We woke up this morning, grateful to be in such a nice, clean, quiet campground. Although it was a little bit chilly as the sun had not come up over the terraced hill on which our tent is pitched, we were excited to have a day to explore Rome. Up for today was the Vatican and all that entails, as well as a few other sites along the way.
We took a heavily graffiti laden train into the subway station, again thankful for our free bus passes. One transfer and two stops later, we found ourselves on Rome’s busy yet clean streets. As we made our way to St. Peter’s Basilica, we were constantly bombarded with both shady and official looking people on all sides, incessantly and obnoxiously trying to sell us an “official tour”. It is almost as bad as the illegal product knock-off street peddlers whose displays can be scooped up at a moments notice in order to avoid being caught by the police.
Before long, we made our way through an enormous line of pillars that are the entrance to St. Peter’s Square, at which the head stands the basilica. In my own opinion, the duomo in Florence is much more picturesque on the outside with its bright colors and intricate detail. Its interior, however, pales in comparison.
We got in line in order to enter the basilica. It was seriously the longest line I have ever seen – probably 200 meters long and wrapping half way around the square. It moved quickly, though, unlike other lines we have experience thus far in Italy. There wasn’t even enough standing time for Bree to capture pictures without jumping out and back in.
Our expectations for the basilica were fairly low. We figured it would be a 20 minute stop where we take a couple of pictures and move on. This was not the case. We were in total awe by the size, the amount of people, and the level of intricate detail that the interior is adorned with. We spent over 90 minutes wandering around, looking at various statues (such as Michelangelo’s Pieta) and frescos, and seeing how much devotion and respect many of the people have for this church of churches.
After visiting the fragrant prayer room and witnessing the conclusion of mass in one of the chapels, we stepped out into the hot Roman sun.
Our guide book mentions that if the museums of Rome don’t interest you, it is because everything awesome in the Vatican museum. With that in mind, we figured we better check it out. After standing in yet another line, I have become convinced that this place in July would be absolutely miserable. It is already packed and fairly warm, so adding more people and more heat would do no good. The museums were great, though. They include not only religious art, but a section on ancient Egypt, as well as a hallway of Roman and Greek sculptures. I am shocked that they just leave the 2000 year old sculptures out on an open floor for people to touch and sneeze on, instead of behind glass or case or at the very least a rope.
The string of museum exhibits led to what was our final stop in the museum – the Sistine Chapel. While seeing the chapel and seeing how large it is was amazing, the atmosphere quite frankly sucked. In spite of the guards shouting at people to stop taking photographs and to be quiet, the room echoed a dull roar as the masses of people crammed into every available space, chatting amongst each other and ignoring the calls to stop taking pictures. I’m glad to have seen Michelangelo’s amazing work, but was glad to be out of the claustrophobia that is the Vatican museum.
After the museum, we visited the even more crowded Trevi Fountain (the crowds here are beginning to get to me). It is said that drinking the water will bring one good luck. I don’t know if it is true, but we refilled our water bottle at the fountain and the water tastes great. I am tempted to sop by tomorrow to refill more bottles…
We finished the day by wandering the streets of Rome, passing by the Pantheon and several other important and equally old buildings, and eating gelato. Not bad for our first day in Rome.