Buon Natale to you all! I am so blessed to be spending this Christmas with my lovely wife, Isabel, and all three of my daughters here in Rome. What could be better than touring the Vatican, The Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's on Christmas Eve.
Naturally, the tour begins with our driver meeting us in the hotel lobby at 8am! Believe it or not everyone made it on cue! Wow – Dad was impressed. We started with breakfast on the rooftop restaurant where we were greeted by a beautiful rainbow. We took a short drive across town and across the Tiber River to Vatican City where we met our tour guide who escorted us past the long lines to receive our ticket and expedited entrance to the Vatican.
The weather was probably as nice as one could expect for Rome in December – broken clouds with an occasional sprinkle but not too cold. We proceeded through the walled fortress of the Vatican and made our way to the terraced gardens to commence our tour.
Everything about the Vatican is about grandiose scale! The gardens are meticulous and every view is framed and choreographed perfectly. Years and years of design and construction were involved in the creation with artists and architects like Michaela fell, Brumante, Bernini, and Raphel. To think they were all here and you are experiencing their creations in their space is so inspiring. So much of coming to Italy for me is about the refill of the creative tank which is always in the extraction mode and so if feels so good to get the tank refilled!
From the gardens we made our way through the vast and endless halls filled with frescos, sculptures and tapestries until we enter the holiest spot at the Vatican the Sistine Chapel – Michaelangelo’s masterpiece! The frescos have all been restored and having seen them some 12 years ago in the unrestored state and to see them now – magnificent! What a spectaculars difference.
Of course traveling with kids always involves impromptu interruptions and of course Bella needed to find a restroom so the two of us broke away to find the restroom while everyone else enjoyed the masterpiece by Michaelangeo…. Ok this search of a restroom became and adventure all on its own and Bella and I found a whole new section of the Vatican museum I had never seen…. Then it was about refinding the group as they had left and had started their way to St. Peter's Basillica. Ok the Vatican is vast made of galleries connected by narrow passageways that consist of stairs and turns, yet miraculously through a couple calls to Isabel with descriptions of what they had passed and where they were we were able to find each other! Nothing like a little excitement….that's what Bella always brings us:-)
Touring St. Peter’s Basillica and seeing the Pieta by Michaelangelo is always amazing and frankly truly unimaginable. To think all of this was executed by artists, builders, and craftsmen without power tools, lighting, and building codes…. I can only imagine what these guys could do with the tools we have today!?!? It's endless and you could spend days studying the detailing, proportions, and execution of the floors, walls, and ceilings – not to mention the crafting of the space! You then leave the church and make your way onto St. Peter’s Square. Talk about scale and proportion. Another masterpiece for sure and at Christmas the square is adorned by the beautiful nativity scene. Later today the Holy Father Papa Francesco will give mass and then on Christmas Day he Holy Blessing from this space. You feel the presence….
Well my group was toured out. Four hours and we could choose to take the transport back to the hotel or head out and explore Rome. Of course I convinced everyone to go explore only met shortly thereafter with, “Dad, I'm tired, my feet hurt and I'm hungry!” Im sure you have all been there! We quickly walked across the Tibre and towards the Piazza Navone where we found a nice spot off the piazza for a nice lunch and a place to sit and relax on the street.
I love how cheerful and animated the Italians are – literally every waitress and waiter we have had are just beautiful in their smile, style and mannerisms! Such a joy to be in their presence and their energy adds so much to the experience. A cold beer, some lunch and we were off to the Farmer’s market at the Campo Di Fiori a fabulous piazza filled with booths of vegetable, cheese and flower vendors and of course patrons in search of fresh produce for their Christmas Eve dinners. We found a nice spot for an espresso and some hot chocolate for the girls, and some more relaxation filled with the sights and sounds of Italy.
From the Campo do Fiori we walked a few blocks and grabbed a cab and made our way back to the hotel for a cat nap and then dinner at our hotel. Christmas Eve is the fish feast and we enjoyed a quiet and relaxing seafood tasting dinner. Bella was wiped out but the rest of us rallied for a walk to the Basillica di Santa Maria in Ara coeli which required hiking up what seemed two thousand steps but well worth the view at the top listening to all the bells in Rome and the sanctuary filled with the smell of frankinsence and the voices of the choir.
Of course on the walk home at 1am in the morning what else do you stop for but gelato. Only in Italy on Christmas Eve at 1am can you find gelato! Finish with a nice walk home past the Colosseum. Quiet and serene and just what was needed to end the evening and this beautiful Christmas Eve in Roma.