Transcendence, Sore Feet and Grandeur at St. Peter’s Basilica – Vatican City, Italy

Following my last post on the Vatican Musuems, take this one as a continuation in both spirit and layout form.

What does it feel like to be illuminated from the inside out, to feel like your mouth will never fully close from all the grandeur around you and to not even care that your feet are screaming bloody murder with each and every step. Take a visit to St Peters Basilica after spending the previous day walking all over Florence and you’re almost guaranteed to feel the same way.

After finishing up in the museum, our small tour group wound it’s way towards what would be the grand finale, St. Peters Basilica.

Fun fact, while this canopy over the alter may look massive, let me assure it it’s even larger than you would think. Bernini’s baldacchino is 96 feet tall and contains about 100,000 pounds of bronze… thats right, bronze. A reason it might not look as large as it really is would be because the dome above it is a staggering 452 feet.

There is never a moment when you are not just standing here in awe, utterly dwarfed by it all.

To say this was a magnificent end to a morning full of wonder would be an understatement. It’s hard to fully state just how beautiful, awe-inspiring and humbling it is to visit a place like the Vatican and know you’ve only seen maybe 10% of all that is to see. I have a friend who’s been here four times already and is still ready to go back at a moments chance and if I lived any distance shorter, I would be the same. As it is, I don’t know when i’ll be back but I know with a fervent assurance I could spend a solid week here, day in at day break and day out at sunset and still feel there was much to see and learn.

~m

A Bounty of Overwhelming Glory at the Vatican Musuems- Vatican City, Italy

There are hundreds of places I’d love to see before I shuffle off this mortal coil, some of them as specific as single bookstore in a city and some as all encompassing as a whole continent. Rapa Nui, Singapore, St Petersburg, Prague are just a few, and Vatican City was up there among the very top, at least until I was able to mentally marked it off. It was as amazing as i’d ever expected it to be and to say i’m not already planning a way to go back and be able to spend a solid week just walking through the museums lengthy corridors would be an enormous falsehood.

Full disclosure- if you’re looking for a post about the history of the Vatican, it’s influence and the way it differentiates from the Holy See, you probably would do well to click elsewhere.
I thought long and hard about how I would put together these photos in a blog post, both because I don’t consider myself a Christian and because i’m not a person who can easily walk the line between fawning over the gorgeous architecture and the millions of wondrous treasures housed here while also remembering the at times incredibly bloody history of Catholicism.

So, rather than a blog post full of travel writing, think of this as my photo journal of my visit to the Vatican Museums.

At times you look up so much, you almost forget to look around you, and that would be a monumental mistake, given all the cabinets that line the miles of corridors here filled to almost overflowing with relics, art, items of curiosity and just literal treasure. 

If you take a tour of the Vatican Museums or even if you go independently, you will also most certainly end up visiting the Sistine Chapel. If you noticed, there are no photos of it here in this post and you might be tempted to think we didn’t visit it but the truth is with the tour we took, we visited it twice. Once before general opening hours and where we got to sit for almost an hour marveling at it’s beauty and speaking in hushed tones when we spoke at all and again later when we were doubling back on our way to St Peters Basilica . There are no photos however, because I didn’t take any as it’s forbidden to take video or photographs and considering where we were, it wasn’t hard to follow that rule, no matter the temptation.

I would highly recommend allocating a full morning to visiting the Vatican Museums and St Peters Basilica and wearing the most comfortable shoes you own as there is just so much to see and an enormous space to see it all in. Be prepared for crowds but know that there is more than enough to see to make it worth it.

~m

Wonder and Incredible Views in the Boboli Gardens- Florence, Italy

Though the Palazzo Pitti is a great place to visit all its own, the reason I picked it over the Uffizi Gallery was because of its gardens. The Boboli Gardens to be exact, located just behind the palace, were established in the 16th century by the Medici family, though there have certainly been many updates and renovations since then.

We were incredibly lucky and managed to visit on a day with crisp cool weather, beautiful blue skies and a minimum of crowds and spent more than a couple of hours walking around, not only because of how immense the area is but because of how incredibly relaxing it was just to explore all the areas, it felt like you never knew what could be around the corner- perhaps a marvelous fountain, an impossibly stoic statue?

Up a staircase, to where and what? Why not go and find out?

Incredible views of the countryside and more of the gardens! The best part of visiting the Boboli gardens was feeling a little bit like a kid and getting the chance to pick any direction and just go off to explore and discover.

And of course, no matter how lovely the gardens, it was the statues and the amazing views of Florence that just really made it all that much more spectacular.

We finished up the trip by wandering up a little hill and discovering yet more incredible views. It honestly felt like there was no where you could go in the gardens where you weren’t rewarded for your curiosity.

We stayed in the gardens until about 5:00pm, and then exited to sit and linger in the front of the palace where many other people had just plopped down to rest and hangout before figuring out their plans for the rest of the afternoon. Our own plans at that point where to make the return walk to the train station where we would catch the ride that would take us back to Rome, but for the time before that walk was started, was just sat there outside the Palazzo Pitti and enjoyed the lingering remains of the day, people watching and feeling ever so reluctant to leave this beautiful city.

~m

The Incomparable Palazzo Pitti- Florence, Italy

One of the Florence’s largest architectural monuments, the Palazzo Pitti seems doomed to be forever eclipsed by the Uffizi Gallery and the Palazzo Vecchio, even while very much holding its own in regards to beautiful art and history. The fact that tourists seem to forget about this palace (or maybe it’s the slightly drab exterior that does it) worked out perfectly for me and the bf however, and we bought tickets and were inside in a matter of minutes.

There is just so much to see here, the galleries divided like so: Museum of Costume and Fashion, the Royal Apartments, Palatine Gallery, Gallery of Modern Art, and the Treasury of the Grand Dukes.

We had planned to see the vast Boboli Gardens afterwards and then cross back over the Arno to the other side of Florence to visit the Uffizi Gallery, so we only toured the Palatine Gallery and Royal Apartments, but I would genuinely love to go back and see everything one day.

The crowds were minimal apart from some small tour groups and there were plenty of moments where we had whole rooms to ourselves, the decadence of that experience almost too great at times- imagine yourself surrounded on all sides by lush gorgeous paintings, evocative sculptures, tall incredibly ornate ceilings and the realization you’re standing in a building that’s been around since the 15th century.

From a window on the first floor, a view of Florence over the Grotto steps you even further back in time.

Amid the rooms full of rosy peach tones and gold accents, the room spilled with deep, vibrant emerald was one of my favorites.

I don’t know how long exactly we stayed inside, maybe two hours? It felt both a good while and like no time had passed when we made it back downstairs and into the fresh crisp air and streaming sunlight. After a quick stop to retrieve the bf’s backpack from the cloakroom and stow away the books and souvenirs I had purchased (of course), we got out the separate tickets we had purchased to enter the Boboli Gardens (just an extra 6 €) and headed that way with much eagerness, because the way I saw it, if the interior had been so splendid, I couldn’t wait to see what kind of beauty the gardens would hold.

~m