17.01.2013 - 17.01.2013 7 °C
We visited another country today. Vatican City is 0.44 square kilometres, the smallest country in the world. It has roughly 800 citizens, one of which is the Pope, obviously. And if anyone asks you how many popes there are per square kilometre in the Vatican, the answer to this trick question is 2.27 repeating. The more you know.
St. Peter's Basilica was a sight to behold. The entire building is over the top and elaborate, every inch of it bedecked with gold, marble, paintings, and sculptures. When my neck got sore from staring at the ceiling, I simply moved onto the altar, with its winding pillars and bronze angels. Then the walls, laden with paintings and intricate embellishments. There really was no end of things to gawk at. Even the floor was a masterpiece. The basilica is huge - 614 feet long, and 435 feet high at the peak of the dome - and certainly celebrates the gift that is Christ in its own magnificence. One of my favourite features was Michelangelo's Pietà. It's a breathtaking sculpture, and draws a constant crowd. The expressiveness of the two faces is what makes the piece really remarkable.
Eventually, we decided to go and see the Vatican Museum. Another massive building, it has over 42 000 square metres of exhibition space (to give some perspective, the Louvre has about 60 600 square metres). There is everything from Egyptian relics to Greek sculptures to Renaissance paintings. Raphael's School of Athens was a highlight for us, and we made a game of trying to guess who was who. Plato and Aristotle were the obvious ones, and we spotted Raphael's self portrait peeking out at us from the right. We think we found Pythagoras, too. The Gallery of Maps was also pretty fantastic. The room seemed to go on forever. I'll take a risk and say that it rivals Versailles' Hall of Mirrors. But the museum's crowning jewel was, of course, the Sistine Chapel. Entering the place makes you feel like you've stepped into a enormous painting, save the tourists gaping at the ceiling. You can see why Michelangelo had hated the four year long task. It would have been incredibly uncomfortable, working on your back with your arm in the air and paint dripping on your face. But wow, am I ever glad he did it. As do the other four million visitors that flock to this place every year, I'm sure. I could've stayed there for much longer than we did.
After our tour, we popped back into St. Peter's in order to get a look at the grotto underneath the church. It was a pretty place, all soft white lights and marble, with the coffins of the popes of the past century. It wasn't all that big, and when we exited, we almost thought that we'd made a mistake, and missed a room or something. We didn't see Pope John Paul II anywhere, though we thought that one of the statues might've been dedicated to him.
The bus ride home was cold, tiring, and very, very cramped. After each stop, I'd think to myself, "Well, that's it. The bus is full. I guess people are just gonna have to wait for the next one." And each time, I was wrong. It was definitely a sardines-in-a-tin-can situation. Finally, we arrived at home. Mom crashed (jetlag is awful), and Abby, Dad and I went out for a quick grocery run. We're doing our best to buy nothing but the essentials and use up all the food we already have. There'll be no room for it when we fly to Sicily on Saturday. Wait, Saturday? That's not nearly enough time in Rome! *sigh* I guess I'll just have to come back. Better throw a coin in Trevi Fountain tomorrow.