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  • Vatican City is it's own country, the smallest in the world, and entirely within the city of Rome! I have a separate entry to add it to the country count. The country itself has only about 850 residents and they all work at the Vatican - essentially Catholic clergy or Swiss Guards.

    The rest of the Vatican comets are in the Rome posting.

  • Breaking this up into a separate post because there was lots to see!
    After getting through the security check and the clothes-etiquette check (slightly worrying because I had shorts on, instead of pants as recommended) we made it in and decided to go inside the Basilica before climbing the dome.

    Again, wow, what a gigantic impressive building!
    Very pretty though not as ornate as some other churches I've been to - probably because detail would get lost in this huge expanse. Again it doesn't feel as vast and imposing as it really is - Rick Steves explains that many features inside help it feel a bit more intimate, like the statues further up columns actually being larger than the closer ones and the altar canopy (#4, with nice God-rays behind) filling some of the vertical space.

    Among the many amazing sculptures was Michelangelo's Pietà (#5), and one I took a really terrible photo of, that turned out to be the Tomb of Pope Alexander VII ( - I love the way the stone looks so much like cloth.

    And I took a pretty sweet photo sphere that is now viewable only on my phone because Google removed the web viewer, grrr :{
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  • We tried to book a tour for Vatican City but shortly later got an email saying that it wasn't available. But we'd learnt that we'd probably be able to get a decent tour if we just went to the entrance as there were so many guides asking if we wanted to go on a tour the day before. On arrival a nice enough looking man, english wasn't flash, asked if we'd like to go on a tour, then he pulled out his brochure and showed us the route/prices. He turned around for a second and Nick says "Seems legit, he's got a brochure." and with that the decision was made to go. He should've told us "I'm just going to take you to the tour group at our office.". Instead he just said "You come with me." and started walking. It got a bit weird for a minute as we followed him away from the entrance for about a block but we were relieved when we met up with a tour group and a well spoken lady giving the tour. Again, another amazing tourist site with so much to look at. The highlight was the Sistine Chapel, I found it interesting that Michael Angelo almost went blind painting it due to his stance and the paint falling into his eyes. No wonder he depicted himself as an elderly man skinned alive!

    Afterwards we drove to our next destination in Tuscany, San Gimignano. Nick is really getting in to Italian driving!
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  • As with the Louvre, the artwork is so beautiful and there is so much of it it's overwhelming. I took so many pictures that it would take forever to post them all here. It's hard to select just a few. There was beauty on every square inch of ceiling, wall and floor.

  • The last big things to see in Rome were in Vatican City (with impressive walls, #1). First, we went to see the Vatican Museum (including the Sistine Chapel).

    The museum is half about the items on display, and half about the rooms themselves, with their beautifully painted ceilings and walls (#2,3) (by famous names like Raphael and Michaelangelo but not quite on the level of Versailles IMO).

    At some point, the crowd all begins moving in one direction, and you're trapped in a human mass conveying you along a winding route to the Sistine Chapel. I was a bit disappointed by this: I'm sure many people just want to see the Chapel and could take a more direct route, while those that actually want to stop and admire the rooms get pushed along (if you're afraid of crowds just don't bother).

    The Chapel itself was impressively painted, and made appreciable with Rick Steves again, pointing out and explaining the features. The quiet hum in the sardine-packed Chapel was frequently interrupted by a jarring man on a loudspeaker booming "SHHHHHHHHHH. SILENCIO. SILENCE. NO PHOTOS. NO VIDEOS". Kinda ironic.
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  • After seeing the inside of the Basilica we went to go up the dome, only to find it had just closed (being Italy, there were no signs saying when it would close). Damn, we should have gone up first! However, we had an extra day with nothing planned so we came back the next day to walk up the 550 steps to the top.

    About halfway up you're standing on the roof of the main nave area so you get an up-close view of the church structure, and then go inside for a view down and around the inside of the dome (#2). Up close you can see all the "paintings" are actually mosaics made of thousands of tiny pieces of coloured glass. Many paintings here were copied using this technique and replaced, for longevity.

    Next the really neat part, walking up the dome itself, in passageways that are clearly forced to fit around the shape of the dome (#3,4).

