Whether you’re Catholic or not, a visit to Rome isn’t complete without a visit to Vatican City. And you’ll see why.
First, St Peter’s Square which sits at the end of a grand boulevard, Via della Conciliazione. Since we traveled in the off-season I was happy to see it wasn’t busy. Although there were a lot of barriers, we had no problem wandering around.
In the centre is a large Egyptian obelisk. This one is real. It was first raised in the Julian Forum in Alexandria around 30 B.C before moving to the Vatican soon after.
Did you know? Rome has more obelisks than Eygpt according to our guide from Free Rome Walking Tours. But not all of them are “real”. Some are just replicas made in modern times with meaningless hieroglyphics.
The architectural genius about St. Peter’s Square is the two semi-circles of grand Tuscan colonnades. When you stand in a certain spot, the colonnades line up appearing as if they are only one row deep. But move a few feet anywhere else and more columns start to emerge from the background. All four rows revealed make it look like a solid wall of white enclosing the square.
Since it is a Jubilee year (a fact I did not know before arriving in Rome), the Holy Door is open. It’s significant for Catholics because as you pass through you gain plenary indulgence. Meaning the punishment for your sins is less that it would be otherwise.
Did you know? The Holy Door is normally sealed by mortar and cement from the inside so that they cannot be opened.
Once inside we were soon surrounded by marble, gold gilding, sculptures and reliefs. We walked in during Sunday mass but it is so big, you wouldn’t even know it was going on. We marveled at its grandness and opulence. And one of the most beautiful and moving sculptures in the world Michelangelo’s The Pietà.
I became slightly obsessed with the guards and their colorful uniforms.
Although we hadn’t planned it before the trip, our friend Ray suggested we go see the Pope give his Sunday address. So we waited outside in the square for the Pope to come to his window. While we waited we had a Pope-filled conversation. I said I hope he’s Pope-tual because a lot of people were there waiting for him. He sure is a Pope-ular guy. David hoped a im-Pope-ster wouldn’t appear instead.
He gave a 15 minute speech followed by a blessing (which I only know thanks to Google). It was all in Italian so Pope-titles would have been nice. Even though we were Pope-lexed, it was still worth the visit. If it wasn’t for the big screens around the square, he would have been im-Pope-ssible to see clearly.
He ended by giving shout outs to the pilgrim groups that came from as far as Argentina and Nigeria that day.
Pope Francis sure is a rock star. They all screamed for him.
This unexpected experience was both moving and thrilling. We’ve seen a Pope! And even David thought that was pretty cool.
Lastly, the Vatican Museums are also a must-see. We are so thankful for the tip we got to buy our tickets online, in advance. Sure it cost an extra 4 euros each but it saved us the wait in line. And sure even though it’s winter, there is still along line to get in sans ticket.
Did you know? There are 54 museums in total. It’s the largest collection of art in the world and it’s said, all the pieces lined up would reach 9 miles in length.
That’s a lot of busts. Which is pretty much what we saw as we walked through the long tourist-circuit. These were some of our favourites, including allegorical sculptures of Winter (cherubs with bows for hunting) and Autumn (cherubs in the wine harvest). I was sad we couldn’t find Spring and Summer.
After walking through the museum and the garden for about 2 hours, we ended in the Sistine Chapel. And what a delight. We found a seat and looked up until our necks couldn’t take it anymore. It’s just breathtaking and one of those things every one should see before they die. Pictures are forbidden but I’m sure you already know what it looks like.
Question of the Post: Have you been to Vatican City? What did you like best?
And for this post I’m linking with My Travel Monkey and Packing My Suitcase. Be sure to check them out!