On Christmas Eve we set out early for the Vatican to see St. Peters Basilica, the Vatican museums, and the Sistine Chapel. The Vatican is on the other side of the Tiber so we had a bit farther to go than usual but still only about 15 minutes by metro. Once we got off the metro we set off on foot, in the opposite direction of the Vatican. We were rewarded for our incompetence when we found a nice cafe where we had our first taste of real Italian coffee. We both had espressos for only 70 euro cents each and it was the best coffee either of us have ever had. This was the beginning of our daily Italian coffee stop - in addition to having coffee with dinner whenever we ate out. After our coffee stop, we continued along on our misguided path for another 5 minutes before we turned around. At the Vatican we took in the tremendous views of the Basilica and entered after a short wait in line. The Basilica is absolutely enormous, everywhere one looks is another statue of a former pope or of a bible story, and every wall is adorned with designs made with different types of marble. The building itself is truly a work of art, not to mention the many paintings and sculptures.
After taking in the Basilica we moved along to the Vatican museums. The museums reminded me a lot of Le Louvre in Paris. The halls are filled with art and we were overwhelmed a bit with seeing everything. There are collections of Egyptian, Roman, Greek, Classical, and Modern art devoted to different religions, but primarily Christianity. The museums led to the Sistine Chapel, the pope's private chapel. The Sistine Chapel is really an incredible site, every wall is covered with tapestries and of course on the ceiling is Michaelangelo's masterpiece, 'Last Judgement.'
After the Vatican we walked towards the Castle Saint Angelo, which protected the Vatican in former times. We learned later that the Castle was built on this spot because as a painting of Mary was being carried through the streets of Rome to ward off the Plague, an angel appeared to the Pope at this sight. The Pope declared that he had seen the angel sheath his sword, a sign that the Plague would end. Our hunger prevented us from going inside, we continued to cross back over the Tiber and roamed the streets in search of a restaurant. We found a nice little place where the waiters spoke only Italian, always a good sign that it's not too touristy and thus not over-priced. We had mussels, baked lasagna, and some Roman soup that was all quite nice. We then set out to meet a friend of mine from Wageningen at the Pantheon where we chatted awhile, had some gelatto and spent the remainder of the day walking about Rome.
We didn't attend Christmas Eve service at the Vatican because they charged admission and that didn't seem quite right to us, we also were quite limited in our options because transportation was nearly shut down around town for the holiday.
Other notes - we're just relaxing today in Sarlat. I am reading some things for my thesis, my advisor sent a paper on public policy and why development sociologists should study it. I believe that it is what we are looking for as something that is not community and is not the market. It's possible to study how people respond to various policies using the actor-oriented approach and to use these studies to improve policies. Amanda is reading and relaxing before school starts again.
Thanks for reading, Andrew