The Vatican Museums hold an immense display of objects collected by the Popes since the 1500s. We entered the museums around ten in the morning and it was very crowded as the doors were closing early that day because of New Year's Eve. I heard innumerable languages being spoken throughout the visit. We first came upon a large courtyard with a sculpture by the contemporary artist, Arnaldo Pomodoro, called Sphere Within a Sphere.
The first room we entered was full of sculptures from ancient Rome:
An adjacent room held several well-preserved full-body statues of Emperors and mythological figures, such as this portrait of Caesar Augustus:
We walked upstairs to a display of Egyptian artifacts. From a balcony I got a picture of the opposite side of Sphere Within a Sphere:
The next room in the museum was the Rotonda, a miniature Pantheon which was lined with ancient statues including a bronze sculpture of Hercules:
This led to the Hexagonal Courtyard which held several statues, most notably Laocoön and His Sons, a work from the Hellenistic Period of Greek history (323BC-146BC) which has been attributed to various sculptors from the Greek island of Rhodes. Many consider it the greatest work of ancient sculpture. It depicts a scene from Greek myth in which a Trojan named Laocoön, who doubted the gift of the Trojan Horse, was killed along with his sons by snakes sent by the gods.
There were many paintings in the museum as well by the Italian Renaissance artists Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Caravaggio. Several hallways with ornate ceilings connected the rooms:
This all led to the Sistine Chapel. The chapel was filled with people all staring up toward the ceiling at the famous frescoes painted by Michelangelo from 1508 to 1512. According to the story, Michelangelo was reluctant to paint the ceiling which Pope Julius II had commissioned as he doubted his skill as a painter, being more focused on sculpture and architecture. There was so much to see that you could stand in one place for several minutes, looking at the same area of ceiling and continually notice something new to the eye. Around the walls were more frescoes, such as another by Michelangelo and older paintings by Raphael and Botticelli.
After the museum, we walked along the walls of Vatican City and eventually came upon St. Peter's Basilica and St. Peter's Square:
St. Peter's Basilica was built from 1506 to 1626 and replaced the original basilica built under Emperor Constantine. As we were walking along the plaza the Italian police arrived and had everyone leave as preperations were being made for the Pope's New Year's address.
We walked down the main street heading away from Vatican City and emerged upon Castel Sant'Angelo, which was originally constructed in 139AD as the tomb of the Emperor Hadrian. During the late Middle Ages it was used as a fortress by the Popes and is now a museum:
As the public transportation stops at midnight in Rome and our hostel was outside the city, we could not stay for the New Year's celebrations. We returned to Plus Camping Roma where several people shot off fireworks. The next day we went back to the central area of Rome and walked past the Ara Sacra di Largo Argentina, a collection of excavated temples from the Roman Republic. The area was now occupied by cats, as are several other Roman sites.
We then walked to the Pantheon which is not far from the main street in central Rome, Via del Corso:
The Pantheon was built around 125 AD under Emperor Hadrian, rebuilt from a destroyed temple for the worship of all the gods. It has been in continual use since then and today serves as a church and tomb. It was closed for services this day, so we went back another to see the inside.
We then returned to Via del Corso and made our way up some side streets to the Trevi Fountain. This is a giant Baroque fountain completed in 1762 by a series of sculptors. It drew a very large crowd the day we were there.
I bought some gelato from a gelateria next to the fountain. It was quite good and lived up to its praises I'd heard. Here is the display of gelato from this place:
Back to Via del Corso, we walked past several department stores advertising sales, then travelled up another side street where we found the Spanish Steps:
These eighteenth-century steps lead from the Spanish Embassy to the Trinità dei Monti, a sixteenth-century church. The obelisk seen in front of the church (as the other obelisks in Rome) is an original from Egypt. We wound back to Via del Corso and emerged at its end, Piazza del Popolo, a nineteenth-century piazza where several festivities were going on and a mime with a wooden gun ran among the people with a searching expression.
That night I ate at a little trattoria (a family-owned restaurant) in the city. I got a local version of pizza, called pizza capricciosa which has prosciutto, olives, artichoke, and an egg. It was wonderful. As seen in the picture, the toppings are not spread throughout the pizza: