Stato della Città del Vaticano
It was my first day in Rome and I decided to book an early access tour to get in, avoiding the long lines and beating the crowds at the famous Sistine Chapel. I was glad I did because it was raining that morning and the lines were already long even before the 9 am public opening. Armed with individual headsets, we entered the gates and walked into the Vatican Museum. It was hallway after hallway of intricately designed frescoes and ceilings, with tapestry art, painting, and sculptures.
Also known as the smallest country in the world, The Vatican is the center of the Roman Catholic Church. About 5 million people annually visit this place, Catholic or not. It holds a great collection of art including Michaelangelo’s greatest works. I read a lot about Rome and Vatican prior to my visit, but it still left me overwhelmed.
We then walked down the steps to enter the Sistine Chapel, the site where they have the Papal Conclave, the process of selection of the new Pope. Michaelangelo, self-proclaimed to only be a sculptor until he was convinced by Pope Julius II, painted the ceiling between 1508 and 1512, which includes the now famed Creation of Man and the Last Judgement. There were about 60 people inside the chapel, a pretty sweet deal as it can be packed with hundreds of tourists later in the day. We had a chance to come back after just an hour to take the short cut to St. Peter’s Square and saw the difference.
St. Peter’s Basilica is a different story. It is the tallest structure in Rome and the largest Christian church ever built in the world. Bernini and again Michaelangelo were just two of the designers of this Basilica, also a site 91 Papal Tombs and where St. Peter, one of Jesus’ 12 disciples, maybe buried. After walking around at this massive structure, I decided to climb up to the dome. There were about 491 stairs but after all my previous climbs from earlier this trip, I decided to take the elevator and saved 171 steps. The view was worth every narrow step and every sweat, as it was very hot. Imagine climbing up a dome with barely no windows and tourists lined up both in front and behind you, also struggling for some oxygen.
I was beyond hungry and tired after I got down. Still I decided to walk back to my hotel instead of getting a cab. I was pretty proud of myself for making it back, even with a very bad headache from the heat. I had lunch, took a nap because I have yet to explore one of my favorite cities in the world…