Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Hilton Garden Inn (Rome, Italy)

After a good night’s sleep I enjoyed another excellent Hilton breakfast. What a great way to start the day. And was able to nap for another couple of hours before getting ready for my tour of Vatican City.

When I went outside to catch the tram to the Vatican, the appropriate tram showed up shortly after I stepped onto the platform. Then, it dropped me off steps from where I was to meet the tour group. I arrived early enough to have time for a quick bite before starting the tour. And even time to walk down a few nearby streets and look at some of the wares offered by street vendors.

The tour guide today was a woman from Canada who has been living in Rome for a number of years. The process of getting us ready for the tour (check in and assigning radios and ear pieces) went very well and we were soon on our way to enter the Vatican. The guide was very informative and definitely knew her Vatican history. We were well informed about the Vatican and what to expect by the time we entered the Vatican museum, our first stop, where we went through a quick security check.

I’m so glad to have booked this tour. We were able to get in quickly and off we went on our tour. The museum is so vast that it’s difficult to know what to see first, unless you had a guide with you. Some galleries we just walked through while others we stopped and heard more detailed information about what we were seeing. The pace of the tour really helped me from getting too overwhelmed. And how she kept track of the 18 people in her group I’ll never know.

Our guide and I (wish I could remember her name) talked about what it was like during the peak tourist season. While we were in the museum, most places were packed with people. She said that is was somewhat common during the peak months, and when it was hot, that people in her tour would pass out.

Earlier in the tour she gave us an introduction to the Sistine Chapel. She had to explain about what we would see beforehand since she wasn’t able to talk with us while we were inside. In fact, talking and picture-taking were not allowed inside the chapel. She also gave us color handouts that told us what we were seeing. It was very helpful to know about the many nuances in what we were seeing. Without this help, most people would just see very colorful frescos. I’m now ready to watch the movie, “The Agony and the Ecstasy” again.

The final stop on our tour was St. Paul’s. Also known as the Papal Basilica, St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, and Basilican Papale San Paolo fuori le Mura. As we walked in, this place certainly had the “wow factor”. Saying it’s huge would be an understatement. She showed us that the statues of cherubs, which looked small from a distance, were actually twice her size as she stood next to them. The Statue of Liberty would fit beneath the dome and the alter is as tall as a ten story building. Wow!

The tour ended up being three and a half hours long, but the time went by quickly. I was thrilled after the tour. And this is coming from someone who has seen my share of grand churches and many museums over the last few years. Today I was able to fully appreciate the whole experience.

When it was time to return to the hotel and walked to the tram stop, the tram was waiting for me. What a nice way to end the day of touring. I even got a good nap after returning to my room.

For dinner, I returned to my favorite take out place and tried another one of their pizzas. It is now getting close to 10:00 p.m. and I’m ready to get some sleep. Tomorrow I’ll wrap up a few details to get ready for my trip to Sorrento on Thursday and have another walk around of the historical center of Rome.

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