Okay, okay. I stole that hashtag from EF Tours. It’s close to the one Leanna used when she was on her training trip to Rome back in 2014, and I just couldn’t resist. It’s too good.
On Tuesday, we finally made it to Rome! The drive from Florence wasn’t bad at all, and we headed straight for the Vatican. Summer is already peak season for Vatican visits, but little did we know, Wednesday would also be St. Peter’s Day, which you can imagine would be a big deal since the Vatican is home to that basilica named after (drumroll, please) ST. PETER. Georgia told us the day is pretty much as important as Christmas for Catholics and that even though the Vatican would be closed on Wednesday, people would be traveling quite a bit to Rome and it would only increase traffic on our day. So, we battled quite a crowd! But, EF is nothing if not exceptional at logistics, so we had a reservation and a really amazing local tour guide named Susanna! She not only told us more than we could ever hope to know about the city, but also expertly guided our large group of 43 through some of the thickest crowds I’ve ever seen. Truly a unique experience!
My cousin, Robert, used his height to our advantage! He held up Georgia’s Greek flag for us to follow so we could all make our way inside together.
The dome of St. Peter’s Basilica!
If you’ve been to New York City, you may recognize that sculpture out front, which has a twin at the US United Nations building.
Susanna and her pink scarf on a stick were everything we could have asked for in a tour guide!
Almost all the walls of the Vatican are covered in beautiful tapestries, paintings, and frescos, and I think you could walk through a thousand times and see something new every time. It’s overwhelming, but also amazing! We learned that “frescos” get their name because they are painted on wet plaster, which makes them fresh (the meaning of the word). The plaster has to be wet, because after it dries, no changes can be made!
This room is full of statues of gods, which I thought was an interesting choice for a building dedicated to Christianity. But, they were amazing to look at!
This statue of Hercules was one of the only ones made out of bronze at the time it was created, and when Rome was attacked, attempts to melt it down failed. So, it is preserved here as a symbol of Roman perseverance!
We wore headphones a LOT on this trip! With a large group and quiet spaces, our tour guides often used what are called Whispers, which allow them to talk into a microphone and transmit what they’re saying over radio waves to headsets that the group wears. Simple and effective!
Many of the ceilings were just as impressive (if not more so) as the walls!
Here’s the famous Pieta by Michelangelo! It depicts Mary holding Jesus’s dead body, and it sits behind glass in St. Peter’s Basilica. It was attacked and damaged in the seventies, which is why it’s heavily protected now, but it’s been almost completely restored.
By the way, when we walked into St. Peter’s we got to walk through the same Holy Doors that the Pope walks through when he leads services there. To know he would do so on St. Peter’s Day the very next day was truly amazing!
Normally, this statue of St. Peter is not quite as elegantly dressed, but it was a special occasion!
Back outside, we enjoyed some beautiful views!
By this time, it was after 3:00 and we had had breakfast around 7:00 AM! The kids had grabbed snacks while we were on the road from Florence, but still, we were pretty famished! As is the case in pretty much all of Italy, there were great little cafes everywhere, and I had this tasty risotto with mussels for lunch. Many others had their third and fourth plates of pizza and spaghetti!
After leaving Vatican City, we walked around Rome and enjoyed some free time to rest, get coffee or gelato, and enjoy each other.
We spent quite a bit of time in Piazza Navona, which has this beautiful fountain in the middle and is lined with gorgeous outdoor cafes.
The statue in this piazza faces a church, and there are four figures on it, none of whom are looking at the church. The sculptor of this fountain and the sculptor of the figures on the church were in a bit of an argument, and none of their statues are looking at each other! Talk about passive aggressive!
We enjoyed espresso and snacks at this little cafe after our long day at the Vatican!
Our waiter, Alessandro, was pretty fascinated with this chatty group of Americans!
We finished the day back at the hotel for dinner, which was a lasagna that the kids DEVOURED. They were begging for it again the next day!
I’ll finish this post with your 2016-2017 Student Body President, already taking her new role pretty darn seriously.
See you tomorrow for our last day in Italy!