Climbing St. Peter’s Dome and Not so Wonderful News!

Day 98, Monday December 11, 2017

This was our last day in Rome, and I really wanted to climb the dome at St. Peter’s so that is where we went today. It was cloudy and windy but it wasn’t raining so that is good. I think they close the dome when it is raining so I kept my fingers crossed that we get to do this today.
After a twenty-minute wait to get through security there is no wait to climb the dome. I was willing to climb all 551 steps to the top but Bob thought we should take the elevator for the first 231 steps so we did that. When we get off the elevator we go inside the dome and get an up close look at the mosaics and the beautiful interior of the dome.
We will be climbing up to that little circle of light high above us!Everything in the Church far below us looks very small. This is the area where the service for  Peace in the Congo and the Sudan was held the first time we came to St. Peters. This is our third visit to St. Peter’s.From one of the windows, we see the backs of the huge statues on top of St. Peter’s. 
There are another 320 steps that we climb to get to the cupola on top of the dome. We are inside the walls of the dome so they slant quite steeply. It is very strange to walk with such sloping walls.The stairs get progressively smaller and more enclosed. I wouldn’t recommend this climb for anyone with claustrophobia.
Here we are on the cupola high above the ground.  At 450 feet high, this is the tallest dome in the world, and we are standing on it!On the way up I took the first photo from a window. It felt pretty high already. Notice the dome with the scaffolding in the first photo, and then see how much higher we climbed by comparing it to the same dome in the second photo.This is the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel.  You can see how long the hallways were on either side of the interior courtyard. Also there were inscriptions carved onto the roof of the dome with Pope’s names and dates.You can see them in the bottom of the photo.
St. Peter’s Square with the Christmas tree, and the road that leads to the river and the Castel Sant’Angelo. The view from up here is amazing even with it being an overcast day.It is very windy but no rain, so we are happy. We spent at least an hour up here, just enjoying the view. We even had our tea and cookie break on the sheltered side of the dome. Not sure if we will ever get back here so we wanted to soak it all up!This is looking up towards the cupola just above our heads. These are the windows that are visible inside the church at the top of the dome.
The Vatican Gardens look beautiful. We didn’t get a chance to tour them, maybe another visit?This photo clearly shows how apartments are often built around an inner courtyard that is not visible from the street. Also another look at an inscription on the dome.
We climb back down the 320 steps and we are delighted to discover that we get to walk the roof of the basilica. How amazing is that? We get up close and personal with the huge statues, check out a souvenir shop, a cafe and the bathrooms, all on the roof top of St. Peter’s!There is a great view of the dome from the roof top.
We were right up on the top, behind the railing. I was very excited about the whole visit.We walk down the last 231 steps and emerge inside St. Peter’s. Looking up at the dome it is crazy to think that we were up there. We were on the inside just below the windows and then on the outside away up above that tiny opening, which isn’t really all that tiny and walking above these beautiful ceilings!We visit the grotto below the church which contain chapels dedicated to various saints and tombs of kings, queens and popes, dating from the 10th century. The holiest place is St. Peter’s tomb, visible on the right side of this photo. The monument to Pope Paul VI (1978) is here but the tomb of Pope John Paul II (2005) is upstairs in the church. I took a photo before I was told that no photos were allowed and it just happened to be this one of St. Peter’s tomb.Back outside we watched changing of the Swiss guards. I love their uniforms. They are inspired by Renaissance uniforms and they are the colour of the House of the Medici.On our walk back to the metro we pass shops that sell robes for the clergy. This was a surprise for us but I guess they need to buy these vestments somewhere. We wonder if you need to show ID to make a purchase?When we arrive home we check our flight to Amsterdam tomorrow and find out that it has been cancelled due to bad weather in Amsterdam! This is the third flight that has been cancelled on us this trip!!

We spend the next five hours trying to figure out how we are going to get home. No use booking another flight as it may get cancelled too, and there are no busses that would get us there in time. The train can only guarantee to get us to the German-Netherland border and then we “should” be able to stay on the train and just pay the conductor to get to Amsterdam!  That means there is a chance we might get stranded at the border late at night!!

In the end our best option is to rebook our flight and fly from Rome to Munich, then to Reykjavik and finally home. Instead of a short flight to Amsterdam, a relaxing night in a hotel and then a flight home, we now have a 24 hour travel day starting at 4 am and it cost us a lot more money!!  Oh well, we decide to not worry about it and at least we will still get home on December 13th. Luckily we are able to book another night in our bnb so we didn’t have to move somewhere else for one day. We finally get this all sorted out near midnight. Not a nice end to a lovely day in Rome.


The Vatican, Rome

Day 87, Thursday November 30, 2017

We bought tickets online for the Vatican in order to avoid the long line-ups we have read about. Arriving at 10:00 we are able to enter right away, but so is everyone else. There are no lineups anywhere.

