Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Vatican City

Day Two of our Italian adventure was spent exploring Vatican City.  Technically, not really Italy, but Karen and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to go all Catholic fan girl. I went to Vatican City with the Russo clan when I was 11, but Mike and I didn't venture there last time we were in Rome, so I was excited to go again.  
We got up and got to Vatican City early (9:00amish) and I'm glad we did. There were a lot of people there, but it didn't feel crowded and the lines to get in to St. Peter's Square and the Basilica were short for a Friday, which was so nice and refreshing after the crowded streets of Rome.

Hello, St Peter's Basilica.  Nice to see you!

Our first stop was St. Peter's Basilica.  I didn't remember anything from this, so it was like both Karen and I were experiencing it for the first time. I always get emotional going to places like this, and St. Peter's Basilica was no different.  Sp many people, especially Catholics, dream of coming to St. Peter's and consider it as an important part of their religious journey.  I became overwhelmed thinking about how lucky I am to go to SO many significant places, religious and secular.  This is when Karen turned to me and said "Hi. Karen Stefanski.  Catholic. Nice to meet you."  Getting to experience something like this with her was incredible.

When you walk in, to your right is the Pieta.  It's hard to miss because it's as stunning as you think it's going to be.

After checking the Pieta, we wandered around the cathedral.  It was incredible.

After taking in the cathedral, we decided to head up.  Up the cupola.  We paid 6 euros instead of 8 to walk instead of take the elevator.  If you take the elevator, you bypass 100 some stairs, but you still have to climb 320 stairs afterwards.  By the time we got to the top, I thought Karen might die, but it was totally worth it.  You can look down into the cathedral, which gives a cool perspective of the dynamic in the cathedral. 

Then, keep climbing and you'll be able to go outside. This makes every single stair you climbed worth it.  The view of Saint Peter's is breathtaking. 

I mean, really?!?!?!

Afterwards, we headed over to the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel.  We had made reservations online, which is almost necessary if you want to get in.  You can spend days in the Vatican Museum, but our main priority was the Sistine Chapel, so we only wandered around for a little while in the museum.

We did see this guy, though!

After we wandered the museum, we headed down the hall to the Sistine Chapel.  I was impressed, to say the least.  The ceiling is incredible.  You have to remind yourself to look forward sometimes because otherwise you just walk down the entire hall staring up at the ceiling and the potential for collision with others and/or walls is increased significantly.

When you walk into the Sistine Chapel, the room is wide open (it's only one room, don't make that mistake like some people Karen and I). There are benches along the wall, but you'll be hard pressed to find one.  Most people stand in the middle and stare upwards (your neck really gets a workout). The paintings are impressive and it's hard to imagine how Michaelangelo painted all of it lying on his back and looking up.  Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take pictures in the Sistine Chapel, although plenty of people did.  I'm a too afraid of the wrath of God (#catholicguilt) and the Vatican to try that, but I'm sure if you Google pictures, you can see some that people took. We did end up finding a bench and it made the experience so much better.  I was tired after the museum and being able to sit and take everything in while resting and relaxed made it a better experience.  Totally worth stalking people for.

In order to leave, you have to go through the gift shop (insert snarky comment about how the church wants all your money).  Karen picked up a few things and I searched for various items with Russo on them.
RUSSO! Pretty sure it means Russian, but I'll take it!
Once we were out, we headed back to Saint Peter's Square to take a few photos of things from the movie Angels and Demons, which Karen had seen.  I had never watched it, so  I had no idea what she was tlaking about, but she knew exactly where to go.

One of the places in the movie is the Castle Saint Angelo, which is actually in Rome.  We bought the Roma Passes the day before, which got us in to two sights for free, but also gave us discounts on the other museums and sights.  Since we had already used our two free sights the day before, we only received a discount, but it ended up being 5euros instead of 10.  After going through the castle, we agreed that it was definitely worth the 5 euros, but not 10.

Anyways, wandering through the castle was fun.

You can see a lot of Rome from the top and you don't need to climb nearly as many stairs as the cupola.

There is a cafe up there that you can sit and have a drink at, although we didn't stay.  We headed back out of the castle and got gelato, instead. Sorry not sorry.

By the time we finished Vatican City, it was almost dinner time.  A couple of weeks before our trip, my mom emailed me to say that one of her client's nieces had a restaurant in Rome near the Colosseum.  We made reservations and ended up spending our last night in Rome eating dinner there.  Unlike most of the restaurants in Rome, which feel very small and Roman, this restaurant felt very modern and open, which took us by surprise.  It looked like somewhere I would grab lunch to-go, which wasn't what we were hoping for, but our dinner turned out to be great! We started with an artichoke appetizer because we had heard that artichoke was in season.  I had never had artichoke that, but it was delicious.  For our first course, I had lasagna and Karen had gnocci.  We split lamb chops as our second course because that's what you do in Italy. All of it was really good and we definitely recommend Terre e Domus!

Since this was our last night in Rome, we wanted to savor our last evening by taking in the city at night.  It's totally worth it because you see things in a completely different light...literally!

And just like that, our two days in Rome was up.  It was a blast, but we had to head south to Naples to meet up with Mike!  Caio Roma!

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