“St. Peter’s Basilica, the greatest church in Christendom, representing the power and splendor of Rome’s 2,000-year domination of the Western world.” ~ Rick Steves
Casey wanted to visit a micro-nation. Originally he wanted to see Monaco (I believe because of his computer-like math capacities and the world-famous casinos – see the film, “21“), but the idea of walking completely across a country in just minutes intrigued Casey too. He enjoyed the concept and structure of a modern city-state, complete with its own military, police, broadcast facilities, and international ambassadors known as Nuncios.
We started with a visit to the famous Musei Vaticani (Vatican Museum) and the adjacent Cappella Sistina (Sistine Chapel.) While we stood in line Casey and Megan went far to try real Italian gelato which they gave two “Thumbs Up.” While waiting the clouds gathered again and we were rained on once more as we waited for entry. True to our past experience, new immigrants arrived to the waiting visitor with a selection of folding and full size umbrellas, ponchos, and rain coats. Fifteen minutes before the storm the same men had been selling souvenirs. Our “entrepreneurs” worked the line almost to the point of aggressiveness, wanting to make their money quickly before the rain stopped. Each of us were holding an umbrella, but that did not deter several of our impromptu salesmen. “Would you like a poncho too?” “A larger umbrella?”
For fun we overlapped our umbrellas like ancient warriors would overlap their shields on the battlefield. Tracy selected one particular friendly, but persistent salesman as our principle nemesis: “Poncho-man.” Poncho-man would check with us every time he passed, about every 10-15 minutes if we were certain we didn’t need two umbrellas each rather than our paltry one. The approach of Poncho-man would cause us to tighten our umbrellas into a “turtleshell” and a verbal response of, “No, Poncho-man, no!” It became a game to pass the time with Poncho-man approaching with a smile and “Hello, my friends!” through the gaps in our umbrella and our cries of, “No, Poncho-man, no!” Nice way to pass the time while waiting in the rain. Meanwhile, inside the museum, patrons were declining to exit considerably slowing the entrance of new patrons.
Casey hadn’t realized that the Vatican Museum had 55 galleries and was the fifth most visited museum in the world with more than 4 million visitors a year. He was very pleasantly surprised at the size and variety of the collections. Casey and Megan were especially impressed with Michelangelo’s 500-year-old paintings the The Last Judgement on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Sadly no photos are allowed inside the chapel.
Coming out of the museum we headed inside Vatican City, behind where most visitors get a chance to see. Tracy had arranged for us to take the “Scavi” tour. It is a tour of the excavations of the underground necropolis that lies beneath Saint Peter’s Basilica. Our guide was a Ph.D. archeologist who is one of the supervisors in the work. He shared amazing insights into the excavations, the controversy of Saint Peter’s tomb inside the necropolis, and the history surrounding the basilica.
After exiting the Scavi tour, we visited Basilica di San Pietro in Vaticano (St. Peter’s Basilica), the largest church in the world able to hold over 80,000 parishioners at a single service. Afterwards we explored Saint Peter’s Square outside the basilica and just outside Vatican City we followed the Passetto di Borgo (the covered fortified corridor) to Castel Sant’Angelo (Castle of the Holy Angel) and the Ponte Sant’Angelo (after a stop for adult beverages to re-hydrate from all our hiking.)
Although not nearly a long enough visit to Rome and Vatican City, it’s time to show Casey and Megan our current home in Carcassonne, France.