Vatican Revisited

My hubby and I had visited Rome and the Vatican on a previous trip in 2012, but it was our family’s (who was visiting from the states) first time. The best thing we did on our first trip to Rome was to wake up early to get to St. Peter’s Basilica right before opening time. IMG_0511

Getting a picture without hoards of tourists around is a big bonus to getting there early. Also, you will be able to wander the basilica without being crammed in a crowd. The crowds start arriving a couple hours after opening time. So take it from me, get there early and be done looking around before everyone else gets there! Just a quick FYI, it is free to enter the basilica but to tour the Vatican museum you need to purchase a ticket. And it is highly recommended you make a reservation online or book a guided tour to avoid waiting in extremely long lines in the hot Roman sun!

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The family decided to climb the dome. Because I tend to have issues with heights, and tiny spiraling staircases, I opted to stay down below with my daughter. I had a terrible time climbing the tower at the cathedral in Cologne. I felt sick after what seemed to be never-ending twisting stairs, and had a hard time enjoying the view. Since then, climbing towers and domes has been very low on the priority list for me. But if you don’t have the same issues, you should absolutely do it! I mean look at this view…incredible!

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Photo credit to my brother in law!

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The dome on the left is the Pantheon.

While everyone was ascending the magnificent dome on St. Peter’s, I was below trying to manage a 15 month old. If you haven’t visited St. Peter’s you should know that it is a quiet atmosphere. It is a holy place where people come to not only tour, but worship. It is really important to be respectful. I was doing my absolute best to keep my toddler happy and quiet. The last thing I needed was a crying fit. So when my daughter decided she wanted to crawl instead of walk I had 2 choices: 1) repeatedly pick her up and put her on her feet, risk crying outbursts OR 2) just let her crawl. I chose the latter.

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In case you were wondering, the floor of the basilica is not clean.

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We ended up leaving the basilca shortly after the crawling episode and waiting outside for everyone to descend. I thought that a bit more appropriate than letting her crawl all over the place. What are you gonna do? Pick your battles when traveling with a baby!

We spent the rest of the day wandering the city, more to come!

Vatican City

We ventured into a whole other country-Vatican City!  I think it’s the smallest country in the world.  The best ideas we had for this day were to get there early and make reservations.  We took the metro over to St. Peter’s Square and were there by about 8 AM.  As you can see there were hardly any people there yet, making for better pictures, less stress, and less waiting in line.  We snapped a few shots, jumped in the security line and were able to walk right into the basilica.

Good morning Vatican!

Bernini’s statues lining the piazza.
Member of the Swiss guard.
Looking out onto the piazza, this area used to be used for chariot races.

Roof of St. Peter’s Basilica.

There were several small groups of nuns and priests touring the basilica.
Base of the dome, you can see Jesus in the center panel.
Altar designed by Bernini.

Looking up into the dome.
Statue of St. Peter.
Beautiful light filling the church.

One of the things I was most looking forward to on this trip was seeing Michelangelo’s Pieta. I was so disappointed when I realized I wouldn’t be able to get close enough to really see it.  I don’t know if it is always blocked off, or if it was just a fluke, but we had to stand quite a bit aways from it.  It was smaller than I thought it would be also.  It’s protected by bulletproof glass-apparently some crazy person snuck a hammer in years ago and started hacking away at it!

Michelangelo’s Pieta
Super zoom lens-this is the image of God depicted at the very top and center of the dome.
Bernini’s golden dove window at the far end of the church.

 I was in awe of the basilica.  The building is enormous, and so ornately decorated.  There are beautiful statues lining the walls and the way the light comes into it is so serene.  I loved learning about the history of the church as well.  We listened to an audio tour and wandered around in there for at least an hour.  There weren’t many people there when we first came in, but by the time we left, you could tell the crowds were coming in and the line was growing quickly.  One thing that really surprised me to see in the basilica, is that they have taken the body of Pope John XXIII, who passed away in the 1960’s, and put it on display.  It hasn’t decayed and you can walk right up and pray next to him.  I, myself, not being catholic and being a little bit of a scaredy cat-found it quite creepy.  We also went down into the crypt where all the other popes are interred, you can’t see any of their bodies though (thank goodness).  I suppose it’s actually quite nice for followers to be able to go there and pray at the feet of their church’s leaders-however, it was still a little creepy for me.

 After we had finished up at the church, we had some time to kill before our reservation at the Vatican museum.  That’s when we made one of our biggest mistakes of the trip-we ate at a cafe right across the street from the Vatican Museum.  Why is this a mistake you ask?  Well, because of the supreme location of the cafe, they have deemed it appropriate to charge you an arm and a leg for everything!  We started out with some granitas and ended up eating full on lunches here so that we didn’t get hungry while in the museum.  This lunch ended up costing us over 50 euro for mediocre pizzas, drinks, and granitas.  The only thing that made us feel better was looking at the unmoving line that stretched around the block (literally) and knowing we didn’t have to wait in it.  Moral of the story: if you can make a reservation, you should!
The Vatican Museum has the biggest collection of art and artifacts I think I’ve ever seen.  There is just no way to see it all and really appreciate everything they have in there.  They have everything from ancient Egyptian art to modern paintings by Dali.  Of course the highlight is Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.  It really is impressive to look at.  We again listened to an audio guide to explain the panels and talk about what we were viewing.
taken with the iPhone, believe it or not

One more look at the Dome from the Museum.

Onto the next adventure!  Ciao Roma!