Accio Jacksons!

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November 25: A dry day in Rome until we walked back our hotel

by Rebecca on 2008-12-31

November 25th, our last day in Rome, was filled with good things. We took a closer look at Santa Maria Maggiore, which was about 10 minutes from our hotel, and is one of the four great churches of Rome. It was here that we learned that any good Catholic church must have a relic related to Christ or one of the saints. This particular church has the manger of Christ located beneath its high altar. Our next stop was an open air market where we stocked up on goodies and gifts. And then we were ready to visit St. Peterʼs and the Vatican.

Our first stop was the Vatican Museums, which is what feels like miles and miles of the treasures of art collected by the Catholic church over the centuries. There are Greek and Roman sculptures, early Christian sarcophagi, a huge collection of Egyptian antiquities, and countless paintings of the Holy Family by every Renaissance artist imaginable. And throughout the whole thing are signs with arrows pointing in the direction of the Raphael rooms and the Sistine Chapel. Because, letʼs be honest — who wants to see early Christian sarcophagi when the Sistine Chapel is so close? But the signs are deceptive, and you really do have to walk through a bunch of other rooms before you even get close to the Sistine Chapel, which is easily the highlight of the tour. By the time we got to the Sistine Chapel, we were tired (too much religious art will take a lot out of you!) And there were no places to sit because all of the other tourists were just as tired as we were and had taken all of the seats. So, we took a quick look around and then headed out.

We found lunch at a restaurant near the museumʼs entrance and then headed back to the entrance of Vatican City so we could see St. Peterʼs. We entered through the Bernini Colonnade, and it truly is a sight to behold. Those popes really knew what they were doing when they built St. Peterʼs because it is breathtaking to walk into the courtyard and see the church and its massive dome for the first time. We made our way through security and finally found ourselves within the church. Again, wow! Itʼs absolutely stunning. We had a little self-guided walking tour that Iʼd found online to help us see some of the more interesting features of the church. One thing that Iʼd missed last time was the red stone laid in the floor near the entrance, which is the stone upon which Charlemagne was crowned emperor. And there were plenty of papal tombs and monuments, and of course, a statue of St. Peter near the high altar. We also visited the underchamber of the church which has more papal tombs. We found the tomb of John Paul II, which is an understated white monument with gilt lettering. (Itʼs very clear that John Paul was the most popular pope of this century because you can still buy plenty of souvenirs with his picture on them. Poor Benedict.)

Our tour of the Vatican and St. Peterʼs took a good part of the day, and we finally got away in the early afternoon. Our next stop was a look at the Castel SantʼAngelo, the popeʼs fortress and the Mausoleum of the emperor Hadrian (to classical scholars). We also headed over to the Piazza Navona so that William could see the obelisk of Angels and Demons fame. It was getting dark and cold by that point, so we beelined to the Pantheon for one last stop. And we couldnʼt pass up a chance to get ice cream at Giolitti before calling it good in Rome, so we revived our strength there with three scoops of gelato. We got dinner at a restaurant near our hotel where the waiters appeared to be more interested in placing bets on Italian football than in bringing us our bill. We were tired!

And if youʼre curious, the next day we flew home without any glitches at all. It was definitely the easiest trip home from Europe that Iʼve ever had, especially considering that it was the day before Thanksgiving. All in all, what a fantastic and unforgettable vacation this was! Weʼll treasure the memories of this trip for a long, long time!