Today was packed due to the fact that I didn't take the Colosseum tour yesterday. I knew I was glutton for punishment, but I had to see the Vatican and knew I needed a guide to help me through it, and I wanted to get inside the Colosseum without waiting hours in line. So I dove in head first, got soaked and punished my feet just a little more. Hey, it's the last full day, you gotta go all out, right?
How can I describe this place? The Vatican City is a massive self sufficient country in itself. The Vatican is heavily visited - with over 26,000 visitors daily. They have their own currency, political system, communications systems and walls to protect. There are over 300,000 art pieces here in the Vatican.
We began outside by meeting our guide. One thing that is great about today's guided tours is that everyone gets a 'sound system' to wear around their neck tuned to a channel we could hear our guide better through the headsets. Awesome! We whiz by a line of people about two blocks long at 8:30am to get inside the crowded lobby, where our guide gets our tickets. We go through full-on airport like security to get onto the Vatican grounds. We rush around other tour groups to get a good spot in the gardens so that our guide can begin. In the garden square there are about six sets of all-weather posters showing photos of the Sistine Chapel in detail, along with more information about it. Our guide tells us that Michelangelo was 61 years old when he started the Last Judgement, in a time where people didn't usually live over 40.
We are ushered quickly into the halls of the Vatican where we see impressive works of art, sculptures, maps, globes, tapestries and woodwork from all time. The hall with sculptures is so crowded with sculptures, it's hard to really see one for all it's glory. There are hundreds of people lining the halls, forcing us to walk awkwardly to ourselves as to not disturb another person. We don't have time to linger, as our guide keeps pushing on through pointing out things of great interest and urging us to keep up else we will lose our link to him and would not be able to hear him anymore. We are moved from room to room, hall to hall with expert swiftness, along the way being directed to see particular items of interest.
The Sistine Chapel is a beautiful chapel in which one is supposed to be forbidden to talk. The chapel itself is quite large in square footage, and very tall. Unfortunately, there were so many people in the chapel there wasn't much room to stand let alone sit. As you enter the chapel, the security guards urge you to move along the outside perimeter to go to the back of the room. There is a roar of talking echoing through the room, as people point and talk to their friends about this or that. Every five minutes the guard yells "Silence... No talking, no phones, no photos". For about one full second the room falls quiet, and the murmors come right back, growing in decibel levels. Man that was a bummer. I used my best grandma "don't even thing about talking" look to shut up my neighbors to no avail. People were gonna talk. This chapel is astounding. The ceiling Michelangelo painted was exquisite, amazing and full of stories. The "Last Judgement" piece is on the altar wall, and is profoundly ahead of its time. Michelangelo painted this 25 years after finishing the ceiling. It is absolutely breath taking in person.
I know I posted pictures of the Colosseum at night last night, but today is the day I take a tour of the inside of the Colosseum. I learn that the structure itself is sitting on what used to be a man-made lake actually, and the Colosseum was an attempt by the Flavian empire to restore Rome to it's glory pre civil war. Emperor Vespasian was the emperor that started the efforts. With approx. 90,000 jewish slaves and 8 years, the Colosseum was completed. According to the guide, no mortar of any kind holds the gigantic blocks together. The reason why only part of it is standing is due to earthquakes over the years, and the fact that part of the colosseum is actually on more stable ground.
The guide tells us that there were more hunting games in the Colosseum than gladiators fighting each other to the death, and that gladiators dying wasn't as wide-spread as some say. We go inside and see the center oval, part of it covered by a wood floor, the other exposed so we can see what is under. The guide tells us that when they hunted in the arena, the emperor of that time would spare no expense completely setting up the area like the natural habitat of the animals being hunted. She also mentions that the gladiator never knew where the animal was going to come out, as there were several options and it was not discussed prior to 'game time'.
The Roman Forums
I think this was my favorite part of the afternoon tour. We walked through the Roman Forums and imagine how early romans lived once Palestine was designated as the strongest. We learn about the forum, how it was the center of Rome for a very long time, at least as early as 8 centuries BC. How Julius Caesar built here and lived here, Augustus his great nephew continued growing the area after he was gone. We learn that the forum was flooded many times and at one point was under about 60 meters of sediment that had settled there over the years, causing romans to make second doors in certain structures. We learn about how Rome's center moved once water was no longer easily found in that area. We climb the Palestine hill and see the amazing views out across the land. It was so amazing to be standing among ruins that were so very old. Completely mind blowing.