Rome 2017: Our Second Day

Originally Written: March 28, 2017

This was, hands down, our busiest day of the trip. My group might have only visited two historical sights, but they overwhelmed us with their contents. The size and scope of each place was unbelievable; we barely scratched the surface. The sheer ton of information and sights we took in on this day makes this particular blog post difficult to formulate. I’ve gone back and forth a few times on how I wanted to compose this post. My preferred method is trip report style, where I recount our adventures step by step. However, if I went into detail every painting, sculpture, every piazzo my family saw, this post would go on for days.

Therefore, I am going to step out of my comfort zone a little bit and try and write a more condensed version. Knowing me, I’ll probably revert back to my old ways halfway through and end up with a long-winded retelling of some of our day, and for that I apologize in advance. I’m a work in progress.

Alex and I woke up like we would back home. Bright and early at 6 a.m. We ventured into the kitchen and made ourselves and the kids breakfast. Historically, I enjoy staying in nice hotels where kitchenettes aren’t a necessity, but I gotta say…I loved being able to start my day with my traditional fare of eggs, yogurt, and oatmeal. It kept some semblance of routine and order in our lives, and I think it allowed the children to start off on the right foot.

About a week before the trip, Alex went online and booked us front of the line tickets to the Vatican Museum. My one request was to be able to see the Sistine Chapel, because…well, it’s just a given. You go to Rome for the first time, you see Michelangelo’s famous fresco.

All 8 of us (I never felt like we were such a large group unless I was reciting that number. Were there really 8 of us? Wow.) had reserved tickets for 10:00 a.m. with audio guides included. For 2 adults the cost was 52 Euros, and for one child it was 18 Euro. Technically, we did not need to buy Landon a ticket, but I wanted him to have the audio guide to help entertain him, so we opted to pay.

It was an expensive sight, to be sure, but well worth the cost.

As my group got off our tram and began walking up to Vatican City, we realized how invaluable the skip the line portion of our ticket was. The line to get into the museum was shocking.

Look, I’m a Disney nut. I’ve seen my fair share of long lines. This made Seven Dwarves Mine Train on Christmas Day look walk on.

The line wrapped around two of the four walls that enclosed Vatican City. It was a mile long wait to get to the front. I looked at a few of those folks and thought to myself, “They’ll be lucky to get in by 3 o’clock.” Unbelievable.

Alex had our printed tickets out, which we showed to an employee at the front, and we walked through the first entrance to the Vatican Museum. From there it was through metal detectors and X-ray machines, followed by a will call window off to the left. We all assumed that was where we would be picking up our audio guides, but alas that worker was only there to give us paper tickets.

On the positive side, all the females spotted some wash closets, so we went and made use of those. Bio breaks and Europe are NOT synonymous. People here must have the bladder the size of whales, because there’s never usually any to be found.

So, yes, I consider finding a (free!) restroom first thing in the day a win.

In order to get the guides, my group walked up a flight of stairs and towards another will call window. There we got the machines we needed and then spent the following five minutes trying to work the things. None of them came with headphones, which stumped us. Thank goodness I hadn’t taken Landon’s over the ear ones out of our bag from the plane, so he had a pair to use.

I also found a spare set of Apple buds that I handed off to my father in-law, since he’s really hard of hearing and would benefit the most from them. The rest of us just had to hold the speaker up to our ear to listen.

The way the audio guide was set up was a numbering system. Beside a lot of the displays were a red circle with a number listed. If you typed that number into your device and hit a red circle in the middle, a narration would start.

The kid’s audio set came with a map showing approximately twenty pieces scattered throughout the museum. The goal for the child was to hunt down the art and listen to a kid-friendly description of what he/she was looking at. The idea seemed neat, and the one I listened to was very interesting (definitely more entertaining than my version at times) but the biggest issue was that it difficult to find the items pictured. The pieces listed what sections they were in, but even with that it was like finding a needle in a haystack.

One painting amidst five hundred similar looking paintings? Forget it.

However, that was kind of the theme for my group at the Vatican Museum. Upon entering, you had the option to go right or left. Right takes you to older work, coin collections, Egyptian sarcophagi, a promenade with a beautiful view, etc. The left takes you to Roman statues, Raphael’s rooms, map rooms, and eventually the Sistine Chapel.

Let me just say this now, if you are pressed for time or have small children with you or are not an art enthusiast in general…just go to the left. Immediately after you walk in, go left.

Otherwise you will be like me and spend two hours wandering around, only to realize you’re not even halfway close to the main destination and your two toddlers are done.

Plus, personal opinion here, but the left side has way cooler displays.

Trust me when I say this; the few pictures I’m including in this day’s update don’t do any of the sights justice. They are larger than you can imagine, brighter than you would think possible, and more elaborate than your mind can think up.

