Day 15: The Vatican is filled with Marble


Today was a big day. I put on a dress and flats.

I guess that really isn't too significant but given that I've been wearing khaki shorts (some nautical print) and leggings (or jeggings)... it was a considerable departure. Plus, that knocks two more items off my "must wear it because you brought it" list. I only have one left.

Since today was the day that I was going to be hitting up the Vatican for some knowledge and memories, I did some light research over breakfast so I wouldn't sound like a complete dumb dumb for my tour guide. I'd also be lying if I said I didn't pull myself together a bit for him. He could have been handsome and put me on the back of his VESPA! But he was just a nice married guy without a vespa, still it was worth the lip gloss and the dress.  
Vatican City
I'm honestly not sure what to say about the Vatican besides that it was impressive - which seems like an obvious fact. I've never seen so much marble and so much history all in one place. I've never really been much of an art person but when you are paying someone to explain it to you, it gets more interesting. 
The Sistine Chapel was a really odd experience for a couple reasons. One is that you aren't allowed to talk in there - or take pictures. So its essentially just a giant gorgeous room filled with people (some who smell) staring at the ceiling ... with a guard who occasionally yells "Silence!".

Our last stop in Vatican City was the biggest church in the world (truth?), St. Peter's Basilica. It's 200 meters long ... and it looks like it is even bigger. I'm sure by this point you are tired of pictures of the ceiling but this place was bananas - so just wait a few days and I'll be back to the ocean and seals. My favorite Alex fact? There are no paintings in here - it's all mosaics. This totally blew me away because of how intricate the mosaics were. I would have had no idea.
Alex told me that at the Vatican Mosaic School (it's really a thing) they have a catalog of all these ceramic pieces from hundreds of years and even more sources ... so that when something breaks in a mosaic, they can find an "exact" replacement. Nuts. I want to see that database.
 
Also, in the event you are ever doubting the value of a guide ... I was in and out of the Vatican in 2+ hours. The line just to get a ticket was over 2 hours long, not including all the little shortcuts Alex knew to get around quicker. It was amazing, one little nod to a security person and a rope was lifted for us. Well worth the (slightly extravagant) investment. I would have been pulling my hair out. 

Campo del Fiori, Piazza Farnesse, etc
After the tour, Alex walked me back over the river since we had a little extra time. I like to think it's because he enjoyed my company and wanted to be sure I had a good time. I hadn't been to Campo del Fiori yet so he walked me there and on the way pointed out interesting architectural sites and tidbits. He walked me past one of the nicest prisons I've ever seen. I wanted to take a picture (pretty much for Meghan) but held back and tried to play it cool.
As soon as I walked into Campo del Fiori, I felt like it was more of the Rome that I'd been waiting to experience. There were overflowing flower stalls, vendors selling spices, and a man that only sold honey. I mean... my dreams!  To be fair, there were also people selling crap clothing and tourist crap ... but I pretended I didn't see it. 
Oh! And there was this whole stall of just sun-dried tomatoes... which I was impressed by like a kid in a candy store... pretty much because they taste like candy. Then I noticed they even had my beloved San Marzano tomatoes. Swoon. 
Trastevere
Alex kindly planned the rest of my afternoon for me which included getting something to eat in Trastevere neighborhood across the river. I hadn't read anything about this place but I saw plenty of women in cardigans and fancy sandals crossing so it seemed safe. Plus, Rick Steve's told me that I shouldn't be put off by a neighborhood in Rome because there was graffiti  (I look forward to the day Rick Steve's isn't in my head)
 While I wanted to order to order pizza, I ordered gnocchi instead.
The one thing Alex didn't help me with was figuring out how to get home from Trastevere. I was just about 4+km from the Hotel shuttle stop and about 6 km from the hotel itself. A bit of a lose lose situation considering you have to find a taxi stand apparently to get a taxi? That doesn't seem to make much sense to me. I also tried and failed to hail an Uber - which I figured would be a great way to close out the day. In the end, I just walked probably about two miles or so along the river until I found a square with taxis. After getting into a pronunciation battle about how to say "Hilton Cavalieri", we agreed we were both saying the same thing and I was home in 10 minutes.
Hotel Amenities
Today, I fully maximized my hotel amenities by doing the following: slept on a variety of pillows from the menu, ate a killer breakfast, scored a free water from reception, and used the indoor marble pool. But after I used the pool, I used the hot tub, and then after that I found a "nap room" where you get to lay on these beds and watch nature shows. I'M NOT JOKING. It is like a little form of adult paradise and I never want to leave - provided I get to keep eating at the buffet.

Tomorrow? I'm not quite sure yet. I'm thinking about going back to the Vatican to try and see the Pope. Then maybe I'll wander across the river and find a place to read for a bit. Maybe have a glass of wine and then take the hotel shuttle back. It's going to be my last full day in Italy... a weird feeling at this point.

p.s. I'm completely in love with all the glass bottles around this country. Would it be weird if I didn't buy myself a thing in Italy but just came home with a bunch of used water bottles? Maybe.

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