Italy Day One ~ Vatican City

     We arrived in Rome at 8:30 in the morning, which felt like 11:30 at night to us.  Thankfully, we were able to sleep a couple of hours on the flight.  After finding our way to the baggage claim, we watched the trolley go round and round. As people from our flight had nearly all collected their bags and left, we began to worry that our bag had been lost.  I found a lady and asked if all the bags were off the plane.  After many calls and a wait in a little line, we filed a lost bag claim.  We told them we would only be in Rome for two nights.  At that point I had hopes that it would be on a later flight that day or the next day.  Luckily we each brought one change of clothes in our carry on.  After we went through customs, we found our taxi to the hotel waiting for us.  The adventure officially began with a minor hick-up.
     As we zoomed off in the car I thought my trip and my life were about over.  At times I wondered if we were in a James Bond movie speeding away from bad guys.  At other times I thought our driver had a mission to kill us or someone else on the road.  It appeared there are no rules, merely suggestions to where in the road you should drive and who has the right away.  The roads were narrow, winding and entirely too many cars at once!  I thought it would be relaxing to have a driver whisk us to the hotel but had second thoughts about taking the train and bus after 40 minutes in the back seat clenching my fists.  We would soon learn that crossing the street in Rome is just as dangerous!

     Finally we made it to our hotel!  They were incredibly nice and helpful and they had our room ready.  Oh to stretch out for a bit!  We showered and were ready to tackle the Vatican City.  Our first task was to figure out what bus to catch and where to get off.  We found the bus stop and got on and managed to even get off at the right stop and not die crossing the street.  As we entered the Vatican City, I was surprised to see so many priests, monks and nuns at once.  Then we realized morning Mass had just finished.
St. Peter's Square from the top of the Basilica cupola.

     The Vatican is the smallest independent country in the world by population and size.  It has a  population of 800 and only 110 acres, but they certainly make up for it in grandiosity and riches.
St Peter’s Square is enormous.  I have discovered that architectural art and sculpture is my thing.  I was in heaven.  Every space the eye can see is designed with beauty.

This is where the Pope gives his blessings.
     The square is really more of an oval that is created by the colonnades.  "The colonnades define the piazza. The elliptical center of the piazza, which contrasts with the trapezoidal entrance, encloses the visitor with "the maternal arms of Mother Church" in Bernini's expression." (Wikipedipa)
     This egyptian obelisk stands in the center of the square.  It was made 4,400 years ago and is the only obelisk in Rome to not have been toppled.  It has been moved three times, with it being moved to the Vatican in 1586.  Bernini designed the piazza and kept the obelisk as the centerpiece. 
     We did the Vatican Museum and Sistine chapel first.  By the time you get to the sistine chapel at the end, you are overloaded with beauty.  The incredible amount of beautiful artwork in every part of the museum is too much to take in one day, especially after traveling for 20 hours!  We must have gazed heavenward for over an hour in awe of the masterpieces surrounding us.
     The intricate architecture was stunning.  For such beauty to be created hundreds of years ago without electricity or large machinery really impresses me.  For something to not only be so structurally sound that it has stood the test of time for hundreds of years and is an artwork too, is really amazing.
     Even the floors are covered in superb detail and beauty.  I only wish I had the stanima to learn about each piece.
    With many of the things we saw, I thought of the kids.  Funny how each person sees something different in art.  I seem to always tie them to family and the kids.  This mermaid horse had Hailey written all over it.  She would love a replica in her room!
    With each hall we entered, I thought surely THIS must be the Sistine Chapel.  But alas, the gorgeous ceilings continued.
     You can not take pictures in the Sistine Chapel, so you will have to go yourselves to see Michelangelo's famous masterpiece.  The Creation of Adam and the Last Judgement are worth the hype!  It brought tears to my eyes.

Seriously cool stairway out of the museum.  "Designed by Giuseppe Momo in 1932, the broad steps are somewhere between a ramp and a staircase. The stairs are actually two separate helixes, one leading up and the other leading down, that twist together in a double helix formation. Little did the Vatican Museum know in 1932 that this formation would come to represent life itself, with the discovery of the double helical DNA strand."(Oddee)
Mailing a postcard to my bambinos!
     Next was time to climb to the top of St Peter's Basilica.  I loved the sign they had posted as you entered the cupola.  It reads, "Here the impressive majesty of Michelangelo's architecture where the sky seems so close, the view of the Vaican hill, sanctified by the blood of the apostle Peter and numerous other martyrs, offer an occasion for profound meditation.  May the history of the place, its art and nature evoke in your heart the desire of pure beauty and a humble invocation of God.  Be respectful of this place to be worthy of walking through the splendor of its artistic genius and heroism of sainthood."
This was the view at the top of the cupola to the oculus of St. Peter's dome.
This was the view looking down.
All around the cupola are large mosaics.
    Each tile hand placed.  The enormous amount of work that went into the basilica is remarkable.
View from the top outside balcony.
The dome from ground level.
     The base of the dome has Mathew 16:18 when Jesus tells Peter, "You are 'Rock' and on this rock I will build my Church, to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven."
     At the center of the basilica is the Papal Alter where only the Pope celebrates mass.  Bernini's brilliant, bronze canopy sores 95 ft above.  In front of the baldacchino is the tomb of St. Peter!  The actual tomb of Peter!  It seemed ironic that Peter, the rock the church was built on, was buried in a church so over the top with lavish monuments and adornment.  We learned that many of the resources used were taken from other churches and indulgences sold to pay for it.  While it was incredibly beautiful and I can imagine its beauty inspires people spiritually during a mass, it didn't strike us that this was what Peter or Jesus imagined the church that would be built.
     Seeing Michelangelo's Pieta was the most spiritual moment for me in the basilica.  I think anyone can identify with Mary's suffering as she cradles her lifeless son.  The price of redemption is heavy and to see it through a mother's eyes was moving, not to mention the exquisite detail and beauty of the piece.

    We finished up our Vatican tour and headed out to taste Italy!  Food post coming at the end.  Mama Mia was it ever delightful to eat myself into a glutenous pain every night.


Courtney said...

OOHHHH! I am so excited to hear more! I love the details you put into the post, and the feelings the Vatican gave to you. Sounds like it is a MUST SEE! And so beautiful! I know pictures probably can't do it justice. :)

Anonymous said...

Kathy, your reactions to Italy exactly mirror my first impressions, the artistry AND taking my life in my hands every time I crossed a street, pure terror, especially the Vespas (motor scooters) like torpedoes on wheels. Anonymous Gram