The map provided by the museum isn’t the best but between it, a Rick Steve’s travel app, and Bob’s navigational skills we manage to find our way around.  If you walk through all the galleries, it’s 7.5 km, or 4.5 miles long and yes we walked through all the galleries!

Be warned, this is a long post, so you might want to get a cup of something hot before you visit the Vatican Museums with us!

One of the first sculptures we see is this copy of Michelangelo’s Pieta. the original is now behind glass because it was badly damaged by a deranged man 45 years ago. I think this is the closest I will get to taking my photo with this incredibly beautiful statue.
We see many examples of Early Christian and Medieval art. Before this trip I didn’t have a lot of interest in this genre but I discovered that I am rather fascinated by depictions of the Madonna. We even saw a pregnant Madonna, the only one I have ever seen.Next stop was a huge room with several very large tapestries. They were so finely woven that they almost looked like paintings.

This very large angel from1666 was one of four preparatory straw and clay models for bronze castings by Bernini.A enormous collection of ancient sculptures, sarcophaguses, reliefs and  building parts was next. There was also a display of drawings, which I found interesting.  I speculate that there must have been a drawing workshop.
This is a floor mosaic that I remember seeing in books. I always liked the little mouse. The tiles are very small. I can almost feel the wind blowing these garments about.One of the reliefs on display.There is a large collection of vehicles used by Popes over the centuries.
We didn’t know that all papal vehicles come equipped with a throne!The Vatican has an extensive collection of Egyptian artifacts many of which are superior to the ones we saw in museums in Egypt! It is easy to forget that all these hieroglyphs were at one time bright painted like the inside of the coffin.The painted bas-relief fragment is from 2400 B.C.The Mummy of Taymen is from 750-525 B.C. We never saw anything like this in Egypt. It was fascinating, but I know this person never intended to be on display in a museum!There are many galleries of Greek, Etruscan and Roman artifacts and these which are from Syria-Palestine during the Neolithic period 8500-3000 B.C.

We descended this staircase to emerge …

in a very long hallway lined with over a thousand sculptures!There were several museum workers busy dusting and cleaning. I imagine that by the time they finish it must be time to start again.The gallery above opened into this one, lined with even more monumental statues. It simply takes my breath away.A Roman copy of a Greek original dating from the 2nd century A.D. The affection for the child is evident in the way he is held and regarded. I can’t imagine that something so life-like can be carved in stone.I am fascinated with the carved flowing robes. I have a hard time even drawing folds never mind chiseling them from stone.This is the Nile River God with another sculpture filled niche behind.

There is an outside courtyard with a covered display area all around the exterior walls. There we see the biggest toe. Can you imagine the size of the statue this once belonged to? That is my foot beside it.

There are many incredible statues on display…  but I am particularly drawn to these three. The Belvedere Apollo, the Belvedere Hermes, and the Laocoön. The Laocoön was unearthed during  Michelangelo’s time and it had a great influence on his work. 

This sculpture of the River God Arno was the inspiration for Michelangelo’s David in the Sistine Chapel.

The Belvedere Torso was also the inspiration for Michelangelo’s God in the Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel.We need to remember to look up. The ceilings in these galleries are as incredible as the art work below them.The Hall of Muses with its magnificent dome, mosaic floor, statues of the nine muses from the 2nd century A.D. and the largest carved stone basin in the world.These statues are monumental! Oh, and we are walking on the beautiful old mosaic floor here too.
It looked like the statue was trying to give this rather bored looking guard something.These bronze hands decorated with gold buttons are from the 1st half of the 7th century B.C. I thought they looked like a modern work of art.More display rooms with ornate ceilings…and lots more pots and other artifacts. In fact there were many rooms like this. We walked through all of them but I have admit that after a while we didn’t even try to look at all the items.
I did love these two horse heads…and there were some great views of Rome from the Gallery windows.Bob is trying to figure out where we go next.Turns out it is this room, with even more sculptures and carved stone artifacts, and yet another incredible ceiling.We both remember seeing a copy of this little boy with his goose in the Louvre many years ago. Interesting that we see it here in Rome too.The Arazzi Gallery is a long hall with more tapestries on both sides.This tapestry has an optical illusion. As we walk by it appears as if Jesus’s eyes are following us and he even seems to move through the doorway. It is very strange.

