When we traveled to Italy, we were fortunate to be able to tour the Vatican Museum and St. Peters Basilica. I do not have many photos because there were many photo restrictions and I was busy taking it all in (probably with my mouth hanging open). In my opinion, the Vatican is one of the most awe inspiring places you can visit.
That being said, I want to tell you how glad I am that we went through with a tour group. Trafalgar has their own entrance and we had an early morning appointment which allowed us to zoom past a very, very, very long line of people waiting to enter. We could have been waiting there for hours. Our Tour included a Guide, St. Peters Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Museum and the grounds.
Standing outside of the Vatican gate when we arrived really gave us the feeling that it is truly a city. Huge stone walls with a few strategically placed entrance gates surround all the treasures contained inside.
Once we entered, we made our way past the crowds to the Trafalgar entrance to begin our tour. Everything was conducted very seriously, with great formality and all conversations were spoken in hushed tones.
Seeing pictures does not prepare you for the overwhelming size and grandeur of a place like this. We shuffled into St. Peters Basilica as the light shone perfectly through the window and rays passed through the altar just as the architects many years ago designed it to do. It was breathtaking. Everywhere you looked was beauty. Intricate tile floors, beautiful carved alters and furnishings, elaborately decorated domes, paintings and statues all made from marble or covered in gold. It was unbelievable standing before the Masterpiece of Mary holding the lifeless body of Christ in Michelangelo’s Pieta. I have toured many churches, cathedrals and basilicas but none made me feel as humble and reverent as St. Peters did.
From there we moved into the Museum. I feel like I could have spent days there because there was so much to take in. Unfortunately, you are moved through some of the areas at a pretty fast pace. This was not due to being part of our Trafalgar Tour, but just the nature of how the traffic flows through the museum. Rooms and rooms filled with artworks and tapestries. I find the tapestries amazing just thinking about how they created those giant scenes from their looms.
Many areas of the Vatican, including the Sistine Chapel, do not allow photographs as they can damage the frescoes. I was thankful that we were able to spend a good deal of time in the Sistine Chapel. They were actually conducting some services while we were inside which brought home that feeling of how sacred of a place we were in. The Chapel was one of the most amazing works of art I have ever had the honor to see in my life. It was funny though, because with so much artwork on the ceiling, I left with a huge kink in my neck from constantly looking up. Worth it.
Before leaving, we were able to see the how the chimneys signal the selection of a new Pope. Afterward we made our way to the square tower containing the Original Bramante Staircase constructed in 1505 by Donato Bramante. It is so amazing the level of mathematics, engineering and architecture that were used to create something that perfect, so long ago.
As we exited into St Peters Square, we saw the brightly colored Swiss Guard that have protected the Vatican since the 15th Century. The Papal apartments were to our Right and the balcony where the Pope makes appearances was directly in front of us. Sadly, the Pope was not there that day, but his presence was definitely felt.
We have had the opportunity to visit or tour Norte Dame, St Mark’s Basilica in Venice, The Basilica of St Francis in Assisi, the Duomos in Siena, Milan and Florence but St Peters Basilica and the Vatican Top them all.
If you will be making a visit to the Vatican, I suggest you plan ahead. Either book a Local Tour or buy your tickets from the website. There are many combinations for your ticket depending on what you would like to see. Ticket times are precise, so don’t show up late!
Of course when visiting Rome, there is a long list of sites people wish to see like the Colosseum, the Parthenon, The Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, The Trevi Fountain. They are all great, but make sure to plan a visit to the Vatican. You won’t be disappointed.