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Vatican City + Rome

Today was a holy day, truly. We had another early start to try and beat the rush at the Vatican Museum. We had taken a punt that the queues would be a little smaller this morning due to it being Wednesday and that’s when the Pope gives his mass (are they still called mass or are they speeches ?). We figured they would go there first – he was due to speak at about 10am, then come to the museum or St. Peter’s after. We got there about 8.20am (doors open 8.45) and there was a reasonable queue but not too bad. Whilst we were waiting in line we saw Vanessa and Susan (from Pompeii) which was quite funny. We got into the museum about 9am and out by about midday.

I won’t even try to go into what we saw because I am pretty sure we missed heaps, there are so many twists and turns and alcoves, and different hallways were roped off, who knows what we saw. We do know that we saw the Sistine Chapel, the Private Papal chapel built in 1473 for Pope Sixtus IV, adorned in Michelangelo’s frescoes Creation and Last Judgment. Now I don’t quite know how to put it other than our reaction “oh that’s it” hmm, literally. Umm, its very pretty and all and the frescoes are mind boggling … like where do you start with something like that, in a corner, in the middle of the ceiling … I have no idea how it was done, its just that I was expecting something big something church like not a hall in the museum …

The Egyptian exhibition was magnificent, the tapestries outstanding, and the Hall of Maps – now that was amazing considering the lack of technology they had to draw these maps, they were awesome.

After we had finished in the museum we headed over to St. Peter’s square and the cathedral unaware that the Pope for the second time this weekend was giving a public appearance/speech/mass in the square (usually it is in the Papal Audience Hall) and he wasn’t finished, so we arrived in time to see the Pope. Not bad timing at all. This all did mean however that the cathedral was obviously not open to the public and that we had about a 2 hour wait for the cathedral in the blazing sun (which given the coolish weather we had been experiencing it was very welcome – we just weren’t dressed for sun)

We finally got into St. Peter’s Basilica, located on the spot where St. Peter was buried. The first church was built in 4th Century, and in 1506 work started on a new basilica, designed by Bramante.

Michelangelo took over the project in 1547 aged 72, and designed the grand dome, which soars 120m above the alter. We wandered around, through and down into the tombs, looked up and admired Michelangelo’s dome and then decided to climb on top of the dome (well to the cupola) and get a birdseye view of Rome. But first the Cathedral. I am not sure whether we have seen too many in general or too many pretty impressive ones but St. Peter’s wasn’t as spectacular as I had imagined, it certainly was big, and again the frescoes were awesome but it just didn’t make us go wow .. maybe we are becoming too hard to impress?

The climb to the top of the cupola consisted of a lift then 320 steps to the top through what can only be called dwarf staircases with an “Alice in Wonderland” twist – you had to lean to one side because the walls followed the curve of the dome if you follow what I mean. We reached the top and the views were picture postcard, the day was perfect. We could see the square, the Pantheon, Colosseum, Victor Emmanuel II Monument, Castel Sant Angelo, all the tourist hotspots we had visited.

From Vatican City we took the metro back to the Spanish Steps for another look, and then wound our back to home via The Trevi Fountain, which is about 3 times larger than I imagined and just as cool its a very sweet fountain. We also sampled some gelato at the fountain but I have no idea if it was from ‘the’ place that you are supposed to eat gelato from at the Trevi. From Trevi it was then down to the Victor Emmanuel II Monument down to the Colosseum and back up around the Roman Forum, which is just huge. We wandered around the Forum and the Capital till dusk took some cool night photos then headed back to Trevi for some night pictures and then back to home via our cheap and tasty Chinese restaurant.

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