We started the day with a quick bus-ride over to the Vatican to get in line early for the St. Peter’s Basilica dome climb. After a short wait in line, we proceeded to climb 448 ft to the top of the dome. Along the way, we got some very impressive views of the inside of the Basilica. Of course, the view from the top was excellent.
When we finished viewing Rome from the top of St. Peter’s, we toured the inside of the Basilica.
After visiting the Basilica, we ate some street pizza on our way over to the Vatican Museum. The Vatican Museum is one of the greatest museums in the world and receives 5 million visitors yearly. It contains all of the works accumulated by the Catholic Church since the museum’s founding, nearly 500 years ago.
The famous sculpture, Laocoon and His Sons was the founding piece of the Vatican Museum. Discovered buried in a vineyard near Rome, this marble sculpture was purchased by Pope Julius II at Michelangelo’s request. The story of Laocoon was popularized by the poet Virgil and the sculpture was likely commissioned by a wealthy Roman family around 2100 years ago. According to myth, Laocoon was killed while trying to prove that the infamous Trojan Horse was a large deception to infiltrate Troy.
Another priceless sculpture is the Belvedere Torso. This statue fragment has an interesting history and was damaged during the sack of Rome in 1527. It took nearly 100 years after acquisition of the Vatican to be displayed prominently in the Belvedere Courtyard, in contrast to Laocoon and His Sons which took only two months. The statue is believed to be of Heracles seated on animal skin although the author and subject are largely unknown. Michelangelo adored the statue and when he went blind in his later years he would use his hands to feel the shape and camber of the marble. When Pope Julius II requested Michelangelo to repair the statue, he declined stating that it was too beautiful to be altered.
Our tour of Vatican Museums culminated in a visit to the Sistine Chapel. Although no photos were allowed inside, I encourage you to try the virtual tour available at the Vatican website.
After leaving the Vatican we hurried to visit the Colosseum and Arch of Constantine.
We finally capped the day off with a night walk through Rome. We started at the Campo de’ Fiori and walked by the Piazza Navona, Pantheon, and Trevi Fountain.