We made a rookie mistake on our tour to the Vatican. Let me back up. We had decided to pay for a private tour of Ancient Rome (Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Pantheon). The best way to visit the sites is to pre-buy tickets to avoid the long lines of buying them at the point of interest. We had planned to do an early morning tour of ancient Rome, then go to Vatican City late afternoon. The morning tickets were sold out at the Colosseum a week in advance so we chose the afternoon and looked for Vatican City museums tickets and by then, the early morning tickets were sold out as well. We bought midday tickets and it was ridiculously full! We should have not pre-bought our tickets, then showed up early to buy the tickets on site. It’s a rainy Saturday morning. I kind of doubt there would have been the thousands that were lined up outside at noon.
Vatican City is the smallest country in the world, at a little over 100 acres.
That said, this was the one place in Italy that we toured for art. And there are miles of it, collected by the popes over the centuries.
As Lois said, “we pretty much had the place to ourselves.”
Rick Steves has an app with audio tours of many popular sites in Italy (and other countries as well). We used it here but it was a little hard to use in the more congested areas. Some of the rooms like the Raphael rooms were much smaller than the corridors and we didn’t take the time to hear all he had to say about the paintings.
Everyone once-in-a-while we’d catch glimpses of the vast gardens, which we didn’t have time to tour.
Touring the Sistine Chapel was quite interesting. It was quite full and since it was a church, they wanted silence. That’s a bit hard to do when it’s packed with hundreds of people, some leaving and some coming in constantly.
We (sadly) did not have enough time to see any more of Vatican City. We were tired and hungry and needed to eat lunch before going across the city to meet our tour guide that afternoon.
We made an effort to see the giant spiral staircase before we left. You have to go through the gift shop to see it, when you’re leaving the museums.
On to Ancient Rome Tour ……
We found our tour guide and she decided to head to the Palatine Hill are 1st.
I don’t begin to remember all the history we were given. There are so many different things that happened in different centuries on or near the same sites.
If I remember correctly, the ruins above were from the temple of Vesta, home of the vestal virgins.
The Colosseum was brought on a mixture of feelings. The architecture aspect of it is awe-inspiring but the violence and death that was it’s feature, left us with a heavy feeling.
The Coloseum had 4 floors, each with 80 arches and held 50,000 people. There was a canopy across the top, operated by sailors. They say that Colosseum could be filled and/emptied in a hour’s time.
We had told our tour guide back we were communicating with her about hiring her, that we would really like to have the undground area included. I’m not sure what happened, if she forgot, or was distracted with moving, but we did not get to see this. This would be where the animals, gladiators, and other people who were sent to the arena were kept before they made their appearance. There was so much blood shed that between fights, they would have to bring add clean sand.
As mentioned in my last post, the Pantheon was on our tour plan with the tour guide. When we arrived, they were not letting anyone inside. After inquiring around, we found out that there was a service and all tourists had to wait until it was over.
It is a massive building and an architectural wonder. According to ancient.eu, The rotunda measures 43.2 metres in diameter which is exactly the maximum height of the dome, itself a perfect hemisphere. At the very top of the dome is an opening to the sky (oculus) which is 8.8 metres in diameter and has a decorative bronze sheet frieze. The dome is made from a light tufa and scoria (a type of pumice) mix of concrete (caementa) and its interior is further lightened by five rings of 28 coffers which reduce in size as they rise towards the centre of the dome. These may have been originally covered in bronze sheets.
It’s been in continuous use for over 2,000 years.
We were some weary pilgrims when we made it back to our apartment that night! The fitness apps/smart watches said we had walked 10 miles that day.
We wanted to attend Mass at least once in Italy so the next morning, which was Sunday, we went to San Giovanni (St. John) in Laterno, which was and still is technically the Pope’s church, though practically speaking, St Peter’s Basilica is.
We had to go through security to enter.
There were not many in attendance but according to their website, they were expecting a group of 1,000 pilgrims from Peru for the 4:00 PM Mass.
We headed out of Rome Sunday around noon. That gave me exactly 3 days (The other ladies only had 2 days) to see as much as I could see. Which was a lot, and yet barely scratching the surface.