Church 1/2 block from our apartment
We flew from Cantania, Sicily, to Rome and met Bill's brother John at the airport around 16:00. He flew in from Houston, Texas, so he had the much longer flight and was jet-lagged with the 7-hour time zone change. We had arranged transport from the airport to the apartment we had rented through Halldis. I had never heard of Halldis until my brother and sister-in-law used this company for their stay in Rome last summer. We rented an apartment in the same building in which they had stayed; they had a 1-bedroom apartment and we had rented a 2-bedroom apartment.
Link: The apartment we rented
As always, click on any image for larger view.
|Entrance to our apt bldg|
Does this look like a street to you?
More like an alley to us.
Our apartment was 1/2 down this alley
Halldis also handled the transport from the airport. Using the train and bus would have cost about half as much but the personal driver and car was really nice and convenient, and the cost was far less than a car and driver from the marina to the airport in Cantania. Let's begin this mini-vacation in the most comfortable manner possible.
|Apt was up 3 flights of stairs|
The apartment was fine for our needs. Beds were comfortable; plenty of hot water; air conditioning (which strangely we did need because the weather was surprisingly warm for this time of year); microwave; small fridge; 4- burner cook-top (no oven); and a television. It was clean and the location was perfect.
|Looking down into apartment living|
room from entry door.
|One SERIOUS deadbolt on|
apt door == 4 bolts.
The apartment was a short distance from the Vatican, on a narrow 'street' (that we would call an alley) which intersected Corso Vittorio Emanuele II near the beautiful Piazza della Chiesa Nuova.
|The deadbolts also moved|
these bars into door frame
and floor. A very serious
door locking mechanism.
One day we walked into this church and were blown away by the interior. It is gorgeous. Wish we had known the history of this church while we were there as we would have appreciated it even more. I looked it up later.
There were dozens of tiny restaurants located on the narrow streets (alleyways) that meandered throughout the old area. We enjoyed several of these restaurants for dinners. How can one not love the food in Italy!
|Our first glimpse of St. Peter's down Via Conciliation|
Our first organized tour started at 07:45 the following morning at the "privileged entrance" to the Vatican museum. I had purchased 3 'Small Group' tours from The Roman Guy Each tour would last 3 hours. During my research of what to see in Rome, The Roman Guy was mentioned over and over again as being one of the best tour companies with well-trained and knowledgeable guides.
|Entrance into Vatican|
|Elaborate marble table in Vatican |
Museum. Some of these types of
marble no longer exist.
Honestly, doing one of these "privileged entrance" tours is the only way to see the Vatican. Sure it costs a lot more -- but that cost is worth it. When we were leaving, the queue to get in stretched about 4 blocks long. Why spend limited vacation time standing in long lines.
|Ornate hallway ceiling in Vatican|
The entrance where we entered the museum did not exist 40 years ago when John was last here. In fact, that entire building did not exist. Nor did they have metal detectors and screen visitors back then. The second thing John noticed is how much cleaner everything in the Vatican is now as compared to 4 decades past. The artifacts and treasures have recently undergone cleaning by laser. Everything looks much brighter now and details are much clearer.
|John, our guide and Bill. Do not remember the|
significance of the large bell.
|Standing beside one of many columns made|
from porphyry -- the rarest of all types of marble
If you visit, be sure to look at the floor. Everyone is so busy looking at the famous ceiling and walls that most folks neglect to look down at the floor. You are walking on artwork. That marble floor is gorgeous and the craftsmanship is most impressive.
Unfortunately, no photos are allowed within the Sistine Chapel. Not even photos without a flash. The reason has nothing to do with possibly damaging the paints or dimming the colors. The reason no photos are allowed is that a company in Japan now owns the rights to all photography or videography until the year 2030. Bummer! Would have loved to take a few of our own photos in this famous place.
|The Lemon Garden|
Exiting the Sistine Chapel we walked down some famous steps which are built to create the illusion of the steps/stairs being longer and steeper. When foreign dignitaries arrive to visit the Pope, they walk up these stairs to an area where they then greet the Pope. I forgot the name of those 'famous' steps/stairs.
|Balcony for addressing people in Lemon Garden|
From there we exited outside to the interior of the Vatican. Off to the right side at the ground level was a lovely lemon tree garden or square. The building on one side had a balcony where the Pope addresses people within the Vatican. (At least, that is what I understood the guide to say but maybe it is for someone else to address people within the Vatican -- not the public.)
|Pope Benedict XVI resides in the building on left of tower.|
His quarters are on top floor.
Past this lemon tree garden is the antennae for the Vatican Radio and Television. And just to the left of that antennae stands a tower building in which retired Pope Benedict XVI (Pope Emeritus) now resides.
|Tower in center is where Pope Gregory XIII came up with|
the Gregorian calendar.
|Getting closer to St. Peter's Basilica approaching from inside Vatican.|
|Can you see the people on the observation platform?|
|Pine Cone sculpture|
|Papal Carriage, extremely ornately gilded|
|John and Bill checking out enormous wheels|
on Papal Carriage.
|Inside St. Peter's Basilica|
Back through most of the museum and back around a different way and then down some stone steps and eventually we ended up at the front entrance level of St. Peter's Basilica.
|Interior St. Peter's Basilica|
|One of 2 large sarcophagi made of priceless porphyry marble.|
St. Peter's is the largest church in the world. There are so many details and items of interest inside this church that there is no way I could mention even 1% of those in this blog. A few of the major items of interest were 2 sarcophagi made entirely of the red/purple marble, called porphyry, that is the most expensive marble on earth. We saw a lot of porphyry in the Vatican museum and inside St. Peter's. The stuff is supposedly priceless as it no longer exists in the earth to be quarried.
|Body of Pope John XXIII|
Obviously, one of the major items of interest for visitors is the body of Pope John XXIII, who was recently declared a saint. Supposedly his corpse has not corrupted but I remain unconvinced of that claim. Link: Pope John 23 corpse on view To me, his corpse looks like he could be in Madame Tuddauds Wax Museum. I'm sure the faithful feel differently about that.
|"Gravestone" for a pope. Fancy, huh?|
|Papal apartments encompass the last 3 windows on right of|
the beige brick building overlooking St. Peter's Square
|Changing of the guard|
As I said, there are so many things inside St. Peter's Basilica that there is no way to mention but a tiny portion on this blog. One could spend days inside there and not see it all.
Outside we watched the changing of the guard in their ultra-colorful uniforms (costumes) of the Swiss Guard.
|A few statues of the saints on top of structure on both sides|
of St. Peter's Square. Recently cleaned & now white again.
The statues atop the columns and pillars around St. Peter's Square had also recently been cleaned, as had all the exterior Travertine marble. This was a major change from when John last visited here. He said it was very dirty and darkened from air pollution; now it is white and bright.
|4,000 year old Egyptian obelisk|
The famous 4,000 year old Egyptian obelisk dominates the square.
The street angling off toward right is the avenue of Conciliation. (not sure of spelling)
And people were still queued up for blocks waiting to gain entrance into the Vatican. So glad we sprang the bucks for this tour and got inside early.
|John and Bill standing in St. Peter's Square.|
All those people are standing in line waiting for entry.
|St. Peter's Basilica as seen from St. Peter's Square.|
All those chairs are now left in place for when important
people come to hear the Pope speak.
|Beat after a full day of touring, walking,|
climbing stairs to apartment
The next day we had scheduled the 3-hour Driving Tour of Rome. On that tour we learned something interesting about Julius Caesar; but that is for the next blog posting.