Tuesday, July 25, 2017

May 22nd, Part One: Vatican Museums

We got up early the next morning, grabbed some odds and ends from the hotel's breakfast area, and made it out the door and over to the Metro while the city was still waking up. A little bit of waiting and a little bit of walking later...

...we were with our tour group and looking at St. Peter's Basilica. Time for a tour of the Vatican!

This was the one thing we did a guided tour for on the entire trip, and I'm really glad we did. The Vatican Museums are huuuuge, and it was great to see it all with someone who knew the best way to get through as much of it as possible. We all had little receiver things with earbuds, so we could hear our guide as we wandered through everything. The tour we did got us into everything an hour before it opened to the general public, so we had a bit of space to actually enjoy what we were looking at. (At least until the floodgates opened a while later.) This was the Gallery of the Candelabra.

The Vatican Museums are home to various works of art and artifacts that all of the popes have collected over the years, and to say that the museums are huge is a gross understatement. There are tens of thousands of things here.

There is incredible art everywhere you look...including on the ceilings.

This fantastic ceiling was in the Gallery of Tapestries. This is actually flat; it was painted using the trompe l'oeil technique to make it look three dimensional.

Of course, there were also tapestries in the Gallery of Tapestries.

The Gallery of Maps was next; this room was absolutely stunning. The walls were lined with giant frescoes of topographical maps of different parts of Italy. but it was everything else around the maps that really made this room special.

Detail from a random section of the ceiling. Any one of these individually looks like it belongs in a museum, so to see them all next to each other (and on the ceiling, no less), was a little crazy.

You can see part of one of the maps here. This room was huge.

I forget the exact order of things we saw on the tour, but we did get to spend about twenty minutes in the Sistine Chapel. You're not allowed to take pictures in there, so I don't have anything to post here myself, but it was really cool to see it in person. The frescoes were a lot brighter than I expected, and the detail was impressive. The Vatican's website has a really cool virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel here; it will download an audio file onto your computer if you click on the link, but the virtual tour itself will open in your browser screen. You can click and drag your mouse cursor to look at different sections of the walls and ceiling, and zoom in or out using the little buttons on the bottom left part of the screen.

After a little while we popped out into the Cortile della Pigna (Courtyard of the Pinecone). It's named that for a big bronze pinecone on one end. The big golden sphere is a modern art sculpture; we didn't spend too much time here before making our way back inside.

I can't remember which room had this detailed ceiling, which says a lot about how ornate everything was. Either way, it was pretty.

We went through several hallways that had all sorts of artifacts, including giant stained glass panels.

 This was the Room of the Immaculate Conception. (And that random thing in the bottom right part of the picture is one of the sticks the tour guides were holding up so you knew how to find your group in the crush of people that had started filling all of the rooms by this point.) The frescoes are huge and incredibly detailed.

Another view of the Room of the Immaculate Conception. I couldn't have fit it all in one picture if I tried!

This was the Room of the Segnatura, which is one of Raphael's Rooms. These were painted by Raphael and his students in the 1500s. The frescoes were really neat, and we got to spend a bit of time in this room in particular while our guide pointed out some cool details. Going through this part of the tour made me really glad that we got an early start; this room was so crowded that you could barely move!

We made our way out to the Octagonal Court. There were some pretty neat statues here; this was the River God (Arno).

We made our way through a few more rooms with statues; one of them had this really cool mosaic floor.

The museums were getting pretty packed by this point, so our guide led us through the rest of the rooms pretty quickly. I did take a second to grab a quick picture of one of the pieces in the modern art area.

We eventually made our way out of the crowded museum and found ourselves looking out at the Piazza San Pietro. This is where the Pope gives his weekly mass, hence all the chairs. It was nice to get a little fresh air, but we still had one more stop on our tour!

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