A Travellerspoint blog

October 2010

Another country - Vatican City

sunny 32 °C

We head off to Termini to get our tickets – we have gone for the Roma Pass, 3 days of travel, two museum entries and discounts off other stuff at 25 euros each. We jump into the Metro off to Ottavia station and head over to the Vatican. Into the museum first – not too long pleads G. We head into the museum starting with the pine cone plaza.
An idea for landscaping

An idea for landscaping


This is a great space with some great works, including the pinecone and the massive head of Augustus. Then into a garden with roman statues and sarcophagi. Amazing the skills they had working with marble all that time ago. We head round through the statues of roman emperors and grand ladies and into the Egyptian rooms.
A new bath maybe?

A new bath maybe?

There we see more sarcophagi and even a mummy on display. Then through a few more roman statues and into the hall of tapestries. After this, through to the amazing map rooms where a pope had a painted maps of the all the regions that the pope had at the time. We try to spot a lot of the places we have been, but it can be difficult as half the maps seem to be upside down. A few packs of Americans bulldoze through these rooms to keep to their schedules.
Next are the Raphael rooms where there are loads of frescoes put together by Raphael and his students. Beautiful colours and compositions show a great example of Renaissance mastery.
That Raphael could paint

That Raphael could paint

After this we head into the Sistine Chapel, which is about 8 metres wide, and around 40 metres long. Michaelangelo has done a pretty good job on the frescoes here – and it seemed a few other people have heard of it too – the place was packed. We spent quite a while in here enjoying the sight. The Final Judgement which covers one entire wall is fantastic, and the ceiling is amazing. But the walls often get overlooked - there are some great scenes there too, by some of the other masters of the time. And they were done quicker than the ceiling too - it took six years to paint – imagine how much trouble I would be in if it took me that long to paint the ceiling... The Sistine Chapel is the one place in the Vatican you can’t take photos – whether it is because of security (it’s the pope’s chapel) or so they can keep a hold of all the merchandise I don’t know. But still there are plenty of flashes going off and the guards are kept busy telling them off and shushing all and sundry when the volume gets too loud for a sacred spot...
We join the rest of the thong, sorry, throng heading out in double time once the Sistine is done. Twister

Twister


We are heading over to Basilica of St Peter to get a look around before it closes. G and I head up to the cupola. First there is a lift to get up the base of the dome, then you walk up the steps inside. There are really two domes, one inside the other. As you get higher, the walls bend further over which is really disorientating. In between the domes

In between the domes

Next a set of steps and a teeny spiral staircase up to the top of St Peter’s and the view over Rome. The 360 degree view gives you an appreciation of how much green there is around the seven hills. From here you can see a lot of the Roman remains as well as the more recent additions. After a while we head back down again. View from the top

View from the top


There is not a lot of time to look around, but we do see Michelangelo’s very touching Pieta, and Bernini’s cover over the high altar, as well as the statue of St Peter, whose bronze foot is worn away from the pilgrims coming to touch him up.
La Pieta

La Pieta

A nearly deserted St Peter's

A nearly deserted St Peter's


As I am chased out at closing time, I take a couple of photos – it is pretty rare to get a photo of the basilica nearly empty. A couple of photos of the Swiss Guard (because you have to) and then we head out to a disappointing dinner.
San Lorenzo, where we are staying, on first inspection seems to be a bit of a rough neighbourhood, but most of that seems to come from the mass of tagging everywhere. There are some good honest restaurants around, a thriving nightlife, in a uni accommodation area. Some places you wouldn't go after dark though.

Posted by lostagain 03:38 Archived in Vatican City Comments (0)

All roads lead to Rome

But it can take a long time

sunny 33 °C

One last swim in the morning before we head out, then we are off to another outlet visit just to the north of Rome.
The pool

The pool


Here L picked up a few clothes, but still no shoes for her size anywhere in Italy. I on the other hand pick up another pair of runners Asics this time, and some cycle gloves (colour matched to the Goka, natch). Gaelan gets a Lindt Ball. We spent a bit too long here, and we have to rush in through the traffic to get into our accommodation in the San Lorenzo area. The ring road is pretty heavy, but we do get in. Amazingly, without getting lost. More amazingly we get a car park outside too. Our host is soon here to meet us and help us shift a mountain of stuff (raised eyebrows at the bike) up to the 4th floor apartment in a rickety lift. This is only the first leg though as once we have dumped everything in the flat, I have to jump back in the car and get it back to Peugeot. The road is chock a block to get out of the city which takes about 20 minutes. The next 10 kms around the ring road was at a stand still, and took 50 minutes until it suddenly cleared, and the foot went down as I had to get through the next 15kms in 9 minutes. I raced through the gate at 4:59 just before they shut for the night. They didn't take me to the airport but to the nearest station, and it takes me another 90 minutes to get back to the apartment.
We are all knackered, and it is the night of the Spain – Germany semi final in the World Cup. We thought about some take away pizza and watch it at home, but there are TVs in the restaurant so we plonk down here to have pizza and beer whilst watching the game. We go grab a gelati at half time then get home in time to see Puyol head the ball through the back of the net, and head to bed satisfied...

Posted by lostagain 03:23 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

In the Tuscan Hills

Montepulciano and Pienza

sunny 33 °C

Naturally the first thing the next morning is going for a ride in the team outfit. I get 90 minutes out there for around 40 kms. A bit windy, so a bit tough on my own. To keep to the ritual, a swim on my return too.
bona fide Gallo Nero

bona fide Gallo Nero

Into the car for a drive around some hill towns to the south. First we head to Chianciano Therme where we have a look about the treatment centre where people come to take the waters. And obviously it is still big business – it is set up to take thousands with treatment rooms, a spa, reception rooms and a ballroom, all set in massive gardens. And then we find we have just touched on the town as we drive past masses of hotels towards the other two thermes in town. We head on up to Montepulciano and hike up the hill from the car park.
The drive around this area is great, and is just the sort of thing you see on postcards of Tuscany. Montepulciano is a very pretty little town with lots of small lanes waiting to be explored and some great views around the area. We stop off up the top at a bistro to have some pasta and a glass of wine. Then a nice walk around the rest of town before we head off.
Up the hill

Up the hill

My kind of place

My kind of place


Next stop is Pienza, where we have a quick walk around, only because it is small and we are getting tired. This is a very picturesque little town with a great main street. There are some great buildings along a beautiful main street. The views over the surrounding valleys behind the church are just great, real postcard stuff. We head back home to have a swim then get packed up ready to leave tomorrow.
In the main square

In the main square

Side street

Side street

somewhere to put your hat?

somewhere to put your hat?

Posted by lostagain 03:16 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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