Vatican Museums & St Peter's
Today was going to be busy! Early breakfast, then off to take the metro to the Vatican for our guided tour. Paolo, our local guide, met us just outside the museums and led us in straight away.
Another cheer for Rick Steves! It was so nice to leave this part of planning to the awesome RS team. Show up. Walk in. Perfect!
Even though we were there early, it was still quite crowded. Paolo led us through the crowds and brought to life the amazing artwork and filled us with the history of this place. The Sistine Chapel was smaller than I expected, but no less glorious. No photos are allowed inside the Chapel, which adds to its glorious mystery. It was nice to put down the camera and see the chapel unadulterated and to think about the people and things it has seen. We learned that Michelangelo was not happy about painting the famous fresco ceiling when he was commissioned by Pope Julius II in 1508. He considered himself a sculptor. He reluctantly accepted the commission, and then found new excitement in working with paints and fresh plaster as he brought the ceiling to life over the next 4 years.
If the Sistine Chapel felt smaller than I expected, St Peter's felt immensely larger. Markers on the spectacular marble floor show where other great cathedrals of the world would fit inside the walls of the great church.
But the highlight, (there were so many!), was Michelangelo's sublime Pieta.
Handwritten daily itinerary from Sarah. We looked forward to this personal touch each day!
Note: Take a photo of the posted itinerary to refer to throughout the day. It always included Sarah's phone number as well in case we needed to reach her for any reason.
See with your eyes.
As tempting as it is to see your entire trip through the lens of your camera or phone, put it down once in a while.
(Believe me, this is challenging, I KNOW!) But force yourself to do it. Stop and LOOK and SEE and imprint the images in your brain, burn them into your memory...it can be overwhelming to actually think about the historic people, places, and things that filled these streets and churches. Don't forget to take a quiet moment or two to honor them.
We use the word "awesome" in everyday speech, but so often forget its true meaning. This. This was awesome.
Paolo bid us farewell and we were left to continue exploring on our own.
We wandered the streets near the Vatican and stopped for a lunch of pizza and pesto. Yum. We were serenaded by a wandering band with its accordion playing leader. This was people watching at its best.
Another beauty of a Rick Steves tour is the perfect mix of organized activities and free time.
We walked and walked and walked (this would become a theme!) and eventually made our way back to our neighborhood. Tony and I made dinner reservations and learned quickly that if we at least tried to speak Italian, it was met with great appreciation. Tony announced our Italian last name to the maître d' in his best Italiano pronunciation and we were promised a table at il Gabriello for that evening.
After a walk up to the Borghese Gardens to take sunset pictures of St Peter's and Vatican City from afar, we made our way back to the restaurant for dinner. Tony & I both ordered the carbonara. It's one of Tony's specialty dishes to cook, so we were excited to try the real deal. Amazing doesn't even start to describe it. Dinner ended with a grappa for Tony and a limoncello for me. Our day ended with us both happy and full. I'm sensing a theme.
Most restaurants don't even open for dinner until 7:30 pm. It's a great idea to stop by or call earlier in the day to make a reservation. Expect that it may be a bit later than you are used to. ENJOY IT. Make time to stop for an Aperitivo at a bar...have an Aperol Spritz (a colorful drink made from aperol, prosecco, and soda water...so delicious!). They will also bring you little dishes with various goodies like peanuts, chips, olives, and other snacks. A perfect way to build your appetite for whatever delicious dinner awaits!
Another great day. I never want to leave.
Day 2 Photo Highlights
the Colosseum and Forum and then off to Volterra!