Vatican City, Italy
Even though we’re not Catholic, we had to experience the Vatican. We were hopeful for one of those mass audiences with the Pope…but alas, he had left for Jerusalem a few days before.
Nonetheless, we visited his home, his country, his fortress–the Vatican. It’s only 106 acres, but it has it’s own post office, currency, army (the Swiss Guard), radio station and freight train station. And it counts as another country on TravelPod!
We got there early–at 7 a.m. just as St. Peter’s opened for the day. There is a special “Pope door” to the far right–and of course we noticed the Pope balcony above our entrance.
Michelangelo’s Pieta is just to the right of the front doors. It is a smooth, white marble statue of Mary and a dying Jesus, carved when Michelangelo was only 25…and the only piece he signed. It is protected behind glass since some idiot tried to destroy it in 1972. Who tries to destroy a beautiful piece of artwork carved over 500 years ago?! I don’t get it.
St. Peter’s is massive. Sunlight streams in and seems to turn corners–highlighting the marble Veronica to the left of St. Peter’s altar. St. Peter himself is buried here they say, in the grottos below. Poor St. Peter’s bronze statue likeness has had his toes lovingly rubbed away over the years by adoring pilgrims. And pigeons fly high above in the golden rafters of the church.
We took yet another climb to the top of a dome. This time 320 steps (after a lift). The view of Rome from the steep dome was stunning. We stopped mid-way down to buy some rosaries and postcards with Vatican stamps from the nuns and to enjoy a standing espresso while we wrote postcards to be mailed from this mini-but-mighty Country.
Next, we made our way over to the Vatican Museums. Through a pack of people and a dozen rooms filled to the brim with paintings, frescos, tiles…and through a long hall of painted maps and gilded ceilings. Our goal was to get to the Sistine Chapel and spend some time there soaking it in.
Finally, we entered the Sistine Chapel–the place where the papal conclave is locked until they elect a new pope, the place where black or white smoke signals the vote results to outsiders, the place where Michelangelo lay on his back on scaffolding for over 4 years, painting scenes from the Bible on the ceiling, and returned about 25 years later to paint the Last Judgment on one of the walls. As we were ushered in, everyone started snapping pictures. I took 4 including ones of the ceiling, the Last Judgment and the amazing floor that no one ever looks at (all without a flash) before guards reminded everyone that no photography was allowed. We sat quietly on the edges of the room looking up and admiring the scenes and the colors–and trying to grasp the history in that room…the stories those walls could tell!
Truly a highlight of our trip…Pope or no Pope!
We left very early on Wednesday May 13 for the train station and our train to FCO airport. Somehow, Bryan got us on a direct flight to ORD vs a lay-over in JFK…and saved us 4 hours of transit time! So we did some duty-free shopping–chocolate and single malt, and then enjoyed a last croissant, pizza slice, and cappuccino before the 10 hour flight home…5,151 miles.
We watched Marley and Me on the plane ride home and I cried my eyes out…and so did most of the plane.
And then there were those thoughts of the Pantheon–and how very cool it would be to stand in there when it rains and hear the patter on the marble floors. And to see Venice in the snow. And to see the Pope blessing the crowds at Easter. Here’s hoping those coins in Trevi Fountain do their jobs! Ciao Italy…we’ll be back!