Saturday, April 13, 2013

Grand Tour of Italy Day 14 Vatican City and Farewell Dinner

Day 14 Friday March 29, 2013
Good Friday at Vatican City
Farewell Dinner, Grotta Azzurra


Wow, I'm waking up today in Rome, Italy. I cannot believe it. The Eternal City and I'm see its sky, breathing its air. I'm pretty sure this is not a dream.

The weather looks promising for our last day in Italy. The sun is trying to break through the clouds and the foggy mist has lifted. I'm very hopeful.

Well, I was hopeful until Jay and I made our way downstairs in the Hotel Borromini for the breakfast buffet. The buffet was decimated and it was only 7:05 AM. Our group is wandering around looking very lost. No hot food, no breads, and most importantly NO COFFEE MACHINE!!! We had to flag down one of the two very apologetic waiters to get our espressos and cappuccinos  They were trying to get food out as fast as they could but it was not a good scene. (Misia was very upset and said there was a mix up, the Hotel staff thought our group was leaving at 9 AM not 7:45 AM)

Images from our ride to the Vatican, click here.

Regardless, we have a 7:45 lobby call for our ride to the Vatican. We stop just outside the Vatican wall to pick up our "special Vatican radios."
Then we meet Ioanna at the Vatican Museum gate.
After 1/2 hour waiting for folks to use the bathrooms, we finally enter the Museum. We head upstairs to the courtyard and Ioanna gives us a briefing on the Vatican, the museum collections, the Sistine Chapel and the art of Michelangelo.

Images from our day at The Vatican Museum, click here.

Because Ioanna is a certified Vatican Guide, she has access to the Sistine Chapel Slide show. She gives us things to look for once we enter the chapel. I know that no photography is allowed in the Chapel so I take some images off the slide show. The artwork is now copyrighted. Read about it here.
I only wanted to take one picture of one piece of a fresco but I had to settle with a screen shot...
More slide show images, click here.
On our way to the Chapel we pass through the halls of some amazing pieces from centuries past. Including a sculpture that is said to have inspired Michelangelo.
There are many statues, tiled floors and tapestries.
There is even a collection of ancient maps.
And of course, the ceilings are all elaborately decorated.

We finally enter the Sistine Chapel and the place is full of people and police. The Vatican Police are roaming through the crowd stopping people from taking pictures and telling folks "No Talking." I even saw one of the undercover guys make a man delete all his images off his memory card. You also cannot sit on the floor only the benches provided. I sat down and the nasty undercover dude came over and told me "No sitting on the floor."

After our brief but overwhelming time in the Sistine Chapel we make our way through a "secret" passage to Saint Peter's Basilica. You are only allowed to take this hallway if you are with a certified guide or one of the priests associated with the Vatican. We even get a glimpse of the stairs the Cardinals took to reach the Chapel to vote on the new pope just a few weeks ago.
Outside the Basilica, they are setting up for the weekend's events. The Vatican Holy Week schedule is packed: Chrism Mass at Saint Peter’s Basilica, yesterday Holy Thursday morning, followed by Mass at a youth detention center that evening (this stirred up some controversy when the new Pope washed the feet of two young women there.) Today, Good Friday, he will preside over a Communion service and the Veneration of the Cross in St. Peter’s Basilica at 5:00 p.m. local time. The pontiff then travels to the Colosseum to lead the  Stations of the Cross at 9:15 p.m. The prayers for the 14 stations were written by two Lebanese youths with the help of Cardinal Bechara Rai.
The church is massive and fairly crowded but according to Ioanna and Misia it's the fewest number they've seen on Good Friday in 30 years of conducting tours. Ioanna points out at the Pope's Chair is in a different spot for Holy Week, another indication of this rebel Pope?
They allow photography, even flash photography in the Basilica because the artwork is mostly tiled work not frescoes.
More images from St. Peter's Basilica, click here.

We wind our way through the crowds and make it back outside. We walk through the square to the Gift shop/Cafeteria for gifts, stamps for postcards and lunch. On the way I spot a few Swiss Guard!
We buy 10 euros of stamps for 5 postcards to the USA. The sit down to a not so yummy lunch of two rotini with veggies and fish, two pane (bread), one cappuccino and one cafe americano at the Il Colonnato for 21,80 euros. We chase this down with a dark chocolate and a pistachio gelato for 4 euros each.

Back at the hotel we freshen up and packed up the suitcases. Then went out looking for a grocery store. We ran into Jen and Morgan in the
and we all go off looking for the Tigre Alimentari.  We grab some beers, wine and plane munchies (for our trip home on Saturday). While walking back to the hotel we see a car accident!
Looks like a car and motorcycle collided. More accident images, click here

We had heard folks complaining about no TV on Thursday (we never turned ours on...at any of the hotels) and saw Noreen taking pictures around the Hotel. She said to check out the sixth floor so we did... apparently there was a fire on Thursday that blew out the TV cable system...NICE. 

I take a swim in the jacuzzi and get ready for our farewell dinner at Grotta Azzurra. Dinner was lovely. Raviolis with a pizza dough like bread; salad and turkey with a light tomato basil sauce and Birthday Tiramisu for Julie!!

We end the evening with a toast to a GRAND Grand Tour of Italy!
More dinner images, click here.

Up on Saturday. There is breakfast today because most people have already left for the airport. Our shuttle leaves the hotel at 11 AM and we get to the airport too early for our gate check in...so we wait. Noontime the gate opens and we get our boarding passes. Now we hang out for a few more hours. Lunch at 12:30, flight at 3 PM.
We eat at the MyChef and get two paninis, cafe americano, cappuccino for 14, 50 euros. I FINALLY get a cannoli! Two cannoli and a fruit salad at the Autogrill for 8,00 euros. Can you tell I'm trying to spend down my euros...and a BOUNTY Bar for 1,70 euors. I think I came home with 1,20 euros.
More flight images, click here.
After a very long, cramped flight in Economy (with great views of the Alps though) we land in Boston/Logan and drive for 2:15 to get to Vermont.
Home Sweet, Home!

What an AWESOME TRIP!! 
We traveled with a GREAT group of people who were like family for two weeks!
Would I recommend this Trip--ABSOLUTELY
Would I book with Go Ahead Tours Again--ABSOLUTELY

Grazie e Arrivederci

Vatican City, Farewell Dinner March 29 Day 14
Leave Day March 30 Day 15
Grand Tour of Italy
Go Ahead Tours
March 16-30, 2013
Copyright ©2013 Nancy Nutile-McMenemy
www.photosbynanci.com
More images of Italy: http://photosbynanci.smugmug.com/GrandTourofItaly

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