For the next two days we spent in Rome, we were given much more free time to really experience the culture of the city for ourselves. Before that free time though, our group visited the smallest country in the world, the Vatican City, home of the Pope himself.
We arrived at the entrance and were assigned a tour guide who looked to be in his late fifties. He was a nice man, very quiet though, so I had to push my way to the front in order to hear him properly. He led us through the entrance to the museum of the Vatican, which had an assorted amount of unique items collected by different members of the Vatican throughout the years.
We then exited and gathered on a small perch just above a garden, and the guide pulled out a piece of paper and unfolded it to reveal a copy of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. He pointed to a building just a couple hundred yards away from us and said that it was the very building that Michelangelo painted the famous Creation of David, and other works of art. We weren’t allowed to talk or take photos while in the Chapel, so our guide used the copy he removed from his pocket to explain its meaning and point out interesting additions Michelangelo put into it and other paintings on the ceiling. Once finished, he instructed us to follow him and to respect the rules of the Chapel, which I did without argument. We then made our way inside.
The entrance was a long corridor filled with tons of paintings and interior design that amazed me as I walked by them. At the end of the hallway was a set of double doors that people were slowly filtering through. We patiently waited, and once through, climbed a set of stairs to another door that led to the roof painted by Michelangelo. One by one, we walked inside. As soon as I was in, I immediately looked up and searched for the Creation of David, and once I found it it took my breath away. It looked so much better in person and seeing all of the paintings on the roof come together as one giant masterpiece by one man is truly incredible. I sat there and just stared until it was time to head out, and then made my way towards the exit. I will never forget that moment.
Once outside, we checked out the rest of the Vatican city. We were shown the Holy Door that is
opened every 25 years. Catholics or anyone of the Christian faith that walk through the door are washed away of all their sins, which is why many people plan to travel there the summer of 2016, when Pope Francis plans to open it. After that we stopped by the gift shop and I purchased some holy bead bracelets for my family that were blessed by the Pope himself. Once we had purchased our gifts, we left the Vatican and after a short walk were back in Rome.
We were given free time, which my friends and I used to explore and find some food. We walked around and stumbled into an open square and found the Pantheon, famous for its open, domed roof. Admission was free, so we made our way inside and looked around. The building had an amazing interior design, and it still fascinated me at how people so long ago could build something so grand. It also blew me away that I was standing in the very building I had learned
about my freshman year in World History. Soon, we exited the building and went in search of food. My friends and I found a place that sold some cheap, delicious sandwiches, which we devoured quickly. A few blocks away, I found a gelato place that had handmade cannolis for only a couple Euro, and I thought to myself, “when in Rome…” and bought one, as I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity of eating one of the most famous Italian desserts while in the country it came from. It was the most delicious cannoli I have ever had, the ricotta cheese was fresh and sweet, and the chocolate chips and sweet shell were made to perfection. We then met up with the other groups and Jesus, and then made our way back to the hotel. Our next destination: Pompeii and Sorrento.