As we drove by the massive walls of Vatican City, I saw a multitude of people in a line that snaked around several blocks. “My god,” I thought, “we’ll have to wait all day to visit the Vatican.” My third day in Rome, Italy and it looked like most of it would be spent in line under the hot sun. On the itinerary for the day was a visit to the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. After the tour the students would return to St. Peter’s to sing during mass, an amazing opportunity for the group of middle school choir students I was traveling along with and documenting their trip.
Luckily the line to enter the Vatican Museum moved quickly and in no time we were putting on our radio headsets (so we could hear our tour guide, the same lady from the previous day) and heading up the escalator.
At the top of the escalator is an open courtyard where the dome of St. Peter’s is in full view. Also in the courtyard was a display and guide to the artwork on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Our guide explained the history as well as the meanings behind all the artwork we’d see as we toured Michaelangelo’s greatest accomplishment.
But first we headed towards some doors that would lead us into the vast collections of the Vatican Museum. It would be nearly impossible to summarize all the things we saw during this tour, so watch the video below to come along with us on our tour.
After the Vatican Museum, we entered the Sistine Chapel. I was expecting it to be a quiet, empty space reserved for spiritual and personal reflection. Instead, as soon as I walked into the chapel I was thrust into a sea of bodies all looking upwards and guards yelling at people to stop taking photos. It was, unfortunately, a mad house of noise and confusion. Feeling a little claustrophobic and overwhelmed by the sensory overload, I headed for the exit on the opposite side of the room where we had agreed to all gather and wait for our tour guide.
After we had all regrouped, we headed for the final part of our tour: St. Peter’s Basilica. Construction on the structure began in 1506 over the site of the old basilica constructed by Constantine 1100 years earlier. Fundraising methods to finance the construction inspired Martin Luther to launch his Protestant Reformation.
Inside St. Peter’s is one of Michaelangelo’s most famous marble statues: the Pieta. Now behind glass after it was attacked by a mentally-deranged person with a hammer, the statue depicts Mary holding the dead body of her son Jesus. It is the only work signed by Michaelangelo.
After our tour, we had an hour break and I tagged along with a couple of parents and their children to a nearby restaurant. We sat outside and I ordered an appetizer of lasagna. I couldn’t dare leave Italy without having some authentic Italian lasagna!
Afterwards we hurried back to the buses so all the students could get dressed up for their performance in St. Peter’s during Mass. The excitement in the air as the kids nervously prepared for their performance was palpable. In the end, the performance went off without a hitch and will be a memory forever burned into their minds.
Our time in Rome, Italy was over. After a fun-filled dinner featuring local musical entertainers, we headed back to our hotel and prepared for our trip to Florence the next day.