Monday, March 21 (continued)
St. Peter’s Square
Continuing into St. Peter’s Square…. Vatican City is actually surrounded by a big, stone wall that encircles it. We had a moment of excitement as we passed under the arches and stepped into the square, when you really get your first sweeping view of it all.
We paused immediately inside, to just take it all in.
My Dad, who is not one for photos, actually said something like, “Well I’ll be darned! The actual St. Peter’s Square. I think I even need a picture here.” 🙂
It’s massive, and very impressive.
We took some family pictures, but then I suggested we keep moving and linger a little more outside after. The Basilica closed at 6:30 p.m., so I wanted to get in to make sure we had plenty of time inside.
We tried to get in the security line, only to be told that our standard masks, which we wore on the plane and everywhere else, were not good enough for inside the Basilica. (For the adults- the kids were allowed to wear regular masks.) He said we could not enter.
I panicked for a moment- these were the only masks we had along!! We needed FFP2 masks. The security guard pointed around the corner and said the guy selling souvenirs at the kiosk also had packs of FFP2 maks for sale for 1 euro each. Phew.
Ivan ran and bought a bunch, and 5 minutes later, we were back in business, new masks on.
We nodded to St. Peter on the way by:
*A little side note, for anyone considering a visit to the Vatican. Keep in mind they enforce a dress code. I believe it is no shorts or skirts above the knee, no exposed shoulders, and no hats. Nothing low cut or inappropriate, etc. My Dad had his little Irish man hat on and forgot to remove it, and he got a tap on the shoulder from one of the guards inside.*
St. Peter’s Basilica
Before you actually enter the Basilica, you enter a (very large) foyer area.
Here you can also find the famous Bronze Doors, which only open every 25 years or on Holy Years. In between, the door gets bricked up, from the inside, so it is unable to open.
From the outside:
From the inside, sealed:
When you step inside the actual Basilica, it is a WOW moment.
This place is mammoth. Which makes sense, because it is, in fact, the largest church in the entire world. I am sure my audio guide told me exactly how many “football fields” long it is (Americans like to refer to things in reference to football fields 😆), but I don’t remember. Just know it’s really, really, really big. And really tall. There are markers on the floor so you can see where other large, famous churches would end, if they were sitting inside this one.
We used the free Rick Steves audio guides all over Rome, with our own Airpods. I looked at them all in advance, and I had everyone download the app and the relevant audioguides before we left home. This worked out so great! Are they the world’s best, most informative audioguides ever? No. Are they a little cheesy sometimes, probably geared toward 60+ year old American tourists? Yes. Did they get the job done, teach us a bunch of interesting info, keep the kids engaged and learning stuff about what we were seeing? Yes. Were they free? Yes. 🙂
I have so many pictures, it is insane. I mean, it’s just one of those places. Everywhere you look, it’s like, “Wow.’ How they built this thing all those years ago, I’ll never understand.
The main altar, where, fun fact- only the Pope himself ever presides over mass. (Other priests can do mass at the other altar, behind.)
Beneath this altar is where supposedly the actual remains of St. Peter lie.
Then you have the incredible dome, Michelangelo’s dome! He designed it and started it, but it wasn’t fully completed until 1590, after his death.
There was actually a 5 pm mass going on at the back altar while we were there. We stood and watched for a bit, but it was all in Italian (or maybe it was Latin?? I’m not sure! I know it was not English. 🙂 ), so we didn’t sit down or anything. Having the soft organ music and chanting sounds and singing in the background while we wandered around the Basilica was really beautiful. It made the whole visit feel very spiritual, to me.
The interior is so ornate, it literally blows my mind.
There are various shrines and chapels all around the outside ring of the basilica. Some past Popes are essentially mummified and buried there. Others have tombs below.
Our audioguide ended at the back, at Michelangelo’s famous Pieta sculpture.
It was getting close to closing time, but after the audioguide ended, we sort of wandered around just a little more, doing another loop to just look at it all again.
I really like this picture of the main altar:
St. Peter’s Square- by night
Okay, we finally exited the basilica and were greeted with this view:
Here come my favorite pics of the night….the sun was setting, the lights were on in St. Peter’s Square….this was magical.
