An Afternoon in Vatican City

Our last stop on the trip was back in Rome for a day in Vatican City, after our drive from San Gimignano. We tried to get into the Vatican on our first day in Rome, but with hour+ long waits to just get into the walls, we decided to try again on our way back. Thankfully, we got very lucky and were able to walk RIGHT IN without any line at all (for the record this was mid-October, mid-day, on a Friday).

We were pleasantly surprised by how modern the Vatican Museum was, and quite disappointed by how little information there was available for visitors. You must pay to get in, which is understandable, however a map is not included in that fee. A map was quite expensive (at least the ones we found) but thankfully Rick Steves’ Rome 2013 guide was more than a capable guide for us, and a trusted travel companion by this point in our trip.

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The Vatican Museum is huge. Had we more time and energy, and maybe interest in art, we certainly could have spent the day in there. I think I was expecting more religious relics to be housed in the museum, but it was mostly an art museum, with rooms and hallways just packed with statues and paintings and murals.  Below I’ve included just a small fraction, but you’ll get the picture.

Disclaimer: for one reason or another Kyle gave me camera-duty for the day, so we’ve got quite a lot of photos of art to share from the Vatican Museum. These may not be SFW…

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Remind me offline to tell you about the fig leaves on the male parts. It’s a great story.

Prior to making it into the Sistine Chapel, the “main event” I’ll call it, there was the LONGEST map hallway. We spent a good 45 minutes in here. I left it at one point to find the bathroom and came back to Kyle only about 15 feet from where I had left him.

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The stairs out of the museum were quite interesting, and then there was me back outside of the big doors we had to get in through (which were by this point closed and locked for the day). Since we completely missed a secret passageway from the Sistine Chapel to Saint Peter’s Basilica, we now had to walk all the way around the city to get there.

DSC_1205 DSC_1229The line to get in was understandably ridiculous. So, we instead decided to just take a few photos of the outside as the sun set and we waited for dinnertime.  But then, something strange happened – the line went away! It was still moving into the basilica, so we hopped in.

We have at least 100 photos of the inside of St. Peter’s Basilica, below are just a handful. I really just wish the photos could do this justice, everything in here was so big, you couldn’t do much but stand in awe.

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And with that, I conclude our posts from Italy! I might decide to share a few more travel-points soon with photos that didn’t fit, but for the most part that was our entire trip.

We loved traveling abroad so much we’ve already got another one on the calendar – and it’s soon! I’ve had more than a handful of friends (one of which we’re going to visit) warn us that travel is addicting, I think they’re right.

Florence in Two Days: Day 2

I can’t remember why, and it sounds absolutely ridiculous right now to say this, but the second day we went to Florence I was a total crab in the morning. Thankfully for Kyle, and everyone that knows me, it’s pretty easy to turn my frown upside down with a snack and a few shots of espresso. As it just so happens, in Italy there seemed to be an espresso bar (or three) on every block – have I told you that Italy was the perfect country for us to honeymoon? 

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So, once I was all hyped up it was time to hit the pavement. Our first spot was the Boboli Gardens, which are vast gardens behind the Pitti Palace (a Medici home). Although it was a little chilly out, and the gardens were not in bloom, the entire place was completely breathtaking – in size and beauty. Every turn was something new, the photos I’ve added below aren’t even a fraction of the gardens.
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We could have spent the day in the gardens, but it was time to move on out into the city. Look how tiny this car is – nuts! These were all over the place, along with scooter type vehicles that ran on electricity.
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Ah, the Uffizi Gallery … what an experience, I wish I had more photos to show you, unfortunately no photos was a strict rule outside of the sculpture hallways.  This was a sight to see in person, you’ll just have to take my word for it.
You could literally spend hours in here, unfortunately with our “Florence in 2 Days” ambition we had to do the highlights tour with our Rick Steves Guide to get through in a reasonable amount of time (also, thanks to the Firenze Card, we skipped the hour-long line to get in). If you’re not an expert in art (really, who is?) I highly recommend using either Rick’s guide, or another guide, for going through this museum, without it the museum would have been much too overwhelming and after a while it would have all looked the same.
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If I had to design a museum just for Kyle, I think it would be the Museo de Galileo. Not to sound like Stefon on SNL, but this museum has everything: maps, measuring tools, clocks – an engineer’s dream come true…
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If you ever go to this museum and find Galileo’s severed finger on display – PLEASE send me a photo. I actually did another half-lap around because I thought I missed it somewhere and all of the guidebooks claim it is in there.
The museum was closing, and it was then time for us to head back to San Gimignano for our nightly pasta, wine and gelato feast (yes, I think Italy might be heaven).

Florence in Two Days: Day 1

I couldn’t say enough times how perfect the location of San Gimignano was in Tuscany for taking day-trips, we were only about an hour outside of Florence – and we took advantage of this two days in a row during the week.

Florence was b-e-a-utiful, and there was so much to be seen and done we definitely could not have conquered the city in just the two days we had there. Thankfully, Kyle did his research and had for us two Firenze (Florence) Cards, which proved to be worth every penny and saved us a countless amount of time. The Firenze Card gave us access to almost all of the museums and sites with pre-paid admissions (they aren’t free like museums in DC) and let us skip the lines – if we did not have one, it would have been impossible to see and do all of what we were able to.

We parked the car outside the city walls, and walked into Florence over the Ponte Vecchio – which is an old bridge with stores along it, and was very crowded and a bit underwhelming (or overhyped) in my opinion. Regardless, there were some great views.

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The main piazza (from what I could tell was the main one), Piazza della Signoria, was outside of a fortress/palace/town hall, the Palazzo Vecchio, and displayed a large number of sculptures. The two below are my favorite, the one on the left, I believe according to Rick Steves, is one of the first pieces of art made to be viewed at any angle. The fountain on the right, I know nothing about, but I love the attitude in his face.

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Inside the fortress/palace/town hall, the Palazzo Vecchio, was more art featuring naked men (wahoo!), maps, and history of Italy and Florence. The sculpture below represents the triumph of Florence over Siena (thanks again, Rick Steves), however I think it just looks hilarious and confusing. Palazzo Vecchio - Florence over SienaPalazzo Vecchio Map Room

If you’ve been following the blog, you’ll recognize the style of the outside of the cathedral in Florence, it looks quite similar to the Duomo in Siena, Siena had built theirs to compete with Florence.  The inside, however, is not as decorative. Quite plain in comparison to Siena’s “cover every inch” decorating philosophy.
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We didn’t do any shopping in Florence at all, however there were quite a lot of stores (and adorable guard dogs). Florence shopping pup DSC_0860

As the museums were closing that evening, we walked along the river and scaled a very steep hill (maybe a mile high), with a fresh pizza and bottle of wine, in order to watch the sun set over the city. It was crowded up there, and we were sweaty from the climb, but it was worth it.   DSC_0878 DSC_0879 DSC_0887 DSC_0891 DSC_0894 DSC_0904 DSC_0906

I know I was there, and I took the photos, but I’m even now still in disbelief over how beautiful this city was. Anyone booking a flight to Florence right now? Take me with you!!