Friday, October 26, 2012

Meeting Christopher and a Visit to the Vatican

Today was our first morning waking up in Rome and the day started out a little cloudy. Thomas and I slept in, meaning that we didn’t set an alarm and we just woke up when we woke. We were really tired from all the traveling and the afternoon in Rome yesterday so we didn’t plan for anything this morning. Around 9:30am we made our way down to the dining room for breakfast. We had eggs and bacon, croissants, orange juice and coffee. We sat with Dave, Deanne, Frank and Susie. A little later we were joined by Mark and Sue. We had a pleasant and relaxing breakfast and then headed back up to the room to get ready for the afternoon.

At noon we met our tour director – Christopher (originally from the UK but now lives in Rome). We had a little meeting to get all the scoop about our tour. He didn’t go into the detail about what we would be doing each day but he did talk about things like being on time and safe. He also let us know about dress codes when visiting churches and that we would have different tour guides in each of the cities we visit. We were also given little radios. We wear these when we are getting a tour and the tour guide speaks into a microphone and you can hear everything through headphones instead of them having to yell – I think this is one nifty little idea. We also got a couple of handouts with information on it and an itinerary for what we will be doing each day of the tour. The last thing we did was pick our menu choices for tonight’s dinner at the hotel.

After the meeting we had about an 45 minutes until we left for our tour of the Vatican. Thomas and I returned to our room to get a few things and then we went back down to the lobby to meet the group. By 1:30pm we were all loaded on to the bus ready for the short drive to the Vatican. Our bus drive Mimo was fearless driving the huge bus through the narrow and busy streets of Rome and he got us to our destination safely. He dropped us off on the side of the Vatican Museums where we met our tour guide for the day – Antonetta. She had one of those pointers that telescopes and she had a big red flower attached to the end. This is what Christopher told us while we were on the bus –“That crazy lady with the big red flower is your tour guide for the day”. It was a great way to start the tour. We all gathered on the sidewalk and turned our radios on and then made the short walk to the entrance to the museums.

Sculpture in the Vatican Museums
We went through security and then waited in an area until Christopher got all our tickets. While he was getting tickets there was time for people to take a bathroom break before starting the tour. About a half hour later we began our tour. We first went out into a courtyard – The Cortile della Pigna. Named for a large pinecone from an ancient fountain at one end of the area. Here we were given some history and information about the Vatican, the museums and the Sistine Chapel. We then returned inside and continued the tour. I can’t tell you exactly where we went or what we saw. All I can say is that we walked down long halls and saw an incredible amount of art – tapestries, sculptures, frescoes and paintings. It was all very amazing and beautiful. Sue made a comment that we didn’t have enough eyes or cameras to take it all in – and that was exactly how it felt. At the end of the tour of the museums you end up at the Sistine Chapel. Here we had about 30 minutes to take in the place. Again, very overwhelming. I had downloaded an audio tour of the chapel from Rick Steves for my iPod – so I found a place to sit (which wasn’t easy since the place was packed) and listened to the description and history of the paintings. It was all so interesting. When the 30 minutes were up we met Antonetta and exited the chapel and made our way to the front of St.Peter’s Basilica.
Mosaic in St. Peter's
We got a short history lesson here and then we were given time to enjoy the inside of St. Peter’s and then walk around the square and do a little souvenir shopping. The first thing we did after entering the church was to view Michelangelo’s Pieta. I really love this piece of art – it is beautiful and amazing. I think it is incredible that Michelanglo could get such a moving and emotional piece of art from a block of marble. We then just made our around the church admiring all of the ornate art work. By the time we walked back outside it was raining. So we stood under a covering for a little while and when the rain slowed we made our way to a bookstore. I got a book on the Sistine Chapel and some postcards. We mailed a postcard back to ourselves and one to a friend from the smallest country in the world.

By this time it was time to meet the group back at the bus to make our way to the hotel. We had a little time to clean up and get ready for dinner in the hotel restaurant. For dinner we had put in our orders earlier so they had prepared what we all wanted. Thomas and I both had penne with meat sauce for the first course. Then Thomas had chicken and I had seabass (both came with green beans and potatoes) and for dessert I had some fruit and Thomas had a semifredo. We had a nice dinner with the group and we talked about how much we were all enjoying the trip so far. Dinner didn’t start until around 7:30 so we didn’t get back to the room until 9:30. Now that I am showered I got this post done for the day. I already have things ready for our day tomorrow. We have to be at the bus at 8:50am for a morning in Tivoli and an afternoon in Rome.

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