Our afternoon adventure consisted of heading down to the area around the Vatican -- I wanted to find out where the meeting place was for our tour (right across the street from the Vatican Museum at the bottom of the stairs). We then walked to St. Peter's Square and then over for some lunch at the Universal Bar, a place I had eaten lunch at with the Bishops Suffragan last year.
We had to get Gelato after lunch (near the meeting point).
We met our guide, Sev, who is a PhD Archeologist who not only leads these kinds of tours but also teaches at the local University. From the start I knew I'd like him -- knowledgable, articulate and nice.
Sev started us out in the area above the Vatican Gardens -- an area our tour guide from last October also started us out at. Yet, instead of giving us a brief history of the Vatican and a longer history and explanation of the art in the Sistine Chapel (our guide last fall and all guides are not allowed to speak in the Chapel -- and neither are the tourists), Sev gave us a more detailed history of the Vatican and of early Christianity. Beautifully done!
The current St. Peter's Basilica was built over the original St. Peter's. Sev noted that you can fit the Statue of Liberty inside the dome of the Basilica!
We then went into the Vatican Museum and went directly to the Bramante Staircase -- Rafael's Uncle was the designer of the steps.
From Wikipedia: The original Bramante staircase, in the Pio-Clementine Museum, was built in 1505 to a design by Donato Bramante. It connects the Belvedere palace of Pope Innocent VIII to the outside and stands in a square tower of that building.The Bramante Staircase features granite Doric columns and a herringbone paving pattern, and was designed to allow people and pack animals to ascend and descend without interruption. The stair is cited as the inspiration for Antonio da Sangallo the Younger's design for the double helix passageway at the well of St Patrick in Orvieto, to solve a similar logistical problem. The staircase was built to allow Pope Julius II to enter his private residence while still in his carriage, since walking up the several flights in heavy papal vestments would have been onerous. It is not generally open to the public, though specialist tours do visit.
It was amazing:
And the view from the top of the staircase was equally as amazing:
We then headed down and towards our private tour of the "Zoo" in the Vatican Museum. On the way we stopped by to admire the statue of Apollo, the face of which was Michelanglo's inspiration for the face of Jesus in the Sistine Chapel:
Next came the gallery of statues and onto the private dining room:
And an amazing statue:
We then went into the private dining room, which was beautiful, and contained some interesting art, including the floor:
We next went to a gallery where there was a statue that was Michelangelo's inspiration for the body of Jesus in the Sistine Chapel, which is known as the Belvedere Torso:
We then went down the corridor with tapestries:
We also passed the map corridor:
We were then taken to the prayer chapel for the Pope in earlier days, with frescoes on the wall by Fra Angelico:
We then went to Rafael's room --
We were then taken into the Sistine Chapel where we were the only ones (6 of us, plus our guide Sev, and the guards). We were not allowed to take pictures in the Sistine Chapel -- and the guards were keeping their eyes on us to make sure the 6 of us did not even attempt to take a picture!
Sev was able to explain with us so much about the art, having us look in different places and explaining the room and the art. Having heard about and seen the statue of Apollo and the Jesus in the Sistine chapel -- Face of Apollo and the body of the torso of the Belvedere torso. To be in that space for so long, able to walk around and not one of 1,000 people in there -- it was a great gift to us all.
When we looked at the picture of the Last Judgment I was reminded by Sev that all the people were naked in the original last Judgement except Jesus and Mary -- the naked people were given "covering" after Michaelangelo's death.
We also saw something special: the Room at the end of the Sistine Chapel where the new Pope goes in and receives the Cardinals afterwards.
We got back to the hotel and walked down to Angelina's for dinner -- as always, it was delicious BUT the service was lacking.
It was a beautiful day -- and the Vatican Museum and special tour after hours of the Sistine Chapel was well worth the planning!
Steps today: 17,157, 6.6 miles.