Thursday, December 29, 2011

Merry & Bright (and the Vatican)

Your holidays that is. And I hope they were. Are. Have been.

Fa ra ra ra ra and all that. (name that movie!)

After our busy morning tour of Rome, we headed for the Vatican.

The side gate (actually the exit):

Entering the Museum of the Vatican (with the hoards of people. HOARDS.)

In, and up you go

I'm almost speechless (type-less?) trying to sort through the photos to figure out what to share. There was just so much!

Gorgeous marble pieces like these in the animal room:

These incredible reliefs

This gigantic urn. or small swimming pool

The painted ceilings (if I remember correctly, this is the raising of Lazarus)

and the tile mosaics on the floor

ginormous tapestries from the beginning of time

By far the most popular piece of art in the Vatican is the Sistine Chapel. Where you can't take pictures. Or talk (it's supposed to be a reverent place - but lots of people are talking softly).

So here's the signs outside in the courtyard explaining the ceilings of the Sistine Chapel:

And the entrance

Then we stood inside the Sistine Chapel, packed in line semi-silent sardines, looking up.

And it was amazing. So beautiful I didn't want to speak. I could only look around in wonder.

We then went into St. Peter's Cathedral. Equally beautiful. And where the Sistine Chapel is small and intimate, St. Peter's is huge.

The front altar

And a bit spooky - because this is where many of the former popes are (buried). Their bodies I mean. Some of them are displayed (according to each Pope's wish).

We then wandered into St Peter's Square to meet up with the rest of our group. Since we happened to be visiting during the Beatification of St. Paul, the Pope had actually addressed the crowd earlier in the day. His quarters are in the building on the far right, and we were told he makes his appearances from the top floor, 3rd window from the right. I think. I barely remember... (sorry!)

And the obligatory pic of the Vatican guards in their elaborate, traditional uniforms

I will confess that my interest in the Vatican was more about the landmarks from the book (and later the movie) The Da Vinci Code. And yet, you don't dare utter those words (or "Dan Brown") in the Vatican walls.

All in all, the Vatican is an amazing place. The museums are endless, and full of incredible antiquities and riches. My recommendation is to skip the museums, go right for the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Cathedral, and St. Peter's Square. This will leave you more time to visit the rest of Rome, especially if you are doing in a day like we did.

After rejoining our group, we headed back to the ship - most of us napped during the 90 minute drive.

Next up: Messina & Taormina, Sicily. I promise it won't take 5 months...