Destination: the Vatican City

During our time in Rome this past December, my family and I booked a half-day visit to the Vatican– just like with Rome, we’d already visited it over eleven years ago, but it’d been such a long time that we wanted to revisit it and capture its beauty once more. With that, we headed out early in the morning to meet with our tour group near the entrance to the city-state within Rome.

Along with some 20-odd tourists, we skipped the *already accumulating* lines and directly headed in to get our audio boxes and start our visit inside the museums for the first part of the morning. We toured around the Vatican Museums, which are a collection of museums housing plenty of sculptures, busts, tapestries, and mosaics to marvel at. We didn’t see each and every one of them, as doing that would take at least two years to finish– and of course, we only had a few hours in there, so we just saw the highlights.

Gallery of Statues and the Hall of Busts.
Mosaic floor.

The Gallery of Maps, which is literally a hallway filled with plenty of 16th-century, hand-drawn maps of different Italian regions (also including the now-French Corsica), was a real stunner, as its gold-vaulted ceilings were too much not to be dazzled by. People were constantly going in and out, also taking photos, so it was almost impossible to get the whole hallway in without too many visitors in the way!

Gallery of Maps.

Eventually, we moved on to the papal apartments, which contained important frescoes by Raphael and some from Michelangelo. The Raphael Rooms really showed just how the artist’s skill for painting reflected the details and mood of the frescos, including the famous School of Athens. We quickly passed through the Borgia Apartments, which were once home to the Spanish-Italian family: the Borgias– it was only a means to get to the Sistine Chapel, which we didn’t have the chance to visit the first time, but now, we were able to admire all of its symbolic and allegoric themes…not to forget its sheer magnitude. Sadly, we weren’t allowed photos inside of the chapel, but at least my memory can store it for a long time!

“School of Athens” by Raphael.

Our final visit was to St. Peter’s Basilica, which is the largest church in the world. Able to fit as many as 100,000 people, the basilica is the upmost important place for religious functions, including speeches and events from the Pope himself. It’s also a pilgrimage site, and many devout individuals refer to it as their place to worship in the world. Inside the basilica, it contains Michelangelo’s famous sculpture la Pietà. Although not a very large sculpture, nevertheless it continues to remain very iconic and subjected to many interpretations about how it’s structured, how it depicts itself, and its construction.

La Pietà.

Nearing noon, our tour wrapped up, and I decided to pay for the climb up to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica for views of the Vatican. While the views were pretty good, it doesn’t cover the entirety of the Vatican. Upon descending, I went off with my family to find a place for lunch, thus ending our visit in the Vatican.

Views of St. Peter’s Square from the basilica.
St. Peter’s Basilica.

It’d been a jam-packed, overstimulating half day in the “smallest country in the world,” but I’m glad to have returned. The sheer amount of artwork was spell-binding, and it’s incredible that architecture, art, and history could blend so perfectly together– must be the huge effort made into preserving everything and, at the end of the day, you know that you’ve made the right choice.

— The Finicky Cynic

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