One part travel blog. One part nerdy history lesson.

Day 14-The Vatican City

For our last two days in Rome, I wanted to go to the Vatican and just walk along the ancient Roman road called Appia Antica. We didn’t get a car, instead just taxi’d from the airport so we also needed a taxi to the Vatican this morning. Our apartment is gated, so we walked out to the road to wait for him. I called a taxi company and got a taxi in Italian! Basically. They knew as much English as I know Italian- but we got it done 🙂  

When we arrived in St Peter’s Square we had 15 minutes before our “skip the line” tickets to the Vatican museums so we grabbed coffee and food at the first place we saw.

Norah got milk which she immediately downed. It’s so hard to get milk in italy… I never would have guessed.  Are postcards still a thing? If so, I’m sorry I didn’t send any out.

Security check just to get into the museum. There’s no skipping this line. (You’re welcome, Rob May… I waited in the line for you so you could experience it haha)  

A view of St. Peter’s Basilica  

In the Cortile Della Pigna, or “Courtyard of the Pinecone”

There are a pair of lion statues with Egyptian hieroglyphics on the bases that date to 360BC! They were rediscovered in the 1400s and they used to be displayed in front of the Pantheon.   

This 13 foot tall Pinecone was discovered from the Baths of Agrippa and dates to 1BC. 

Pomodoro’s Sfera con Sfera in the Vatican. We photographed the same sculpture in Dublin at Trinity College.   

The largest bust I saw in all of Rome (and there are a few) of Caesar Augustus.

The Gallery of Busts.

I love the “leaves” that have been strategically placed to make the statues more appropriate over the years.  

A very serious Tiberius. Called by Pliny the Elder “the gloomiest of men”. 

Of all the busts I’ve seen, I’ve never seen one without eyes. It was a little creepy.  

The coat of arms of Pius XI. Each pope has a particular coat of arms. In ancient times, if you were elected pope you could make up a coat of arms if you didn’t already have one.  All of the Medici popes over the years used the 5 or 6 balls with the lion theme.   

Ancient Roman Dog sculptures. Supposedly there are a few old 200AD or so copies of a Hellenistic bronze original. Amazing detail.

The Hall of Muses

A bronze sculpture of Hercules
A sarcophagus for Constantine the Great’s daughter. He was the first Roman Emporer to claim conversion to Christianity. He built a new giant emporer’s estate and changed the name of Byzantium to Constantinople after himself and was made a saint by the Orthodox Church after his death for his early Christianhood.  There was a matching sarcophagus across the room for his mother.

Even the floors have amazing mosaics.  

The Hall of Maps. Would have been amazing if it wasn’t a sardine can full of people. The room is full of nothing but huge maps of Italy and its areas painted on the walls in the 1500s.   

There are so many amazing paintings and ceilings and frescos in the 53 galleries or “salas” that lead to the Sistine Chapel- I’m not sure why it’s the only “can’t miss” item… We walked through ceilings painted by so many great artists, including Raphael.
   Next we entered the contemporary art museum. I wasn’t that interested in this area…because apparently sometime in the last 70 years we decided Norah’s drawings are high art. 


But that led us into the Sistine Chapel. While I will under no circumstances downplay the amount of artwork, skill, etc  needed to do this… This was one of those things that was a little disappointing in person. I’m not sure what i expected, but I’m not sure how this became the end all/be all of the Renaissance . I wasn’t deeply affected by the paintings or feel like I was in a sacred place. They were definitely vivid and there were tons of different scenes from the bible… And I’m glad we had the chance to see it…but truth be told it was hot and there were security guards every 6 inches and just too many people, that if someone hadn’t told me I was supposed to think this was amazing, I probably would have liked other paintings and ceilings more.  Oh and Photos were not allowed so I had to sneak one 🙂
   Now this did catch my eye. On a side wall as you exit the chapel. There is a plaster wall that has silk drapery painted on it so perfectly that you would swear it’s real until you get just the right angle.    

Me being the weirdo I am… I was more impressed by the amazing cabinetry that held the exhibit items than I was about the items  thenselves. This amazing woodwork and adornment is matched on probably 30 cabinets all along the walls of the hallways. With over half of them closed and locked. That’s just rude.   
  I love this globe. The photo is of North America. It consists of: Cuba, Hispania, and Floridia. And look how stumpy Florida is. Ha  the entrance to the Vatican Museums
Vatican City Walls    After exiting the Vatican Museums we headed towards St Peter’s Square to go to the basilica.

   Except…do you see all those people behind Kegan? They were also waiting for the basilica.

And it continued on around the other side of the square. (sorry, Rob May, I won’t even wait in that line)    So, no basilica. Oh well, there’s Google Images and Wikipedia 🙂

Norah loved the big Christmas tree in the middle of the square that they were putting up    We headed away from St Peter’s to Castel St.Angelo. Originally this round structure was built by the Emporer Hadrian to be his mausoleum and his ashes were held here for around 300 years, a hundred years in when they built the city walls they turned the round memorial into a castle but when the Visigoths sacked Rome in the 400s they destroyed all the ashes and remains inside. Legend has it that the angel Michael appeared over the castle in 590 during a plague. Thus, giving it its current name.

The bridge was built originally to lead to the mausoleum and the original mausoleum was made of the same stone (all of those sculptures were added in the 1700s.)

There is a secret passageway from the Castle to The Vatican and it has been used by Popes in the past to escape to safety during unrest.

After that, we caught a cab back to the apartment, took a quick nap with Norah and then woke up when it was late enough to go eat dinner. Italian restaurants don’t even open for business until 8pm…it’s so weird. We walked in right at 8 through a quiet road on a side street to a restaurant called Ristorante di Andrea in IV Miglio. It was a cute little place.  

We ended up having the absolute best meal of our lives. 

Pate and crackers  

Homemade noodles with a egg, cheese, Panchetta carbonara sauce
 Gnocchi with clams  

Steak filet with fresh winter black truffles shaved all over it.

A tiramisu cream cup topped with cocoa powder was the best consistency dessert I’ve ever had.  

A wine soaked poached pear with cinnamon and red wine sweet glaze and custard. It was out of this world.

Turns out Andrea is the chef behind this amazingness and he has a 3 year old as well. He showed Norah pictures of his daughter Angelica and just sat and talked with her for a little bit. Kegan has quite the man-crush on Andrea. Haha we tried to invite him home with us, even tried to let them live for free 🙂  he wasn’t buying it haha. 
Kegan said this meal was almost enough to go back to Rome for. Haha

We walked home and passed out with bellies full of amazing food 🙂

1 Comment

  1. Rob

    Got excited about the gallery of busts, but all I saw was a bunch of stone statues. Not a single bust, or even a pair of yoga pants. Lol
    The ones with the mouth open reminded me of the game at the fair you guys loved as kids, where was your squirt gun when you needed it?.

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