Touring can be hard work. This was an incredibly exhausting day with no real bathroom or food stops. After breakfast, we set out around 10:00AM to walk to the subway (about 20" walk) for our last Angel Tour which would take us to the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, and Saint Peter's Basilica. This area is a "mob scene" with hordes of people trying to take you on their tour! The "no reservation" line stretched around a corner of the Vatican wall. Today there were a lot of us signed up for Angel Tours, so there were 4 "Angels" to lead smaller groups - a nice feature (no microphones - and about 12 people in a group) compared to the other massive throngs lead by leaders with tall sticks with flags that were always getting into pictures. Both Simon (our guide from the Forum and Colosseum) and Mike (from last night) were there as well as the owner of Angel Tours, Sean - not to mention a couple from the Classic Journeys tour last week and other people from our Colosseum tour. We chose Simon because he has the best peronality. Tom got to talk with Sean and discovered he was the producer of the first feature film made with the Canon 5D Mark II camera, which is the camera Tom has used to make most of the images in this travel journal.
While we were in the "fast lane" , or "the line to skip the line", it still took an hour to gain admission to the museum, partly because everyone has to go through "airport" security screening and there is a strict dress code as well - no shorts or sleeveless arms.
Some of the people here can be physically pushy and so rude. As we approached the place where we actually had to go through one at a time and validate our ticket, one woman was pushing so hard behind Anne, who could not move an inch, that Anne turned to her and looked her straight in the eye and said, "You can push as hard as you want, but I will not move"! It's like that in the subway too. Simon was our guide and gave us an extensive explanation of the process of the painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo. At first, he did not want to do the painting since he had become a sculptor which was considered a step above a painter. But after coercion by the Pope, he agreed, but only on his terms (Michelangelo loves naked bodies with exact anatomy). He spent 4 years (1508-12) on scaffolding painting in fresco which is plaster (applied by his assistants) and then painted immediately before it dries. This is why the colors are still vibrant today (after a recent cleaning by a Japanese company that did it for free - with the proviso that they had exclusive rights to all photography). Michelangelo also was persuaded to come back in 1536 to finish the room with the piece over the altar, "The Last Judgment" which is predominantly blue (an expensive color made from gemstone, but since it was the sponsor's money he used lots of it!). Here the artist cast his enemies into hell and let his friends rise to heaven.
After over an hour walking through thousands of paintings and sculptures in the Vatican Museum, we at last were admitted to the Sistine Chapel with the throngs and got to look (look, but no photos) at the football field long painting on the ceiling. Fortunately, we had a Rick Steves' podcast to guide us in our viewing which made the experience very enjoyable.
By now it was almost 3PM and we had not had any lunch and there was still Saint Peter's Basilica to view. Since the capacity is 60,000, the press of the crowds was not as bad as in the museum. We almost went up to the dome with Jay and Eileen (our friends from the Classic Journeys trip), but there were 322 more steps after the elevator! So we bid them arrivederci and headed to the Basilica.
Saint Peter's is the largest church in the world and boasts of this by showing places that other big churches of the world would end at inside it's massive length. The lettering around the front is 7 feet tall, but does not seem so large since it is up so high. The dome is made of cast concrete with lighter weight material at the top so the whole thing does not collapse under the massive weight. This is considered quite a feat of engineering and architecture. Another triumph for Michelangelo! We continued around the church with another Rick Steves' podcast and left around 4PM to get the views of Saint Peter's Square and the obelisk in its center before the sun dropped below the wall that surrounds Vatican City.
On our way back to the hotel, we munched on Mo-Jo bars to bolster our strength. Dinner was at a small trattoria with a good meal to make up for our lack of lunch.