As we were staying in a Bed and Breakfast we woke up Wednesday morning to pastries and a delicious cappuccino. Seriously I am going to look like a European snob when I get back home because I am going to drink cappuccinos all the time.
Our plan for the day was to basically scope out the pope. His Holiness would speak at 11 in Vatican City so we joined the huge crowd and basically turned to mush on the metro from being squished by so many people. Following the crowd to the Vatican we entered the huge square. While there were a TON of people I actually was surprised that it wasn't completely full. We scored a seat near the back of the audience and joined in the cheering when the pope drove through the crowds in a car. He spoke in Italian but translated some messages and a blessing in English, Spanish, German, French, and I think Russian. Enormous groups of students were there from Spain and they were so excited it made the pope smile. He blessed us and our families and sent us on our way.
Next stop, St. Peter's, the massive church of the Vatican. Somehow we got in line way before everyone else and were able to enter when the pope was done blessing various "religious artifacts" brought by pilgrims. It was pretty enormous, and overwhelming. I can't say I would consider it to be the most ornate or beautiful church I have seen but it did have the most statues, including the Pieta, and was by far the largest.
After this we entered the Vatican Museum which houses the Sistine Chapel. Let me tell you, it is a BEAST. To get to the Sistine Chapel you have to literally walk through a labyrinth of rooms for hours and it is at the very end, right after a display of modern religious art that disconnected the chapel from the themes and styles of the rest of the works in the museum. We saw some amazing statues and intricate ceiling artwork, but it was a little distracting since we wanted to go to the Chapel first and then enjoy the rest without worrying about crowds. However this was impossible so I am sad that we had to rush through some of the museum. When we finally got to the Chapel, it was honestly a little anticlimactic. The ceiling is towering, and difficult to see when you are smushed up against a ton of other people bumping into you and being noisy because they are squinting upward and can't see where they are walking. That being said, since I feel like I am complaining, it was a beautiful work of art. I am really glad I got to see it, but I think the masses of people made the whole museum a little...less than spiritually focused.
After this we did a little souvenir shopping (signed pictures of the pope, rosaries, cheap sunglasses, anyone?) and grabbed some sandwiches to head to the Spanish Steps. After tales of torturous climbs I was relieved to see that they weren't as massive as feared. We all relaxed at the top for a while inside the church and then headed over to Trevi Fountain to see it in the daylight. We grabbed some dinner (I tried spicy penne all'arrabbiata, yum, and Kaitlyn and Amanda tried the traditional veal saltimbocca) and then headed back to our favorite gelato place where yet again I had the best gelato of my life. No really this time it was my favorite: amaretto flavor. It tasted like the way I make ice cream at home...vanilla with cherry juice and chocolate sauce, mixed together, only better. Ahhhhh yes. Anyway we took our gelato back over to Trevi and enjoyed the night sounds and sights.
You may be wondering why I am writing this in the afternoon when we were planning on tackling all of the major sights in Rome today. Well, we are having some trouble booking tickets from Spain to Maastricht at the end of our trip (apparently they are all full) so we are looking up train schedules and alternate routes. I'm sure it will all work out but we are just trying to figure it out first and then we are heading first to the Colosseum! Ciao!