A surprising amount of planning and preparation went into our trip to the Vatican. Mostly done by Clare and Ben of course. I would highly recommend doing your study before you go to the Vatican or getting organised friends to do so. Otherwise you’ll end up at the wrong end of a really long ‘Nokia Snake-like’ line. From memory, if you go to the Vatican on a Wednesday, you can see Francis himself as he addresses the common people. Unfortunately, the day we went did not fall in line with seeing the Pope so we made do with a postcard of Francis giving the thumbs up to us (basically the same thing, if not more heartwarming). Fortunately for us, that meant we could sleep in an extra hour and get up at 6:30am. One espresso and a 5 minute walk later, we were buzzing and stepping through those pearly (figurative, but they were whiteish) gates in no time. The best part of the morning was seeing two security guards giving massages to each other.
Passing through the security checkpoints, it really was like stepping into another country where people of all different nationalities had come together to appreciate this beautiful landmark, whether that be for reasons of faith or interest. The inside of the Vatican was dripping in gold and grandeur and there were many nuns and priests of different cultures (and fashions!).
Promising the best views, we climbed up the Basilica which consisted of around 500 steps. As the passage became smaller and tighter winding around, claustrophobia was definitely kicking in. But we persevered and the view was indeed breathtaking — or was that from the steps? Nonetheless, some kind of euphoric exhaustion swept over us as we watched the plebs below lining up to get in.
Next was the Vatican Museum, housing all the Catholic Church’s greatest treasures. There are beautiful maps, jewels and a really lovely courtyard with a giant revolving golden orb that looks simply superb on a sunny day. Kind of stumbled upon a room that ended up being the Sistine Chapel and it was almost one of the most peaceful, serene places I have been to, if not for the one security guard who seemed to have learned 2 words in English to exercise his authority— NO PHOTOS. His voice boomed dangerously throughout the room every 1–2 minutes, making it very hard to visualise how Michaelangelo would have felt painting his masterpiece. We were treated to a prayer by an African priest who recited his prayer in 3 languages — Italian, German and English. This one beautiful moment was more moving and spiritually enlightening than my whole schooling experiences in a Catholic primary school and Christian high school (no offence Rev Jenny and Benji, the Jesus enthusiast).
Our trip to Rome had ended, and it was a great taste of Italy and what she could offer, with the amazing architecture and recognisable landmarks I had learnt from reading Dan Brown novels. But I was looking forward to leaving the hustle and bustle of the city with all its pushy tourists and dudes trying to sell me leaning tower of pisa key rings. We were off to somewhere a bit more provincial — right up my alley really.