We found ourselves travelling to another country today. This country is, according to our helpful guide, the wealthiest country in the world but also the smallest. It lies entirely within the city of Rome and has been here since the 5th century (but only recognized with sovereignty in the 20th century). Of course, we are describing the Vatican City.
Our day started outside of the Vatican Museums which hold tremendous priceless works of art and items from antiquity that the Holy Roman Papacy have been collecting for centuries.
Our guide was hired to help us navigate the immensity of the collection. Serena has experience guiding groups with children. She evoked a contagious curiosity about items on display and demonstrated patience with their questions and comments.
The kids were provided a scavenger hunt of treasures within the Museums that they needed to locate (and appreciate) along the way. We learned about statues of Roman gods, maps made to show the regions of Italy, tapestries that watched us as we walked past, and vehicles in which the pope has ridden (and been shot at).
There were so many opportunities to stop and dive deeply into one particular room (or two) that it was with great regret that we left the Museums for our last stop, the Sistine Chapel. Here we found some of Michelangelo’s most notable works on the interior and ceiling of the Pope’s chapel. There were no photos/videos/speaking allowed in this sacred space. It was crowded and not as quiet as it could have been but the experience was still very inspiring.
The shortcut into St. Peter’s Basilica was not open from the Sistine Chapel so we had to exit out into the Square. It was very busy but also a magnificent open plaza space surrounded by columns and several centuries of history.
What struck Brian and Tiffany was how very strange it felt to be in these utterly unique spaces after having seen photographs and moving images taken here since we were children. Our kids seemed interested and respectful of being at the Vatican but didn’t carry the burden of expectations that we did. They would probably say that being at the foot of the Great Pyramids of Giza back in March was more memorable. When we get back, you should ask them about their expectations vs reality of renowned historical sites that we visited on this trip.
Our day finished with a return visit to the Pantheon which was closed to us on Saturday.
The dome on the interior inspired many others (in Rome, in Florence, the Capital in Washington DC, and many other famous domes).
The Pantheon used to have statues of Ancient gods in the portico and throughout the broad circular marbled floor.
In 312 AD Roman emperor Constantine declared himself Christian. Before the end of the 4th century, Christianity was enshrined as the only legal religion in Rome. Any former shrines to the ancient gods underwent a transformation and Christian symbols and art were added. The Pantheon now holds an altar for worship and revered statues in the porticos.
We finished the day with more pasta and wine and a giant foot. This not-too-far out of the way relic is the foot of a statue of one of the kids favorite Egyptian Goddesses- Isis. The original statue is thought to be over 20 feet tall, but all that remains is the foot.
Although historic Rome is a small city, our 5 Adventurers logged 11.5Km (6.5 miles) on foot today. Whew!