On our second day in Rome (and our last full day in Italy), we got up early and headed off for a tour of the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter's Basilica.
This was another 3-hour tour, but it didn't feel that long because we were constantly moving; there was so much to see. We could only take pictures in certain places, and we saw so much that I don't remember what everything is. I've included what I do remember below.
|Courtyard at Vatican (Cortile della Pigna)|
|Bronze pine cone statue|
Below is the map gallery. The whole length of the hallway is lined with 40 different maps that show Italian regions. They were commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII in 1580.
At the end of the map gallery are the Raphael Rooms, which were really remarkable. Our tour guide had a wealth of information to share about these paintings.
In the midst of her talk, she made sure to point out "Cardinal Rocky Balboa" to us. We turned and looked in the direction she was pointing and were stunned to see the below painting. Isn't the resemblance amazing?
|Raphael's The School of Athens|
After touring the Raphael Rooms, we went into the Sistine Chapel. Our tour guide had talked to us outside beforehand and explained everything we would be seeing -- the ceiling is frescoed with scenes from Genesis and the altar wall features the Last Judgment. She also told us we were not allowed to talk inside. I was shocked when we walked in and heard a constant hum of voices and saw people snapping pictures everywhere we looked (also a no-no). An announcement goes off every 5 or so minutes in several different languages reminding people not to talk and not to take pictures, but it goes ignored.
The chapel was so packed it could have been Grand Central. We found a small spot of bench in a corner and sat there and tried to find the details we had talked about outside. All of the people were just so distracting and so many were so disrespectful that it was very hard to really experience the chapel. I wish they would only let about 25 people in at a time. That said, it is stunning and worth seeing. Michelangelo spent four years painting it.
Next, we headed into St. Peter's Basilica. The church is just awe-inspiring.
|Dome of St. Peter's|
Our tour ended outside the basilica in St. Peter's Square.
|St. Peter's Square|
|St. Peter's Square|
|St. Peter's Basilica|