By Len Friesen, Tour Leader
Today was set aside for “Catholic” Rome. This meant an early morning start as we made our way (by city bus, then a walk) to St. Peter’s Basilica. We got there early enough to avoid the crush of peoples who were lined up to enter as we left. What stands out? Well, if Mary and I went by reactions of those in our group it would be: the sheer vastness of the scale of the Basilica, Michelangelo’s incomparable Pieta, the final earthly resting place (now in the Basilica) of the late Pope John Paul II, Michelangelo’s dome, and Bernini’s ornamentation everywhere.
After that it was a lunch, coffee, latte break, or just sweets, and the chance to sit in one of Rome’s many many sidewalk cafes. We recharged our batteries, visited some more, and then made our way to the Vatican Museums. Though our tickets were for a later time, Mary’s initiative meant that we were soon in the doors.
What can one say about the Vatican Museums? We just asked the group members at supper and the reviews were clearly mixed (as we expected). On the one hand, the crush of people makes it unlike any museum anywhere, which is saying a lot. And it’s hard to stop moving as more are coming up behind, and more after that. Still, there was this sense that one needed to see the Sistine Chapel. And there are other treasures, including of course Raphael’s splendid apartments, or the Pinacoteca, the Map or tapestry gallery, and so on. We were fortunate to find moments of reflection along the way.
At the end, we departed via St. Peter’s, after which some made their way back to the hotel and others went exploring some more in the city. This is a tour that has promoted itself as one that gets up-close-and-personal with the cities we’ll be visiting. So far it hasn’t disappointed.
We’ve just returned from our tasty evening meal at a cozy eatery. It was packed and for good reason. We walked back and are now settled in for the night, with the satisfaction of another fulfilling day behind us.