Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Papal Audience and Vatican Museums - Italy Part 2

Even if you aren't Catholic or religious I highly recommend seeing St Peters Square, St Peters Basilica and the Vatican Museums as although they are one of the most attended attractions in the world, they are worth it to see as each are amazing on their own.  We are baptised Catholics and the kids went to Catholic School but we are really nonpractising due to our own reasons.  The school system was chosen as was the best available to the kids at the time.   All of these sites are free to see with the exception of the Vatican museums.

Monday morning before our Colosseum tour we ventured out to St Peters Square to try and obtain Papal Audience tickets for Wednesday.  He does a Papal Audience every Wednesday that he is in the city, completely free of charge. You can see his schedule usually a couple of months out at the Prefecture of the Papal Household.   There are several ways to get tickets and this romewise post explains the best options if you live in the USA.  You can request them directly by fax from the Vatican or via email if American from US based churches.  For those of us in Canada fax was the only option unless trying through your Church.  We don't have a fax machine even though we have a business as there is zero need based on everyone scanning and emailing things these days.  Our local business center which we use for printing has one so I tried that a couple months in advance.  After 20 tries I gave up.  We and everyone else in the world who wanted to see the pope was trying the fax method.  Next up there appeared to be several tour companies that would provide tickets and a guide for the Papal audience at the price of about $50 each.  I refused to do that as everything that I read said they should be free - and with four of us I was not willing to shell out for that (money does not go to the church but the guide in that case).  Finally I asked the boys if they wanted to try and get tickets when we were in Rome and we all agreed - I didn't want anyone to be disappointed if we couldn't see him.



I used the romewise advice and we ventured out to try and find the Swiss Guard at the bronze doors in St Peters Square and ask for 4 tickets.  When we were trying to find the bronze doors a man who appeared to be trying to sell tours asked us what we were looking for.  We told him Papal Audience tickets.  Instead of trying to sell us something he said go to ANY Swiss Guard around the Vatican and ask for the tickets.  As we had just accidentally tried to walk in one of the entrances to Vatican City that was blocked off and been stopped by a Swiss Guard a few minutes previous we back tracked and asked that same guard for tickets - and just like that we had four!  No need to find a special guard, any of them carry tickets!  The Swiss Guard are easy to spot as they wear an interesting and colourful Elizabethan looking uniform (pictures of the guards later in the Pope picture).


CLICK ON ANY PICTURE FOR MUCH LARGER VIEW

Large lineup for Vatican Museums - those without tickets prepurchased (500 people long)

Gate to St Peters Square
Papal Audience Ticket

St Peter's Square is truly beautiful and if in Rome you should go see it - when there are no audiences or masses you can visit it and take pictures.  The most guards/police presence we saw in Italy was at Vatican City.  We decided we didn't want to get up at the crack of dawn to get closer to the front and I think we chose correctly.  We arrived at 830 am and after going through metal detectors and submitting to a purse/bag search we managed to snag the last row of seats.  There is plenty of standing room though I cannot stand for long periods of time as have low blood pressure and have a tendancy to faint so I was really hoping on seats.  Guess what?  They did not check our tickets.  They did not ask for our tickets - so for anyone in Rome on a Wednesday that the Pope is doing a Papal Audience I suggest you just go and try and get in if you weren't able to get tickets in advance.  I think it is more likely they are printed to determine crowd size.  They do not have manpower to also check tickets.  There are special sitting areas for dignitaries and those were certainly checked but not the regular crowd.  It was a bit like attending a giant rock concert of 80,000 people who were remarkably well behaved and not smoking pot lol.  There was a bit of pushing and shoving when the Pope showed up in his Pope-mobile at 9:30 and drove around St Peter's Square.  The Audience offically starts at 10:00 am and it lasts for just over an hour.  As this is not a Mass it is said in many languages through the Pope and other Priests.  The Pope did the Latin and Spanish addresses.  It mostly recognized large Church groups in attendance and was a blessing.  At the end if you had a religious article you wanted blessed you could stand in yet another line to do so.  We left at that point as had to try and navigate the crowds to get back to our apartment.
Police at  St Peters Square on Papal Audience Day

