Vatican City

September 30

See pictures below the day's summary

We were up & ready a few minutes early today, so we decided to get breakfast at the bakery across the street. I got a creme filled croissant. It was quite yummy! I don't remember what Dad got.

Then we headed out to find the metro stop - the gal at reception said to go left out of the hotel, go down the street and in a bit you'll see some arches on the left. Go through the arches and we'd see a Metro sign and some stairs going down. Uh, yeah, that didn't quite work out for us!

We found the arches and went through, but never saw a Metro sign. We even walked a couple blocks in. Nothing. So we ended up walking back to the hotel to get better directions, or to have them call a taxi. The guy at the reception told us it was about a 5-7 minute walk to the arches, then the rest of the the directions were the same. So we had just turned too soon through the wrong arches.

We found the Metro easy enough with our new directions. It was a packed train! Of course, it was right around 7:30am, so I'm sure we caught everyone on their way to work. There was a very nice lady who helped us buy the right ticket. It was nice to see someone helpful, as so far the folks in ROme haven't been overly friendly.

So, anyway, we got off at the Vatican City stop and followed the directions from our tour company (Presto Tours). They were fantastic directions! Got us right to our meeting point, just down a big flight of stairs from the Vatican Museum entrance. We were about half an hour early, so we just did some people-watching. Didn't see too many interesting people though.   

Federica was our guide at the Vatican. It ended up only being four of us, which was incredible! How lucky could we be?

We had to wear these headset things so we could hear Federica and she didn't have to talk so loud. It would have been great, had they been good headsets, but they were really quite terrible. Either that, or her microphone was terrible. Or a little bit of both! I think it was a voice activated microphone, but it took a couple of words before it turned on, so we missed the first couple words. It was fine as long as she kept talking though.      Sometimes it would pick nothing up though and we'd miss a few sentences. We told her a few times but nothing seemed to help. Dad's was really bad - it had a scratchiness to the sound - and he said his volume wouldn't adjust. I don't think anyone had a "low" volume setting (even the lowest setting was quite loud).

We saw lots of paintings by Raphael, Michelangelo, and Bernini. Very interesting thing that I didn't really realize was that Michelangelo wasn't a painter at all. He was a sculptor. But the Pope "tricked" him into painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling. The Pope hired/commissioned Michelangelo to carve his crypt (or something like that - it was something funeral/death related) and paid him a very large sum of money to do it. Then when Michelangelo got started (and spent lots of the money) the Pope came to him and said that he was going to live quite a few more years and he wanted Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling instead. Apparently Michelangelo was not very happy with doing that, but had spent lots of the the money and couldn't pay it back, so he learned how to fresco and did the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

The Chapel is beautiful. Packed with way too many people though. Before we had gone into the Chapel, our guide had stopped at some pictures of the ceiling and explained some of it to us. The portion with Noah's Ark and The Flood was the first one he did (I think) and it's different than the others - the people are very small and you almost have to look hard to see them. As he progressed with the rest of the ceiling, the people got bigger and got more of the focus. Interesting, and not something I would have noticed on my own.

We had lunch at a cart outside St. Peters Square. We split a sandwich. It was a ripoff, I'm sure, just based on the location, but we had our Necropolis tour in about 40 minutes so couldn't go too far.

The Necropolis tour was neat too. Glad we did it. We had a woman tour guide, but neither Dad or I can remember her name. There were 12 people in our group, but one lady ended up dropping out because she got too claustrophobic even in the first room. It was a tight fitting area, and quite humid/stuffy/hot down there.

We saw quite a few crypts - each one was for a single family and most held several generations of bodies in marble coffins or ashes in urns. One of the crypts was very small (I think she said it was the smallest one in the Necropolis), but it was the most important one (from a Catholic point of view, of course). It was a Christian crypt - as evidenced by the mosaics inside. Christian symbols and pictures, not pagan. Most of the crypts were pagan. The Christian crypt was from the second century (I think). Most of the crypts were from the first to fourth century (or that's what I remember, anyway!). Very, very old, at any rate!   

The main reason to go on the Necropolis tour is to see St. Peter's bones. We saw where his original tomb was, but apparently no bones were found there when it was excavated. Apparently, Constantine had moved the bones to a safer place when he was building the original St. Peter's Basilica there. They were discovered in the 1940's (we think that's what we remember) and tests were ran that confirmed it was a male, of sturdy build (Peter was a fisherman), who had died in his 60's or 70's. I think Peter was in his mid-to-late-60's. The bone remains were found with purple cloth with gold thread that Constantine had put them in.

So at the very end of the tour, we saw a little hole in a stone that held 19 plastic cases of these bones (partial bones really, some parts had decayed). We only saw one of the cases through the hole, and there was something that looked like bone pieces. Must have been St. Peter.      It seems a little strange to us that 2000 years later, these bones are still around and haven't disintegrated into dust, but when I asked about that, the guide said it was because where Constantine had moved them wasn't into dirt, but was between 2 parallel walls. I'm not sure I buy it, but I'm not sure I don't either.   

After the Necropolis tour, we wanted to find a book/paper/pen store near the Pantheon. So we asked our Vatican tour guide the best way to get from the Vatican to the Pantheon and she said "to walk". It looks dang long on the map, but she said it was probably only about 2 or 2.5 miles. We were planning on trying to take the Metro there, but we decided we'd go ahead and walk. We had a couple of maps with us, so we'd find it eventually.   

