Friday, April 11 – Day 12
It was another sunny day for this last full day of the tour. This would be the “highlight” day here in Rome as we visited the Vatican and the famous Sistine Chapel first. Although we had to wait in line over an hour (they didn’t open at 8:30 as they were supposed to), we still had a great visit. We first visited a part of the Vatican Museum. It was filled with Greek and Roman statues, tapestries and maps of Italy (from 15th – 16th centuries AD).
We then entered the Sistene chapel, decorated with paintings by Raphael on the walls, with the ceiling and front wall (“Last Judgment” painting) by Michelangelo. The Sistine Chapel is named after Pope Sixtus IV, who in the 1470s & 80s had this building restored. Michelangelo spent 4 years here doing the ceiling (from 1508-1512). He was in his 30s when he did the ceiling. At the age of 55, he started the painting of the Last Judgment. To get even with the Cardinal who didn’t care for him, he cleverly depicted the Cardinal with a serpent around his waist. He can be seen at the bottom right portion of the painting. It took him 7 years to complete this painting.
Leaving the Chapel, we entered St. Peter’s Cathedral, the largest church in the world. Originally built in 327 AD, the present-day church dates to 1506 and can hold 35,000 people. The floor is made from 120 different types of marble. Many of the Popes are buried here, including the most recent Pope John Paul II. We exited the church to St. Peter’s Square (Piazza San Pietro), where 100,000 gather for special services. The Swiss Guards were here symbolically guarding the entrance to the church.
Next, we boarded our bus and drove to the famous Trevi Fountain (“Fontana di Trevi”). We spent some free time here, eating lunch and shopping. From here we walked past the Trajan and Roman Forums to the Coliseum, an amphitheater that once could hold 50,000 people. It was built from 72-80 AD. We walked inside and hiked up to the second level. It is an impressive structure! Close by we saw the famous arches of Titus (complete still with the Menorah etched on the inside of the arch, celebrating the defeat of Jerusalem in 70 AD), and Constantine (4th century AD).
We bussed back to our hotel around 5 p.m., making it a full day. We enjoyed our last dinner together at the restaurant. We packed our bags before retiring tonight in anticipation of the trip home tomorrow.
Saturday, April 12 – Day 13
We plan to leave for the Rome airport at 7 a.m. to catch our 10 a.m. to Frankfurt, and then on to Dulles.