European Vacation Fall 2013 – Vatican City

This is post two of five from our European Vacation in Fall 2013. This page is from our day in Vatican City and the trip to Florence.

Vatican City – Monday, September 30

People, people, people every where. What a genius move it was to sign up in advance for a skip the line tour of the Vatican. As we stepped out of the cab in the front entrance of Vatican City, we noticed what had to be over 10,000 people lined up outside the gates. We asked for directions to our tour starting point and learned we had to be on the other side of the city at the museum entrance. The atmosphere was like a World Series pregame where you had to dodge scalpers hocking their skip the line tickets every 50 yards or so. “No thanks. I’m good. No. I have tickets.” Well, I sure hoped our tickets will get us around all these people. As we maneuvered to the rear entrance, even more people waited in a line completely encircling the tall walls of the city state. We found our tour group in time and happily slid through the awaiting humanity into the Vatican. Thanks!

Inside, there was little relief from the mad rush of people. I was ready to get out after 30 minutes and may have done so if it didn’t start pouring down; no, it was a gully washer for nearly two hours straight. So, we hunkered down and made the best of the madness that was Vatican City. [Note to anyone planning a trip to the Vatican. Do not take a back-pack of any kind. I had to check in my camera bag. Good thing they have a bag check. The quarters were very tight.]

Our tour was a historical journey of the two artists best known for their Vatican art, Raphael and Michelangelo. Of course, there were tapestries and grand cartographies but the focus of the tour was on these two artists. Raphael’s incredible work can be found in many of the rooms through out the building. He is known for placing himself in his fresco paintings, peering directly out at the observer as if to say, “yeah I did this.”

Michelangelo, who was more of an accomplished sculptor and fresco painter, focused his energies in the Sistine Chapel. Of course, he produced sculptures for the Vatican too but his finest work is on the chapel walls and ceiling. To use Elizabetta’s terms, according to me, I don’t understand why they allow photography everywhere but the Sistine chapel. Both Raphael’s work and Michelangelo’s were done at the same time but Michelangelo’s work is treated much more gingerly. I get that light can damage art but then why allow photography throughout Raphael’s works. So, I bought one of those €16.00 books with better pictures of the art than I could ever capture.

While in the Sistine Chapel, Deb heard that it was modeled after the lost temple of Jerusalem, the one Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar tore down. It turns out that the chapel has the same dimensions, as described in the Old Testament, as the Temple of Solomon on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

Raphael Rooms

The four Stanze di Raffaello (“Raphael’s rooms”) or public rooms in the papal apartments are famous for Raphael’s frescoes. Pope Julius commissioned the young artist to basically outshine his predecessor, Pope Alexander, who was a Borgia from Spain.

Sistine Chapel & St. Peter’s Basilica

The highlight of the tour for me was St. Peter’s Basilica. I wish we had spent more time there. The history and art found all around the church was utterly amazing. Michelangelo’s La Pieta is outstanding. La Pieta translates literally to the Pity. The sculpture depicts the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus. We were almost an hour long, so we didn’t take time to walk through the catacombs under St. Peter’s church.

High Speed Train to Tuscany

After cabbing back to the hotel to pick up our bags, we hopped a train to Florence. Somehow, I stumbled into another great choice. Taking the (how fast is 247km/h?) train to Florence was a complete pleasure. Deb slept almost all the way to Florence. BTW: It’s 153Mph

The next stop of our tour is Florence and an all day tour of Tuscany.

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