Saturday, April 7, 2007
Our original plan was to wake up early and head across the street and get in line for the vatican, but Christie continued to get more sick the night before, she even skipped dinner and stayed in while Mary and I went out again by ourselves. We ended up waking up earlier than yesterday, but not nearly early enough to beat the Vatican crowds. We had another great breakfast and went out to get into line. The line stretched for blocks, I mean blocks and this was no ordinary line, at least 10 wide at most points. Grace and Christie got into line and Mary and I decided to head off to do some shopping (and get out of some que waiting) we went off and found several new items to add to our growing amount of gifts and trinkets to take back home. After about an hour we headed back to find the line moving very quickly, but still at least another half an hour wait. We bailed again on the line and went up to deposit our goods in the hotel room, we came back right when the line turned towards the home stretch, down the final corner before the entrance and got back into line with a further ailing Christie and an impatient 6 year old.
As with many sites, we had to go through a security check and then wait in another line for tickets, fortunately this only took a few moments. The kids were again free of charge, this has really turned out to save us quite a bit of money on the trip and an added bonus to having young children in tow. We went thru the gates and ascended the stairs and then looked at each other wondering where in the heck to go, so we went to the one place everyone wants to go, the sistine chapel. To get to the chapel you go thru room after room of amazing things, to the point you begin to get used to the amazing sites and continue into the next room with barely a moments stop to view what was in front of you, instead choosing to go directly to the chapel. We felt kind of bad about this, but at the same time, we knew this place was immense and we would only have time to view a few top things on the list, so made the best of it and sought out those.
One of the interesting things about getting to the chapel was one of the final areas you go thru is actually rooms of religious modern art, kind of throws you for a loop after looking at the antithesis of this type of work for hours and then you are back into a few more typical rooms and finally into the chapel. You enter to find a mass of humanity through ought, it was literally wall to wall people, I was very surprised to find the chapel to be so large, I had always had the idea that this was a small cozy chapel, instead it is quite massive, it is almost 70 feet tall and over a 130 feet long. The entire thing is overwhelming, as much of the rooms at the Vatican, and with the throngs of people it really makes it hard to enjoy the experience. I mean do not get me wrong, it was amazing, but there is definitely something lost with the large crowds.
We exited the chapel fairly quickly and were out to find a quick bite to eat, well like everything else at the Vatican nothing is quick and we had a 25 minute wait for some fairly bad tasting pizza and sodas, but it still hit the spot and gave us a quick rest. We went on to go through several different areas seeing countless pieces or sculpture and paintings, it was a great day, but the museum closes early and we were back at our hotel around 4pm.
After a quick pit stop and Christie continuing to not look too well, we went off to see Saint Peter's Basilica and the square that is so famously shown whenever any large even occurs at the Vatican. To get there you basically go around the area of where the line to the Museum was and continue onwards around the side of the Vatican wall until the wall opens up to the large square. Again you have to go thru security to get in, but the line here was quick and the cost was great, free. We went around the half circle walk way that encompasses one side of the square and made our way into the Basilica. Obviously everyone knows that this is a massive structure, but I really had no idea the extent of it. It was more like 10 gigantic churches put together into one, with display after display of amazing wall paintings accompanied with the body or relic of a saint at the base of the display. Several of the bodies can actually be seen thru glass, the corpse's have death masks on and all you can really see of the man is possibly a hand here or there, but it is still quite creepy and I had no idea that there were actual bodies entombed in the basilica, actually more than a 100 including 91 former popes. The entire church is so grand and so ornate that there is no way to really put it into words, I know I had read several accounts of it and still was totally caught off guard. I highly recommend anyone who goes to Rome to go to the Basilica, it is an amazing experience.
After the basilica we walked around the square and marveled at the whole area and headed back to the hotel. Once back we were pretty beat, especially my wife, she continued to tough it out but was getting more and more sick. We had needed to do some laundry, so I took my daughter Mary out to find the laundry (still had several items with puke on it!!) mat and scope it out. We came back with a plan to go do some laundry and catch a late dinner, Christie did her best to be excited to go out, but she was more or less out of it. We went down to the laundry mat and encountered a very cool Italian lady who was the laundry mat attendant, who helped us get the machines going. We were it business, but the it began to rain pretty hard outside and was getting late, we realized we had to hang around till the laundry was done, so Mary and I again went out to get some umbrellas and scout out a restaurant. Mary and I came back and waited out the drying cycle and we were off to another local restaurant, this time we found a pretty good one and sat down for another good meal. After being there for a bit and drying off the group next to us engaged us talking about how quickly their kids grew up (they had 2 of their kids there in their mid twenties) we continued to chat as their kids left early, turned out it was their 36th wedding anniversary and they were Roman transplants from Indiana who had retired and gone back to school in Rome. It was nice to talk to some kind of locals in English and they gave us some good insight on life in Rome and also told us about a special papal ceremony that was to happen the next day at 10:30am, this made my wife perk up and she began to get excited about the possibility of seeing the pope and experiencing a ceremony during easter week.
The papal ceremony was not really in our plans, as we needed to get out of town early if we wanted to have any daylight in Verona, our next destination 500 kms away, but my wife had been so ill and she was so excited there was no way we were going to miss it. We went back to the hotel and arranged for an early checkout at 9:30am but to leave the car and luggage until noon and went to bed.