Rome Day 3: The Vatican

Day three - time to visit the capital of Christendom. We got up early and met our good friends, the LeMaistres and Vanderwerkens at the Vatican Museums. Our friends found a primo apartment right across the street from the museum and right above some of the most inexpensive, yet delicious gelato you can find in Rome. If you really want bang-for-your-buck gelato, that's the spot.

After waiting in line for a short time, we entered the Vatican Museums and collectively decided that Rick Steves, the author of the tour book Emily and I brought with us, should provide us with enough of a tour to bypass the guided tours offered by the Vatican.

The Museum was breathtaking. I had been before with my mom, but we had only seen the Sistine Chapel (I use the word only as if we had somehow been cheated?). This time around we saw art from ancient Egypt, Laocoon, tapestries, the gallery of maps, the Raphael Rooms and much more. Of particular note we were entranced by works much like the one below.

Believe it or not, that is a 2D image!! Maybe it doesn't come through well in the photo, but it was pretty surreal as we tried to figure it out ourselves. Amazing what kind of technique the ancients had! Here are Josh and Miriam taking a look at the Gallery of Maps! Miriam was six months pregnant at the time -- what a trooper!

We eventually made it to the Sistine Chapel where we studied and read about the famous works by Michelangelo. Although it has always appeared smaller than I imagined it, the artwork is remarkable. It amazes me that Michelangelo did not consider himself a very good painter. I'm not sure if he was aware of it, but he did all right for himself in that field.

After the Museum we all went out and had lunch at a small restaurant a few blocks away. It felt like a typical Italian dining experience: servers lackadaisically attended us, but the food was quite good.

We went back to the Vatican to walk inside St. Peter's. It is the largest Basilica in the world. What made the trip that much more memorable was that Pope John Paul II (or PJP II as we called him in high school) had just been beatified. All around the square stood giant posters dedicated to recounting his life story. Inside St. Peter's and immediately to the right we found this breathtaking beauty: The Pietà.

No wonder Michelangelo didn't consider himself much of a painter when he could sculpt like that. St. Peter's swallowed us up with its larger than life sculptures and monuments to past pontiffs and popes. While we were there they held a special mass for newly ordained priests (these are not to be confused with awkward 16 year old boys; rather, they are men those graduating from seminary training in the Vatican).

After we perused the Basilica we traversed up the Cupola to get one of the best views of Rome you can find. Below are the Vanderwerkens and a few shots from the top.

Doug and Charisse right behind us during the climb. Too bad they had to leave Wymount so early!

Bernini designed St. Peter's square to resemble the "outstretched arms" of the Church.

Notice the protruding white figure in the view? That is the monument built by Mussolini to honor King Victor Emmanuel II. See a prior post for details about that monstrosity.

After taking in everything that day, we gave ourselves a deserved rest. Suddenly I found myself enjoying one of my most treasured moments of the trip. Just underneath the row of columns that constitute the "outstretched arms" there is quite a bit of shade with a few steps that substitute nicely for benches. The six of us sat down and rested our feet, chatted about our journey in Rome as well as what life had in store for us afterwards, all the while soaking in the ambiance of the crowds, the culture, and the history.

Based on a recommendation given to Doug, we walked to the Trastevere district of Rome to find a small restaurant on a small street hidden from the beaten path. The food was outstanding. I don't think any one of us walked away disappointed with our meal. Not only that, the chef came out to speak to us and our server was as cordial as can be.

The only downside that evening was walking home. Rome is currently building a new Metro line, so our line shut down at 9 pm. We walked for over an hour back to our apartment. On the way we passed by Campo dei fiori where Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake. We also managed to buy some gelato and had perhaps the best pistachio flavor we've ever eaten. We got home utterly exhausted, but completely satisfied. More on Day 4 later.

Inside St. Peter's. Emily managed to look remarkably cute the entire trip, as evidenced here.

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