Rome ~ the Eternal City
Spending a Day in Rome ~ St. Peter’s Square, the Sistine Chapel, and the Colosseum
Arriving in Civitavecchia, the port city for Rome brings back memories of our first trip here ten years ago. After a ninety minute drive we reach Rome and are dropped right in St. Peter’s Square. We have already been alerted that Pope Francis, or Papa Francis, is having an audience in St. Peter’s Square. The front of the Cathedral has a canopy set up for the pope and hundreds of people are seated and thousands more are standing to hear what is called “an audience”. Two jumbo screens broadcast the pope’s message and we see and hear him on it. Although we’re not Catholic, we are still thrilled by the opportunity to hear such a humble and beloved man. Of course, he is speaking in Italian so we can’t understand him, but that’s O. K. Unfortunately for us tourists, it means the city is packed today. I didn’t take the picture below, but it shows exactly how crowded St. Peter’s was.
On our visit here nine years ago, we saw all the highlights except two: the colosseum, which was closed for renovations, and the Sistine Chapel, which we just didn’t have time for. Our goal today is to visit those. Our guide has bought us tickets so we don’t have to stand in line for the Sistine Chapel, which is a good thing because the line stretches for blocks. The Sistine Chapel is actually part of the Vatican Museum and we walk through many rooms of paintings, statues, and tapestries. The art painted on the walls and ceilings is magnificent and a bit overwhelming, as you constantly have to look up. The crowds make for slow going, but eventually we enter the Chapel. If you’ve been here, you know that the sheer size and magnitude of it is incredible. Michelangelo’ s Creation on the ceiling is surrounded by other frescos. The fact that he climbed scaffolding many stories high and laid on his back to paint this depiction of God and Adam Is incredible. The colors are still so vivid. On one entire wall is the Last Judgment which is three or four stories tall. The perspective, colors, richness, and proportion is a testament to the artist’s genius. You want to lay down on the floor to look up, but can’t because there are just so many people. This is the room where the cardinals meet in conclave to elect a new pope. It really doesn’t look anything like it does in movies.
We finally make our way through more rooms of church relics and antiquities to out to St. Peter’s Square. The Pope has finished his audience, but the crowds are still in the thousands. We walk for a few blocks until we find a taxi and head over to the Colosseum. We arrive in front of the Forum to buy our tickets and, yea, there’s not a line. We buy our tickets to the Colosseum and walk along side the Forum, which is below street level. Once the center of Roman life, the Forum housed the Senate and government offices. As we approach the Colosseum, it looks so much more impressive without all the scaffolding than it did ten years ago. A short wait in line and we’re inside.
Below us is the exposed area where animals and gladiators waited to fight for their lives. We climb to the second level for a view that is staggering in its vastness. Thousands could watch the spectacle below.
After circling around once and touching the ancient stones, we head out and down the street to a sidewalk cafe. We enjoy a pizza with crispy crust, tomatoes and mushrooms with a glass of wine within sight of the Colosseum.
Catching a taxi, we head back to the Vatican, where the Pope has finished his audience and we’re now able to get a better view of St. Peter’s Square. It is so huge and there is still a long line to get into the church. Thank goodness we did that on our last trip. Unfortunately, Sweet Shark realizes that he left his cell phone at the cafe. No way to get back to retrieve it.