    Finally you're standing in a caged-in area with spectacular 360 degree views of the city and the ant-people below. That viewing area is visible in #5, which might give a better sense of scale to the photo of the whole basilica from 2 posts ago.
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  • Day 7 Roma
    Last day in Rome today was started with the one and only Vatican.
    Basically you see 3 mueseums, the church, the square and obviously the sistine chapel.

    The sistine chapel was smaller then i expected but was still beautiful. As its technically a church you arent allowed to speak inside or take pictures. They have about 20 guards inside watching you. It was different to what i imagined, Michaelangelo painted the ceiling and 1 wall. But other painters painted the other sections so it's basically paintings from floor to ceiling, of people mainly.

    St. Peters bascilica was really something. On another level from every church id seen so far.

    The pope does mass from outside in the square on Wednesday monrings, which can fit 150,000 people. He also does a blessing from his room that overlooks the square on sundays.

    After that we drove to Florence and had a special Tuscan dinner in the hill side.
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  • Blessed be Rome II
    Today started with an early breakfast here in the hotel. The hotel has a small area for a breakfast buffet it was good and the small patio deck had a nice morning view.
    We walked over to meet our tour guide GIGI. (Meeting place a 5 minutes walk) HE was an awesome tour guide so knowledgeable, funny and remembered our names! The tour was 4 hours long. Started at the Vatican Museum then the Sistine Chapel to the Vatican itself. So much beauty and so much history. We enjoyed the tour very much.
    We walked back to our hotel to take care of our transportation to the Amalfi Coast. Finished that then it was off to the Colliseum. No walking there we took a taxi. Nice taxi driver he loves Americans.
    Walked around the colliseum. We didn't do the tour as there were so many other places we wanted to see. Tomorrow is a very early morning tour. A tour to TUSCANY!!! We'll be walking 20 minutes to get to the meeting place.
    After the colliseum we sat and had a panini to share and a couple of beers. We decided to take the On and Off tour bus just to get back to the hotel and see more sights.
    We have been very lucky weather wise. Cloudy yet cool and sunny. The weather couldn't be much better considering the 10 day forecast showed rain when we were in Vienna.
    Took over 300 pics today. I didn't post them all...but thought you may like and enjoy the ones I chose. (See Facebook Album).
    Dinner was at a restaurant right next door pretty much to the hotel. We had wine Spitzers, spaghetti and I had pasta rice with seafood. DELICIOUS! The hostess gave us a complimentary shot of GRUPPA. Just what we needed to give us a boost.
    Tomorrow TUSCANY. 💙
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  • The day didn’t start as well as we’d hoped. The bus ride into the city was a debacle, but more on that in tomorrow’s post.

    Today’s agenda was the Vatican museum and St Peter’s Basilica. First up was the Vatican museum. We met up with Viv and Kez at the entrance to the museum. Wow. It appears all of Europe had decided to visit the museum the same day. It was packed from wall to wall, so much so that it was uncomfortable.

    We paid extra for audio guides, which turned out to be a complete waste of time because it didn’t line up with the exhibit numbers in the museum. Let’s wing it then. We didn’t know what to expect from the museum. There were lots (I mean LOTS) of sculptures of torsos. Hundreds! Whilst trying to follow the audio guide, we got herded like sheep from room to room, all of which were filled with tour groups with little standing room left.

    Sad to say, we didn’t enjoy this as much as we would, but only because of the crowd. The entire time, we just felt like a molecule of water swishing around in the ocean. This post will not do the museum justice. If you wanted to visit the museum, go really early (and zoom around really quickly before the throngs of tourists come in) or go a couple of hours before closing. I’d hate to think of how much more packed it would be during summer. At least the coffee was cheap.

    Afterwards, we got in a queue to see St Peter’s Basilica. Aaron was not quite as enthusiastic as Flora to be standing in a crowd again but it paid off in the end. We visited the tombs of past popes. The bodies lay in intricate tombs along the crypt corridor. Once we left the crypt, we found ourselves right in the heart of the Basilica, in the middle of a mass. The grandeur of the Basilica winded us. I thought Notre Dame was unbeatable, but I stand corrected.

    St Peter’s Basilica is completely overwhelming. One cannot possibly be unmoved by the beauty and riches inside it. I will leave you to peruse the photos as words cannot do it justice.
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