Our trip to Italy had started on some high notes – a Sunday soccer match and a great first meal. After a deep, long, wonderful, jet lag induced sleep, our Monday in Rome got off to a planned later day start. We had entrance tickets for 1pm at the Vatican Museums to give us plenty of time to sleep. On that note, take it from me (and a host of other easily found information online) – buy your Vatican tickets in advance online. There’s a surcharge, but it saved us from at least two hours standing in line waiting to get in. We walked past an enormous line the likes of which I had never seen before, and right into the museum.
My art and painting interests lie more toward the modern end of the spectrum, so the trip through the Vatican Museums was more about seeing a few of the high points and not getting too bogged down in the details (of some truly amazing art… just not my particular cup of tea). One of the first stops was these three Raffaelo works, in particular, the middle one – “Transfiguration”:
Following the enormous crowds, one of the next highlights was the Gallery of Maps. This long hall has large painted topographical maps from the 1500s showing the regions of Italy. Those were impressive, but it was hard to take my eyes off the ceiling that stretches longer than a football field:
Like many museums and castles on my travels, I find myself fascinated by the ceilings. If you simply stared at the ceilings as you walked through the Vatican Museums, you’d have yourself a wonderful tour of art in that alone:
After progressing through the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel (a strict no photo area), we stealthily took the strictly reserved backdoor for tour groups (we weren’t part of one) from the chapel toward St. Peter’s Bascilica to avoid the fifteen minute walk the long way around. All the better to save our feet for standing in awe inside St. Peter’s:
Catholics certainly know how to do churches. St. Peter’s is magnificent in it’s size and grandeur, and also in the finer details throughout. Just inside the entrance is Michelangelo’s Pietà. It’s the only sculpture Michelangelo ever signed.
On this beautiful Monday afternoon, the sun was streaming into the church through the windows – the beams of light only adding to the sense of place:
Standing just beside the Baldacchino di San Pietro (the bronze canopy in the bottom of the photo below), I found my favourite view from inside this church – looking straight up more than 130 metres at the inside of the dome:
Wanting to get a closer look, we took an elevator up to the roof that allowed us to stand on a walkway inside the dome. The view down into the church was beautiful (if a bit obstructed by some protective wire mesh). This is a view toward the main alter of the basilica:
I was completely taken with the large mosaics on the walls of the dome. From the floor of the basilica, these appeared to be paintings. Up close, you see the tiles of these large and stunning works:
Leaving the inside, we made our way to the very small outdoor observation area on the top of St. Peter’s dome. A few hundred steep stairs in very cramped space later, you emerge out to this, possibly one of the most iconic views in the world:
If I hadn’t yet felt like I was in Rome, this would have done it. The view over the city was spectacular on this perfectly clear day. Zooming in a bit, here’s a closer look at St. Peter’s Square:
A whole lot of stairs later, my wife and I made our way out into St. Peter’s Square to get a better view of the basilica from the outside. The statues adorning the roof and around the square strike imposing figures:
It was a splendid way to spend a Monday afternoon in Rome – world class art, grandiose architecture and stunning city views. As our visit drew to a close, we took one last look back at St. Peter’s Basilica from near the back of the square before heading off for some more Roman pizza: