Jul 272015
 

In the first part of our “Rome in a Day” tour, we left you crossing the Tiber River from Rome’s ancient ruins and historic city center on our way to Vatican City for a tour of the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica. Hope you enjoy this photo journal from the second part of our tour with Walks of Italy.

View from across the tree-lined Tiber River to the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica

View from across the tree-lined Tiber River to the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica

The power and the glory

Growing up in a Catholic family and attending Catholic grade school, I’ve long held majestic visions of Vatican City (the smallest city-state in the world) and its powerful resident, the pope. I was looking forward to seeing it in person and would have loved to be in St. Peter’s Square for a general audience with the pope, but our timing wasn’t quite right for that.

St. Peter's Square from the steps of St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter’s Square from the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica

A walking tour of the Vatican Museums

Did you know that there are nine miles of culture and history with sculptures, paintings, other art, and religious and historical relics in the Vatican Museums, including their most famous attraction — the Sistine Chapel? It’s impossible to take it all in during one visit. The Walks of Italy tour helped us appreciate the spectacular collections even while moving along at a steady pace among the throngs of other visitors (at peak times, 20,000 people a day pass through the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica).

Vatican Museums entrance, courtyard, and Arnaldo Pomodoro's "Sphere within Sphere" sculpture

Vatican Museums entrance, courtyard, and Arnaldo Pomodoro’s “Sphere within Sphere” sculpture

No matter how much time you have in Rome, the Vatican Museums are a must-see. The amazing works of art that have been collected for centuries by the popes are found in a long series of galleries and museums. The photos I’ve selected provide just a glimpse of the glorious beauty.

Near the start of the Vatican Museums tour, we entered the Rotonda with its centerpiece,  Porphyry Basin (also called Nero’s Bath). Surrounded by niches with magnificent sculptures, this large red stone basin was the start of a seemingly endless stream of artistic treasures.

Porphyry Basin (Nero's Bath) in the Rotonda

Porphyry Basin (Nero’s Bath) in the Rotonda

From gallery to gallery, we were captivated by the enormous and diverse collection from ancient artifacts to surprising modern religious art. We tried to take in as much as possible although it’s really quite overwhelming.

Among the enormous collection of art in the Vatican Museums -- From bottom left: fresco in the Raphael Rooms, sculptures (partial view of the first century marble sculpture, "Laocoön" (top right); tapestries ("The Last Supper") and modern religious art

Among the enormous and diverse collection of art in the Vatican Museums — From bottom left: fresco in the Raphael Rooms, sculptures (partial view of the first century marble sculpture, “Laocoön” (top right); tapestries (“The Last Supper”) and modern religious art

Raphael's fresco "The School of Athens" ("La Scuola di Atene") in the Segnatura Room of the Raphael Rooms

Raphael’s fresco “The School of Athens” (“La Scuola di Atene”) in the Segnatura Room of the Raphael Rooms

In the Raphael Rooms are ceilings and walls painted by Raphael who began his works at the same time that Michelangelo was beginning work on the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling. One of his most famous frescoes (shown above) is The School of Athens (La Scuola di Atene) created in 1509.

"The Resurrection of Jesus" in Gallery of the Tapestries

“The Resurrection of Jesus” in Gallery of the Tapestries

Looking up

The ceilings throughout the museum are breathtaking. We were craning our necks in each gallery to get a good look at the beautiful masterpieces above us.

Golden ceiling in the Gallery of Maps

Gorgeous golden ceiling in the Gallery of Maps

The photo above is one of my favorites, taken in the Gallery of Maps, aptly named for the 40 frescoed maps depicting Italian regions and the papal properties during the papacy of Pope Gregory XIII (1572-1585). I especially liked this room because I have always had an affinity for maps and the ones in this hall are stunning works of art and history.

Ceiling in the Room of Heliodorus, Raphael Rooms of the Vatican Museums

Ceiling in the Room of Heliodorus in the Raphael Rooms of the Vatican Museums

Ceiling in the Room of the Fire in the Borgo, Raphael Rooms of the Vatican Museums

Ceiling in the Room of the Fire in the Borgo in the Raphael Rooms of the Vatican Museums

Looking down

These are just a few sections of intricate mosaic tile flooring that we admired as we passed through the galleries.

Mosaic floor in the Segnatura Room of the Raphael Rooms

Mosaic floor in the Segnatura Room of the Raphael Rooms

Floor mosaic with Athena in the center in the Greek Cross Hall at the entrance of the Pio Clementino Museum of the Vatican Museums

Floor mosaic with Athena in the center in the Greek Cross Hall at the entrance of the Pio Clementino Museum of the Vatican Museums

Section of the mosaic tile floor beneath Nero's Bath in the Rotonda

Section of the mosaic tile floor beneath Nero’s Bath in the Rotonda

The Sistine Chapel

The final and most important stop in the Vatican Museums tour is the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo’s famous biblical frescoes, painted between 1508 and 1512. No picture-taking is allowed and you must keep quiet as there are guards who loudly command “Silence” from time to time. The most well-recognized scene on the nine panels of the ceiling is the “Creation of Adam” in which God touches Adam’s fingertip. I could almost feel that touch seeing this fantastic work in person. It’s in the Sistine Chapel that the cardinals are brought together in the papal conclave to elect a new pope — another scenario I envisioned as we stood in the chapel gazing in awe upon the ceiling and walls.

St. Peter’s Basilica

After the guided tour of the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, our guide escorted us to the entrance of St. Peter’s Basilica and left us to casually tour the interior on our own. Built in the 4th century on the site of Nero’s Stadium where it is believed that St. Peter is buried, the basilica was a beautiful place to end to the tour.

St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica

When catching clips of Christmas or Easter services led by the pope in St. Peter’s, I’ve always imagined how wonderful it would be to attend one of those. I may never get that chance, but walking around inside gave me a sense of what it must be like.

Inside St. Peter's Basilica -- Michelangelo's "Pieta" bottom left

Inside St. Peter’s Basilica — Michelangelo’s “Pieta” bottom left

Even after seeing the art collections of the Vatican Museums, we were still dazzled by the art and design of the basilica, including the stunning dome, ceilings, and another famous work of Michelangelo’s — the Pieta (bottom left above). I remember hearing so much about the Pieta when it was temporarily on display at the New York World’s Fair in 1964. (I was very, very, very, young.)

Dome of St. Peter's Basilica

Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica

Before leaving the Vatican, we took a few minutes to admire the Swiss Guards who have been protecting the popes for 500 years. It’s incredible how these men stand so quiet and expressionless with all of us tourists snapping photos. These guards aren’t just for show, however. Despite common misconceptions, they are actually highly-trained soldiers and their services are especially critical in these days of terrorism threats.

Swiss Guards at an the entrance to the Vatican next to St. Peter's Basilica

Swiss Guards at an the entrance to the Vatican next to St. Peter’s Basilica

Instagram bonus photo — follow us!

I enjoy seeing brides, grooms, and bridal parties when I travel. Often, they are in famous, picturesque settings such as this couple we spotted in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Mr. TWS and I are both eager to make a return to Rome. Now with a great introduction to ancient Rome and the Vatican under our belts and with a basic understanding of how to get around historic Rome, we’re ready to delve deeper. It’s likely we’ll look for another tour by Walks of Italy to put  on our agenda.

What we especially liked about the Walks of Italy “Rome in a Day” tour:

  • Qualified, knowledgeable, friendly, and entertaining guides — That’s a wonderful combination of characteristics in a tour guide.
  • Privileged access at the Colosseum and the Vatican Museums — Even with more time than a couple of days to spend in Rome, I would not have wanted to wait in the lines we saw at these famous attractions and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss these tours.
  • Headsets/microphone — The enjoyment of the tour was greatly enhanced by an excellent application of technology. The guide used a microphone/head-set system that really worked well. He could talk in a normal voice (no shouting over the crowds and the headsets were very effective in enabling us to hear him in small quiet rooms as well). It really helped provide freedom in motion because even when we lagged a bit or were separated by the crowd, we didn’t miss anything that was said.
  • Small group size — There are never more than 14 on the “Rome in a Day” tour and we had fewer than that on ours.
  • Useful information is available on the Walks of Italy website to know what to expect on the tour.
  • Convenient transfer service — Our guide secured taxis and took care of payment to transfer everyone in the group from the historic city center to the Vatican for the second part of the tour.
  • Start and finish points that worked well for us. We were staying near the Vatican, so it was perfect to just walk a few more blocks after our tour to get back to our hotel and have a glass of wine on the terrace after an awesome 6 hours of exploring the grandeur, power and glory of Rome.

Disclosure: Our “Rome in a Day” tour was hosted by Walks of Italy, but our opinions and perspectives are totally our own — as always.

  16 Responses to “Rome in a Day Part 2: The Power and the Glory”

  1. It’s exactly what I imagine Rome to reflect: historical empires and their power and the gloriousness of it.

  2. I found the Vatican fascinating. The art and architecture were awe-inspiring. I also love some the quirkiness about it that I also discovered, like have their own post office, which is said to be better than the Italian state’s ­service, so many people cross the border to send their mail.

  3. Rome is the eternal city! Thank you so much for reminding it!

  4. The Vatican is so beautiful, a definite must-see in Rome no matter the crowds. It’s sometimes easy to miss fabulous art in the frenzy to get to the Sistine Chapel, so I enjoyed re-living some of the other venues via your post. Brilliant that you were able to visit with Walks of Italy, they are so good!

  5. I’ve only rushed through the Vatican Museums, once. Would love to see it all with a knowledgable guide.

  6. Catherine, you’ve done an excellent job of sharing ‘the power and the glory’. Very apt, and well chosen – both the photos and the text.
    I’ve wandered throughout so much of Europe – but always miss Italy. I know! I know! Bad planning. Your coverage above has again made that very plain.
    So interesting. Thank you!

  7. You brought back wonderful memories of our time in Rome and exploring the Vatican. A most amazing place, isn’t it? Your photos are fantastic and glad you had such a great tour host!

  8. Wow, a great set of photos. We’ve been faced with the Rome-in-a-day dilemma ourselves in the past. Not long enough of course but what an amazing city to wander around. Now we need to go back and take in more detail. 🙂
    Julia

  9. I am in awe of the amazing details rendered with such devotion and talent. I can’t imagine how vast the amount of treasure contained in a very small space, comparatively. Just stunning!

  10. Guides in a place like this would make all the diff.

    And what an incredible spot to get married. I think I’d have a case of post wedding let down blues the next day.

  11. Absolutely gorgeous art – the tile floors are amazing! “Walks of Italy” seems like a helpful resource leading to great experiences, thanks for the tip!

  12. Sounds like a worthwhile tour to do – love all that fine art … there so much of it to see!

  13. Went to the eternal city in 2010, it was so beautiful..so much to see. You can NEVER do it in a day. It was late Feb and into March when I was there and the weather was great..75*.
    This year I came back but went to Florence and Venice. I’d move there in a heartbeat!!!!

  14. I have visited the Vatican Museums twice, but I still haven’t seen everything. You need days to see all the masterpieces there. 🙂

  15. […] short visit in May. Taking a six-hour walking tour of ancient Rome and the historic center and Vatican City really helped to get an introduction to the main attractions. We also found time to wander the […]

  16. […]   Rome in a Day Part 2: The Power and the Glory […]

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