It’s funny to think that the whole itinerary for my mom’s and my trip to Italy was actually planned around the last day! A few months prior, I emailed the Vatican Scavi and managed to get us tickets on a tour of the Vatican Necropolis. For the best chance at getting a spot, you have to give them all the dates you’re going to be in Rome. I sent all the dates Mom would be in Italy, knowing we could then figure out the itinerary from getting this.
This was the start to our last day together, and it was so worth planning around. The Vatican Necropolis only lets in 250 people a day, in groups of 12. That’s why you have to get tickets so far ahead! They take you into the Necropolis, and you can see the evolution of Christianity.
In fact, the very words we use for where the dead are reflect the rise of Christianity. It used to be called a Necropolis, because that was “City of the Dead” where cemetery means “Place to Rest” and came into use with the rise of Christianity.
They walked us through the ancient tombs, pointing out the first ones they found with Christian symbols on them. Then we walked through the Clementine Chapel, where apparently Pope Francis goes almost every morning to pray. It’s so crazy to be in a place where the Pope goes every day!
And finally, they showed us what the church believes to be the bones of St Peter. It’s such an incredible thing to see, and a moment of pure wonder and reflection. If you’re ever in Rome, I highly recommend trying to get tickets for this tour! (I’ll write a post soon with a more thorough review and information about how to get tickets.) Sadly, you’re not allowed to take pictures!
After that, we went to St Peter’s Basilica. It was one of those places in the world where you can’t help but be awed by the sense of place, and sense of history, in a building. We walked around the Basilica, and just appreciated the splendor of it all.
We took a break for lunch before heading to the Vatican Museums.
I wish I was as awed by the Vatican Museums as I’d hoped to be. The treasures housed within them are just spectacular, and so far beyond most museums.
But the crowds are too. So many times in this trip, I’ve headed to museums as a respite from insane crowds and as a place to appreciate beauty. The Vatican Museums are like nothing I’ve ever seen. The lines and crowds to get in (thankfully we’d pre-bought our tickets), and the crowds at every point in there, really detract from the experience. I hate being the person who supports more regulation of numbers of people, but I wish the Vatican would double the price of tickets and halve the number of people allowed in. It’s sad to say, but the craziness of the crowds makes it so hard to appreciate the artifacts.
That said, they’re still spectacular. The sculpture collection is amazing, and there’s an entire hallway lined with ancient maps. It’s just incredible! And then you look up, and the ceiling is intricately detailed and painted, which made it all the more wondrous.
At the end, you come upon the Sistine Chapel. I have a hard time talking through my reactions to it. It’s something you spend so much time learning about it school, and it’s so built up, that I think it was a little less spectacular than I expected when I saw it in person. Of course, the wall-to-wall crowds don’t help! Even though it wasn’t as amazing as I expected, I’m so glad to have seen it! Mom and I were both shocked through the museum that it seems like their climate control system amounts to “open the windows if it’s hot” – I cannot believe that with all those incredible treasures, they’re not more regulated in terms of temperature and humidity! It’s crazy!
At the end of the day, Mom and I decided to stop at the Trevi Fountain, and that was another place where the amazement of the place was hurt by the insanity of the crowds. The fountains are just gorgeous, but the crowds are incredible. I feel like people in travel talk about Asia and India being crowded, but in my opinion – it’s nothing compared to the crowds at places like the Trevi fountain! But Mom and I still threw our coins in and enjoyed getting to see them!
And that was it – at the end of an amazing week of traveling together. It went so fast, and it was so fun to have my mom with me for the last week of the trip, and the fulfillment of my “8 wonders” dream!