Individual Days - Italy


September 21, 2023

This morning, we loaded on the bus for a 4-hour trip to the Eternal City. When we arrived in Rome, we met Laura, the Consoli family’s daughter and one of the owners of the Hotel Dei Consoli. The hotel had a small elevator which was great since our room was on the top floor. And when I say “small”, I mean small. We put our luggage in the elevator with another couple from our group. There wasn’t room for Mark or me so we ran up the stairs to meet our luggage. But still, it was nice not to have to carry our luggage up the stairs.

We got situated in our room (#305) and then had a quick lunch at L’Insalata Ricca in the Piazza Risorgimento. Mark had the Italian salad (lettuce, arugula, bell peppers, orange slices, olives, chicken, eggs, shrimp) and I had the Parmense salad (lettuce, arugula, Parmigiano cheese, olives, prosciutto, mushrooms, walnuts).

After lunch, the group met Alessandra, our local tour guide. It only took about 10 minutes to walk to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. Once there, we were informed there was a delay with our entrance time. Because of the crowds, we were not allowed to wait at the entrance, so Lisa immediately took care of us. We walked a short distance to Birreria Martini Bräukeller, a German tavern. Everyone got to enjoy a beer, wine, or water. Prost!

The wall separates Italy from the Vatican

Vatican Museums

The Vatican City became an independent country on February 11, 1929. The Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel were so crowded! Rather than go through as a group, we all used the Rick Steves’ audio tour individually, but there were plenty of other large groups. There were many areas where we couldn’t even walk. Instead, we shuffled from room to room.

View of St. Peter's Basilica Dome
Chiaramonti Museum - named after Pope Pius VII Chiaramonti
Sphere within Sphere by Arnaldo Pomodoro
Pinecone Courtyard (Cortile della Pigna) - bronze pinecone located on a double ramp staircase designed by Michelangelo
Belvedere Courtyard (Fontana del Cortile del Belvedere dei Palazzi Vaticani)

Pio Clementino Museum

Several rooms were filled with Greek and Roman statues. This was reminiscent of the statues we saw in Florence. During the Renaissance, nudity in sculptures represented honor, virtue, innocence, and purity. This changed in the 1500s when the Counter-Reformation (the Catholic Church’s response to the Protestant Reformation) portrayed nudity as immodest and obscene. In 1563, the Council of Trent launched the “Fig Leaf Campaign” to cover genitalia and pubic hair from Italian artwork. Fig leaves were the most common cover; however, chisels were used to remove genitalia on many statues. It is said that the castrated parts are privately stored at the Vatican.

In the first couple of pictures, you can see the fig leaves that were added to the statues.

Before David was unveiled in Florence’s Piazza della Signoria, Michelangelo was pressured to cover David so a wreath of 28 copper leaves added around his waist. The wreath was quietly removed about 50 years later.

Statues were not the only art that was censored. Fig leaves and loincloths were added to paintings as well. In the 1980s, work was done to restore some artwork to its original condition.

Laocoön and His Sons
Round Room
Hall of the Chariot
Hall of the Greek Cross
Mosaic Floor - Greek Cross Room
Sarcophagus St. Helena (mother of Constantine the Great)

Gallery of the Candelabra

This room gets its name from the large marble candelabras that are on each side of the entrance. The room was originally designed by Pope Pius VI but was later redesigned to the current layout by Pope Leo XIII Pecci.

Gallery of Tapestries

The tapestries hanging on the gallery’s left side wall were commissioned by Pope Clement VII and designed by Raphael. They drawings were sent to master tapestry makers in Brussels under the direction of Flemish artist Pieter van Aelst.

These tapestries depict stories from the life of Jesus. Pictured: King Herod’s decree to slaughter all baby boys and Jesus’ resurrection.

Gallery of Maps

Pope Gregory XIII commissioned Danti to paint 40 topographical maps of Italy in 1580. The closeup picture is of Venice. The maps were so bright and colorful. View of gardens and Vatican radio station from the window.

Hall of Immaculate Conception

Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of Mary’s Immaculate Conception (not to be confused with the Immaculate Conception of Jesus) in 1854. He commissioned Francesco Podesti to design the frescos in this hall.

This dogma states that Mary was born free of original sin. How was this possible? According to the apocryphal Gospel of James, Anne and Joachim (Mary’s parents) were unable to have children because Joachim was infertile. They prayed for a child, an angel appeared, and Anne miraculously was pregnant. While this account was contested over the years, the pope made it official with his decree.

Pictured: Discussion about the Immaculate Conception and Proclamation of the Dogma. I found the proclamation fresco very interesting. While the Catholic church states that Mary is painted lower than the Holy Trinity to show God is greater, still Mary is centered, larger, and the focal point of the painting.

Raphael Rooms

Next, we walked through the rooms containing the works of Raphael. Raphael designed all of the artwork, but since he was also working on the Sistine Chapel, most of the work was completed by his students (names listed below, if known).

First Picture: Battle of the Pons Milvius (wall) by Giulio Romano and Triumph of Christian Religion (ceiling paintings) by Tommaso Laureti

Second Picture: Liberation of St. Peter – This painting was high, over a doorway. Looking up, it was very realistic, lots of depth. It appeared like you were looking through a metal prison screen.

Third Picture: Crowning of Charlemagne

Before Entering Sistine Chapel

The gold details and opulence filled the Borgia Apartments. The first picture is from the Room of the Liberal Arts – Hall of Trivium and Quadrivium. It is believed that the Pope used this as his study.

The next picture is of the hallway ceiling before we entered the Sistine Chapel. We were not allowed to take photos in the Sistine Chapel. It was so crowded; it would have been difficult to photograph anyway. But we were able to view Michelangelo’s masterpiece as well as many other paintings.

Once finished at the Vatican Museums, we walked around the wall surrounding the Vatican City and entered St. Peter’s Square.

From St. Peter’s Square, we took a taxi to the Pantheon. What an experience! There were no lanes, cars merged wherever there was space. To be fair, it was during rush hour. We could have walked faster than the taxi ride. Lesson learned. But once there, we walked from the Pantheon to the Trevi fountain to the Piazza Campo de Fiori.

Trevi Fountain
Carabinieri - Military
Chiesa di Sant'Ignazio di Loyola
Basilica of Sant'Andrea della Valle

For dinner, we ate at Mercato Hostaria Roma in the Piazza Campo de Fiori. We sat outside, listening to musicians and watching people. We ordered a meat and cheese platter for 2 as an appetizer. It was so large, it hardly fit on the little table. We ended up skipping the main course and ordered desserts – Mark had pistachio cheesecake and I ordered sanpietrino al cioccolato (dark chocolate cake with mascarpone). Meals are just not rushed. We spent several hours just relaxing, eating, and taking in the sights.

On our walk back to our hotel, we passed by the Castel Sant’Angelo and St. Peter’s Square.

We walked 8.2 miles today.

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