Adventures in Roma – Part 1

Before I jump into a massive review of my 4 days in Rome, I wanted to say a huge thank you to Sarah from Remembering The Executed and Sarah’s History for looking after the facebook page while I was away. And also a massive thank you to Regina Jeffers and Susan Abernethy for their fantastic guest posts too!

I’m going to start from our second day in the city of Rome because on day 1 we did little more than travel, get hopelessly confused on the metro and ended up in a super expensive restaurant on the advice of the receptionist at our hotel. Anyway, on our second day (which was also my 24th birthday!) we headed for the Vatican. Once we arrived at the correct metro station (we got off at the wrong one originally!), we had a wander and found the Vatican Museum but ended up super dismayed at the massive queues so went for a wander elsewhere. And then we got hopelessly lost and discovered that in Italy, things aren’t signposted very well (even massive stuff like St Peter’s Basilica!) and you really need a map if you’re doing anything in the city of Rome. So after I sat down due to having a massive hypoglycemic attack (Type 1 diabetes and 40 degree heat really doesn’t mix well), we asked for some directions and found we were actually nearly there! So off we toddled around to the main piazza, stopped off in a little souvenir shop to buy a couple of hats because we had been very silly and forgot to bring any sort of hat with us (seriously, it was needed!) and started to make our way towards St Peter’s Basilica.

As we made our way across the Piazza, we were stopped by a young man with a very strange accent. It was a mix of both welsh and American – we later discovered that the reason for this was because he had spent many years studying at the American University of Rome, and had thus picked up the accent. Anyway, it seems he was part of a tour guide company and spoke to us about what they did. And after seeing the queues at the museum we jumped at the chance of a guided tour and the chance to skip the queues. So off we went with the tour guide, handed over 40 euros (ouch!!! Bit steep, but ended up being totally worth it!) and headed into the first stop of the tour – the Vatican Museums.

I’ll say here now that the guy who was our tour guide was utterly fantastic and terribly knowledgeable. Whilst we didn’t spend that much time in the museums, he showed us all the really important stuff and afterwards we had the chance to stay on and go to St Peter’s with him or spend more time in the museums. I never caught his name, but if the awesome American tour guide who took us on a tour on the 31st July is reading this then thank you!

One of the first views we were given after entering the museums was that of St Peter’s basilica. I was utterly stunned when I saw it, and felt a little teary. Our tour guide then explained that when the Church was built, the Pope at the time ordered that no building in the city would be built higher than the church. That’s why you don’t see any skyscrapers and super duper tall buildings in the city of Rome!

I have to admit that I spent the majority of the time in the museum looking up at the stunning ceilings.


We then found ourselves in a beautiful courtyard full of lovely marble statues, and the guide explained that most of the statues we would see wouldn’t actually have their er…genitalia…instead we would see fig leaves covering the area. The reason for this is that the Pope decided that naked men in his museum wasn’t really so appropriate. So he hired some artisans to get their chisels and chisel off their bits.

In this same courtyard was this statue. Now I’m not too hot on my Roman history, obviously as I’m sure you’re aware I’m more into my seventeenth century stuff. But this statue is apparently super famous and went missing for like, 1000 years. Then not so long ago, some peasant dug it up in his back garden and it was immediately recognised. Now, apparently the museum celebrates its birthday on the day that this statue was found. As I say, I’m not hot on my Roman history, but it is certainly a stunning piece of art! The piece is called “il gruppo del lacoonte” and shows a scene from the Aenid, written by Virgil.

There was one room in the museums that was a miniature replica of the Pantheon, and even had the domed ceiling – albeit without the occulus in the middle. I was absolutely stunned when I walked into this room, and even more so when our guide explained what the massive tub thing was in the middle of the room…

 Now, this tub is one of the most expensive things in the entire Vatican museum. It’s made of a stone that is apparently super expensive and costs millions per square metre or however stone is measures. Now then, this bath tub belonged to Emperor Nero who, thanks to Horrible Histories, is one of my favourite Roman Emperors despite that fact he was a nasty piece of work.

