Yes, the Vatican is considered to be another country. The tour guide, Marco, made jokes about needing passports, which made a couple of people nervous, but of course that was all just mucking around.
(I just loved seeing the dog here. I miss Poppy and Jeff.)
The dress code is very strict, except for the sculptures, as you can see. You have to have your shoulders and knees covered, which Gigi mentioned LOTS of times in the previous day. She’s had people sent away because they didn’t measure up and you could imagine was an unpleasant experience that would’ve been for everyone. She’s clearly anxious not to experience that one again! One of the men came down to breakfast wearing jeans and she made him go back and change, saying that it was “iffy” and it’d be better not to risk it.
Fortunately we all made it in and out intact.
Going with the tour that I am, we got fast tracked inside the Vatican, passing by the HUGE line of people already waiting outside. We had the first time slot, so by 8:30 we were walking inside. On the recycled marble floors.
The really cool thing is that they don’t mind if you take photos. Except in… you guessed it… the Sistine Chapel. But honestly, photos wouldn’t do it justice. We had 20 minutes in there and it was a good chunk of time to stand there and gaze upon the walls and ceiling. Marco sat us down in front of a screen beforehand and gave us a quick tutorial on the ceiling and wall that Michelangelo painted, because when you walk into the chapel you’re not allowed to talk, take photos, dance or breathe. It was good that we had the talk beforehand because we had things that we could look for and see in the flesh that we had just seen on the screen.
Another bonus that we got on the tour is that we got to see the Bramante Staircase… not the modern one but the one made in 1512 to enable to Pope to ride into the upper stories of the church on his donkey. It’s a spiral staircase… quite steep. I feel sorry for the poor donkeys!
Even though it’s called a staircase, you can see that it’s like a brick ramp.
It’s not open to the public, so we were very fortunate to be able to see it.
Look at the view from the top!
We then went through a few rooms where we saw Etruscan pieces.
I’m a bit ashamed to admit it, but I didn’t know where the Etruscans were from before today. Turns out they lived around where Tuscany is today and were the forerunners of the Romans. They weren’t very happy when the Romans came, as they were totally conquered and their language and customs all but obliterated.
A Roman chariot.
One of the corridors we went down was full of maps painted on the walls. These were 500 years old.
Think about it. There were no aerial photographs back then. It was all done with travela nd the use of mathematics. Incredible.
Not all the artwork is old.
But most is.
This is where Marconi did the experiments that resulted in radio.
The tapestries are pretty old too.
Then we went into St Paul’s. This is the longest church in the world. Michelangelo designed the dome when he was in his 80’s and the whole thing is very impressive.
People are walking above the writing up there.
I was amazed to see the monument to the last of the Stuarts in England. Who would’ve thought that there’d be English history in a church in Rome?
There’s a sectioned-dd piece of floor where the Pope walks from a door down to the main altar where St Peter is buried. Have a look at this:
Sydney’s Cathedral is here.
This is marking St Peter’s tomb. It’s pretty impressive. Archeological evidence strongly suggests that he really IS buried under here.
Look at the gold.
The Pietà by Michelangelo. I was VERY excited to see this.
After the Vatican we jumped back into the bus and went off to the Forum and the Colosseum. We had to go through security to get into them both, but once we were through we could walk around. By now the sun was getting fierce and some of our group were wilting and just wanted to sit in the shade. Not me though! We were standing at the top and Marco asked if we wanted the short or the long tour.
“Short,” said a few delicate flowers.
“LONG!” said Frogdancer and some other sensible people. So Marco deposited the others in the shade with some seats and led us down to where we could see the Forum up closer.
Here was where the processions would start when generals came back to Rome and wanted to have the recognition of all the slaves, territory and animals/money they’d brought back. They were called Triumphs.
Julius Caesar and Cleopatra have been along these very stones.
They ended at this arch, not so very far away.
Have a look at what’s survived. See the menorah? It’s depicting the time when Rome defeated Jerusalem. Can you believe it?
It’s all a big jumble of ruins. It wasn’t even made much of until the 1930’s. People used to run their cows and goats over the field that buried all of this.
