The Pope hadn’t returned our calls, so we decided to pop in and pay him a visit at the Vatican. We once again hopped on the hop on-hop off bus and made our way across town. We began our tour of Catholic opulence at St. Peter’s (and were able to essentially skip right through the entrance since there was no line at all at 11:00am – and the fact that we were dressed appropriately, with knees and shoulders covered, as opposed to some other teenage girls we saw…), where we ooed and awed at the amazing art work within, including Michelangelo’s Pieta.
While the amount of incredible artwork and sculptures within was astounding, it also reminded us that had it not been for the encouragement and funding of the papacy during the 1600s and 1700s, artists may not have been able to make a viable career out of their passion and talent. The term “Starving Artist” is all too familiar in America and it is a shame.
As we left St. Peter’s, we passed by two Swiss guards dressed in their colorful clownish outfits. They must be incredibly skilled at defending the Pope because I can’t imagine that anyone actually finds them physically intimidating, particularly in that ridiculous garb (which despite rumor, was not designed by Michelangelo, but rather, by Commandant Jules Repond, 1910-1921, who may have been influenced by the colors in Raffaello’s paintings.
Just beyond the guards was the Vatican post office, since the Vatican is, in fact, a sovereign city-state. They also happen to be excellent marketers and had stamps available with various Popes or other religious figures.
We then made our way around the block to the entrance to the Vatican museums. I had anticipated an extremely long line, so I told my parents we’d find them somewhere to sit and wait while Chad and I stood in line to get tickets. But as we continued to make our way toward the entrance, we were shocked to find that not only was there NO line, but we were able to breeze right through security and were the only people in line to buy tickets at the official entrance. I had been to the Vatican before and recalled lines that circled the block and took hours of standing, shuffling ahead, and standing some more. I could not believe our luck that we were able to breeze through so quickly! It was about noon and while perhaps some tourists were out eating lunch, I was simply astonished by our line luck.
Before we entered the museums, we had read through a description of the important artwork to see and mapped out a plan. Of course, we planned to spend a good deal of time at the Sistine Chapel. But before that, we also wanted to see Rafael’s “The School of Athens” painting in which he depicted ancient philosophers but with the physical characteristics of many of his contemporary artists, including Michelangelo who is pictured pouting in the foreground.
Eventually, we made our way to the Sistine Chapel, but no photos were allowed, so unfortunately, you’ll have to rely on the available images online. After walking through many hallways and roomed filled with paintings, the Sistine Chapel is the perfect ending. We all observed how much more detailed, realistic, and inspirational it appeared in comparison to the other works of art we’d seen. It was certainly easy to see why Michelangelo stood out among his peers.
After leaving the Vatican, we stopped for a bite of pizza and pasta and then hopped back on the bus. We took a short rest (with the rest of Italy, which seemed to take a siesta in the afternoon), and then headed over to the Trevi Fountain. It was crawling with tourists, but we all took turns throwing a coin in the fountain, guaranteeing our return to Italy again someday.
Since tourists and pick-pockets seemed to reside around the Fountain, we decided not to linger too long and made our way to the Pantheon. We were able to squeak in just before they closed for the day.
We admired the incredible architecture and then continued along our evening stroll through the side streets of Rome as the sun was setting. We found a lovely courtyard candlelit restaurant and sat down for a wonderful leisurely meal. Since my parents had missed Chad’s birthday, this dinner was our family birthday celebration for Chad.
Happy Birthday, Chad! What a delicious way to celebrate.