Since we arrived in Rome in the heat of the afternoon we relaxed in our apartment with nice air conditioning and waited for it to cool down a little before venturing out. When we finally did we made our way to Trevi fountain. Legend has it that if you throw a coin in the fountain you will return to Rome. Well it worked for me last time but I think I must have thrown in a penny cause it took 10 years! This time I tossed in at least 10 cents and so did Drew and Ace!
We made our way to the Spanish Steps where we climbed each and every step to get some excellent views of Rome. When we got to the top we decided to look for a place for dinner and as luck would have it there was a restaurant called the ‘Garden of the Albino’ just 5 minutes away. Since we both joke that we are albinos we took it as a sign and headed there for dinner and I’m SO glad we did. Not only was the food delicious and abundant but also our waiter was absolutely hilarious. He pretended to spill an espresso on the girls next to us, made jokes about who was strong enough to cut the salami and even called Ace ‘Mama’ – it was quite entertaining.
The next morning Ace and Andrew got up early for a Vatican tour. Take it away, Andrew. Ace and I took the metro and walked a little ways outside the Vatican walls to Caffe Vaticano across from the Vatican tour entrance. We split a fruit plate, pastry, and each had a cappuccino to get us going. We met up with our tour group, which coincidentally had a friendly family from San Diego in it.
After going through security, our guide brought us into the courtyard where we had a view of the dome of St Peter’s Basilica (which can be seen from many places throughout Rome). Before heading into the museums, she took the time to describe what we were going to see, and even had some rolled up vinyl prints to show and describe to us the Sistine Chapel ceiling and The Last Judgment wall. She did this because the museums and Chapel would be pretty crowded and it was best to describe it where we could all see and hear her. As I describe later, we also weren’t allowed to talk in the Chapel.
From there we went into the museums where there were galleries of impressive sculptures, paintings, and tapestries. My favorite room (besides the Sistine Chapel) was the Gallery of Maps which displayed different painted regions of Italy at the time of Pope Gregory XIII. Apparently since they didn’t have Google maps they could easily go here and see the details of each region on short notice.
Finally we got to see the Sistine Chapel. Once you walk through the doors it is pretty amazing. I didn’t do any research beforehand, so I was expecting more of a dome instead of a long ceiling. Sure enough, as described by our guide earlier, were the impressive scenes laid out before us. The most impressive thing was the use of dimensioning which made it difficult to tell where the physical ceiling ended and the painting began. Considering Michelangelo was a sculptor (statue of David in previous post), I’d say he qualifies as multi-talented with a very impressive resume.
Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos in the Sistine Chapel. Some of the risk takers found out the hard way that they really meant this. We witnessed a few examples ranging from school kids to older adults that were yelled at and physically escorted out of the chapel (a little nicer than United Airlines). They were also very strict with their noise policy as “SHHH, SILENCE!!!” gets shouted across the loud speakers every few minutes.
One thing that I found very interesting was that the painters would paint their self portraits and other famous painters or public figures in their works as was done in Raphael’s School of Athens (below) and Michelangelo’s The Last Judgment (where he allegedly painted the face of a critic as Minos, the supervisor of admission to hell).
We remained in the Sistine Chapel a long time with the hope that St. Peter’s Basilica would open, but it never did. So we left out the exit into St. Peter’s Square and went home for a late lunch.
That evening we went to see the Pantheon (which is where Raphael’s tomb is and an impressive structure) and then strolled along the streets looking for a place to eat.
We went along the Tiber river where we saw a bunch of pop-up-shop type restaurants and stores. Eventually we settled on a nice pizza place on the river that happened to be right outside the Vatican, for the second time that day. After dinner we walked from there to the nearest metro and made it back home after a pretty long, but satisfying day.