Day 2 The Vatican
The Vatican is an entity unto itself. It's really a separate country within the city of Rome. It has it's own police, work force and postal system. Regular Romans must get permission to spend any length of time there. It is completely surrounded by a huge wall with video surveillance. We had a tour guide for the morning and I really wish that we had just gone through the museum on our own. It's vast and I don't think we saw more than a tenth of it. We literally raced through beautiful statues, maps and tapestries. I have quite a few blurred photos of the fabulous ceilings throughout the maze of corridors that leads to the Sistine Chapel.
We were able to spend a little bit of time in the Sistine Chapel and what struck me first was how very small it is. I always pictured it as this huge space with an incredibly ornate ceiling, but it's tiny. The ceiling is amazing and with the recent restoration, the bright colors are almost overwhelming. We were hustled out of there and on to St Peter's. I was struck by the overwhelming display of art and wealth. I'm still not sure what to make of it. The only thing that really felt like it belonged there was the Pieta.
We decided to climb to the top of the cupola in St Peter's. After another stimulating round of "try to find the helpful Italian" (45 minutes that took!), we get in the line to climb the 300 and some odd stairs. Now. You can take an elevator to the base of the dome and then climb, or you can take the stairs. We're stupid. We took the stairs. Please keep in mind that the 340 stairs are just the ones in the cupola. They don't actually tell you how many stairs there are to get up to the cupola. I lost count. We'll just leave it at lots. So by the time we get to the base of the dome, we feel like death on a plate. We take a small breather and then forge on to the dome. The dome is two layers., the inner one with the frescoes that you can see from the inside of the cathedral and the outer one that you can see from almost everywhere in Rome. The stairs wind their way up between the two layers. The distance between the layers gets smaller as you go up. A lot smaller. You cannot change your mind. You have to go up one side and down the other. This is not a good place for anyone with even mild claustrophobia. But, we made it and here's the view of the square from the top of the dome:
See those dark metal things on the side of the dome? Those are candle holders. At some point in history some poor schmuck had to climb out there put candles on those things! Talk about your bad jobs.
We left the Vatican in the early afternoon after visiting the grotto that holds the tombs of past popes. A very strange and beautiful place.
We crossed the Tiber to find food and wound up having pizza in a little outdoor cafe. Took another crazy roman cab back to the hotel so we could crash before setting off for Sienna the next day.
Meanwhile, back in the here and now, the monkey and I have caved and put up a tree. Neither of us was feeling very Christmasy and there was nowhere to put the presents. So voila, tree!