The Gallery of Maps is astounding. It seems to go on forever. The walls are lined with huge maps of all of Italy but it is the ceiling that grabs our attention. It is covered with paintings and sculptures and ornate frames.The lighting makes the ceiling look golden in the photo above but this photo shows its true colours. I just don’t know what to say. Words are simple inadequate to describe this very, very long ceiling. It is almost unbelievable.
There are more galleries but we are getting very tired. We decided several hours ago that we need to come finish seeing everything another day. We make our way to the Sistine Chapel. We are so lucky, because it is late in the day there are not many people in the chapel. We find a seat along the wall and look up. There is so much to see. I think it is amazing that we are sitting here, in the Sistine Chapel looking at this masterpiece. We probably spend almost an hour here but it is time to go as we still need to visit St .Peters and see the Pieta.It is night when we leave the Vatican Museums. We go through the ‘secret passage’ that allows us to enter the basilica without having to line up and go through security again.There she is. The Pieta, in all her glory. After spending some time with the Pieta, we walk around the basilica. We wanted to visit the grotto beneath the church but it is already closed. I like the little dragon between the bottom two figures in the sculpture.
St. Peter’s right foot has been rubbed almost away by the touch of thousands of pilgrims over the centuries.
There is a mass taking place so we listen to the organ music and singing for bit before we finally head home. It has been long day. We spent 8 wonderful hours in the Vatican Museums but we are both very tired..

The Pope’s Angelus Blessing, Rome

Day 83, Sunday November 26, 2017

Every Sunday at noon is the Angelus Prayer, when Pope Francis speaks to those gathered in St. Peter’s Square. Today we are among the many who are here to see and hear the Pope. We thought we had a great spot right in front of St. Peter’s Basilica with a clear view of the central balcony…then Bob spotted something in the far away window of the building across the square. Oops, this is where the Pope appears, and we are quite far away.
At noon the Pope appears and with a friendly wave and a welcoming “Buongiorno”, to which the crowd replies “Buonjourno”, he begins the Angelus Prayer. 

Good thing I have a telephoto zoom on my camera! The Angelus ends with a blessing for everyone in the square and the blessing includes any religious objects that people have brought with them. The bells of St. Peter’s chime as the crowds begin to disperse. We have seen the Pope!Although the clouds were dark and threatening while we were waiting to see the Pope, by the time the Angelus is finished the sun is peeking through the clouds so we decide to stroll about. We head down the Via della Concillazione, the wide road that leads to St. Peter’s Square…and across the Ponte Sant’Angelo with a good view of the Castle Sant’ Angelo and the Tiber River. By the way, Romans pronounce it ‘teeber’ not ‘tiber.’One of the things I love about Rome, eye candy everywhere!We take a minute to pop into the Church of Santa Maria in Vallicella, known as the Chiesa Nuova, or New Church. A friendly lady comes to chat and gives us an audio guide tour.

The church celebrates the life and legacy of Saint Philip Neri, and this little side chapel is dedicated to him. He is also entombed there in a glass coffin. It is a bit strange to see so many bodies on display in churches here, it is not something we see at home. We wander back towards the Pantheon for photo of the obelisk in the centre of the fountain. I think we are getting close to seeing all the Egyptian obelisks in Rome. I will have to check, but I do know there is one more near by.I wanted a photo to show just how enormous the columns at the Pantheon are.Around the corner behind the Pantheon we find one more obelisk. Bernini designed the base for this one after it was discovered in excavations nearby in 1667.Back to the front of the Pantheon where the long line up has disappeared so we go in to see what it looks like in the daytime. The sun is shining through the oculus, but other than that the lighting isn’t much different than during the evening. We take another quick look around and we are on our way. People try to earn money in all sorts of ways in Rome. This young woman was sculpting sand puppies…and an artist asks to be adopted, but he was nowhere in sight when we walked by.Christmas decorations are making an appearance, and many stores use live evergreens in their decorations. I am curious and a closer look reveals that they are using Oasis, or floral foam, to keep the greens fresh. These displays smell so Christmassy when we walk by.A view down one of the main streets where we wait for our bus. Notice that there aren’t many cars at all. Also notice the gypsy lady prostrated on the sidewalk, begging. I can’t imagine this is an easy way to make money.

We pass Trevi Fountain with its hordes of people and decide it is time to head home.As you already know, I love looking down side streets and into courtyards.  I didn’t even notice the ‘street art’ on the do not enter sign until today when I was posting this.

This lovely apartment building with its garden balconies is on the corner near our own apartment.

Wandering the Streets of Rome and Life Drawing

Day 81, Friday November 24, 2017

It is a nice day for a walk about the streets of Rome. I get my picture taken with this tiny car on the street outside our apartment. It is the smallest car I have ever seen but it sure would be easy to park!

