Italy - Day 1 - Rome and the Vatican

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September 14th 2012
Published: September 23rd 2012
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I sat reading my kindle in the dining room of the Hotel Grifo, waiting for Gwen and Josh (or Gwosh) to arrive from their flight. Of course, as soon as I hop up to use the restroom, I hear them come in. We went to the same cafe I had visited earlier and got some yummy cappuccino and a little ham croissant to eat before heading to the Vatican. Gwen had booked us a 2pm tour.

We made our way to the metro station and boarded our train. You have to always be careful of pickpockets in Rome and especially in crowded areas such as the metro, but it was not too busy on the way. We found our way to the meeting point for the tour, but we were a bit early so we went for some gelato. It was pretty good and I decided to try one that looked interesting but we couldn't figure out the translation. It tasted familiar, but Josh finally figured it out: Eggnog. Weird! I'm still not positive that's what it was supposed to be, but that's just what it tasted like.

We met our tour guide at 2:00. Gwosh were not impressed, but I thought he was ok. He gave us a lot of information. We went into the Vatican City Museum though security gates and started the three hour tour. (Heehee) We got to see a lot of the artwork near the entrance and to see the dome of St. Peter's from the plaza. There was just so much incredible artwork, sculptures, paintings and tapestries. These areas used to be residences for some of the cardinals, but it was now all museum. There was a big mixture between Christian symbols and saints as well as Roman pagan gods. In the photos you'll see lots of sculptures of the Roman gods and goddesses, which is a bit weird in the seat of the Catholic religion. I got to learn a bit about symbolism in some of the artworks, such as the keys to the kingdom of heaven that are representive in depictions of St. Peter and are part of the papal coat of arms. It was also fun to see that many artists painted themselves in their works - for instance, you'll see a painting of early Christian scenes with a guy wearing Renaissance clothing just standing by watching or even looking at the viewer. Pretty cool!

We also so the parking lot of the Vatican, but no pope-mobile or holy-copter.

Eventually, weaving our way through thousands of tourists, we made our way to the Sistine Chapel. You are supposed to be very quiet and respectful, not taking any photos. I thought that the no taking photos bit was due to the respectful part, but it is actually because some Japanese company (maybe he said Korean) who did some of the restorations also included copyrights to images in their contract. Sneaky. But had I known that was the reason, I probably would have snapped away. It was interesting to hear about Michaelangelo (some of this also came later during a tour in Florence). He hated women, was celibate, and just could not capture the images of women correctly, so if you look at his depictions of them, they often have masculine attributes. He also often stuck it to authority figures, which is kind of cool. For instance, in the Sistine Chapel ceiling painting is a depiction of Eve giving Adam the apple and getting banished from the garden. Only, it is not an apple tree, but a fig tree, which represents the old testament. Or if you look at The Last Judgement in the bottom right, he paints the face of a papal advisor with horns because he raised a stink about Michealangelo painting everyone naked. By the way, he still left them naked, but painted the then-pope in heaven after the issue was raised and the pope left as is; later, another painter came along and put in the cloths covering the genitals.

So, the Sistine Chapel was very pretty and a once in a lifetime piece of art to behold. I liked that it was quiet in there because you did have the opportunity to just lose yourself in what a fabulous piece of work it was, regardless of your beliefs.

Then our tour was over and we went to St. Peter's Basilica to wander around for half an hour. The place is massive. And full of works of its own. There was also some kind of mass going on while we were there, which was pretty cool. Pope John Paul II has been moved to the main floor since he got beatified and there were people praying.

We soon left and made our way back to our neighborhood. We were hungry, starving actually, and stopped at one of the first places we saw. Unfortunately, while the front entrance said one restaurant it was actually part of an Irish Pub - the Fiddler's something. DO NOT EAT THERE. The lady said "good food, good food". It was a lie. The wine was meh. The food was ugh! Not a great first dinner in Italy, but we still had another week to make up for it. And we definitely knew now what NOT to do: No Irish pubs (despite the many we saw) and if we didn't get a good vibe, we would leave. To be fair, I imagine the pub is a great place to hang out later for a beer and maybe some snack foods, but dinner was atrocious.

We made our way back to the hotel, grabbing some wine on the way, and hung out in the room for a bit before our exhaustion over took us. Our room was pretty nice - a good sized bathroom, a double bed, and two singles, with a large closet and desk. It was up a steep flight of stairs on the third (fourth) floor. The elevator worked, but the three of us with our back packs had fun fitting into it! Yeah, soon after our first glasses of wine, we were OUT.

Additional photos below
Photos: 50, Displayed: 26


St Peter's in the backgroundSt Peter's in the background
St Peter's in the background

if you look closely at the top of the dome, you'll see people looking out

doesn't seem very christian or even roman pagan
The Last SupperThe Last Supper
The Last Supper

note the two renaissances artists in lower left
The Last JudgementThe Last Judgement
The Last Judgement

the devil horned guy on the lower right
Sistine chapelSistine chapel
Sistine chapel

outdoor directory of the various frescoes within the chapel
Inner domeInner dome
Inner dome

one of many
Mars the godMars the god
Mars the god

something's missing. I think he said some cleric cut off all the extra appendages on various statues in the Vatican....

I guess, Minerva, but they still called her Athena

23rd September 2012

Love all the artwork! I will make it to Rome one of these days...More certain of that now after seeing your photos! :)
23rd September 2012

Hi Pookie It looks like you and Gwosh had a great time in Italy. Thanks for sharing the blog post and the photos. Great to read about your trip! I hope all is well.

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