Thursday, August 13, 2009

Eurotrip Diaries - Rome (Part II)

Continued from: Eurotrip Diaries - Rome (Part I)

Day 15

Tomorrow is Sunday and the Vatican attractions are closed, so we have to do Vatican City today. This would be our fifth country on the tour. We are there early at 9 in the morning. The square is very empty.
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Another obelisk, with St Peter's in the background.

For fans of Angels and Demons, this is AIR.

When we got to the Vatican we saw one long line snaking its way along the columns. A couple of people tried to get us to join a tour group.

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Since the line was moving fast, and we really were not interested in the Vatican museum, we declined their offer.

The Vatican basilica is huge. It is unlike any other place of worship in Christendom I have seen.

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And everything somehow feeds into the basilica.

When we got there, we were lucky there was some special service going on, with some cardinals and some people in white clothes – so part of the front of the cathedral (is that what it’s called?) was blocked.

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The site where the Camerlengo burnt himself to death, in the movie - you guessed it - Angels and Demons.

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Some of the pictures in the cathedral were really extensive, and I am really in awe of the artists - could have taken snaps of the pictures all day!

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Since the service was going to take another half hour and we had to wait till then to see the front of the cathedral, we decided to climb the cupola.

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The cupola. You can climb to the very top.

And so we do. Here's a view of the church services going on from way up.

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As far as I could learn, some cardinals from Asia were visiting, and this was some service to honor them as well as induct new members into some order.

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You can climb up the basilica dome (we paid a bit extra to use the elevator – but even afterwards the top part still had to be done by stairs - and it was another Pisa climb for us) – the view of St Peter’s Square and Rome from the top was something to be seen. It wasn’t as high up as the Eiffel Tower or as precarious as the Leaning tower of Pisa, so we moved around and got some great pictures.

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The Vatican Gardens

We then headed down - the service was over so we could explore more.

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Michelangelo's Pietà.

I found it strange as to why they had closed it during the prayer service. Unlike some of the other painting and sculptures in the Vatican, this one had no nudity.

Then it was time to visit the Gretto (or the place where all the Popes are buried – so it’s their tombs). There was quite a crowd in front of John Paul II’s tomb – it was quite well lit and highlighted too – but there are no photographs allowed and the guards hiss at you if your talk. After this tour, the exit (called "Uscito" in Italian) leads back into the basilica.

We were now quite tired, it was 1 pm and still we were to do the Sistine Chapel!

The Sistine Chapel is part of the Vatican museums which are different from the Basilica so we had to exit St Peter’s square and walk for 10-15 minutes along the Vatican Wall until we got to the entrance of the Vatican museums.

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We literally walked around an entire country!

Remember the first scene in Rome (Angel and Demons) where Robert Langdon is met by Olivetti?

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On the way to the Museum, we met many tourist guides offering their services for the museum. Neither of us was really interested in the museum, only the Sistine Chapel and a tour guide through the museum would take three hours. There were reportedly thousands of rooms and nothing (no exhibit) was labeled, so that’s why guides were needed.

As it is, our own tour last nearly two hours. The Sistine Chapel is right at the end of the guided path, so you HAVE to go through the whole museum to get to the Chapel.

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Every few minutes we encountered a sign that said “Sistine Chapel” and pointed at one way. It became a game to spot another such sign. There must have been more than 50 such signs on the whole tour.

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Which was shame because by the time we got to the Chapel our feet were too tired and body too numb to really appreciate the chapel. The Vatican forces everyone to go through the museum and after sometime, all naked paintings and sculptures and art pieces and ancient rock collections start looking the same.

FINALLY ...

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The Sistine Chapel.

WOW - heard to believe ONE guy painted ALL of this!

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There was a strict no photography policy at the Sistine Chapel but everyone seemed to be taking pictures while keeping one eye out for the guards. I also took pictures as well as a video!

