Images and Impressions: Rome, Day Two

Vatican museum

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!

Some of the stained glass windows appeared more modern than the rest of the church.

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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  1. Seems the loveliest moments were when you escaped the tourist hordes. Anything with that many of them is an anti-goal for me, which is how I went to Delhi (and loved every second) but would not make the short side trip to see the Taj Mahal.

  2. We went to Rome in February a few years ago and whilst it was still busy there weren’t the stifling crowds except at the airport and then we realised Italy were playing France in the 6 Nations Rugby!!! A very walkable city, the weather was superb and no queues at the Vatican where we tagged on to a guided tour by an engaging Irish priest.

  3. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. I saw Rome over New Year’s Eve, 22 years ago. I guess that was lucky, the crush was tolerable. I love your photos. Makes me want to cover something in gilt. Or at least get a little more maximal.

  4. Glad it was a wonderful trip. I don’t like travel logs. I’ll catch up with your blog when you’re back to clothing, style, make-up, etc.

  5. Hello:
    This does all look to be so wonderful, but the reason we have yet to visit Rome is precisely because of the numbers of tourists which we understand to be and, do appear in your account to be, oppressive.

  6. I know the line was long…I know the walking was immense…but thank you for your perseverance and taking us on your trip with you. I feel like I have just been there…it does look magnificent despite the stress with tourism.

  7. We went the week before Ash Wednesday and it was wonderful – the weather was a little cool, but NO tourists. We walked through the Vatican nearly by ourselves. Lovely…

  8. Thank you,thank you. This is the way I like to travel. Comfortably on my bed, looking at your great pictures and reading your interesting text!

  9. I miss Rome! These photos are wonderful. I know what you mean about the Vatican museums and wish now that I’d remembered to suggest a private tour. It’s not horribly expensive and it’s the best way to beat the crowds, see “highlights” of the maze of rooms preceding the Sistine chapel, and focus on the chapel and St. Peter’s.

  10. Oh, I do love the red wildflowers amid the ruins. What were they, poppies?

    And the window with the bees. Heavenly.

    So wonderful to join you on your tour.

  11. Jane and Lance Hattatt – I think the trick is to go in the off season. If/when we go to Italy again, we’ve decided to try late autumn.

    Duchesse – yes, slipping into a quiet place off the beaten path was a welcome respite. One of the reasons we didn’t plan to spend a lot of time in Rome is that neither of us can tolerate crowds for long.

    Pam – even though parts were a hassle, I’m glad we went and did the things we did. I’m glad you enjoyed the recap.

    Anonymous – yes, the trick seems to be to go in the off season. If we ever visit again, that’s what we’ll do.

    metscan – 🙂 Glad to be of service!

  12. denise;) – skip the museum if you must, but Saint Peter’s Basilica might be worth a visit (you can do that without going through the museum).

    LPC – thank you! I worry about being like that neighbor with the endless vacation slideshow. Yes, maximal is definitely a theme there.

    Susan Tiner – a private tour (or just going in the off season) would probably have been better.

    donnie – thanks for the feedback! I’ll be back to my more usual topics next week, interspersed with probably a weekly travel post.

    Anonymous – I’m convinced. From here on, we’re going to travel off season! Glad you had such a nice visit.

    Aunt Snow – I think they’re poppies, yes. They sure looked it from a distance. Isn’t that bee window amazing? That was my favorite.

  13. Thank you for allowing me to relive the wonderful times I have had in Rome. Your photos are brilliant.

    The number of people around the city can be a bit annoying, but I figure I’m adding to the ‘tourists’ so I shouldn’t complain. I’ve been to Rome in May, September and January, and by far the best, both people and weatherwise was September.

    Can’t wait for your next entry

  14. These are wonderful, wonderful photos, and they make me realize, yet again, that I do want to get to Rome. But I know I couldn’t tolerate the kinds of crowds you’re talking about and so should probably wait until after retirement when I could go in the off season. Unless, perhaps, a relatively quick jaunt some Christmas . . .

  15. Have been enjoying my armchair travel!

    The wildflowers from the Via di Fori Imperiali are a wonderful scene I’ve never seen captured.

    Glad you escaped Caesar’s fate and that your other half did not go long between gelato fixes. Looking forward to more thoughts when they come….