When in Rome, many choose to visit the independent city-state that is the Vatican. This place was a major centre of power in Europe after the fall of Rome until the notion of the separation of church and state caught on in more recent times. It is still protected by the independent Swiss Guard, of funny hat and striped uniform fame. Although their uniforms may be dated, their skills are not. They are trained in the Swiss military. Do not mess with them.
St. Peter’s Basilica is the star attraction, the grand church at the center of the piazza and at the heart of Roman Catholicism. The inside of this basilica was designed by Bernini, one of Rome’s more famous artists, and he clearly was given a generous budget at the time. They were out to impress and they were successful.
While I could have spent hours ogling the art and sculptures and religious artefacts in St. Peter’s, the real draw to the Vatican for me were the museums, which are around the corner from the plaza.
Now, the Vatican Museums are no hidden gem or undiscovered corner of this area, since they are also home to Michaelangelo’s most famous work, the Sistine Chapel. But I might have been the only person there who considered the Sistine Chapel to be a bonus of this destination, rather than the point of going there.
While some people geek out over Comic Con, music festivals, or the Hollywood Walk of Fame (and when I say “geek out”, I mean they are physically unable to stop the inner nerd from spilling out), I geeked out over the ancient civilization displays in the Egypt and Greece wings of the Vatican Museums. I could not contain myself.
My travel companions for that day could not stop laughing as I eagerly pointed out who each statue was before they had time to read the signs or listen to their audio guides, be it Remus and Romulus being raised by their wolf mother, Perseus bearing the head of Medusa, Hercules, any of the Olympians, the Trojan War, the art of mummification, or Pharaoh Ramses II. Guys, it turns out I know waaaayyy too much about ancient civilizations for someone who is not a Classics major or an Egyptologist.
Here are several comparisons so that you can understand my level of excitement to be basking among the vast collection of ancient treasures in the Vatican Museum: like a Washington intern meeting the President; like a Trekkie meeting William Shatner or Patrick Stewart; or, like a fangirl meeting Justin Bieber (less shrieking though, since I’m not 14 years old).
The Vatican Museums have lots of other amazing rooms but it would take days to see them all. I was also quite taken with the Raphael rooms, which included the famous School of Athens painting, and later en route to the Sistine Chapel, a cast of Rodin’s Thinker.
I would love to show you a great picture that I took of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, but the security guards were very adamant with their laser pointers and “NO FOTO!” shouting in Italian, so I kept my camera in my bag.
But here is what everyone goes in there to see:
You get the idea.