I’d looked forward to this day since we’d booked our European vacation. I’d been to Rome twenty years ago, so had been to the Vatican, but Ann had not. I’d told her that St. Peter’s was something we could not miss on our visit to the Eternal City. I’d been counting down the days until I could take her into the basilica and see her reaction.

We took a cab from our hotel, winding through the streets of Rome until we came around a corner onto a wide street and the windshield of the cab was filled with a magnificent view of St. Peter’s. It is an amazing structure, its mammoth size combining with its near perfect proportions to play tricks on your mind.  At first, it looks like a fairly normal building until you stop and realize just how tiny the people in front of it seem. When you process that information, you realize just how gigantic the basilica truly is.

stpete

St. Peter’s Square

Our cab stopped in front of the square, and we got out, pausing a moment to take in the grandeur. We started crossing the street, approaching the square, reverently taking it all in. At least that’s what we planned to do.  Suddenly we were descended upon by a multitude of vendors selling selfie sticks, scarves emblazoned with the word, “ROMA” and tickets to the Vatican Museum which we knew was sold out for the day. We refused all of these oft-repeated, wonderful offers (seriously, Rome street vendors, if you just saw me tell someone I didn’t want the cheap selfie stick they are selling, why would you think I’d want to buy one just like it from you?)  as we crossed the street and headed into the square.

Once in the square, I headed to the end of the line to go in while Ann meandered around, snapping some photos for this very post.

[pullquote align=[“right”] Suddenly we were descended upon by a multitude of vendors selling selfie sticks, scarves emblazoned with the word, “ROMA” and tickets to the Vatican Museum which we knew was sold out for the day. [/pullquote]

Behind me in line was a British couple. They were in Rome for a week, and we chatted as we waited, baking in the Roman sun, taking turns telling sales people that we didn’t want their tickets or selfie sticks or “ROMA” scarves, and politely directing people to the end of the line when they tried to cut. We also spent some time admiring the umbrellas that others had brought along with them to block the sun, and wising we’d been that smart and that the vendors would be selling those, instead.

The line moved quickly; within about 25 minutes, we were passing through the metal detectors and x-ray machines. From there, we walked toward the basilica, and were directed under a pop-up tent where two people stood examining the dress of all visitors. They reminded some that this was a place of worship, and that shoulders and knees had to be covered by clothing in order to enter. As we looked around, we realized that there were quite a few embarrassed women sporting “ROMA” scarves turned into makeshift blouses and skirts.

As we passed through the doors, I watched Ann’s face light up as she stood taking in the beauty and grandeur of the building.

Our first glance inside St. Peter's Basilica.

Our first glance inside St. Peter’s Basilica.

A smile spread across her face, and I knew that she agreed this was the “must see” I’d told her it was. The first look inside this church is truly awe inspiring. It is absolutely huge, though it doesn’t seem that way until you again look at the people in it for scale. Thousands visit daily, but it simply doesn’t feel crowded.

Just inside the door and to the right is Michelangelo’s Pieta, and we headed off in that

The Pieta' in St. Peter's Basilica. The marble sculpture dates back to 1499 and was assigned to a then 23-year-old Michelangelo Buonarroti.

The marble sculpture, The Pieta’, dates back to 1499 and was assigned to a then 23-year-old Michelangelo Buonarroti.

direction to take a closer look which was difficult to do because of the number of tourists standing around it, holding their “ROMA” skirts with one hand, and snapping photos with the other, cameras held high over their heads on selfie sticks, hoping that one of their many photos might turn out.

Though not the case in many churches and museums, flash photography is permitted in St. Peters. I thought I remembered from my visit 20 years earlier it was because the art is mosaic. At first I thought I’d remembered wrong, that I was looking at paintings. Only after leaning in for a closer look did I see the thousands of tiny tiles that make up the massive mosaics.

One of many incredible mosaics in the basilica.

One of many incredible mosaics in the basilica.

We spent an hour wandering through the basilica, marveling at the architecture, the altar, and the number of people who would stand in one place for minutes, surrounded by some of the most beautiful creations of mankind, trying to figure out how to fix their recently acquired selfie sticks.