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Swiss Guards

The concluded our tour to the Vatican City. When we had gotten back to our hotel after lunch, the plan was to just rest for an hour before heading out. In fact, we slept for nearly three hours, before heading out around 7 pm to the Spanish Steps.

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Another obelisk.

There was a bunch of Bengali hawkers there and suddenly they started to run! We turned and saw some police chasing them.

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Chiggi Chappel (again, for fans of Angels and Demons) and its obelisk.

Day 16

Castel Sant'Angelo - the the secret lair for the Hassassin and was seen as the last existing church of the Illuminati in the movie Angel and Demons.

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Hmm - maybe the Rome post should be the Angel and Demons post.

The castle took around 1 and half hours to finish. We got in free due to our Roma Pass. We then had the whole day left with nothing planned to do, so we decided to head to the Vatican again (our bus left from there). As we approached, we saw it was highly crowded.

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It was Sunday, but still ... why the crowd?

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It was the POPE!!!

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The Pope was giving a speech (or celebrating Mass). We got blessed by the Pope, for what its worth.

Our last night of our Euro trip. We were elated to have done it, and happy we were going home, but yet a bit sad to leave.

And so ended our Euro trip. It was 16 days of non stop fun and excitement and walking and sight seeing and gorgeous sun (sometimes too much sun!) and beautiful sights we had only read about or seen in books.

I can't wait to return someday.

14 comments:

bobablogs said...

Wow, the chapel really is breathtaking! I love your references to Angels and Demons - it made me visualise it that much better :)

mezba said...

Boba: The Sistine Chapel IS something else. At that moment I didn't think it was that good, but later on having time to reflect, AND NOT BEING TIRED, I realize it is really something unique.

Farah said...

Sort of sad too to see this come to an end - I was having fun reading your travel diaries. You guys seem to have had a wonderful trip mA. I will use your posts to help plan my own trip!

mezba said...

Farah: thanks, it's back to regular blog posting now, although I am sure I will visit somewhere again soon iA!

lovetodaydream said...

It was all very nice read! You know, before I went for the first time to Rome and went to the Vatican I was a more or less practicing Catholic...going there and see all the opulence, gold everywhere...it made me sick thinking of the double standars of the church, they could feed the whole of Africa selling just a few things they have there, I decided that was not the religion for me, so that trip was a crucial point in my life...seeing your pics of the Vatican reminded me of that trip:-) And yes, the Sistine CHapel is amazing!!!

'liya said...

Your Rome part of the trip reminds me so much like ours, it seems like we were just there yesterday :D

What's next on your trip planning agenda?

mezba said...

Elena: your comment requires a bit more thought in the reply. There are things that bugged me about the Vatican too - I have to do it on another post, but yes, I agree with your point.

Liya: that city in the Middle East we always talk about is on the horizon for December - how about you join us there this winter? :-D

bongi said...

your trip looks absolutely stunning! i don't know how you managed to cram so much in so little time! organisation skills plus plus!

i loved rome when i visited, and also found i was so tired by the time i got to the sistine chapel...sadly didn't get any pics though as the guards were super vigilant that day :(

Solace In Islam said...

After seeing Angels and Demons, Italy became one of the places I really wanted to visit. The architecture is really impressive.

Thanks for sharing your trip with us. I really enjoyed it!

mezba said...

Bongi: What happened to your blog?

Yes, our trip was really marvelous, couldn't have asked for more. We planned our itinerary in advance and really stuck to it - it helps that we were prepared to walk ... I think the US trip we did last winter prepared us much for this. Lot of walking, sun and lines.. but also lot of downtime, relaxing and oh - Switzerland! :-D

Solace in Islam: Rome is a treat for any Angels and Demons fan. There were also "official" A&D tours in Rome.

Aisha said...

Ok after reading your wonderful postings I'm feeling guilty. Must get on the Spain updates!

mezba said...

Aisha: I look forward to your Spain updates!

geekisiddiqui said...

I love Rome, sadly all my vatican pics got lost :(

mezba said...

Geeki: oh that's too bad!

I enjoyed Rome too - so much to see.