Friday, July 31, 2015

Italy Adventure - Part 3

On day four of the trip, we had a tour of the Vatican scheduled. Originally, it was supposed to be an extended tour, with access to some private areas not available to the public tours. However, we were five minutes late to the tour and missed it. So we transferred it over to another guided tour and were still able to see the majority of what the other tour included.
Heading through security.
The dome at St. Peter's Basilica - we visited this later.
The public gardens:
The first of the museum galleries we entered was the Gallery of Tapestries.
The second gallery was the Gallery of Maps, showing various regions of old and new Italy.
After the galleries, we headed into Raphael's rooms - there were three main rooms of what used to be his apartment. Some of the paintings were MASSIVE.
We then headed to the Sistine Chapel. The rules were very specific and strict - down to the dress code (which was actually mandatory throughout the entire Vatican) - shoulders and knees covered, no talking at all in the Sistine Chapel, and no photography at all either. I broke both of those rules. One of the attorneys at my firm just returned from a trip to Italy about a month ago and he had pictures of the Sistine Chapel. I asked him how he was able to do that and he said they were on a "special tour". I'm not sure I believe that. ;)  Anyway, it was east to snag a picture on my cell phone as I could turn all of the settings to silent. The big camera, however, doesn't have that capability and it was a little harder to get a picture. I waited until there was a low roar from all of the talking, and when I was seated in an area that provided enough cover from all of the other people. The place was literally packed shoulder to shoulder the whole room. And there were so many guards monitoring people's activities, and other guards in charge of silencing the crowds when it got too loud. Once it was loud enough to cover the shutter noise of my camera, I snapped two quick pictures. I saw many other people doing the same, and even if they were caught, they were simply told no pictures. It's not like their cameras were confiscated or anything. Seemed relatively harmless and I got away with it.
Most of the ceiling:
The hallway leading down to the Papal Apartment. The Swiss Army is in charge of guarding Vatican City. 
Here is one uniformed guard - they had several different uniforms, all just as flashy as this:
After the Sistine Chapel, we were lead to St. Peter's Basilica.
This church is MASSIVE. Beyond massive. Standing inside makes you feel so small. The architecture of the churches in Rome really got me. The details were incredible. In places like this, it seems like every square inch is decorated.
This is just the main entryway - there are two more on each side, equally as big.
We also got to step out into St. Peter's Square.
The Papal Apartment - second from the right, with the open window.
St. Peter's Square:
At this point, our tour concluded. We decided we wanted to climb the Cupola. I knew this was going to be a lot of work, even though we opted to take the elevator for part of the climb. We still climbed several hundred incredibly steep and narrow stairs to get to the top. And just when you think you are to the top, you aren't. More stairs!
The pictures don't even convey the sheer size of this dome.
Here, we are inside the dome, still climbing. A lot of the paintings inside the Vatican and St. Peter's aren't actually paintings at all. They are mosaics. These had larger pieces. Some of the marble pieces were so tiny, and yet the entire work took up an entire wall, floor to ceiling. I can't imagine the man hours that went into these creations!
When we FINALLY reached the top of the dome, the view took my breath away. This was one picture I had been waiting to take. And that climb was SOOOO worth it.
We walked around the entire top of the dome, taking pictures of each different view.
Here you can see the wall that surrounds Vatican City.
After going back DOWN all of those stairs, we grabbed a couple more pictures inside St. Peter's before heading out into the square.
The Vatican from the square (which isn't square).
These fountains were ALL over Rome. One great thing about this city is that all of this water is drinkable. No need to buy countless bottles of water. Just bring your own and fill up all day long. The fountains are everywhere and the water is usually quite cold and very good. No chlorine tasting crap like we have here.
Nice car!  The guy in the red shirt was offering rides for sale.
Castel Sant'Angelo
We also stopped in Piazza Navona, which was one of my favorite places. There were lots of street vendors and live music. I could have spent an entire day here just people watching.
After Piazza Navona, we stopped at yet another church. Trust me, the irony of my list of churches to visit is not lost on me. But they were all so magnificent!  This one is Sant'Angelo della Valle.
I have not altered the coloring in these photos - the inside really is THAT gold!
The ceiling in this church was quite unique - very 3D.
I just couldn't get enough of this building - I grabbed some more pictures as we were walking back to the apartment.
And of course, more of this one, too!

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