I may or may not have mentioned this in yesterday’s post, but there were a LOT of tourists in Rome!
We’d scheduled some tours for days two and three, starting with the Vatican Museum. If you’re planning to visit the Vatican Museum, I strongly suggest you make reservations. After seeing the non-reserved line which wound down to the end of the block and around the corner, I was glad we’d heeded that bit of advice. Another bit of advice I wish we’d heeded: skip most of the Vatican Museum and head straight to the Sistine Chapel. There’s lots and lot of stuff in the VM: Egyptian artifacts, busts of Popes, tapestries of Popes, portraits of Popes, Virgin Mary’s, saints, crucifixion scenes. Pretty much what you’d expect, with some strategically placed sales points for souvenirs which helped to create some effective clog points due to all of the TOURISTS. I hope those of you who are religious will not be offended, but after about an hour of portraits of Popes and shuffling through various halls packed cheek-to-jowl with fellow tourists, we were on sensory overload and ready to get the heck out of Dodge.
There was one gallery full of animal sculptures that was kind of fun.
Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photographs in the Sistine Chapel (and the guards were relentlessly barking at any sign of a cell phone or camera “NO PHOTO NO PHOTO!”) so we appreciated the results of Michelangelo’s labors for a few minutes then moved on. The Sistine Chapel is where the Cardinals meet to elect the Pope. But I didn’t see the chimney where they send up the black or white smoke.
The last attraction on the tour was Saint Peter’s Basilica, which was awe inspiring.
|This is just one of the side chapels.|
Pictures really can’t effectively convey the size and scope of this cathedral. Afterward we followed the herd out into Saint Mark’s Square where we spotted this Swiss Guard.
We’d moved with the flow of traffic out of Saint Peter’s into Saint Mark’s square, only to realize that we’d been misdirected and weren’t being allowed by security to re-enter the museum to be able to return our audio guides (and retrieve le monsieur’s drivers license!). After asking at three different “information” (I use that term loosely) stations, we finally learned that we’d have to walk all the way back around to the museum entrance, basically on the opposite end of Vatican City to return them. By the time we finished up with that, we were darn ready for lunch, but decided to hop the subway over to the area near the Coliseum to find someplace to eat, as we had an afternoon tour scheduled in that direction.
Lunch was one of those amazing serendipitous finds, but that’s a subject for another post. After lunch we still had an hour to kill before our scheduled tour time, so we wandered up the Via di Fori Imperiali where we took in some more impressive ruins…
|Love the wildflowers|
We climbed to the top of Vittorio Emanuele II Monument, (which we nicknamed Caesar’s Palace, as it reminded us of the structure of the same name in Vegas)
|See what I mean?|
not sure at that point what it was, took in the view of more ruins from the terrace…
then discovered another beautiful church immediately behind it, the Basilica Santa Maria in Ara Coeli.
|Look at that ceiling!|
Finally, it was time to head back to the Coliseum for our scheduled “underground” tour.
We got to see the “working” area underneath where the gladiators, animals and workers lived (and died). There was a complex elevator and pulley system for bringing animals, people and stage sets up to the arena floor.
|Keystone (above) and partial arena floor (recently added)|
Finally, our guide took us up, up, up, past some locked gates to the very top of what remained of the upper tier.
|You can see the partial floor added recently. In Roman Empire days, this would have covered the entire arena (and the word “arena” comes from the sand that was brought in to cover the wooden floor).|
From up here we also had a great view of the Palantine Hill.
Whew! That was one full day. We had one more half day in Rome, which I’ll share in the next post.
As you may have surmised, we had NO time to shop at all on this part of the trip. I’d also love to tell you more about style in Rome, but probably 90% of people we saw at any given time were other tourists, and another 5% were priests or nuns.
Next up, Borghese Museum!
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