Our Time with the Pope

Hello Everybody!

During our stay in Rome, we were able to visit Vatican City. It was a great time to be visiting the Vatican because it was during the Easter season. This part of our stay in Rome was arguably the most incredible experience for me.

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Silhouette of Saint Peter’s Basilica

Our first visit to Vatican City and Saint Peter’s Basilica was just for some quick sight seeing because we had a busy schedule that day. It was really easy to navigate the metro in Rome and there are a couple stops that will land you in walking distance to Vatican city (Cipro or Ottavania on Line A). After getting to the Saint Peter’s Square and waiting in line for about a half hour we were able to make our trek up to the top of Saint Peter’s Basilica to see the view from the cupola. 

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The mosaic walls of the Cupola

For only 6 euros you can climb to the top and for 8 euros you can take an elevator part way up. We decided to cut out a few of the 551 steps and take the elevator since we had been walking a lot that day. However, if your are feeling ambitious and have the energy you should take the stairs so you are able to say you climbed the whole way. 

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View of the basilica from the inside of the Cupola

Before you arrive at the top you are brought inside the cupola to see the inside of the Basilica. If you have problems with heights this may prove a bit difficult. However, the ceiling and walls of the cupola are beautiful and well worth the view.

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Then only few more stairs and you are at the top with an amazing view of Saint Peter’s Square and the Papal gardens. In my opinion this is one the best views I have ever seen.

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View from the top of the Cupola

Before heading all the way down into the basilica there is a lower roof where people can take pictures of the cupola from the outside. It was also crazy to see the statues on the roof up close. From the square below they don’t look so big, but when your standing next to them they about triple your size!

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Perspective on the size of the statues on top of Saint Peter’s Basilica

After taking the elevator back down, we were lead right into Saint Peter’s Basilica. The inside is absolutely beautiful! Unfortunately for us, there was mass and confession in parts of the basilica and we were not able to see it in its entirety. Luckily we were still able to see Michelangelo’s Pieta. This sculpture depicts the body of Jesus laying over Mary after his crucifixion. I think it was even more incredible for Amanda and me to see because we had studied during our Humanities course in college. Finally we were able to see it up close and personal and it did not disappoint!

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The Pieta by Michelangelo

Unfortunately, we were not able to see the Vatican museums or the Sistine Chapel while we were in Rome. Since we arrived later than we thought on the first day and it was the weekend of Palm Sunday, the museums we closed. So after leaving Saint Peter’s Basilica and the square, we ate a quick dinner and called it a night. We had an early start the next day for Palm Sunday mass in the Square.

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Altar inside of Saint Peter’s Basilica

We were very thankful that we decided to get up early for Palm Sunday mass with the Pope because it was packed! Luckily we were able to find a spot in the seated section and did not have to stand for 3 hours. The security was very intense and if you can imagine it there were two separate security checkpoints. The first one was outside of the Vatican walls (Yes… Vatican City is surrounded by a big wall… it’s considered its own country) and big crowds were funneled into two corners to be searched by 3 or 4 Italian soldiers. After this checkpoint you think you are in the clear, however, there is another checkpoint with a scan machine to put your stuff through. Then we were in!

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Saint Peter’s Square when it was empty the day before mass

We found a seat right next to the railing in hopes that the Pope would eventually drive by on these little makeshift roads (We were right!). After some time the mass started and we got to see the man himself, Pope Francis (or Papa Francisco as you would most likely hear in Saint Peter’s Square). It was a very interesting experience to hear this mass given in so many different languages. Although, after the Second Reading, which was in English, it was a bit hard to stay focused with the constant Latin and many other languages. Not to mention we had perfect weather and the sun beating on us did not make it any easier.

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Holding up the Palms and Rosary beads that would soon be blessed

Then it was time for Pope Francis to hop on his Pope Mobile and make his rounds in the square. It was very cool to have such an influential world figure drive by you only 5 feet away, waving at you!

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Please ignore the security guard!

Although he got very close to all the people, he was very heavily guarded. Many men in black suits, many men with big guns… and then there is the Swiss Guard. These soldiers are bit harder to explain. They are dressed in a yellow, purple and red uniform that almost makes them look like a jester. However, they carry around a sword and I was not about to start joking with them. The design of the helmet is also interesting and doesn’t seem very efficient for a person guarding the Pope. However, these guards have been protecting Popes since the 16th century and are considered one of the oldest military units in the world.

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Soldier in the Swiss Guard

All in all, our time in Vatican City was amazing! We missed out on a couple big sights like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel but being able to see the Pope in person made up for anything we missed. Not everybody can say they were blessed by the Pope in Vatican City and it was even better to experience this with our moms. I think that they were even more grateful than us and that makes it even a better trip!

Love you moms!!

Ciao,

Mark

PS. Special thanks to our fellow travel blogger, Liz, for some amazing tips in her Rome & Vatican City travel guides. Check out her blog and guides here at California2Catalonia! She definitely knows her stuff!


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