An early morning. Given that we were aiming to beat the worst of the lineups to get into the Vatican City (and Vatican Museums) and because we were with a group and thus could enter two hours before the rest of the public, we had to go line up rather soon. Which we did, joining the line that snaked around the walls. In front of us were a bunch of uniformed school-aged kids who unfortunately were booted from the group line up right as they made it to the gate (their tour guide didn't get them confirmed entrance — yikes! But we did get in and through security.
The Vatican Museums were amazing. Architecturally, there were so many gorgeous aspects, but the map on tapestry, the statues, the well… fig leaves (*sighs*) and other art was rather worth seeing. And then there was the overcrowded room called the Sistine Chapel. Indeed the whole room was amazing… Especially the wall and the ceiling. Hard to describe really, but well well worth looking at.
This was followed by a trip through St. Peters. Also an architectural marvel, with beauty everywhere. What is mindboggling here are the mosaics that look like paintings on the wall (apparently the paintings were being damaged by light/sun exposure and so were replaced with AMAZING mosaics). It was fabulous.
A quick jaunt through St. Peters' Square before they closed it off due to Tony Blair's visit with the Pope that day, and then free time in the Vatican shops where we could buy all sorts of religious stuff, mosaics (and see them constructed) and postcards and Vatican stamps (and mail said postcards). I mailed a couple postcards but I don't think that they've arrived yet (one was sent here for my roommate and it hasn't appeared). One has to mail things in the Vatican if one wants the Vatican frank on the letter, otherwise it can be mailed in Rome, but outside of Rome it will not get to its destination.
We ate at a super crowded cafeteria before going on another bus tour of the city, this time stopping for free time at the Colosseum where we wandered the ruins (we didn't go in due to lack of time and excessive heat). It was fun though just to see all the ruins… remarkable really.
This was followed by our leaving the city via the south gate (I can't remember its name) and visiting the catacombs (Christian catacombs) which were nice and cool, and rather fun (though staying with the tour guide is a must: one can EASILY get lost it is like a labyrinth down there). The grave sites are quite remarkable in and of themselves.
We returned to the hotel for downtime, wherein I was disappointed that the pool was closed for what seemed a special event (and I wanted to go swimming!!) and when I was hungry I went for a long walk and found nothing by way of food (although I did take a picture or two of some of the sights on my walk).
Our Roman dinner evening was at an amazing 300 year old farm house located in what is now a suburb of Rome — the city having grown up about it. Before dinner though we explored the property because there in the backyard, the son of the family who owned the building had discovered this spring something quite special while he was digging to build a new garage: a Roman necropolis!! So here we were able to peer in at an active archaeological site! And not only was there a necropolis but there were two sections: one for the public and one section that was for a specific family — where one can even see a mosaic and the family name!! If that was not all, the farmhouse has a gorgeous fountain and a couple really old olive trees in the front yard: one is over 1000 years old!!
If that is my impression of the evening prior to dinner, well the dinner and entertainment also exceeded my expectations. The meal was great (although I didn't care for the dessert or coffee courses seeing as I do not like coffee), and the opera entertainment was fabulous! What a farewell dinner indeed!