Crowd starting to build at 8am St Peters Square

Entrance to St Peters Basilica and the stage where the Pope would be

The Pope!  Yes, he is in that tiny white robe, no closeup shots - Swiss Guards either side
 I am really glad we actually did it - it was something to see and as the saying goes "When in Rome" or actually "When in Vatican City".  After a light lunch at our AirBNB we headed back out for our 2pm slot at the Vatican Museums.  Unless wanting to take a tour (we did not want that) you should purchase your tickets in advance online at the Offical Vatican Museum Website.  You purchase skip the line tickets or guided tours.  We prefer to do museums at our own pace but hate lineups so I am so glad I bought them ahead of time as both days we walked by the Vatican Museum ticket lineup there had to be 500 people waiting.  I don't know what can wreck a vacation faster than skipping a site as you can't get tickets or waiting 4 hours in line.  Even then, so many people are in the museum at one time you have to go with the crowd like a tide.  It was worth it even though I hate crowds.  There was a section on Ancient Egypt including a couple of Mummies, there were Roman sarcaphaguses and sculptures, of course the Sistine Chapel (no pics allowed of that) with Michelango's art and loads and loads of Masters work on the ceilings and walls all through the Museums.  My favorite was the Gallery of maps which held old maps from discoverer days and every inch was painted and lit up.  The Sistine Chapel was something to see - but - the guards were very loud yelling at people to keep moving and no pictures (some ignored that and were chastised rightly so) so we whipped through it and were out the other side.
View of Rome from Vatican Museums
Vatican Museum


ceiling at the Gallery of Maps Vatican Museums

Entrance to Sistine Chapel

Rodin's Thinker (there are many casts of this in museums around the world)








I didn't realize this but if you pay for the Vatican Museums instead of standing in line to see St Peters Basilica at the end you have a separate entrance straight into the Basilica with no waiting.  That was the most amazing Church and is apparently the largest Catholic Church in the world.


St Peter's Basilica

St Peter's Basilica
It was a very full day but a rewarding one - kind of mind blowing to see the Pope in the morning and works of Art we have all heard about all in one day.  The Vatican Museums hold so many treasures it is almost a shame that you cannot spend more time there.  Major works of art were just being walked by as there are so many there that one cannot stand out from another.  Picassos not even looked at as the entrance to the Sistine Chapel was up ahead.

Ok, so now I have to ask the question - how much money does the Vatican take in from the Museums?  A lot.  Probably enough to wipe out Italy's debt to the EU in a three month timeframe.  I will not get into the politics of that but - I don't necessarily agree with that.  Over 6 million people visited the Vatican Museums in 2017 - it is the 4th most visited Museum in the world.  As Vatican City is considered a different country than Italy none of the money it intakes goes to Italian roads/infrastructure.  There are only 500 actual fulltime residents of Vatican City. 

Anyway, it certainly was something to see and one of my favorite days of the trip.  Next up - high speed train to Salerno including a tour of Pompeii and ferry ride to Amalfi.

Observations:

Rome has a garbage problem.  Too much garbage generated by tax payers and tourists, not enough pickup.  Every trash bin we saw was full to bursting which means if it gets windy it blows garbage around.  Some areas have recycling, some like the area around the Vatican do not.

Rome and Vatican City have many amazing free attractions:  The Pantheon, St Peters Square, St Peters Basilica, many fountains and monuments - expect lineups at all of them though

We enjoyed our visit to Rome much better than I thought we would. It was always one of those places I was hesitant to visit with a lousy reputation for ripping off people and being nasty to tourists.  Neither happened, we all thoroughly enjoyed our visit.  The only drawback at all was the crowds. If you want better accomodation prices with great metro connections I highly recommend staying near the Vatican.  There are many religious groups who stay near there so there are far more family type properties available much cheaper than near the Colosseum.  The Colosseum had far more vehicle traffic in that area.  I am glad we stayed where we did.  Also - Rome and the Vatican are busy noisy cities.  You can't get away from that no matter where you stay.  Take ear plugs.

Graffiti - I expected far more.  The only grafitti we saw in Rome was near the train stops, not on buildings.  Far less than other cities plagued with it like Athens.

