|First breakfast, then The Vatican|
Day 3 – Vatican City and the surrounding areas
We started the day with the “American” breakfast for ONE person and paid 12 euro. I want to stress – this was for ONE person.I highly recommend, when looking for a hotel in Europe, that you find a hotel that includes breakfast in its fares. It will save you a lot of money, and most breakfasts are quite large – eggs, meats, yogurts, fruit, cereals, breads, you name it. My favorite thing soon became the croissants with Nutella. Heaven.
|The Vatican off in the distance|
The only good thing about our first hotel was the view. We were able to see the entire city, including the Vatican. So, on day 3 we left our perch and headed into the city to a new hotel – the Hotel Britannia. After a crazy cab ride (the metro was on strike) that lasted upwards of an hour, we learned the hard way that it is very important to keep your papers with you at all times. I had to chase the cab down when I learned that my traveling partner had left our Eurail passes and all of our itineraries in the cab. Thank goodness for helpful Italians, because otherwise we would have been in big trouble. Screaming and running thru the streets of Rome is not something I enjoyed.
The Hotel Britannia is a small British hotel just east of the Piazza Republica, near an Irish Pub that served nothing Irish in any way. Funny that we ate there twice for that very reason – great Italian food, no gimmick. Guinness was the only thing Irish about it.
The rooms at the Hotel Britannia were incredibly small!! Our double room was the size of my bedroom at home and the bathroom was just as small. The good news - after a long day of walking, we found a great use for the bidet – soaking our feet!
After our cab adventure, we headed to an appointment at the Vatican. Our tour was thru www.walksofitaly.com. Agnes, our tour guide, was fantastic!!! We were able to bypass all the lines and get VIP treatment. The tour was 3.5 hours, and took you thru the museum, gardens, the Sistine Chapel and then the Basilica. We had the option of climbing up into the Basilica dome, but I was told that if you are afraid of heights (which I am), or claustrophobic (guilty again), than it’s probably not a good idea. Plus, the line was incredibly long, which I imagine everyone is afraid of.
The museum was gorgeous and incredibly ornate. Knowing that the museum is basically a collection of Papal knick knacks was kind of interesting. It’s separated by interest, or sections, per se. Egypt, Animals, Roman history, etc. The mosaics on the floor, I will say, were incredibly impressive, as were the frescoes on the ceilings. The amount of time spent is mind-boggling
Something we learned along the way regarding the statues of Rome. You won’t see a lot of penises in Rome. The ruling leaders of Rome (Nero being the biggest whiner) believed that was inappropriate and requested that all statues be covered (Penis envy). Any “fig leaves” that you may see now have a penis underneath though the statue may look like it was made that way. Even the golden statue of Hercules has an added leaf.
|He's quite dandy|
You’ll find a lot of incredible art in the Vatican museum - frescoes, long hallways of gold, and geography galore. We did NOT do a tour of the catacombs, but I hear it’s fabulous. This year, the remains of Pope John Paul II will again be brought up into the Basilica because he has reached the next level toward sainthood. Rick Steves has a great update on Italy on his website – WWW.ricksteves.com.
We were able to tour the Sistine Chapel, which was beautiful. Knowing that Michaelangelo created those frescoes while standing up, is incredibly impressive. Please, if you visit, respect the rules. No photos and silence is stressed over and over again. But do people listen? No. I found it to be incredibly disrespectful. You will also notice that Michaelangelo created all of his models and subjects in his likeness, including the women. They are very masculine looking with huge biceps and rippling abs. Some suggest this is because Michaelangelo was gay, and never knew what a woman looked like naked. Who knows?
|Random Vatican pic|
The Basilica is incredibly beautiful. The pics speak for themselves. It is incredibly crowded though, so be prepared for ugliness amongst the masses
|Light penetrates the Basilica dome|
|Panorama of the plaza|