Here’s the remains of a temple. You can see that it was changed into a church sometime in the 1500’s or so. See where the door is?
That’s how much was buried over the passage of time. Another interesting thing:
Look at the rips in the tops of the columns. This was when the people were trying to pull down the columns to use them for something else. They put chains around them to pull them down but the columns wouldn’t budge. So they decided to cut their losses and turn the building into a church.
The old bricks at the front was where Julius Caesar was cremated.
Leftover bits of marble from when the buildings were being recycled for the Vatican a few centuries ago.
I was rapt to be seeing so much of where Colleen McCollough was writing about in her series about the Romans. What with Georgette Heyer, Sharon Penman, Philippa Gregory, Jean Plaidy and now Colleen McCollough, I won’t have time to read any more new books for about 27 years…
Then we walked over to the Colosseum. I was very excited about this.
Though the heat was obviously bothering people, it seemed strangely apt to me. It wouldn’t be the Colosseum if the weather was cold and rainy. I could imagine people getting up early on a carnival day and streaming through the gates to sit in the sun and enjoy themselves.
Marco said that there used to be huge sails over the top, held up with ropes and rigging just like ships, to provide shade from the sun. If you stand in the arches, even on the ground floor, cool breezes blow through. This made the day bearable for me, particularly when I climbed to the upper floor. Marco said that there’s always cool breezes in the afternoon.
Here’s the numbering system for the gates.
This is what you see when you go inside. See the holes in the walls? These were caused when the Italians realised, once they peeled of the marble facades, that the Romans had used metal to fix the marble in place. They pulled out all the metal, because it was so precious and rare, and so there are the holes. You see them all over the place. Personally, I think they’re damned lucky that the whole stadium didn’t collapse on top of them.
This was taken at the lowest level. What you can see inside the arena is the two floors BELOW the level of the arena, where the gladiators would wait and where the animals would be caged and brought up ready to be slaughtered.
When I went to the upper level you can see that they’d restored a section so peole could see how it once was.
Look up! It’s the original roofing but I admit it’s not as exciting as the Vatican or Hampton Court Palace.
Just to prove that I was really here. This is something that I always thought I would do ‘one day’ and it was a beautiful thing to stand there under the burning sun and realise that I actually made it.
This is how the rich Romans saved their seats… by having their names carved into the marble seats. They were reserved for life. Not bad, hey?
They also had free drinking water, like in the public fountains. 30 per level.
When the Italians were ripping apart the colosseum to get the marble, a Pope was appalled and stopped it by saying that Christians were killed here and that the colosseum was now going to be a part of the stations of the cross march that they do every Easter. Thanks goodness he did this as it stopped the destruction.
See the white line? That’s where the colosseum USED to end before they started ripping it to shreds. It would never have lasted if that Pope hadn’t have turned it into a Christian religious item.
We had some free time in the afternoon and evening, so I hung around in the cool of the hotel, trying to get my photos to upload (no joy there… I now have over 200 photos to get onto the cloud), ate some munchies for a late lunch (thanks Nicole) and then I met with Heather and Mal to go to dinner and explore.
As we went out onto the main drag, we bumped into Mark and Michelle from South Africa. They were going to go by bus down to where the shops are to grab dinner so we all decided to go together. There was thunder rolling in the air and a few drops of rain fell, so we were glad to see the bus.
We jumped on and were about to set off, when the bus driver jumped up and started yelling. He pushed his way towards us and I thought he was going to come and tell us off for something, but he went past us and started yelling at a couple of tourists (we think) who’d hopped on at the back. He came back, jumped back into his seat and drove off, still venting very loudly. We have no idea what these people did wrong. Ahhh, the Italians! Such a passionate race!
After the best dinner we’ve (yet) had, we made it back to the hotel by bus, with a little help from a local lady that Heather was talking to at the bus stop. The air was still warm but far cooler than it had been all day. The buildings were lit up and the whole city looked wonderful. It was a lovely day.
Florence tomorrow, where I’ll be meeting up with one of my bridesmaids, who now lives there!! She’s also my ex sister-in-law. Isn’t life fun?