Tuesday, May 19, 2009

We met the Pope!!!

eh- jk. No pope around today. But we did have a fascinating tour of the Vatican City.

First things first however, the weather is beautiful. A tad on the warm side, but sunny and breezy. So no umbrella needed Mike or jackets/warm clothes.

Our wakeup call was set for 7 am. I of course slept until 7 am, whereas Matt had to get his morning workout in at 5. ugh! So we started our morning off with a nice American style buffet breakfast. Really it wasn't our style of American because there was no milk. :( haha. Matt enjoyed a nice orange/carrot/some kind of juice drink. But after a nice breakfast and a very rushed post, as you read earlier, we were off to the Vatican. We met our tour guide Mauro and he got us right into the doors. (Apparently when you go without a tour group it could take hours to get in).

Anywho, so we began our journey today at the Musei Vaticani. It was basically three big hallways of all kinds of art. They were all amazing. Everything from the floors to the ceilings was elaborately decorated.

The first hallway was sculptures. They had humongo sculptures and then tiny ones. They had them on the ceiling and built into the walls. They had the "goddess" of fertility and even the last supper.

The second hallway was tapestries. On the left side of the room they had laid out the life of Christ. The right side of the room we weren't really quite sure. Mauro said that those were the ugly ones and not important enough for us to spend time on. haha! The workmanship in these tapestries was spectacular. There was even one that when you walked passed it the angle of the table seemed to move with you. It was really neat.

The third hallway was a tribute to the Sistine Chapel. Unfortunately for you, no photography at all is allowed inside the chapel. They do not even let you talk. We were shushed a few times by the guards. They just kept yelling at people to be quite. So before we went into the chapel, Mauro showed us pictures and the paintings we would see inside and gave us the history behind them all. All of the great painters of that time have some hand in that place. Michelangelo was of course the main dude. He painted the entire ceiling. Down the center are 9 pictures representing the main stories of Genesis. Then on either side was the bloodline of Christ. On the left side wall was the Old Testament, and the right, the New. The far back wall was the Revelation. Michelangelo not only painted the ceiling, but also painted the Revelation. Apparently as he was working, there was a cardinal that did not like him and gave him a very hard time. Well instead of making a big scene with the man, he painted him as the gatekeeper to hell. Hahaha! How’s that for getting back at someone. He also signed his paintings by putting a self portrait in the two areas. On the ceiling he had an entire body portrait and on the back wall he painted his face into a small area. The paintings in this room were indescribable. We were very lucky in that this area was cleaned and restored to the true colors of Michelangelo’s time. We were able to see the paintings as they truly were meant to be seen. What was cool is that the people who restored the paintings left small areas uncleaned. It was crazy to see the difference between the dirty part and the clean.

After the chapel we walked into St. Peter’s Basilica. This place seats over 70,000 people and currently holds 110 tombs on ground level alone. AMAZING, AMAZING, AMAZING!! The mass is held at the most beautiful alter. This alter is also the burial place of St. Peter and had the most beautiful artwork built up around it. We were also able to see the special door of blessings. This door is only opened every 25 years and remains open for the entire year. All the pass through it receive a blessing. The next opening will be 2025. In the door is a small black box in which the Pope places specific items of meaning. They remain inside until the doors are opened and new items are placed inside. Currently the three items inside are Vatican coins, a gold piece with the symbols alpha and omega, and one other item. I can’t exactly remember and apparently Matt wasn’t paying attention. The point is it was neat. Haha.

Outside the basilica we were able to see the square the Pope comes and blesses people every Wednesday. Yeah, we just missed. No blessings for us. L However, we did get to see the Swiss Guards and they court jester type outfits. Wow! Apparently designed by Michelangelo. We also got to see the Pope’s apartment. His room is the top right corner.

After having a quick bite to eat we boarded our bus and headed to Florence. And close to 4 hours later we were finally there.

*Can I just take a moment here to describe the traffic in Italy? It is CRAZY! I am honestly surprised that we have not witnessed any accidents. People drive all over the place. It’s like there are no traffic laws. The mopeds are weaving in and out like nobody’s business, the cars drive on sidewalks to get around other people, everybody cuts everybody else off…. Insane. I think I would fear for my life if I was not in a giant bus. Plus I don’t think they have ever heard of parking tickets here. You can park literally in the middle of the street. *

Ok back to Florence. We had to stop before we got into the city to buy a bus voucher; 400 euro in order for our bus to drive us around the city. How’s that for crazy. But Florence is absolutely beautiful. We are in the region of Tuscany and it is just as you would imagine. Beautiful trees, hillsides, rivers, and homes. This is the place to be. We stopped at an overlook to get one big group picture. We could see homes, churches, the river, and beautiful scenery. This was such a great place to be, very peaceful.

After that we came back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. We are currently staying at the Hotel Rivoli (aka Best Western of Florence). And just for you Kristi, the website is http://www.hotelrivoli.it/. Our room is awesome!!! We have stairs leading from the front door to the bedroom and then stairs leading up to our balcony and bathroom. We think we got the honeymoon suite from talking with others in our group that didn’t get such cool rooms.

Dinner was at a very nice restaurant around the corner… another 5 course meal but this time with smaller portions. Pasta is served with every meal, along with some type of ham/roast beef appetizer, salad, meat, and dessert. And of course, lots of wine with every meal as well. We had such a great time at dinner tonight. We ate with the mom and son and then one of our young couple friends (psychiatrist and computer programmer). We stayed until 10 pm even after all the others from our group had left.

We are having such a great time. Tomorrow will be a very exciting day, but a long travel day as well. We will be taking a 3 hour train ride to Venice. So that means we are logging off for tonight. We love you all. Thank you so much for keeping up with us while we are celebrating our marriage in style.


  1. Wow, all I can say is WOW! I am so glad you both are having a great time. Good thing you are feeling better Hillary, or Matt would just have to leave you on the bus! There is no way he could miss seeing all those wonderful things. Cant wait for the pictures... You will have to burn cd's for everybody when you get home!!!

  2. yay hill and matt!!! sounds like you are having an amazing time!!!

  3. Thanks for taking the time to let us all know about your honeymoon. I am so glad you guys are having such a great time(and seeing all the great sights)! ENJOY!!!!!!


  4. What a honeymoon. Good for you, seeing all the sights.