The Gallery of Tapestries was probably one of my favourite galleries in the entire museum. Flash photography wasn’t allowed in here so I did my best to get some good pictures. But the main reasons I loved this gallery so much is because this is all Renaissance era work, designed by the famous Raphael. Below are some pictures of these most exquisite tapestries:

Directly after this gallery was the Gallery of Maps, in which there are a series of maps showing parts of Italy and if you line up every single one of these maps they make a massive map of Italy! I thought that was awesome. Also, this room has the most stunning roof of all time.

Obviously, inside the Sistine Chapel we weren’t able to take photographs. Whilst I found the paintings absolutely exquisite, especially Michelangelo’s Last Judgement, due to the sheer amount of people crushed into the room I didn’t feel as if I could appreciate the room to its full extent. A shame. Instead, after we said good bye to our tour guide we went and had a further wander around the museums. Have a few more pictures.

Coptic tablet in the Egyptian Gallery.

Shabi figurines – Egyptian gallery
Me and Anubis are totes best buddies

Following the Egyptian rooms, we endeavoured to make our way to the Borgia apartments. You lot already know that I adore the Borgia family, so as we were there I just had to go and see the rooms in which Pope Alexander VI lived, the rooms in which Cesare Borgia was said to commit many atrocities. I’ll mention now that before we took our leave from our tour guide, he started spouting a load of rubbish about the Borgia family saying that they poisoned each other and were inherently evil and Cesare was definitely involved with his sister. I had to bite my tongue and walk away before I said something I would regret. Anyway, as we were wandering around the Borgia apartments I found myself tearing up quite badly. I have a massive respect for Lucrezia Borgia so when I saw the following fresco, I may have gotten a little emotional.

The blonde woman in the centre of this fresco is wildly said to be Lucrezia, and this image is featured heavily in all the Borgia books I have read. It was a very emotional moment for me when I walked in and saw this painting, and stood in front of an image of the lovely Lucrezia.

I also did a very short video of the fresco.

The ceilings of the Borgia apartments were also covered in the insignia of the Borgia bull. I was utterly blown away by the beautiful ceilings, and saw their coat of arms and the Borgia bull.

After I’d finished having a massive flail and sob session in the Borgia apartments, we made our way out to St Peter’s, via a sweet little gift shop in which there were Nuns serving behind the counter. I thought that was pretty cool and ended up buying a rather sweet necklace off of them. Anyway, gift shops aside, we entered St Peters.

I was blown away when we walked through those doors, absolutely blown away. The entire church was just stunning, and although I’m not really all that religious I found myself getting a little emotional. The photos of St Peter’s that I took aren’t that great as my camera thought it would be fun to throw a hissy fit, so below are the best of a bad bunch.

This list of Pope’s vexed us somewhat because it certainly isn’t a list of their reign as Pope. I took a closer photo of part of it to show you guys what I mean:

I mean, you’ve got Alexander VI with a date of 1503, and also Pius III with 1503. Any ideas?

Thanks to MadamGuillotine for explaining this – and to be honest as a Borgia lover I probably should have known this. It seems to be a list explaining the dates of death and burial of the Popes. Pius III succeeded Alexander VI in 1503, but died like a month later. That makes more sense now.

And that is when my camera battery died. After this we made our way out of the church and headed back to the Metro, or at least tried to because we got hopelessly lost. We ended up sitting on the pavement in a tiny side street and breaking out google maps (darn you data roaming charges just so we can find our bearings). But we made it back to the hotel, very tired and with really achy feet. But it was totally worth it!

This entry was posted in ancient rome, lucrezia borgia, photo post, pope alexander vi, raphael, rome, st peter's basilica, vatican city, visits. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Adventures in Roma – Part 1

  1. Pius III succeeded Alexander VI as Pope for only about a month in autumn 1503 so there were effectively two papacies that ended that year. 🙂

    I think, therefore, it's a list of when Popes were buried in St Peters rather than giving dates of their papacies.

    /art history graduate hat

  2. Sam says:

    Ah thank you for that 🙂

  3. Tinney Heath says:

    Loved all the pictures! We were there recently, and it brought back lots of memories. You were brave to go in the summer heat – we have only gone to Italy in early spring or late fall. BTW, you can get tickets for the Vatican museums online beforehand and skip the lines.

  4. Sam says:

    Ah, I had no idea you could get tickets online. Goes to show that planning is essential (we didn't plan at all before we even left xD)

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