Thursday, October 16, 2014

The tiniest country

Yesterday we visited the world's smallest country, the Vatican. We started at the Vatican Museum, which is huge and full of amazing artwork, sculptures, and artifacts, but also very crowded. Thanks to the online reservation system, we didn't have to stand in line and just walked right in. We saw some of the highlights and then zipped to the Sistine Chapel, which was very cool to see. Michaelangelo's paint job seems humanly impossible! Then we faked being part of a tour group and snuck in the back door of St. Peter's Basilica, thus skipping both a 30 minute walk around the Vatican City walls and waiting in a long line. St. Peter's is so over-the-top huge - it's built on such a large scale that it's difficult to comprehend just how big the church and all its decor are.

View of Rome from the Vatican Museum

The impressive ceilings in the Vatican Museum

Intricate sculptures

Vatican Museum

More fancy ceilings

I haven't gotten tired of old maps yet!

Damon's sneaky picture of the Sistine Chapel ceiling!

Damon inside the massive St. Peter's Basilica

Altar in St. Peter's

The Pieta

Afterward we hung out in St. Peter's Square for a bit, which was still set up for the previous day's Papal Audience. Damon was excited to see the Swiss Guards, and we also saw the papal apartments and the smokestack of the Sistine Chapel from the outside.

St. Peter's Square, with all the chairs for the Papal Audience

Swiss Guards!

More sights around St. Peter's Square

Holy water for Mary Weaver ... mission accomplished!

Taking advantage of the waters of Rome!

Vatican city walls

Later in the afternoon we headed down to the fun and trendy Trastevere neighborhood for a walk around before meeting Damon's cousin Chloe and her friend Isabelle for dinner. When we got to Trastevere we were ready for a snack, since we'd had a light lunch and weren't eating dinner until 9 (when in Rome!). So we popped into a bar that had apertivos  set out. Two days prior we'd been to another bar that had a similar setup for late afternoon drinks and complementary snacks. We ordered a glass of wine and Damon went to get us each a snack and came back with 2 pieces of bruschetta. But, no one else in the bar was eating the snacks and we soon figured out that we weren't supposed to either - they were not complementary at this bar! Oops! Damon was like "finish your wine and let's get out of here!" On the way out we saw the signs they'd set out after we'd come into the bar, saying that for 10 euros you could get a glass of wine and snacks. We would have done that had we known, but instead we got 5 euro wine and stole the snacks! I asked Damon if he thought that buying holy water at the Vatican earlier in the day made up for it, but he wasn't convinced. I guess we can add this escapade to the list of things we've accidentally stolen in Italy (postcards for our nieces and an antique key being the other two). We feel like we've got a track record for petty theft now and it's completely unintentional!

The Arno River, as we crossed to the Trastevere

Another Arno River shot

We walked around Trastevere for a while longer, enjoying the vibrant scene. We also popped into a couple of very pretty churches.

Damon at one of the churches we stopped at in the Trastevere. We were very excited to see (on the wall behind Damon at the entrance to the church) the covers to many of the tombs from the catacombs we'd learned about on our tour the day before. From what we learned on the tour, we recognized many early Christian symbols and icons that decorated the catacombs, and were probably removed and placed here on the church.

Inside the church

Beautiful all lit up!

How cool that a typical neighborhood church in Rome is THIS pretty!

We had a wonderful dinner with Chloe and Isabelle at a popular restaurant called Taverna Trilussa. Chloe is studying abroad in Rome this semester and Isabelle is doing a semester at sea and had just arrived in Rome. It was fun to hear about their adventures - they've both been to lots of places in Europe and beyond. We ate more black truffles, this time on bruschetta and had delicious pasta dishes. Yum!

Where we met Chloe and Isabelle for dinner ... great place!

At Taverna Trilussa with Isabelle and Chloe

Damon and the ladies!

Yesterday was our highest mileage day yet: 10.6! The miles are tougher than at home because of all the uneven cobblestone streets ... we think we've averaged about 9 miles a day on them in Rome and our legs and feet are tired!!

Sore feet despite making good use of the Roman subway system

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