Day 3 (21 December 2011)
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Today we visited Vatican City. We took the Metro from Spagna to Ottaviano (the Metro nearest to Vatican). From there, it’s a 10-15 minutes walk to St Peter’s Basilica. While walking along via Ottaviano (the street from the Metro station to Vatican) there are all sorts of tour operators trying to convince you to sign up for their tour. We just smiled and brushed away those harassing us.
At St Peter’s Square, we admired the architecture and the surroundings. From there, we joined the queue to go into St Peter’s Basilica. Near the entrance of the basilica, there was a tour guide called “Audio Guide Guided Tours” (they weren’t too creative with the name).
I highly recommend this tour. We paid for the guided tour, and it was really worth it. The tour guide was very friendly and knowledgeable. She provided information that made it much easier for us to appreciate the art, history and the architecture of the place. One of the interesting facts she mentioned was that the marble slabs on steps of St Peter’s Basilica were harvested from the Colosseum.
After we were done at St Peter’s Basilica, we had lunch at a nearby restaurant. In the afternoon, we visited the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. Both places were visited using the same tour guide company (the one from the basilica, apparently these guys are “official”).
The afternoon trip started at the Musei Vaticani (Vatican Museums) and ended at the Sistine Chapel. Both buildings are within the same complex. The Vatican Museum originated 500 years ago when Pope Julius II (1506) purchased the statue of Laocoön and His Sons. From this purchase, the collection grew with various Renaissance and ancient Roman arts/sculptures.
There are literally thousands of artwork in the museum. Throughout the tour, the tour guide gave us all sorts of information regarding the museum and the artwork. She gave us the textbook history of the items, related local legends and also non-mainstream opinions on certain objects. It was truly fascinating.
The highlight of the trip was the Sistine Chapel. No photography is allowed but I was able to snap a quick one secretly. Our guide had briefed us of the details of the artwork prior to entering the Chapel (no talking in the Chapel). We spent a good 20-30 minutes in the Chapel admiring the masterpiece. I saw some tourist had a binoculars, which is definitely useful if you want to have a closer look at the art. However, sitting down in the middle of the hall might give you a strained neck. It’s best that you move around rather than sitting in one spot.
At Spagna, we decided to have teatime at Cafe Greco, a famous boutique coffee shop along Via dei Condotti. It’s situated beside Bvlgari, hopefully that may give you an hint of the price. The cafe is well decorated and has a 19th century feel to it. At the back section, there’s a posh private section. I spotted a bunch of elder gentlemen with suits chatting privately, with their cigars. Looks like something right out from a mafia movie. Hmm..
To view the full set of photos I took in Rome, proceed to my Flickr page here.