15th April 2013
· Started the visit to Vatican by around 7.30 am after the healthy and heavy breakfast in the hotel. The drive was around 20 mins and the Musei Vaticani (Vatican Museum or the city of the Vatican as such) opens at 8 am.
· When we travel through Rome towards Vatican, we can see the walls that separate Rome and Vatican as soon as we start nearing it. Its astonishing how big those walls are and how they have built their own place inside of another city. There are two entrances to the Vatican city for the designated city tours alone. One is the old one and the other is the new one. They are heavily guarded and you are not allowed to take any big backpack and stuff. If you take then you have to place them in the lockers there and come back all the way again to claim them.
· The new entrance leads to a place which is newly built for ticketing and entrance to the museums. As soon as we climb up and try to go to the museums you are introduced to the Dome of the Vatican. The famous landmark of the Vatican City. Its breathtaking to see it first hand with your own eyes. Along with the gardens, we see the other side actually. You can take pictures here.
· After that we enter the museums where in we see different tapestries belonging to various artists and various times, sculptures persevered depicting the various beliefs of the romans and vaticans, the paintings of various artists, the maps of the roman empire. You should see these paintings, some of them are modeled as 3D. Amazing pictures. It just wow’s you. Some of them were in the process of restoration. After that we entered the area that leads to the Sistine Chapel and the St Peters Church
· But since you are not allowed to take pictures or talk inside the Sistine Chapel in the place before we enter it they have placed some pictures of the same for the guides to explain the various pictures that are there as part of the Sistine Chapel. The Last Judgment, the ceilings , the Adam and Eve thing.. Everything. The guide explained the significance of each and every one of them. Do you know that Michelangelo believed that it was not only Eve who sinned by Adam too and that is depicted in the picture? Also he depicted a cardinal, with whom he had a mutual dislike, depicted as a person on the hell with his genitals caught by a snake as part of his punishment in the Last Judgment? He also put his own face in the skin of a priest who was killed by skinning. It was so unbelievable to hear about those. They prepare you for what you see, but it is never enough. Trust me. And to top it all, Michelangelo did not want to paint. He was basically a sculptor. Imagine a person who was doing something which he did not want to do and that turned out to be the best of his work. Talk about irony.
· Michelangelo is really a great artist. To do Sistine Chapel as a single person…Need to really see it in person to see the magnanimity of the work. Just unbelievable. Even though they explained everything upfront, as soon as I entered, I was just floored. Being there all I did was to praise Michelangelo and thanking God that I was able to see his work through my own eyes. We got to spend some alone time in the chapel, but it is always overcrowded. Even then you get your own sweet time to look around. Appreciate the art. Amazing piece of art.
· After that we visited the St Peter’s Church, which is supposed to the longest church in the world. Again the dome of it was done by Michelangelo. Again a bit over crowded, with lot of school children coming in with their work books and writing down things :). It is really a very big church, again the best part being the dome part, where the Pope presides. Everywhere you turn you see work of art, either in the form of a sculpture or a painting. You have the door there, just like our sorkavaasal, which is closed for now and which will be opened on a day in 2020 it seems. You can spend hours inside inspecting each and every painting and sculpture.
· After that we come back out to the St Peters Square, remember the Angels and Demons. Its sort of a dejavu moment, as if I have been there already.
· New Pope was elected very recently and his public appearance is to happen on Wednesday. So all arrangements were being made in the St Peter’s Square. Brought back a lot of scenes on mind from the Angels and Demon’s movie. Nothing beats seeing them in real. Just so surreal. Once through the St Peter’s Square and through the Roman Columns, you are again back to Rome and out of Vatican. Lot of restoration is going on in many places. We saw the various palaces and official apartments that hosts the Pope and other members.
· We had our lunch and our little time for souvenirs near the St Peters Square and started our way back to Roma for the Colosseum visit at around 11.30 am.
· Reached the Colosseum at around 12.00 pm and it was getting quite hot by then. We have seen the Colosseum in movies, but its huge with a H. We got down near the Arch (sort of like the Victory Arch) and lot of other ruins that are located near. Did you know that the Colosseum was fully made of Marble and had lots of sculptures in it and that those were stolen for placing them in Vatican? Too bad. Lot of parts of the Colosseum is destroyed and they have rebuilt some of it, but unless you see the inside of it you never know the size of it. And climbing it to the 2nd floor is not an easy task. The steps are very narrow and very very steep. I felt like I had climbed almost 10 floors by the time I did that one floor. Because of that lot of people stayed back downstairs after the guide explained how things used to be in the Colosseum and what happened during those days. From above you can see the other ruins and the arch too. We had so many school children doing the visits. After the visit to the Colosseum we started to walk towards the Roman Forums which are the other set of ruins which hosts the temples, shrines and other political offices that were built. It was quite a long walk and the tour of the Colosseum and the Forums completed by 1.15 pm.
· Reached back to the hotel at around 2.15 pm for a break
· Started at around 4.45 pm for a Roman tour to various squares and the dinner. First stop was in the Trevi Fountain. Our guide told us how the concept of throwing three coins started on this fountain (it was after a movie Three Coins in the Fountain that this belief got popular. The first coin is to come back to Rome, the 2nd one I dont remember, and the 3rd to meet the love of your life… no one in our group wasted the coins anyways and it was way too crowded for the evening ) From there we walked around to Piazza de Popolo and Piazza de Novana (where Tom Hanks was almost killed in the fountain…) Piazza de Novana is an artist’s place. You can see lot of artist showcasing their work and many of them working with their colors. There are also lot of restaurants alongside the piazza (a square actually where people meet) which offers great view. These squares reminded me of Guadalajara and the Cathedral square which I visited.
· After that we went to the ancient Rome again for our dinner in Hotel Luciani. It was a four course meal and too heavy. But a few of the group mates (all old people by the way) along with one of the waiter there (a cute bald guy) danced for the music and made our day. He also gave all the ladies (that includes me too) in the group a yellow rose (along with a quick peck on the cheek). I was the only vegetarian on the group and the waiter guy had to take care of my menu separately. By the fourth course, all I wanted was to lie down and sleep it off. Temperature dropped off by the time we entered the hotel and when we left it at around 10 pm (around 2.5 hours of dinner with music and laughter), we just did not have enough energy to see the Rome by night (couldn’t take pictures) and as soon as I hit the bed by 10.30 pm, I passed out.
· In Rome, you can drink water from the taps and there are lots of taps flowing with water everywhere in the city. I am not sure why they don’t close it. It’s free flowing water. And it tastes good too. Traffic is very bad. Even though they have metro and frequent buses, people prefer to take their cars and the roads are very very narrow so there is too much traffic issues. And people driving two wheeler’s are like Indians, they drive without any rules 🙂