The Pantheon must have been being restored, because there was scaffolding all over the outside of it. Kind of a bummer - it sure detracts from the look! But it was clear inside and quite beautiful. Again, lots of people! I didn't go inside the Pantheon on my last trip to Rome in 2002, so it was neat to see.

We also found the bookstore and took a look inside. Mostly leather-bound blank books, but they had weird paper-ish covers that I didn't like. Actually, there were lots that were all leather, but too expensive for me! Besides, if I need a leather bound book, I'll just have Jonna make me one.      We did end up buying some stationary sets though.

We caught the Metro (after quite a long walk from the Pantheon) back to our hotel and took our shoes off for a half hour or so.

We're really looking forward to tomorrow! Mostly because we're not being picked up until 9:30am, and they're coming direct to our hotel so we don't have to take the Metro! And we get to eat breakfast too. It's gotta be a great day!   

It's the Ancient Rome private tour tomorrow. Seven hours long, just me & Dad and the driver/guide. Right now it's only 9pm, but Dad is asleep already and I'm headed that direction now. It was a long day of walking and "chaos" (lots of people, big city).


The view from our Rome hotel - there was a yummy little ice cream/pastry shop just up that street on the right. Dad in front of one of the entrances to the Vatican Museum Angie
Angie on the steps where we met our tour guide for The Vatican These police officers had a big job directing traffic on this busy street. It doesn't sound like much, but it was pretty amazing to watch. Dad with St. Peter's Cathedral in the background
Angie with St. Peter's Cathedral in the background The gal in the picture with her hands raised was our guide at The Vatican. Her name was Federica. The pinecone is significant in Rome - I believe this one was a fountain in the original St. Peter's Cathedral
Angie & the pinecone This is the same courtyard as the pinecone, but the gold sphere is a 20th century addition. The dome in the background is St. Peter's. Another view of the pinecone in its niche
A dome inside the Vatican Museum   A plaque to Leonardo Da Vinci
    I had to take a picture of these dogs   
  The sun coming through one of the domes in the Vatican Museum A beautiful mosaic on the floor
Close-up of the horse mosaic. I took this one just for you, Jonna!    A very unique sculpture!  
This art absolutely amazes me - believe it or not, but this is a painting - that's right - it's 2-D. It's not a sculpture. It was on the ceiling in one of the hallways. A tapestry showing Jesus' birth More of the painting art that looks like a sculpture. Amazing.
It sure looks 3-D to me! Beautiful artwork on the ceiling in a hallway Some papal art
  Vatican art by Raphael  
Obviously there was something significant about this foot, but I can't remember what    Also by Raphael - St. Peter being released from prison Depiction of heaven and earth, by Rafael
A portion of "The School of Athens" by Raphael. The teacher is said to be either Euclid or Archimedes. I had to Google it, but this is said to be Diogenes (apparently a controversial Greek philosopher). The guy at the desk is Heraclitus, but is really Raphael's rendition of his competitor, Michelangelo.
Another painting by Raphael, depicting a fire that occurred just outside of the Vatican walls. Notice the muscle structure in the man trying to climb the wall. It was classic in this period of art. The Pieta, by Michelangelo. This is in St. Peter's Basilica. The body of Pope John XXIII, also in St. Peter's
  This is the High Altar. In theory, it is placed directly over the unmarked grave of St. Peter. It is 95 feet tall. The inside of St. Peter's is simply huge - Here we are looking towards the ceiling. The letters are 6 feet tall!
This chair symbolizes the infallibility of the Pope. It is HUGE - about 20 meters (65 feet) tall!   Angie inside St. Peter's
Dad in St. Peter's We are standing at the entrance to St. Peter's, looking towards St. Peter's Square. The lightest color building on the left is the Pope's residence (when he's in Rome). Our guide told us that the Pope was in town now, because the shutters were open. Kind of cool.
Dad mailing a bunch of Martin Luther postcards from the Vatican post office    Angie in St. Peter's Square - with St. Peter's Basilica in the background Dad in St. Peter's Square. Our Vatican tour was over, and we were headed to grab a quick lunch before our Necropolis tour.
Fountain in St. Peter's Square The Vatican Obelisk View of the right hand side of St. Peter's Square
I think this was on the left side of the Vatican - still within the walls The Swiss Guards - we had to talk to them to get to the starting point of the Necropolis tour I'm standing in line for the bathroom - and there's Dad waiting for me outside   
Dad - we walked from The Vatican to The Pantheon. On our way we stopped on a bridge over the Tiber River. Angie at The Pantheon - I'm not looking thrilled with what I see on the map. We were trying to find a book store around here somewhere.    The Pantheon - too bad they were doing restorations - it really detracted from the perfection of the building.
Just inside The Pantheon Past the pillars and into the round part of The Pantheon Inside The Pantheon
The Dome inside The Pantheon. It is the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. The sun coming through the oculus (opening) in the dome - kind of a neat picture A 50-second video of inside The Pantheon
Dad under The Pantheon Dome    Another shot of The Pantheon This was our hotel in Rome - Domus Sessoriani. There is a Catholic church in the middle and the hotel is on both sides. We stayed on the left hand side, on the 3rd floor.