The priority for our second day in Rome was to see the Vatican, which includes St Peter’s Basilica (photo), the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. A country itself, residence of the Pope and home base for the Catholic Church, the Vatican draws hundreds of thousands of people every year. First, we visited the Egyptian Museum with rare artifacts from ancient Egypt, including a very well-preserved mummy. There is so much to see here in the museums...I could write a book!
Next stop: Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Ceiling. In 1508, Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to fresco the 12,000 square feet of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling. The job took four years, and the artist spent most of that time painting the 343 frescoes on his back on a scaffold. The various sections of the ceilings represents the Book of Genesis, which depicts the creation of man until the birth of Jesus. In the center of the room, you will see the famous depiction of God giving life to Adam. Other sections depict Noah Stories, Adam & Eve Stories and The Creation. After learning of a special exit from the chapel, we made our way to the overwhelming St. Peter’s Basilica, which was completed in 1626, where we stood in awe of the world of Catholicism. With Renaissance artwork and craftsmanship, we well as the history of a millennia of popes, one cannot spend time in this space without feeling a sense of worship, history and grandeur. It is a huge building that makes you feel like a dwarf inside.
We walked through the Piazza San Pietro, which is the site where the Pope appears every Sunday at 11 AM at the window of The Vatican Palace, as well as special commemorations, masses and beautification ceremonies. It was completed in 1667 after 11 years of work; it can hold 400,000 people and is decorated with more than 140 statues of saints and martyrs. The Piazza is even more awe-inspiring than what you see on television.
After hours at the Vatican City, we walked to the Pantheon a vast dome constructed to honor all pagan gods and measures 141 feet high by 141 feet wide. It was the largest ever designed until the 20th century and the best preserved and continually used building of imperial Rome. It serves as one of the city’s important burial places for Raphael, as well as two of Italy’s 19-century kings. After we gazed inside (and above at the top of) the Pantheon, we walked across the plaza to enjoy some gelato al fresco. We all sat back and wondered if life could get any better....ancient Rome, gelato, some vino and great friends. Ahhh...
After the gelato, we were ready to walk again.....this time our target was the popular Piazza Navona. On the way, we found a wonderful store with limoncello, pasta, olive oil and more. Javi was kind enough to treat us to several rounds of limoncello shots, and we hated to leave the store empty handed, so we bought some limoncello. Located at the heart of the historic center, Piazza Navona is considered by many to be the City’s most glorious piazza (plaza) that showcases the baroque age at its best. Inside the piazza, you will find tons of artists, beautiful fountains, street performers and visitors enjoying gelato. Lining the pedestrian-only piazza are gorgeous flowers, cafes, restaurants, churches and boutiques.
From Piazza Navona, we meandered through boutique-lined, brick streets (and shopped at leather stores and vintage boutiques) until we arrived at the Tevere River that runs through Rome. From the river, we walked south on Via Giulia, a popular street lined with regal palaces and still home to Rome’s most popular families. At the end of Via Giulia, we arrived at our friend Ace’s “home away from home” as she has been living in Rome for two weeks. After enjoying some limoncello, great conversation, photos from the penthouse balconies and seeing Ace’s Go Go Girls, we walked to Palazzo Spada for another incredible Italian meal. Fantastico!