Today was an early day for us, as I had secured tickets to the necropolis under St Peter’s Basilica. I did this way back when I came to Italy the first time with Carthage back in 2014. I didnt realize you could request tickets until Susan mentioned it when I was back in Chicago a couple months ago, so I did and within an hour of my request I got our reservation back! So we had to wake up early and head to the Vatican via the subway. I think this is the most public transportation mom has ever taken – trains, trains, trains, trains, trains!
Anyway, we got to the Vatican a little early so mom could take in the enormity of the country (because it is a country!). We have to go around to what feels like a top secret door to get into the necropolis, through the police check point, then past the Swiss guard to the little office. We had to wait until 915 to start our tour, but right at 915 we were told to all get into the little office (there were 10 of us, in a tiny office), while they closed the door and the window coverings were down. However, there was a half inch crack in the shade so we saw the motorcade coming through security. It was 2 cars, then 5 vans, then 2 cars. They couldnt tell us what it was, but it could have been the Pope or a head of state coming for a visit. It was a cool experience.
After the “lockdown” we got our tour guide, Katie, we started our tour of the Necropolis. It started coming back to me from my previous visit. However, I forgot you are not allowed to take pictures (please note, I do not follow directions well). Katie first started by telling us the history of St Peter’s and the Vatican as a whole. Originally it was a pagan burial ground. After the history of the site, we headed down to the necropolis (literally translated to dead city). This “city” was a burial ground of tombs for middle and upper middle class individuals from Rome, on the other side of the river. For hygienic reasons they did not bury the dead where they lived, but outside of the towns.
Anyway, the necropolis was awesome. Its very humid down there to keep the frescos in tact as they had been kept under dirt for like 1900 years!! In fact, there is still more than 95% that is still buried, but hasnt been excavated because St Peters basilica and the square and parts of North Western Rome are above it and it may just crumble if they try to dig it out.
Of course I broke the rules nice and easily this time and grabbed some pictures by my side of this tiny little area we got to walk through. The end of the little corridor St Peter was discovered, in the 1930s (ish maybe?). But it happened when one of the Popes decided he wanted to be buried in this specific place and while they were carving out the area they broke open the first look at the necropolis in over 1900 years!! But since of course we were in the middle of the war, the crew was ordered to work only at night and only with hand tools – so you can imagine how horrendous that task had to be!
They discovered his tomb, under many alters. Currently there is a huge black 4 post alter within St Peters, stacked on top of an alter that is a story below (which they can reach via stairwells right next to it), which is stacked on top of another alter from many moons ago – that even found graffiti from back then, anyway, that is stacked on top of another alter which was TINY. So, they show us this red light through a little corridor where they originally found his bones, in the 1940s or whatever.
Anyway, we then got to see each layer of his alters. Include the one with graffiti, which is where part of his bones are currently housed. I should also point out it is BELIEVED to be his bones, and we have no DNA to prove it was him, but the data of the DNA that we do have does line up with a man his age and situation.
Our tour finished in the Tombs of the Popes, JPII was still alive when I was here in 2004, and when I came back in 2009, it was Benedict, but I dont think JPII had his tomb open to the public yet. Anyway, he had a mosaic portrait and it was beautiful (you couldnt take pictures, and I couldnt sneak it). We walked out of the Tombs of the Popes to the right side of the Basilica, which is also where you can head up to the dome!! And, I must go up! I talked mom into going, because you can go up via elevator for part of it. However, when we got there, it was not what I remembered, and thought mom was screwed and was going to have to walk up the whole thing with me, thankfully that wasnt the case and she could come inside the dome and see the beautiful work close up before heading out to the roof, while I headed up the 304 or so stairs to the top of the dome.
It was so tight and curved. The stairs are like 2 feet wide, but only like 6 inches is actually used because the walls are so curved!! Anyway I made it and the view is awesome! The have it all caged off now – so depressing. Damn the cages!! After I got my pictures, I headed back down to mom, who I thought was all the way down at the bottom, but thankfully she had waited on the roof!!
It was great, we got to walk around, she got to see St peters Square from up high (not the greatest view, but still) and we got to go to the gift shop. Weve been wanting to get something to commemorate this trip by, a necklace or something, and we hadnt found anything. We had seen a feather before our tour and mom said “Oh look, a feather, Bill is here!” And ya know what, he probably was! Because, at the gift shop we found what we were looking for. There were two (one little, one big) Tree of Life charms for a necklace. And we both just felt it was perfect. So we got em! Mom also got the chain she has been wanting. But it was perfect!! Like it was meant to be!
After our little shopping trip, we headed down to finally see St Peter’s Basilica, like three hours later haha! Anyway, its huge! Mom was just in awe. Id seen it a few times before and every time its just a little different.
After our church visit, we headed out to get some lunch and head to the bone church!
We lunched near the Vatican, pizza, caprese salad and bruschetta! Mom also asked the waiter for ice for her Coke Zero – she was one happy camper! I also got some ice for water too – so I cant complain. After lunch we headed back to the Metro to go to the bone church I googled.
Quick and easy 4 stops away! But guess what, they said no pictures in the Bone church – psh, whats that about. Ive been to like 6 of these now, everyone always lets pictures, but apparently not this one (again, not a good listener). It also had a little museum that explained what the friars that built the church were like in the past. They were the ones that used to torture themselves with the studded brace on their thigh. They be cray!
Anyway, it was a small church, 5 rooms, but it was cool. It was mom’s first bone church and she was in awe. They are just so unique and something that is hard to explain. How can you explain a bone church, the words just dont come very easily.
After the bone church we walked over to the Trevi Fountain to tick another box of things mom can say she has seen! They were not really letting people make wishes with coins – police were there blowing their whistles at people sitting on the ledge of the fountain or tossing their coins. It was packed with people too. But it is always a beautiful site.
After the Trevi fountain we decided to head to the Spanish Steps and eat some gelato and people watch. The problem was, is they werent letting people sit on the steps anymore!! So after failing to find a covid testing site, failing to find gelato and failing to get to people watch, we went back to the subway to head back to the hotel.
Once we got to the hotel we switched shoes and headed out to get on the hop on, hop off bus tour. We wanted to buy our tickets from the guy who had helped us, but he wasnt at his “post” so we headed down to the pharmacy, and thankfully they had covid testing! So we got our test (both negative) and then headed back to our little guy and buy our tickets and get on the bus. We had JUST missed the bus, such a bummmmmmmer.
We road for about an hour and half back to where we started, walked back down to our gelato place, mom got some gelato, I got a crepe and we enjoyed our little walk back to the hotel for the night.
Just before bed, the fire alarm went off, thankfully it went back off before we left the room, but we were getting ready….
Tomorrow is our last day here and we are going to the colosseum.