After we’d thoroughly explored the basilica, we headed back across the square.  We reminisced about the beauty we’d seen as we navigated the throng of street vendors  so we could find a cab to take us to the next place on our “must see” list, a historical place we’d only briefly seen on our car tour the day before:  The Roman Colosseum.

[well]This blog post is part of a series about the “20 Things We’ll Remember Most About Our Summer Vacation.” Up next: The Roman Forum and Colosseum. [/well]

  • Perched high on a hill in Tuscany is the medieval village of Montepulciano. In the center of town is the piazza grande paved with bricks laid in a herringbone pattern in the 14th century. ⁣
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Standing in the piazza, looking at the bricks, we were filled with a sense of awe at the history these bricks have seen. They've been there for 700 years so have seen times of war and peace, celebration and sorrow. Generation after generation of townsfolk were born, lived and died, and all have walked on these bricks. ⁣
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This is one of the things we love most about traveling. It gives us an authentic feel for history, one we wouldn't have if we just stayed at home.
  • We were so tickled when @thechefandthedish reached out and asked us if we'd like to take a complimentary cooking class with them. They offer private cooking classes with chefs from all over the world that you can take right in your own kitchen. ⁣
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For this class, we Skyped with chef Paola who taught us to make strawberry risotto, traditional bruschetta, and a delicious poached pear dessert that blew our minds. ⁣
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Risotto always seemed like a difficult dish to make, but Chef Paola explained it so well that it wound up being pretty easy. We spent a great afternoon with friends, learned something new, and enjoyed a great meal after. A class with The Chef & The Dish is a great gift idea, as well. Follow the link in our bio, and you can read more about our class on our blog.
  • The world is a big place, and there's so much to discover. Go places, and see things. It doesn't matter if you don't have a detailed itinerary, either. Sometimes, it's more about the journey and what you see and experience along the way, than it is about the destination.
  • During our trip in Tuscany with @italyunfiltered, we stopped at a small family winery. After learning about the organic methods they use to produce high quality Chianti Clasico wines, we had a tasting. ⁣
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Wine tastings in Italy are nothing like those in the US. They are glorious affairs complete with delicious foods paired with the incredible wines. This particular winery brought us samples of homemade, organic jams made from fruits grown in the family's garden. We dabbed these on locally produced pecorino cheese. Yum!⁣
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We're so glad that we had a local driver and guide. Stopping here was a highlight of our Italian adventure, and we never would have found it on our own.
  • The village of Marsaxlokk, Malta, is famous for these brightly painted fishing boats. The design is rather ancient, possibly dating back to Phoenician times, though it's still used today because it is very strong and holds up well in rough weather. One feature of each boat's decorations, are eyes painted on the bow of the boat. These eyes are said to protect the people fishing while they are at sea.
  • The blue cobblestones of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, are actually part of a recycling project which started 500 years ago. Iron foundries in Spain produced huge piles of waste, called slag. Rather than throw these piles away, the slag was made into blocks which was placed into ships as ballast. The ballast was offloaded in Puerto Rico when they loaded products bound for Spain. The blocks were then used to pave the streets. ⁣
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Pretty good idea, and 500 years later, they are holding up well!
  • The Overseas Highway connects Key West and the Florida Keys to the mainland U.S. While the entire road is a marvel of engineering, the centerpiece is the Seven Mile Bridge, which runs over water for, well, seven miles.⁣
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The next time you're driving, reset your trip odometer and wait until it gets to seven miles. You'll see that's a pretty long distance. And then think about the fact that people built a bridge over water with no land to support them for that distance. Pretty incredible-especially since the first one was built in 1912.
  • We'd never heard of cannonball rocks before we drove past them at North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and asked each other, "did you see that?" We'd never seen anything quite like these natural "concretions" created when water leaked into pockets of minerals in the ground. Now, as a hill erodes, these formations are exposed.⁣
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Seeing these rocks was such a cool experience because it reminded us of why we travel. We never know when we'll find something new, something that we never knew existed. We got along fine not knowing about cannonball rocks, yet now that we've seen them, our lives are a little richer. ⁣
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The world is a pretty cool place. Check it out.⁣
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@ndlegendary

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