Published: July 23rd 2012July 20th 2012
Friday July 20, 2012.
We were up early and walked along Via Cola di Rienzo a main through fare, which leads to Vatican City. This street is just at the end of the block where our Bed and Breakfast is. I have to say in a place like Rome where you can walk absolutely everywhere choosing a place to stay in the downtown area is really critical. Unlike other large cities Rome is VERY walkable and if you don’t feel like walking the subway system is a piece of cake to learn to use.
As we walked along we stopped at an amazing shop. It was kind of a deli/coffee bar/bakery place and of course the first thing that drew us in was the small crowd gathered around the barista… the protocol, we quickly learned, is to go pay for what you want and then go give your ticket to the barista and he makes your coffee. Two cappuccino’s later we were primed and ready for the full day, which lay ahead. I can’t believe what bad coffee we have in Canada, seriously. It is either too bitter, too bland or just not worth drinking! Why is it that there is such FANTASTIC coffee everywhere else? We didn’t ask for pastries because we honestly didn’t know how to ask and pay and also they actually looked like artwork, I have since overcome my fear of eating them and have indulged a few times since! I am pretty sure that despite walking until our feet feel like stumps we are gaining weight. The food is out of this world!
Rome is a very hot city. VERY hot. On this particular day the temps soared towards the high 30’s. You begin to perspire the moment you set foot outside. So after the coffee and walking a few blocks, even at 8:30 in the morning, we were drenched. Then we saw the line up to get in. It was probably 2 city blocks in length. Then we noticed the sign that said “PREPAID” and LUCKY us! I had booked us into the Vatican and for a tour of the Botanical Gardens so while literally hundreds of people were in the line we passed right on into the museum. If you were to go to Rome and the Vatican was a part of your itinery I would strongly suggest the pre-booking option. With over 20 000 visitors a day all year round you can be sure there will be both crowds and line ups! It is still worth going to see.
The first part of the Museum is quite modern and ‘typical’ then you quickly pass into the various halls, each hall connects to another and you are basically herded through each hall with only a few minutes to absorb what you are seeing. Each Hall represents various eras or people who had influence in the Catholic Church and/or influence in the history of the development of the modern world. However, to think that the Vatican is all about Catholics would be wrong because it is not, in fact it is probably the best representation of the fundamental birth of Christianity. The ultimate goal is the Sistine Chapel that is the ‘end of the line’ so to speak, and then you are just in the museum again. However the Sistine Chapel was everything I had hoped it would be and more. I was really quite moved by finally seeing such an amazing place of worship and art. Truly breathtaking, I said to John that if Churches in Canada were even a fraction as beautiful I might be enticed back into regular attendance. Surrounding oneself in such beauty how could you NOT want to give thanks? After this part of the Vatican we returned to the entryway and took a small group tour of the botanical gardens. I was quite keen to learn about the various plants and gardens and see them first hand and I would say that I was not disappointed. The gardens are a mix of Italian, French and English styles with a lovely forested area thrown in for good measure. There are footpaths throughout and we were afforded the only exterior views of the Sistine Chapel along with some stunning views of St. Peter’s Basilica. The lady giving the tour was full of information. They only do that particular tour once a day in the morning because the Pope likes to wander around the grounds in the afternoon. He particularly likes to go to a spot in the forest with his older brother who is a cardinal. That is probably where the older brother gives him a noogie. Ha.
I found a number of things really interesting. I think it is fairly obvious that the pope before this one remains an enduring presence; MOST of the souvenirs in the gift shop were reflective of John Paul. Benedict is not very popular even in Italy—though there were a large number of Polish people on the tour claiming bragging rights to their countryman being the Pope. Even the tour guide made some cryptic, yet pointed remarks. We heard a few people who talked about watching a Pope being elected and how significant this was to Romans—not necessarily Catholics but they describe it as a rather moving and important event in the life of the city. Who would know? Finally, the current Pope plays the piano every night and he has 5 cats….if he were a woman we would call him a ‘cat lady’. Just saying.
After this part of the Vatican we went outside and around to the area that is St. Peter’s Square and into the Basilica. The square is massive and quite stunning. The basilica is also amazing. This part of the Vatican is free of charge. It was extremely hot and very crowded. To get into the Basilica you have to go through security (again) and then the fashion police look you over. If your knees or shoulders are bare you are denied entry. In many other churches we have visited they give you a shawl or wrap to wear, not here. It is far too busy for that to happen. I noticed that it was entirely women turned away, there were men inside wearing shorts that did not cover their knees….John noticed that there were a lot of boobs/cleavage and suggested that a knee or shoulder was, in his mind, far less suggestive/provocative and I just thanked him sweetly for noticing all the boobs and for sharing that with me.
Inside the basilica is very beautiful. The artwork and the detail are incredible. We walked around it and we really were impressed but the freakiest thing happened! There was a small shaft of light coming in through one of the high windows. I had John stand in the light and I took his picture, then he did the same for me. The photos were eerie. I will attaché them so that you can see for yourself. I literally look like I glow…I think it is a sign. I just can’t decide which way to go with it, so I will let you be the judge!
We wandered the streets of Rome back to our hotel room for a shower and a siesta. After 6 hours of walking in the heat we were both ready for a rest and some relief. I will have to post the photos later because the only internet is in the lobby and I haven't got the camera with me to load the photos. Also. I am having trouble with email from my shaw account...again. So write to me here if you want or need. Love to all, nan
Around 4:30 we set out again to find some food. This is entirely too early by Italian standards so we talked to Luca and asked him for some suggestions about where to go. We found ourselves just around the corner from the BandB at a place called Brown and Co. we sat in the interior courtyard and enjoyed a prosecco and some peanuts and olives and looked over the maps and books we have along.
Later that evening we made our way to a lovely restaurant where we sat outdoors and enjoyed some pizza. The pizza is interesting. Very thin crust with a small amount of sauce then a topping or two. My favourite so far has been the prosciutto and rocket (arugula). It is really good!