I felt very happy- no, elated– at that moment. I love to travel, and being there with not only my husband, but the boys and my parents too… at such a beautiful, iconic place…. that was a moment of bliss for me.
The Swiss guards that guard the Vatican entrance:
A couple more family pics:
From here, the plan was basically: head back toward the hotel, get some DINNER (we were all starving) and maybe see a few of Rome’s sites by night before calling it a day.
Nighttime walk to dinner
The walk back was nice. We had to cross the river again, and our route took us right past the impressive Castel Sant’Angelo.
There was a lot of traffic, and apparently the police/ ambulances get a lot of business in Rome. The kids got a kick out of how different the sirens are from ours at home.
Here’s a better shot of the castle:
We are not people who ever plan our meals in advance on vacations. I know for some people, fine dining or restaurants are a major focus of their travels. We are not “foodies”, and we can usually be pretty happy eating most anywhere. We care more about having a nice atmosphere than eating at the trendiest restaurant.
Our typical vacation meals (in cities) consist of walking around until we find a place that looks nice, check out the menu/ the atmosphere, and if it looks good, we try it.
Rome seems to have approximately 3.25 million restaurants. We wandered down a few side streets (the streets are adorable– quaint, cobblestone, almost alley-way like, but then there will be a bunch of sidewalk cafe/ little restaurants weaved in among the buildings, tucked away from the hustle and bustle).
It wasn’t too late yet- probably 7:30 or so? Dinner time was just getting started. It was chilly out, so we wanted to sit inside. But this outdoor area was very cute:
We knew we wanted PIZZA on night #1, so we picked this little place.
After traveling, flying, getting to the hotel and then heading right out for St. Peter’s, our first day felt like a bit of a whirlwind. When we sat down to dinner, I think we finally had a moment to process it all. We were in Rome!!! Yay!!
We enjoyed a relaxing dinner. I remember being a little cold on our walk back from the Vatican, and it was nice and toasty in this restaurant. 🙂
The boys got a sparkling lemonade in their wine glasses.
We ordered pizza diavola, which is basically similar to pepperoni, but way better. It’s a “spicy salami” and it’s delicious. This was our favorite from our last time to Italy, and Ivan and I were both excited to eat this again. (And we did, many times. 🙂 )
The boys wanted dessert:
We took our time at dinner. Not sure how long we were there, but we didn’t rush. It was quite relaxing. The boys took a little down time to connect to the wifi and play on their phones while we just chatted over our wine.
Piazza Navona and Campo de’Fiori
By this time it was getting later and it was pretty chilly outside! We weren’t really dressed the warmest, so after we left the restaurant, we decided to just quick swing by a couple famous plazas that were near the hotel: Piazza Navona and Campo de’Fiori.
First we stopped into a little liquor store. My Dad and Ivan wanted to see if they could grab either some wine or beer to have at the hotel later.
I don’t think they bought anything, but Ethan came out with a bottle of the sparkling lemonade. Haha. He decided at dinner that he was a fan.
First stop was Piazza Navona.
Piazza Navona would be a wonderful place to sit on a bench and people watch, but like I said, it was kind of cold out!!! In the summertime this is a fabulous place. (Ivan and I went in September and the weather was amazing.)
The plaza is famous for its beautiful fountains, especially Bernini’s “Fountain of the Four Rivers”.
We didn’t stay long. From here we walked over to Campo de’Fiori (just a block from our hotel), just to take a peek.
It was after 10 pm now, so were ready to call it a night. We swung into this little local grocery store, which was about to close….but the nice man saw as approaching as he was lowering the door and waved us in.
Grabbed a few snacks and I think my Dad found some wine.
Back at the hotel, I was TIRED!!
Ethan and I stepped out onto the hotel’s rooftop terrace for a moment:
The boys chilled out for a bit in their room/ got ready for bed, and Ivan and I went for a brief nightcap in my parents’ room. Opened the window to let the sounds of the city in:
We could have sat in the hotel’s indoor gathering area, but it was pretty late and we didn’t want to disturb others. So we just sat around inside their room:
I could barely keep my eyes open, so I said buona notte and headed for bed before long.
And that’s a wrap on our first day in Rome! For a short afternoon/ evening, I felt like we got a great intro the city and saw some amazing sights already.