And St. Peters
30.03.2008 - 30.03.2008
I had a car and driver hired for both Rome and Naples because my oldest daughter told me that I could not see Rome unless I could walk. I can't walk for any distance so I viewed the coming visit to Rome with some anxiety. All of the ship tours involved considerable walking. The alternative would have been either to take the train to Rome and walk (which would be hard for me) take a taxi (expensive), or to book an individual car from the cruise ship which would have been $750.00 for just a HALF day. On a tip from a fellow VTer, we hired Sandro Pagnotta of RomaLimo.
We had a wonderful tour of Rome with Sandro Pagnotta, VP. & C.O.O of RomaLimo. We had the car for the whole day - the two of us, and he took us to see the sights we were interested in (Sistine Chapel (where he obtained a guide for us), Trevi Fountain and the Coliseum) and many sights that we would not have thought of asking to see like Circus Maximus, Spanish Steps, the Knights of Malta keyhole, the city gate and the Basilica of St. Paul Fuori le Mura. The Mercedes that we used could go down the narrow streets and easily get around where a normal sightseeing bus could not go. Sandro spoke excellent English and was charming and helpful. The day cost us $675 (plus tip), and paying in advance I could pay in dollars instead of Euros.
I ordered breakfast from room service for 7 am, but either they didn't come, or didn't knock loud enough to wake me up, because I didn't wake up until 7:50. We were supposed to meet Sandro at 8, and by 8:15 we were driving out of the port gate toward the Vatican.
We got to the Vatican about 9:30.
My grandson had said he wanted to see the Sistine Chapel so the driver Sandro had hired a Vatican guide for us. I think the guide cost 100€
And you can't go back and look at it later after you go to the Sistine Chapel. I knew that we couldn't go back later, so I took photos along the way, and our guide took us the quickest way through the museums explaining what we were looking at.
If you look out the windows while you walk through the museums, you can see some interesting views of this smallest country. If you have time (we didn't) you may want to look at the Gardens which are decorated with fountains and sculptures. They cover approximately 57 acres which is most of the Vatican Hill. Stone walls bound the area in the North, South and West. The gardens date back to medieval times when Pope Nicholas III (1277–1280) moved his residence back to the Vatican from the Lateran Palace and enclosed this area with walls. A tour of the Gardens allows the visitor to be part of a group tour conducted by an official Vatican Guide. (duration of the tour is approximately 2 hours)
My sister apparently went on a trip which took them on a private tour of the Sistine Chapel and at a time that they could take photos. But the only photos I could take were of St. Peters, the museums and the grounds. We could not take pictures in the Sistine Chapel. We sat at the end of the room where the Pope would enter the room and looked at the paintings.
We also went through St. Peters. It was interesting, but since we aren't Catholic, it wasn't a religious experience.
- inside and out.
Our guide took us through the museum first, and then we went through St. Peters. He mentioned that they were setting up the chairs in St. Peter's Square for the Wednesday Mass. He suggested that unless we really wanted to see the Pope, that we should not plan to visit on a Wednesday or Sunday. We were there on Tuesday, April 1st - about two weeks after Easter.
If you do decide to go, remember - Most of the masses are celebrated at St Peters Basilica. However there are some Masses when they expecting a larger number of people and then they will use St Peters Square. St Peter's Square can host up to 80 000 people. Normally for the seated area you will need a ticket but mostly you can attend standing without a ticket.
For most of the Masses with the Pope you will need to have a ticket.
Tickets are always free.
Don't forget that to attend these celebrations you will need to pass through security scanners (like the airport) and long lines are to be expected. Places will only be be guaranteed according your arrival time. The tickets will be asked for at the entrance of the Mass.
Tickets DOES NOT necessarily guarantee entrance or a seat.
When the church / Square is full access will be denied even with your ticket
The most famous guards at the Vatican are the Swiss Guards. In Renaissance Europe, the Swiss had a problem - they had about 500,000 inhabitants in a small overpopulated poor country. There was no choice but to emigrate and one of the most profitable jobs of the era was that of a mercenary soldier.
So the Swiss Cantons marketed their greatest asset - their soldiers, and these soldiers played an important role in the history of European politics. Pope Sixtus IV in 1497, made provisions for the future recruiting of mercenaries, when he had barracks built for them near the small Church of St. Pellegrino, in Via Pellegrino in Vatican City. On January 22, 1506 a group of the Swiss soldiers entered the Vatican and were blessed by Pope Julius II. As allies of Pope Julius II in 1512 they helped to shape Italy's destiny and were granted by the Pope the title of "Defenders of the Church's freedom".
There are many guards in the Vatican and especially in the museum areas.
My grandson's friend, who didn't know anything about the Pope because (as his mother explained) they weren't Catholic, DID recognize the Swiss guards in our pictures. He isn't the only one. The great Latin historian, Tacitus, had said: "The Helvetians are a people of warriors, famous for the valour of their soldiers." [The official name of Switzerland is Confoederatio Helvetica which is Latin]
Inside the Vatican walls, the Swiss Guards Corps (Corpo della Guardia Svizzera) are posted to provide security. The guards, who swear an oath of allegiance to the pope wear very colorful archaic uniforms. In 1505, the soldiers wore simple tunics - the present uniforms date back to 1548. The story that they were designed by Michaelangelo is probably false. The Pontifical Swiss Guards is also the smallest and oldest standing army in the world.
We were finished there by about 11:30 and Sandro picked us up for the Rome part of the tour.