We'd scheduled some tours for days two and three, starting with the Vatican Museum. If you're planning to visit the Vatican Museum, I strongly suggest you make reservations. After seeing the non-reserved line which wound down to the end of the block and around the corner, I was glad we'd heeded that bit of advice. Another bit of advice I wish we'd heeded: skip most of the Vatican Museum and head straight to the Sistine Chapel. There's lots and lot of stuff in the VM: Egyptian artifacts, busts of Popes, tapestries of Popes, portraits of Popes, Virgin Mary's, saints, crucifixion scenes. Pretty much what you'd expect, with some strategically placed sales points for souvenirs which helped to create some effective clog points due to all of the TOURISTS. I hope those of you who are religious will not be offended, but after about an hour of portraits of Popes and shuffling through various halls packed cheek-to-jowl with fellow tourists, we were on sensory overload and ready to get the heck out of Dodge.
There was one gallery full of animal sculptures that was kind of fun.
Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photographs in the Sistine Chapel (and the guards were relentlessly barking at any sign of a cell phone or camera "NO PHOTO NO PHOTO!") so we appreciated the results of Michelangelo's labors for a few minutes then moved on. The Sistine Chapel is where the Cardinals meet to elect the Pope. But I didn't see the chimney where they send up the black or white smoke.
The last attraction on the tour was Saint Peter's Basilica, which was awe inspiring.
|This is just one of the side chapels.|
Pictures really can't effectively convey the size and scope of this cathedral. Afterward we followed the herd out into Saint Mark's Square where we spotted this Swiss Guard.
Lunch was one of those amazing serendipitous finds, but that's a subject for another post. After lunch we still had an hour to kill before our scheduled tour time, so we wandered up the Via di Fori Imperiali where we took in some more impressive ruins...
|Love the wildflowers|
|See what I mean?|
not sure at that point what it was, took in the view of more ruins from the terrace...
then discovered another beautiful church immediately behind it, the Basilica Santa Maria in Ara Coeli.
|Look at that ceiling!|
Some of the stained glass windows appeared more modern than the rest of the church.
Finally, it was time to head back to the Coliseum for our scheduled "underground" tour.
We got to see the "working" area underneath where the gladiators, animals and workers lived (and died). There was a complex elevator and pulley system for bringing animals, people and stage sets up to the arena floor.
|Keystone (above) and partial arena floor (recently added)|
|You can see the partial floor added recently. In Roman Empire days, this would have covered the entire arena (and the word "arena" comes from the sand that was brought in to cover the wooden floor).|
Whew! That was one full day. We had one more half day in Rome, which I'll share in the next post.
As you may have surmised, we had NO time to shop at all on this part of the trip. I'd also love to tell you more about style in Rome, but probably 90% of people we saw at any given time were other tourists, and another 5% were priests or nuns.
Next up, Borghese Museum!