No trip to Rome would be complete without taking time to tour the Vatican. It could take days to do justice to studying most of what comprises the Vatican City which is now not part of Italy, but its own principality.
For assistance in navigating the Vatican City with all its treasures, art, the Sistine Chapel, architectural structures, sculptures, gardens, guards and chapels, we three ladies decided to sign up for a morning tour with “Walks of Italy;” http://www.walksofitaly.com; U.S. phone 1-888-683-8670 and within Italy, call 39-069-480-4888.
This turned out to be a brilliant decision! So we three ladies started our morning travels around 6:30 am. We took the red line subway at the Piazza del Popolo to the Ottaviano metro station which was only 2 stops away.
We exited the subway station and walked to our designated gathering point to meet with our tour guide at a café near the Vatican. We had time for a morning coffee and snack.
At 7:15 am, we were greeted by our tour guide, Uta who quickly led about 10 of us to the Vatican to start our scheduled tour at 7:35 am which was a sufficient amount of time before it became more crowded when the general public is allowed entry at 9:00 am.
Uta knew the Vatican well and so she expertly shared her knowledge while she took us through the halls towards the Sistine Chapel so that we could take our time marveling at this gem of a masterpiece.
While we stood in awe of Michelangelo’s masterpieces within the Sistine Chapel, we were strictly forbidden to take any photos. Fortunately, I was able to locate some photos on the internet.
We were overwhelmed by the ceiling and surrounding frescos by Michelangelo. There are no photos which can do justice to what we were able to observe and enjoy. This was a highlight of my trip to Rome.
After we exited the Sistine Chapel, Uta made sure to direct us to the four rooms of Raphael masterpieces. The Vatican is a treasure trove of artistic masterpieces, frescoes, tapestries, statutes, books, archives, gifts collected over the years from various countries, and other valuables. One of the first halls that we toured was the impressive room with the Gallery of Maps which was commissioned in 1580 by Pope Gregory XIII.
The following is an example of general information which was shared with us. Each of the four papal basilicas has a porta santa (holy door). Typically, these doors are shut from the inside so that they cannot be opened except during the Jubilee years when pilgrims from around the world walk through these same doors.
The Sistine Chapel area is where new Popes are chosen behind locked doors. When you walk outside towards St. Peter’s Basilica, you can see the “the Chimney “where the black or white smoke comes out after each vote for a new pope.
Uta finally directed us to the main basilica where one is inundated with high ceilings, domes, alters, beautiful floors, burial structures, paintings, statutes, including Michelangelo’s Pieta.
Saint Peter’ grave is below the basilica’s main floor in the midst of several saints’ graves with a structure designed to memorialize the location his grave right above on the main floor. St. Peter’s tomb is near the west end of the complex of mausoleums that date between 130 AD and 300 AD. On the main floor is Bernini’s Bernini’s baldacchino, a structure which is placed over St. Peter’s grave in the lower floor.
After 4 hours of leading this tour, our tour guide, Uta from “Walking Tours of Italy” took her leave, but not before honoring my request for three ticket so that we could to attend Pope Francis general audience scheduled for the following Wednesday morning, June 3rd.
We took time for the rest of our stay at the Vatican to peruse at our leisure the Vatican grounds, the Vatican Square, post office, the Vatican Swiss guards, other buildings and the sprawling Vatican gardens.
Yes, I and my friend did arrive around 9:00 am on June 3, to find a good seat so we could see Pope Francis deliver his blessing and message to the many attendees of this general audience. This gathering is held outside in front of the basilica. Pope Francis is seated on raised podium with a canopy so that he can easily be seen and heard. On the sides are two huge televisions, so that those in the back can also participate.
The Pontiff arrives in an open vehicle on an assigned routing. Frequently, he is known to exit this car to greet visitors from all over the world but in this case he did not. His message covered the subject of poverty and how all of us have a duty to deal with this when an opportunity arises as individuals.
On June 2, we ventured out of our apartment early to stop by our favorite Caffé Canova for our morning cappuccino and croissant with cream. Then we took the metro to a station stop close to Piazza Venezia where the military parade was being held to honor Italy’s Independence Day. As soon as we exited our stop to head towards the parade grounds around 8:45 am, we noticed crowds of peoples going in the same direction.
As we got closer to Piazza Venezia, it became obvious that we would have to be strategic to find a spot to where we could be in a position to see the parade because of the throngs of peoples who were already present as they all waived a small Italian flag. There were guards managing the crowds and journalists with camera men following important Italian officials. With the direction of a guard, we were able to be positioned behind a gate where we could easily observe everything. The parade started and ended with flying planes spewing out smoke in the colors of the Italian flag. We were very impressed with how the Italian citizens and others honored those military men and women who participated in the parade festivities and then how they comported themselves before, during and after the parade despite the huge number of viewers.
Two of us ladies celebrated our last evening in Rome by having a delicious dinner at a nearby restaurant, L’ Osteria St. Ana which was easy to find by taking the furthest right street, Via di Ripetta emanating from the Piazza del Picolo, and then making another right turn at Via della Penna while looking for the number 68. Even though, we did not have a reservation, the host sat us down at a lovely outside table. We followed the recommendations of our waiter for the wine, pasta, meat and dessert dishes and we were not disappointed. As we raised a toast to each other, we were saddened to realize that in another day, we would be saying, arrivederci Roma!