Food:  It was expensive but not nearly as expensive as Paris.  One of the cheapest things you can eat in Italy is Pizza, I tried several but the margherita was my favorite.  Very basic but the best mozzerella cheese you've ever tasted.  In Rome they usually went for around 8 -10 Euro individual sized (fairly large though).  In Salerno you could get the same for five Euro at a nice waterfront pizza place.



22 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing your trip and hints with us!

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    1. You are very welcome! I do massive amounts of research on these trips and would like to pass along all that time spent :)

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  2. The Pope is coming to Geneva on 21 June and they are expecting about 45,000 people to attend! I'm expecting a horrendous commute. I'm not Catholic but I do like this Pope though. As for getting ripped off, we didn't in Rome but Naples - that's another matter. Your photos are beautiful by the way. Anna

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    1. I like this Pope too, that is why we made the effort to see him. I'm glad we did, a little piece of modern history. I've heard that about Naples, was one of the reasons we ended up staying in Salerno instead and I really liked it there

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  3. The next best thing to BEING there is to experience through your words and photos! I’m having a ball and feel like I’ve been hanging out with you in Rome today!

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    1. Thanks Linda! I bet your feet don't hurt like mine did lol

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  4. Sounds like a fabulous visit to the Vatican. Looks like you did lots of homework in advance and made the most of the visit. This is definitely on my list one day and so is Pompeii!

    www.travelwithkevinandruth.com

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    1. If I had to do it over I would have chosen earlier in the year to go but one stepson couldn't go until end of April. It was almost too warm and the crowds large. As for Pompeii I think we actually lucked out as the day we visited it had been raining and the crowds were not nearly what they usually are. Also I had checked the cruise ship schedule and no ships were at Naples or Salerno that day so it was just regular tourists - that made a difference. I found a really reasonable 2 hr tour (15 Euro each) that was excellent - will post about that

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  5. m getting a little anxious about Paris prices, but with the apartments, I know we will just plan some humble meals. I love your details. I do want to go to Italy, but it will be may years, so I can enjoy through your eyes for now.

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    1. Don't worry about Paris prices except avoid eating out, perhaps plan each day so you can return to your apartment for meals/pack snacks and water. We used the Metro a lot - it's 1.90 Euro pp per trip but they had 10 packs which were cheaper and also multi day trips. Consider grouping which days you need to take the metro and which days you don't to save money there. We ate out 2 meals a day (the boys have to eat 3 solid but we don't, they eat like horses). It was around 15-20 Euro to eat out per person no matter if you had water/pop or a beer or wine. And we went to regular neighborhood bistros - but the food was good.

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  6. wonderful to read about your trip - bought back happy memories! :)

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    1. Glad you enjoyed Italy too! It was definitely a great trip

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  7. My head is spinning just reading about all that you saw and experienced. I studied the art and architecture while taking fine arts at uni and have always wanted to go see the actual buildings and artifacts but so far no go. I enjoyed your posts and felt like I was right along there beside you :)

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    1. You would love it. So much to see, but next time I would go in a slightly lower seas

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  8. What a fab read. I'm so glad you got to see the Pope and enjoyed the experience. The museum looks incredible but I'm with you on the money making, just another reason why I'm a rampant atheist although I do think the current pope had good intentions with regards to refugees and supporting birth control.
    Keep the travel posts coming. xxx

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    1. I think the current Pope is the best of all of them, truly seems to be charitable and kind

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  9. Wow, wow, wow! Absolutely must get there someday.

    I do find it a bit sad to think that all the funds remain with the Vatican. I suppose there is some charity funding out of the revenues they receive...at least I hope so.

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    1. They do fund a lot of charities, not enough I think though

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  10. Tomorrow is our day to spend at the the Vatican. We arrived yesterday noonish and I have to say the crowds are way more that I expected. Looking for ward to a special day tomorrow. I think everything that you mentioned is on our list to see.

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    1. The Vatican Museums were incredible. I would do that again.

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  11. I am not a Catholic nor a fan at all of Catholicism. However, I would consider the Vatican and museums and churches as history, art, and amazing sights to see. I would never avoid history, art, and sights just because of any religion. It sounds like you are having an amazing experience .Practical Parsimony

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    1. You're right, it was an amazing time

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