We are surprised at how little traffic we have seen on the streets. I think they limit who can drive in the downtown areas. Evening rush hour is busy but the rest of the day not so much.We have tea in Nuovo Piazza. This square used to have chariot races around its perimeter. From 1652 until 1866, when the floor of the square was raised, it was flooded every Saturday and Sunday in August. The fountains would be plugged so that they wouldn’t drain and the square would become a lake!  I try to imagine the scene, with people boating and bathing and children playing in the water.There is a group of musicians who kindly provide us with musical accompaniment.A detail of the Fontana del Moro at the south end of the square.I am going to a life drawing session tonight so we go to check out where it is located. The studio  is only a couple of blocks from the Piazza Navona. There is a little studio with beautiful watercolours of orchids on the way…and several basket and chair makers on the same street as the studio…along with a great little book store. I love European bookstores, they are usually small, crowded, and piled with books on every available surface. Just what I think a bookshop should look like.We found the studio, I think we might have had trouble locating it in the dark later, so I am glad to know where I need to go tonight. Heading back to Navona Piazza I peek down the side streets. I wish there was enough time to explore them all.

There are people trying to make money whatever way they can.The Fountain of Neptune is at the northern end of the square.I really like this little fellow and his spouting fish on Neptune’s Fountain.

Buildings come in all sorts of interesting shapes and sizes in Rome.Tthis one appears to be right in the middle of the street!We wander about window shopping and see this robotic sculpture who waves his arms and blinks his shining eyes.An interior decorating shop, a store that sells Bonsai trees, another that sells Oriental furniture and one of the many antique shops along the streets we walked. We never know what we might see down a side street. It is a bit of sensory overload at times.We turn the corner by the elementary school and this is what we see: the Tiber River with St. Peter’s in the background.We cross the Ponte San Angelo…walking towards the Castel San Angelo, which is now a museum. There was or maybe still is a secret tunnel that connects the Vatican to this fort so that in times of danger the Pope could escape and hide here.What would Rome be without gladiators?
We head towards St. Peter’s hoping that we might have another visit to see the inside in the daytime.I have no idea how these olive trees manage to grow in pots, even though they are big pots. I wonder if they need their roots trimmed, like bonsai.We have seen quite a few people begging on the streets, but this person was by far the strangest looking.  I have no idea if this is a way of getting sympathy or if it is really the day to day garb of this individual. 

A Christmas tree is being decorated at St. Peter’s square. The line ups to get into the Basilica are very long so we decide to try to visit another day. This is just one of the benefits of spending more than a couple days in a city. We don’t have to try to cram everything into just a few days.
I think these columns are magnificent. There are 284 columns and 88 pilasters (half columns) that flank the square in a colonnade of four rows. Above the columns there are 140 statues created in 1670 by the disciples of Bernini. St. Peters square is one of the largest and most beautiful squares in the world. 

After a rest and supper at home we take the bus back to my life drawing session. While I draw for two hours Bob found a reception at a gallery that he ‘crashed’ and he enjoyed some wine and goodies.

I had a great time drawing.

30 second and 1 minute posesEveryone was welcoming and the model was fantastic. I did all right, some not so bad and some not so good drawings. It has been a while since I have attended life sessions. It isn’t like I forget how to draw but it takes a while to get the facility back.

2 minute and 5 minute poses

I really appreciate the drop in sessions offered at home. Sessions are $8.00 for 3 hours. Here at La Porta Blu art School it was €15.00, or about $22.00 Canadian for two hours, which is about what I was paying when I was in Paris. I did find one other place with drop in life drawing in Rome where but their price was €30.00 and €45.00 for 2 hours! That was just a bit too expensive for me.

2, 5,10 minute and 20 minute posesUnfortunately, the bus we were to take home was very late. We were just about to give up and try walking to the metro, which was a long way away, when our bus finally arrived, just 45 minutes late! We are in Rome after all, and schedules here have a slightly different connotation than they do at home.



St. Peter’s Basilica and the Pope

Day 80, Thursday November 23, 2017

Bob read that the Pope was doing a special mass for peace in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo at 5:30. We decided we would go to St. Peter’s and see if we could get in. There wasn’t much of a line up to get through security and soon we are in the Basilica. We make our way to the front of the crowd and take some photos of the altar, and the Swiss Guards who are responsible for the safety of the Pope.We had a little look around while waiting for something to happen at 5:30. This is looking towards the front doors of the Basilica, with a view of yet another magnificent ceiling.
We feel very small in this enormous cathedral .Everywhere we look there are statues and ornate gilded decorations.At 5:30 the mass starts but it is far from us, behind the main altar. There are guards keeping people back behind barriers, while only allowing a select few to enter.  When I zoom way in we see a statue of the Madonna which is part of this special mass. Bob thought he saw someone in white below the statue. Take a look at the link above. He is sure he saw the Pope.This photo shows the many rows of chairs that line the piazza in front of St. Peter’s for the Papal Audience that is held on Wednesdays.
As we walk further away we are able to see the dome on top of the cathedral.It is a bit of a walk to the metro but it is a nice night and there is lots to see along the way.