Today was the sole non-travel day when we left Italy behind, traveling on foot to the smallest nation in the world: Vatican City! The day was long and grueling, but well worth the effort, as the sights we saw were utterly breathtaking.
The day began with an eight am wake-up call, the latest we’ve woken up yet, (Hochberg was truly generous, letting us sleep in!) We immediately got walking, heading toward St. Peter’s Basilica.
Throughout the day, Meaghan was the MVP; without her managing our tickets, reworking our plans, and ensuring everyone stayed together, we would’ve been lost, both literally and figuratively. Her patience and coolness made the day enjoyable for everyone. Once we got to St. Peter’s, she let us shop and roam the grounds while the chaperones waited in line for over an hour. We went to bookshops, bought rosaries, and drank some much-needed morning Fanta. Unfortunately, as we are right before Holy Week, and also in spring-break season, it was incredibly crowded. People were bustling everywhere, pushing and shoving, but as Meaghan said, “The fun never stops in the Vatican!”
Once inside the Basilica, we were given the option to either climb the hundreds of stairs to the top of the Dome, or stay on the ground and tour the chapel. Surprisingly, a majority of the group decided to take the climb. Thus, Ms. Peckham, the Hoch, and ten students, myself included, worked their way through the warped walls to one of the most beautiful views in the city. From a Birdseye view, we could overlook the entire Vatican, as well as several of the Roman attractions from previous days. Many pictures were taken, as the outlook was spectacular.
|A view of St. Peter's Basilica from the top of the dome|
|Tired but happy at an amazing McDonald's near the Spanish Steps|
|The famous Laocoon Group in the Vatican Museum|
After a moment, we descended, stopping halfway down to catch our breaths. A pesky yellow jacket landed on a group member’s coat, but was swiftly dealt with by Ms. Peckham, without much event. Then, we met up with the other group on the ground and explored the chapel, taking pictures of the beautiful marble and artwork. By this point, everyone was exhausted and quite hungry.
Noticing this, our chaperones leapt into action, scheming up
for a two-part lunch/rest power plan. First, we stopped at a café near the entrance to the Vatican Museum. Here, some people ate lunch, either pizza or paninis, while some simply got gelato, or nothing at all. Next, we rushed over to the Museum, as not to miss our reservation, and upon entering, we immediately rushed to the cafeteria. There, the rest of our group got lunch, and we took a forty-five minute break to get off of our weary feet, take a nap, or otherwise care for ourselves. Afterwards, we went up to the Museum.
Pushing our way through crowds once more, we admired all the famous Vatican artworks in awe: we saw the Laocoon statue, the School of Athens, and the Tub of Nero, to name a few highlights. Additionally, there was a brief dispute regarding the function of a sarcophagus that looked suspiciously similar to a bath. Finally, we came to the final stop at the Vatican Museum: the legendary Sistine Chapel.
Before entering, Meaghan gave very specific instructions on where to meet after viewing the Chapel, when and who to look for, listen to and stay with. Later, we learned that this was due to an incident which happened on a previous Italy trip, when some students got separated from the group. The seriousness of the instructions was somewhat intimidating, and everyone was careful to follow them precisely.
The Sistine Chapel was gorgeous, of course, and we took time to observe all of Michelangelo’s work. The constant auditory reminders to be quiet, which were loud enough to have come from God Himself, allowed for a lovely silence, such that we could all enjoy a spiritual moment. After a good half-hour, we met up and exited the Museum, crossing over the Bridge of Angels. This Bridge has an interesting mythology regarding a plague in the Vatican, and had a great view of St. Peter’s with the setting sun. On the other side of the bridge, we walked to a piazza near our dinner restaurant. We were given about an hour to shop in the nearby stores. Purchases include books, sodas, and Pokémon cards.
Dinner consisted of fried vegetables, fresh mozzarella, and homemade pasta. It was delicious, and a nice way to finish out the day. We all returned to the hotel and collapsed, praying that our tired legs would swiftly recover.
In summary, today was a lot of walking between amazing viewpoints and art. We’re getting down to the last few days of the trip, but our itinerary is certainly not slowing down! Who knows what will happen next?
Certainly not me,
Jessica L. Lopez