Day 30 – Vatican City and the Borghese Gallery

Rome, Italy

Early to rise today, we’re scheduled to take the “Pristine Sistine” tour at the Vatican and we have to meet the group at 7:15 am.

The Herkeys getting somewhere at 7:15 am? I tell you it’s true!

Everyone showed up on time; and our guide, Angela, got us organized for the walk over to the entrance.

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Animated Vatican Guide – Angela

So today’s tour is a “Before the doors open” tour of the Sistine Chapel, plus the Vatican Museums and St Peter’s Basilica. When our group of 16 arrived, there were many more groups also waiting to enter. And here I thought we would be all alone – silly me!

When the doors opened, we made our way in and headed for the chapel.

To get to the Sistine Chapel, you pass through three long galleries – the gallery of the Candalabra, the gallery of the Maps, and the gallery of Tapestries.

Our favorite was the gallery of the maps with paintings of Italy and all its regions.

The Sistine Chapel is beautiful. ThIs extraordinary chapel, which was painted by Michaelangelo, is truly incredible.

First, there is the ceiling. There are nine panels that make up the main vault, plus side panels containing the Prophets, Sybils and Ancestors of Christ. The two panels that most people know are the Creation of Adam (we have affectionately always called it pull my finger) and Original Sin and the Expulsion from Paradise, but they are all beautiful and interesting.

In addition to the ceiling, Michaelangelo also painted his – “Last Judgement” on the wall behind the altar. The details are amazing, with the one feature that truly stood out was the blue of the Virgin Mary’s dress.

One of the things we found interesting was Michaelangelo’s revenge. In the bottom corner, there is a depiction of hell and one of the people there is a man who tormented Michaelangelo while he was creating his masterpieces.

After the Sistine Chapel, the tour took us throughout the Vatican Museum giving us an opportunity to see many of the other artworks, sculptures and antiquities of the collection. There are some pictures included of some of the highlights.

Another artist who was commissioned to work in the Vatican was Raphael and his works are also beautiful to see.

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Vatican – Raphael’s ‘The School of Athens’

We had to retrace our steps and head back to the Sistine Chapel. Much different now that the crowds have arrived. This time you shuffled your way through the galleries, slowly moving along the way. Besides getting another look at the Sistine Chapel, this is a way of cutting through to our next stop – St Peter’s Basilica.

The Basilica is so much larger than I had pictured. I knew ahead of time that it was large, but this really blew me away.

Since this is a Jubilee Year of Mercy, we entered through the “Holy Door”. Entering through the door at St Peter’s is asking for God’s mercy, forgiveness and blessing and receiving them all.

One of the first things you see upon entering the church is Michaelangelo’s “Pieta”. It is truly beautiful and takes your breath away. Unfortunately, due to vandalism, it is now behind a glass partition. Still beautiful, still inspiring.

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St Peter’s Basilica – Michaelangelo’s “Pieta”

The basilica was very crowded, especially around several points – the Pieta, the Tomb and Chapel of Pope John Paul II, and Bernini’s incredible altar piece. We also managed to find the spot where Charlemagne knelt to be crowned Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas Day of the year 800 AD.

Our tour ended outside in St Peter’s Square. Our guide Angela provided great commentary along the way and was funny too. She brought an excitement to the group due to her passion for the tour and the artworks. It was a very good tour and well worth the price.

We had a second tour scheduled for the afternoon, so we decided to head there via taxi and grab a bite to eat. The second tour was at the Borghese Gallery. I would have sworn that there was a cafe there, instead there was a rather lack-luster cafeteria. Not what we had been looking for, but we did manage to grab a quick sandwich and beverage.

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Borghese Gallery

This was another Walks of Italy tour and our guide Valentina was awesome. Talking before the tour started, she was telling me how much she loved this gallery. I could tell we were in for a great tour.

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Borghese Guide – Valentina

The highlights of the gallery include works by Bernini, Caravaggio, Canova, Titian and Raphael. Valentina was truly a lover of the gallery and the works. She helped us to understand some of the pieces and the politics behind them. Some of our favorites were Bernini’s – David, Apollo and Daphne and the Rape of Proserpine, Caravaggio’s – Goliath and The Madonna of Palafrenieri. We felt so artsy by the time we finished the tour.

By this time we we’re tired, so we headed back to the hotel to relax and actually took short naps. We managed to get ourselves together for dinner and found a nice place right around the corner from the hotel.  You do not have to go to fancy restaurants to find good food in Rome, you just have to avoid the extra touristy ones.

Once dinner was over, we strolled back to the hotel and were both ready to get a good night’s sleep.

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