Our home port in Europe is Rome so the Noordam calls there every 10 to 11 days. For this we are glad because it is one place we would regret not being able to see more than once. As it is we don’t think we’ll get enough in! This past visit to Rome included a trip to Vatican City. We got up and out as early as we were allowed and together with Ross, Christy, and Jean (one of Ron’s stage crew) we headed off to catch the train from Civitavecchia to Rome. This train ride was a little different than the last because we were riding during Monday morning rush hour. We were lucky enough to be at an early stop on the route when we boarded and we found seats together. But as the train made its stops, the cars filled up far beyond capacity and not only was every seat taken (by at least one person) but passengers filled the corridors and isles. Christy and I were not exactly thrilled to ride to Rome with someone’s backside right next to our faces. We were really glad to get off that train!
We headed straight over to St. Peter’s Square and got in an already long line to enter the Basilica. It went quickly though and the few minutes we spent in line allowed us to look around the square.
Once inside the basilica we wandered around taking in the majesty of the place. Ron and I were both raised in the Catholic Church and even though we attend a non-denominational church now, the Vatican is a pretty cool pilgrimage and its sanctity was certainly not lost on us. St. Peter’s Basilica is ornate, enormous, beautiful, and awe-striking. What affected me most was the way sound echoed inside it. It has a different quality than I have ever experienced and something about it is almost chilling. I could have spent quite a long time in there had we not been on a schedule and had it not started to get increasingly crowded.
We stopped in the post office in St. Peter’s Square to mail a few post cards from the Vatican. You might already know that Vatican City is not technically part of Rome and has its own post mark. It’s sort of a neat thing to get something postmarked from this special city within a city.
Next on our list was The Vatican Museum. The line was pretty long and the weather had started to turn on us and we were lucky to make it inside just before it started raining. Now, if you’re ever in Rome and have the opportunity to visit The Vatican and its museum, do not be lured in by the gazillion offers to “skip the line.” They will run you about €45 per person and most of them do not include the entrance fee of €15 per person. The line is really quick and if you have a smart phone, you can pick up free Wi-Fi from random spots during most of the wait so it goes by in a snap. Once inside the museum we were met with an impressive crowd. I mean this place was jammed! We went with the flow of the herd and headed towards the Sistine Chapel. Along the way we saw tapestries, sculptures, and other beautiful works of religious art. I was most impressed with the fresco ceilings. They were very beautiful and each room had a unique look to it. This one was one of my favorites.
We finally arrived at the Sistine Chapel. It was much smaller than I had expected and not the awe-inspiring, reverent ambiance for which I had hoped. It was packed with people wall to wall and despite the signs in various languages posted just about everywhere warning people not to, everyone chattered irreverently and camera flashed popped around the room. To add to the mess, a whole bunch of attendants were making their way back and forth through the crowd, telling people not to take photos and, God help me, shushing the talkers. After a few minutes all I could concentrate on was the hum of people talking punctuated with a loud “SHHHHH” every few moments. I was appalled. I wanted so much to be impressed with the sanctity and history of the chapel and I left thoroughly disappointed. Ron however, turned his disappointment into productivity and decided that if everyone else was going to take pictures he would to, and he discreetly managed to snap a few shots of this very famous ceiling painted by Michelangelo in between 1508 and 1512.
Due to our time schedule we had to hurry through the rest of the museum and out into the rain. We pulled up directions to L’Angeletto de Musei which was a recommendation from my “little sis” Megan who had lived in Rome for a semester while attending UCLA. We were all famished and ready for some delicious Italian food in this adorable restaurant complete with red and white checkered table cloths and a service staff that didn’t speak a lick of English. Between the five of us we ordered cannelloni, lasagna, and pizza. Everything was very good and just a little bit different than we had expected.
After lunch we headed back out into the rain and fought off at least 100 umbrella salesmen on our way back to the train. By this point the cold that Ron and I had come down with the day before was in full swing and we were both looking forward to a warm shower and a nap.