On our final full day in Rome we decided to check out the religious sites and made our way to Vatican City. We were greeted with tour guides galore, trying to find the best way to persuade tourists in the off season that they needed guides in order to jump the line. We walked around to the entrance of the Vatican museum and could barely find the entrance because there wasn’t a line to be seen! The staff assured us we were in the right place, and we walked right in – What luck!?
We entered the Vatican, and luckily I got in for half price with my student discount. There are definitely perks to being an eternal student! First, we made a stop at the post office to mail a letter to Grandpa VanBoxtel, a unique opportunity to mail from the Vatican! We started out wandering around the gardens and then entered the hall of marble statues. From there, we began walking and following the crowds through the sprawling rooms of art, tapestries, frescos, and sculptures. The size of the museum is hard to comprehend. Luckily all rooms and routes lead to the Sistine Chapel.
It is stunning. The anticipation and buildup of the Sistine Chapel is worth it. The moment you step into the room full of tourists straining their neck to look up, you’re speechless. The restoration is spectacular and we took our time soaking in the art in the Sistine Chapel. Rick Steve’s audio guide was a perfect addition to the room. He explains the art in just enough detail to gain some serious appreciation for the work. A priest was blessing visitors to the Chapel and praying with guests, so my mom and I took the opportunity to visit him. He spoke to us, blessed our family, the growing baby and blessed Paul and I as we were beginning our journey to parenthood. It was an amazing experience, and something I cannot wait to tell our little one when he is old enough to understand.
From the Sistine Chapel we used the backdoor to enter St. Peter’s Basilica – the grand Catholic Church. There was an active ceremony going on, so some of our views inside the building were limited, but it was still a very neat experience. The sheer size of the church is unreal. I cannot imagine what an undertaking it was to build such a massive structure. Paul and I had the opportunity to visit many of these sites on our first trip to Europe, but one thing we didn’t do before was climb to the top of St. Peter’s. This time we thought we should try it!
We took the stairs to the top of the building, then we realized we weren’t nearly finished – we hadn’t even started on the dome of the building! Paul and I entered our next set of stairs and started winding around the outside of the dome. It was painfully narrow. Paul was craning his head and body sideways to try to fit the curvature of the building. I was of course pregnant and trying to keep up with my long-legged husband. We did pretty well though, and we were up to the top in no time. The last set of stairs was so steep and winding, that we had to use a rope instead of a railing. The view from the deck was beautiful. It was fun to look at Rome sprawling below. What a view. Of course, everyone needed to smoke their cigarettes in order to catch their breath from the climb, which I found slightly entertaining. We took a few pictures and met Curty and Deb down on the roof to walk around. They even had a gift shop on the roof – I assume there is quite a crowd come summertime who are there to see the views from the top of St. Peters.
We walked over and saw some of the massive statues that line the top of the church. There were crew members working on them and they dwarfed in comparison. It was very neat to be up there, and a fine addition to our trip to the Vatican. From there we walked back the Pantheon and stopped for a quick pasta lunch. Last time Paul and I were in Rome we didn’t have the opportunity to visit the Pantheon. This time we had time to stroll around the area and take in the massive structure. The square was busy with people and horses, and the entrance into the Pantheon was free. The inside was beautiful, and they still hold service inside now and then.
For our final night we strolled the shops and got our last gelato before retreating back to the apartment. Curty and I compared how big our welts were from the bed bugs that seemed to make themselves at home in the “deal” of an apartment we rented. The place was great, despite the bed bugs. I was so terrified that I was going to bring them back to Palermo – or worse, our house in the states. We did a lot of internet reading, and it seems that once you have bed bugs, you have to be extremely committed and diligent if you have any chance of getting rid of them. They are vicious little creatures and can spread from room to room and apartment to apartment pretty darn easily. Paul somehow escaped their bites, but dad and I were loaded with bites stacked in a line – typical bed bug pattern. After a few days of fighting, I gave in and woke up scratching the bites in my sleep.
At the end of the day, despite the bed bugs, all of us wanted to stay. I thought my mother was going to hide so she couldn’t be found, and try to stay in Italy forever! Their trip to visit us in Europe was coming to an end. We covered a lot of ground together: London, Sicily, Rome and now they were going to spend a day in Brussels. I am so happy that they had the opportunity to join us while we were abroad. It was one of those rare opportunities, and we surely made the best of it!
Cheers to an AWESOME vacation around Europe!