LomoTravels: Reliving Rome Day 4 / Of Vaticano and Janiculum Hill
Today’s main feature is Vatican City which we had already pre-booked a half day tour with Dark Rome tour operator. With the tour we would be able to access some restricted areas and (most importantly) skip the entry queue. You know its money well spent when you see snaking queues forming outside the entrance at 8:15am.
We got to the meeting place quite easily and everyone else in our group were on time. From then onwards, our guide when about clearing all the administrative stuffs to ensure our entry was fuss free.
The guide then gave a general introduction of Vatican City, touching on its minute population (around 800 if I remember correctly), the Swiss guards who had to live within the compound and how the dome of St Peter’s Basilica was designed to be just slightly smaller than that of the Pantheon by Michelangelo (can’t quite recall the exact reason). She also shared various interesting facts and trivia which helped saved our brains from shutting off.
We first explored the Pinacoteca, the Vatican art gallery where the famous works of Caravaggio (The Entombment of Christ is pretty epic), Leonardo and Raphael can be found. It was mentioned that Raphael took inspiration from Michelangelo, especially from his Sistine Chapel frescoes to capture the gestures and movements of the characters in his Transfiguration. It is pretty evident that the stances of the characters from his earlier work, The Crowning of the Virgin Mary (which can also be found in the Pinacoteca) are less vivid in comparison.
Oh look at me going on and on like a sir.
After clearing the Pinacoteca, we were brought through a series of restricted corridors to get to the Bramante Staircase.
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Admiring the statue’s sturdy back while waiting for the guard to open the final door leading to the staircase.
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This is the Bramante Staircase which is apparently off limits to all except for special guests. There is actually another spiral stairs in the Vatican Museum which binbin wanted to see. However, the guide claimed no knowledge of it. An internet search back in the B&B proved her quite wrong. Oh wells.
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Walked through the Gallery of Maps and were pretty much stumped by its extravagantly decorated ceiling.
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Remembered seeing a photo of Pope Francis walking down these stairs waving to the camera after being freshly elected.
Time passed pretty fast as we were swept away by the majestic frescoes of the Raphael Rooms. Not to mention the epic Sistine Chapel ceiling and us trying to spot the various “Easter eggs” (e.g. Michelangelo’s self portrait) on it.
We then exited the museum proper and made our way into St Peter’s Basilica.
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Once again entry was a breeze since we got to skip the queue. We were still contemplating whether to queue for entry to climb the dome but the rain extinguished any of our remaining desire to do so.
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Imagine the effort that went into sculpting all that statues perched on top of the exterior of St Peter’s.
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Photo evidence of me sending out postcards (in the rain, no less) from the post office of the smallest state in the world. Apparently the Vatican post office is “one of the best postal systems in the world”. Nevertheless, one of the postcards I sent out did not reach the intended recipient. Boo hoo.
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A 4000 year old obelisk which has been moved a total of 3 times and in the process stood witness to Nero’s brutality and persecution of Christians.
The persistent light drizzle and cold winds gave us the perfect reason to hole up in a cafe for lunch and pastries. Rested and dried ourselves in the B&B before setting off for Janiculum Hill located in the Trastevere area.
Boy, was it a long walk. We had intended to hit some attractions in the area but just couldn’t find them. Gave up and tried to look for the bus stop to take a bus uphill. No dice again. So we ended up walking up along a series of winding roads and found ourselves at the base of a series of steps.
We took a leap of faith and ascended the steps with no confirmation that we will get to our destination.
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And that’s what we spotted on the wall upon reaching the top of the first flight of steps. Along the way up we had noticed some panels at the sides which hinted that we might be near the San Pietro in Montorio. This meant that we were on the right track to Janiculum Hill. Oasis indeed.
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Resting our legs in the church courtyard and admiring Bramante’s Tempietto. Ahhh life. But to be honest it was slightly unsettling since we’re virtually the only ones there. Probably not used to the quiet atmosphere in bustling Rome.
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Binbin caught in action taking a picture of the Tempietto’s interior.
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Walking along the main roads and encountered a few interesting monuments, statues, carousels and lines of bare trees.
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Finally reached the Piazzale Garibaldi where we got to enjoy an awesome view of Rome. A relaxing atmosphere in contrast to the maddening crowds we faced in the Vatican earlier on.
Took our own sweet time lazing around the benches, taking photos and lamenting about the fact that this was our last day in Rome.
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Well, she seemed pretty happy about it. Haha!
An early departure to Florence tomorrow calls for an early night rest. Good night!