Rome Day Two – Vatican Museums

On my second day in Rome my goal was to the see the other top attraction, the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica. If you only have a few days in Rome you should try to see the Roman Forums and the Vatican Museums with St. Peter’s Basilica. The line for the Vatican Museums seems to stretch all the way around the walls of Vatican City. Fortunately I made a reservation online so I could skip the long line. I did arrive too early. My reservation was for 12:00 noon and I tried to get in at 10:00 a.m. so I had to wait until at least 11:30 a.m. I bought something to drink from a food cart and stood around watching tour groups of kids gather in front of the Vatican Museums entrance.

When I was finally allowed in I had to go through security. I just had to take my camera and my smartphone out of my pockets because the metal detector wasn’t that sensitive to metal. Then I had to get an actual ticket to replace the email confirmation print out I was carrying. You need an actual ticket to scan at the turnstile.

Although I had heard that the Vatican Museums herds you through the galleries without giving you a chance to linger or go back, I did not find this to be the case. At first it was difficult to find a path through the museum. I wound up in the Ethnological Museum first and then the Philatelic and Numismatic Museum (postage stamps). Then I must have wandered outside into the Square Garden. Yes, that would not have been far from the entrance. I found my way to the underground Popemobile Pavilion where I saw papal carriages and papal cars.

From there I backtracked and found the Gregorian Egyptian Museum. My photos next show the Cortile della Pigna. I shot a nice photo of the Fontana della Pigna. I really should have done more research on the Vatican Museums because I didn’t know what I was looking at! I can see that I found the Gallery of the Busts, the Sala Rotonda, the Sala delle Muse with the Belvedere Torso, the Sala degli Animali, the Gallery of Maps, the Raphael Rooms, and the Collection of Modern Religious Art.

Fontana della Pigna

Fontana della Pigna

Some tourists would skip the Collection of Modern Religious Art but I saw some interesting artwork there including paintings by Salvadore Dali, Georgio de Chirico, a Francis Bacon pope painting (not screaming), and even a painting by Charles E. Burchfield which surprised me. I’m only familiar with his work from a special exhibit I saw at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.

I finally made it to the Sistine Chapel which was very strict about not allowing photos or videos. They also demanded silence. There was a service taking place but I only caught the end of it.

I had lunch at the Vatican Museums cafeteria. I had the Italian meal with two chicken legs. It looked like you could order anything you liked but there were actually food stations where you got a set selection of items for a meal.

After leaving the Vatican Museums I made my way to Saint Peter’s Basilica. I’ve never seen a photo of the entrance to Saint Peter’s Basilica so I made sure to take a photo. I also took lots of photos of St. Peter’s Square. You have to go through security to enter Saint Peter’s Basilica. This is just some metal detectors located under the massive Tuscan colonnades.

St. Peter’s Basilica was vast and grand. The interior is filled with architectural sculpture, reliefs, and huge statues so you wander from chapel to chapel marveling at the baroque artwork. I appreciated St. Peter’s Basilica as a monument to spirituality. I associate grandeur with the soul so I think it is appropriate to build a lavish church. A more humble church would only reflect a poverty of spirit and imagination. I don’t know much about the Catholic Church but it seems more prone to mysticism than the Protestant Church. Sometimes I get a negative impression from Catholic decrepitude.

I visited the St. Peters Bascilica Treasury which people seemed to be reluctant to enter because there was a fee. I saw the Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus and the Monument to Pope Sixtus IV by Pollaiolo.

Eventually I found the steps to the Vatican Grottos, underground chapels filled with the tombs of kings, queens and popes. After leaving the crypts I found the way to the line for the Cupola, the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. You had to have exact change for the ticket but fortunately I always carried plenty of Euro coins to make sure I didn’t accumulate too many. I bought a ticket for the elevator but it does not take you all the way to the top. I still had to climb many stairs which was really exhausting. Near the top the stairs become extremely narrow and steep. At the top you get a great view of St. Peter’s Square so I got some classic photos from that perspective.

St. Peter's Square

St. Peter’s Square

Climbing back down was a lot easier. I spent some time on the roof of St. Peter’s Basilica taking photos. I saw a seagull on the roof which allowed me to take some close photos. There is also a gift shop on the roof where I bought a fancy crucifix, La Croce-Medaglia di San Benedetto (Saint Benedict). I took the elevator back down to the interior of St. Peter’s Basilica where I lingered for awhile longer. As I was leaving a troop of Swiss Guards marched by in formation.

I found my way back to the Ottaviano metro station and had dinner at Ristorante Donati. I had a plate of mixed cheeses for a light meal.

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