of the complainer, complete with donkey ears and a snake biting him in an unfortunate location. Cesena again complained to the Pope and the Pope responded that the painting would have to remain because he had no power over Hell.
This is the front of St. Peters and all of the chairs are where people come and listen to the Pope and Wednesdays and Sundays.
Michelangelo was a badass. He was a sculptor, painter and architect. He carved the Pieta in his twenties, painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in his early thirties and the front wall thirty years later. He designed St. Peter’s Basilica at the age of 72 after studying the Pantheon’s dome. We loved St Peter’s Basilica. It was imposing and beautiful. The largest basilica in the world and home to the Pieta, his only signed sculpture from fifty years before. Michelangelo did not sculpt to create a figure, he chipped away at marble to release the figure that God had put inside the rock. He was twenty four years old when he released the Pieta from its stone encasing. The Pieta is the statue of Mary holding her crucified son in her lap. It is a beautiful piece of art even to my untrained eye.
The Swiss Guards stand watch over the gates of Vatican City. They are Swiss soldiers that have taken an oath of loyalty to the Pope for the last 500 years and although their outfits look goofy, they are actually well trained soldiers ready to die for the Pope.
We left Vatican City and climbed to Gianicolo, which is the highest point in Rome with some great views.
There are walking trails down the side of the hill which we followed to visit the Santa Maria in Trastevere church, because Michele the bike tour dude told us it was beautiful and in the neighborhood of his favorite restaurant, Da Augusto. We passed this happy cat on our way to the restaurant in an adorable neighborhood.
Da Augusto for lunch was delicious and authentic. You ordered off a menu that indicated the days that the item was available. It was obvious that there were pots of deliciousness in the kitchen and as soon as you ordered a steaming bowl of food was ladled up and delivered to your table. Because we had walked a million miles already we felt that we had free eating rein and eat we did. It was good.
We walked across the oldest bridge in Rome and along the Tiber River back towards our apartment.
Ashley wanted to visit the Knights of Malta Keyhole which is a keyhole designed by Piraesi in 1765 that you look through and see St. Peter’s Basilica perfectly framed by a garden pathway (it’s really cool but you’ll have to google it since my picture didn’t turn out). It surprised me that the view was so magical. I think it’s hard to believe that you’ll actually see something looking through a keyhole and this keyhole had a great view.
We walked into our apartment about eleven hours after we last closed our apartment door. It was a full day of Roman Tourism but it was early and we still had time to indulge in the new family obsession of Counterstrike and I washed clothes, Italian style.
A rock on the road…with love from Rome