Rome Day 2: Spanish Steps & The Vatican

Trip to Rome will not be complete without visiting the Vatican.

Our final morning tour ends at  St. Peter's Basilica.  Thank heavens for the tour, we were able to cut the long queue at St. Peter's Square.  Escape the hassle by booking a tour before hand. If you're not not a big fan of tour buses, there are online sites where you can purchase VIP passes for both St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Museums.

St. Peter's Basilica

We went for a tour of the basilica's interior having seen Michelangelo's  Pieta for real. I was happy to see the gigantic Baroque baldacchino, a sculpted bronze canopy over the altar.  I remember studying this in my History of Interior Design class back in college.

We had two hours of free time before our afternoon Vatican Museums tour.  With a map, I guided my companions for a quick detour.  Check out the train map here.  We took the metro station walking distance from St. Peter's.  From there, we took the Metro line A going to Piazza di Spagna station for the famous  Spanish Steps.  Atop is the Trinita dei Monti, a beautiful french church overlooking the square.

Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Square)
Fontana della Barcaccia is the fountain at the foot of the crowded piazza.  We had lunch in a restaurant at the southeast part of the square (as shown below) overlooking the column of Immaculate conception.
Colonna dell'Immacolata
We took the metro's red line once more.  I was our team's official navigator. (Yes, a woman can read a map!) I was happy to have found our next tour's meeting point just right next to Stazione Termini.  From there our tour bus took us to the Vatican Museums.

Vatican (view from the museum window)
 The highlight of the tour of course was viewing Michelangelo's two masterpieces, Genesis (Creation) and Giudizio Universale (Last Judgement).  Photography there is forbidden, hence the absence of the Sistine Chapel fresco on the barrel vaulted ceiling of 800 sq. meters here.

It's interesting to note that Michelangelo was hesitant to do it when he was commissioned to decorate it in 1508.  Mainly because he considered himself a sculptor and not a painter.  Yet, after completing it for 15 years, his magnificence outshone those of his teachers'.

The experience of being embraced by these frescoes during my visit was highly spiritual.  Shy to admit, but I had tears running down my face while I was staring up at those beautiful frescoes.

Imagine, these artists worked on all of these works with love, passion and dedication.  Day in, day out, upon waking up in the morning and most probably sleepless evenings, I wonder how that made the artists feel.  Did they feel bored doing the same thing for a long time?   Did Michelangelo still feel the same enthusiasm after his 10th year of painting the  drape cloth  on one of the figures?    Terrible stiff necks?   Did they get frustrated at some point when they couldn't get a line to be straight in some of the trompe l'oeil shadows?  What if one color messed up, were they allowed to curse out loud inside the chapel?  Or were they completely immersed in God's love? Were they in a trance as their brushes moved along a hundred percent inspired?

One of the frescoes 
The works  are incredibly mesmerizing.  I could spend days there.

The museum tour was ended by going down a huge spiral ramp/staircase.  We headed back to our hotel located behind the Vatican walls.  By the way, don't trust the locals in Italy when they say, " It's walking distance, just 2 minutes away."   Those "2 minutes" could mean walking for 30 minutes.  Remember, for us spoiled expats where walking is usually a mere activity inside a mall, those 2 minutes could mean a LOT of walking.

We saw this tunnel on the way back to our hotel.
Tunnel leading to St. Peter's Square
The day of course was nicely ended with a night of Italian gourmandise at a local restaurant.

 That reminds me, it's time for dinner. Ciao!


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