After awhile, it almost reached a point where everything was overwhelming. There were so many statues, and so many gold frames, and just so many things to try and take in. Your head would swivel left and then right and then you’d remember you needed to look up, too. And then you would see something that amazed you and come to realize it was only one sixteenth of the entire painting and that there were two more feet to observe.

By the time we reached a fork in the museum where we could choose to take the short path or the long path to the Sistine Chapel, my head was swimming. It was like someone had come along and dumped an entire Humanities textbook in my brain. I kept telling myself, “Try to remember this one detail…don’t forget that the artist was going for this theme…this was significant because it happened fifty years before anyone else attempted that style.”

Back in AP Psych, my teacher explained to us that our short term memory can only hold so much, and eventually it’s going to have to either retain or dump the new information it gains. And just like that seventh digit in a phone number, my mind lost 90% of what I learned with the audio guide.

One thing I made sure to imprint in my frazzled brain was the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. When we did finally make it to the chapel, it was a big affair. The room was packed, you couldn’t move two inches in front of you. My son misunderstood his grandmother and sat in my some stranger’s lap on the floor.

Not one to get claustrophobic, I couldn’t spend more than a minute near the center before escaping to the back half of the chapel. There, I sat down with my father in-law and Landon and looked up at Michaelangelo’s work and took the moment in. I let the magnitude of the situation wash over me, and surprisingly enough, the part I loved the most about the experience? Being able to see it with my son.

Just like I saw Michelangelo’s Virgin on the Rocks for the first time in London with Evie, I was seeing his The Creation of Adam with Landon. Two things I couldn’t possibly have imagined myself getting to do four years ago when Alex and I were starting our family together.

The exit area was right after the Sistine Chapel, and that was where Alex and I grabbed ourselves and the kids some pizzas and water to refuel ourselves. It was after one o’clock, and we were tired both mentally and physically. After lunch, we all used some additional wash closets, and I found a nursing room to use with Evie.

I nursed inside the Vatican Museum.

That right there is a statement I never in a million years thought I’d type.

But hey...when in Rome.

My group left the museum after that and headed towards Saint Peter’s Basilica. Even though the Basilica and the Sistine Chapel are literally kitty-corner from one another, we had to walk all the way around the outside of Vatican City and enter through a separate entrance about ten minutes away. We basically made a big semicircle to get into Saint Peter’s Square.

While that sounds ridiculous, it was nice enough day and the trek dropped us off right in the square where we got a spectacular view of the Basilica.

My family stood in line for thirty minutes in order to go through another set of metal detectors, but my father in-law insisted it was worth the wait. He swore this was going to be better than the Sistine Chapel, and boy was he right.

The inside of Saint Peter’s Basilica was amazing. Unequivocally magnificent.

It was so beautiful that I have racked my brain for a good five minutes trying to find the right words to describe the interior and have come up short. My descriptive self cannot for the life of me do this church justice.

I think Landon said it best when he first walked in. “Wow! Look at how big this place is!!!”

Like all Renaissance churches, it’s built in a cruciform shape, but the nave and bays are ten times the size of what you’d see in most other cathedrals. The chapels that branch off are bigger than my house.

If that wasn’t enough, the art housed there is breathtaking. Immediately to the right of the nathex is Michelangelo’s Pieta, which was a must see. It was easily my favorite thing in Rome.

I could have stayed in the Basilica for hours. I almost regretted devoting so much time at the museum and not enough to the cathedral. Alex really wanted to climb to the top of the cupola (the top of the dome) but I was too tired to make the trek. I’m sure it would have been amazing, and it’s now the number one thing on our To Do list should we return to Rome.

Once everyone in my group was finished looking around, we decided to call it a day on sightseeing. Alex and I took the kids back to the apartment to rest up and relax. Overall, the kids did amazing. Only a few antsy cries and loud voices throughout the day.

Evie ate a random dinner of fruit and bread that evening and then crashed at her normal bedtime of 7 p.m. Fortunately for us, S. needed to complete some homework so he offered to stay back and listen for her while the rest of us went out for dinner.

We all walked to a place called Vignola, where I had some delicious gnocchi and Alex had carbonara.

The eventful day wrapped up with Alex and I casually walking arm in arm back to our room while family skipped ahead with Landon. At one point I pointed out a beautiful terrace lined with early spring flowers and commented,

“If we ever have a million dollars, I’m getting a flat in London, you’re getting your Audi, and we’re both taking long summer holidays in Italy.”

Author: Alicia W.

Hello, I am a military spouse and mother of two. Together, my family has lived in three countries and traveled to dozens more. Combining my love of adventure with my passion for writing, I hope my website helps others create their own "awfully big adventures."

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