Postcard 26.2: Vatican City

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If someone were to tell me I’d be able to see most of the major attractions of Rome — Vatican City, the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain, just to name a few —  in 12 hours, I would’ve told them they were crazy — that it’s totally not possible. Well, I’d like to retract that statement as I found that, after my second day in Rome, it is very possible. Not ideal, but possible.

Our first stop of the day was a visit to Vatican City, the world’s smallest country, where we would get to see St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums.

One of the best parts about traveling with Trafalgar is that the company manages to get tickets to some of the most popular tourist attractions well ahead of time, sparing us the hassles of waiting in long lines and getting us into the site ahead of all the crowds.

So despite arriving at Vatican City at what most would consider an ungodly hour — 8:30 a.m. — we met our local expert, Cinzia, whose name is translated to the English name Cynthia (I hope I’m spelling her Italian name right).

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After going through a security process strikingly similar to the airport, Cinzia led us to a courtyard area. She whipped out a huge photo of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, a mesmerizing story of the Gospel as seen through the eyes of the renowned artist Michelangelo. She told us that we must remain silent within the halls of the Sistine Chapel, which is why she was giving us a thorough explanation of the ceiling before entering the chapel.

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We hadn’t even gotten to the museums yet, and I was already awe struck by the beautiful and realistic sculptures on display outside, including the Pigna (pine cone) and two lions seemingly protecting the Vatican.

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You could easily spend an entire day or even two perusing the various exhibits, which display tens of thousands of works of Renaissance art and classical sculptures.

Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks of being in a tour is the limited time you have to spend at each site. So we only really had a little less than an hour to see everything. But from what I saw, I was utterly impressed by each piece that offered a glimpse back in time.

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The highlight for me was seeing all the lavish artwork spanning for what seemed like miles. To me, it was just the preview of what would come next.

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Finally: The Sistine Chapel (where, alas, no photos were allowed. However, Google has a wide array of photos for your viewing pleasure).

I was glad Cinzia walked us through the various stories depicted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I studied each story closely, my eyes traveling from one side of the chapel to the other. How anyone could paint something so massive and detailed was beyond me. But that’s why Michelangelo is a genius!

The last stop of Vatican City was *drum roll* St. Peter’s Basilica, the grandest church on earth.

Being in St. Peter’s Basilica was nothing like anything I’ve ever experienced. Upon entering, I had to pause for a moment and just let it all soak in.

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Not only is the interior incredibly vast in size, but you can’t help but just marvel at how ornate and decorative it is, resplendent in gold and filled with brilliant artwork and rare marble.

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The piece that stood out to me most was Michelangelo’s Pietà, the marble statue depicting the Virgin Mary and Christ after his crucifixion. Interesting to note, the sculpture Mary appears to be so young, but it’s primarily because Michelangelo visualized his own mother who died when he was just a boy.

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Our tour of Vatican City ended at St. Peter’s Square where we got the perfect view of St. Peter’s Basilica in all its glory.

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This was truly a memorable experience for me. And it wasn’t over yet.

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