A rather more leisurely morning, off to visit the smallest country in the world. The Rome metro whisked us to within walking distance of this walled country.
Country number 14 – Vatican City
The Vatican City State is the smallest country in the world, at just 44 hectares and a population of just 800 people. The Vatican is ruled by the Pope, who we will sadly not be meeting on this trip! He usually holds audience on a Wednesday.
We headed straight for St Peter’s Square, to be met by thousands of others! The square itself is huge (340m by 240m!), encircled by 284 columns with a couple of fountains and facing towards St Peter’s Basilica. The queue for entry into the Basilica almost lapped around the whole square, oh no! However, after deliberating the pros and cons of joining such a queue, we went for it and were pleasantly surprised at the speed the queue was moving at. Within 15 minutes we were through security, through the fashion police (no bare shoulders and nothing above the knee here) and heading into the grand entrance!
St Peter’s Basilica, along with much of Rome, is very old – being consecrated in AD 326. After much destroying and rebuilding over time, Michelangelo took over in 1547 and designed the large dome – which is said to be his greatest architectural achievement.
The entrance to the Basilica is through several large, non descript doors. However, once through the doors the sight is magnificent. The building is huge. Each turn brings another elaborate statue, drawing and ceiling. I have never seen such an elaborate building before.
Starting from the floor, which is covered in coloured marble designs, the walls with various statues poking out through to the ceiling which is covered in drawings and sculptures, you don’t know where to look! Various services were being conducted in smaller rooms off to the sides with the organ music pouring into the main area.
After posting some Vatican postcards, off to the Vatican museums. After reading about the horrendous queues here, we were surprised to walk straight in, no queue! The exhibitions are huge. 7km long! So we won’t be visiting the whole thing! Each room is full of something different; one corridor of marble heads and statues, one corridor of 500-year-old tapestries, another corridor of painted Italy maps. All leading through to the masterpiece…..
Lastly, the Sistine Chapel. Being such a famous chapel, I was surprised at how small it was. Especially after wandering around the huge Basilica this morning. Between 1508 and 1512 Michelangelo worked to paint the frescos adoring the ceiling then later, the walls between 1535 and 1541. He painted over 300 figures into the elaborate drawings. It was pretty impressive, although the crowds and the constant telling-people-to-be-quiet by the guards was rather annoying.
On the way back, another gelato stop – this time pineapple and coconut! Even better than yesterday!
After a rest, back out for dinner. We found a local pizzeria – first Italian pizza! They were huge, but delicious. Topped off with a bit of tiramisu! How very Italian.