Our timed entrance to the Vatican Museum was for 10:15 a.m., so we met at our gathering place (the fluted column in Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore) at 9:00 to walk to the termini and take the bus back to Saint Peter’s.  A very crowded bus, very warm temperatures, and a lot of stops made for a challenging commute, but the effort was more than rewarded. The piazza was absolutely stuffed to the gills with worshippers who had come to see Il Papa give his weekly address. We skirted around the periphery to the museum entrance.

Once in the museum lobby, the students received guides to the Vatican collection and were set loose to explore.  Many headed to the Pinocoteca (painting galleries) first to see works by Raphael, Leonardo, Caravaggio and more. The museum also holds an immense collection of antique sculpture, maps, coins, and to our amazement, the plaster models for Bernini’s altarpiece in Saint Peter’s (very rarely on display.)

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The museum tour ends in the Sistine Chapel, home of Michelangelo’s frescoed ceiling and the Last Judgement wall. Between admonishments of “Shhhhhhhhh” and
“No photo”, one can sit along the sides of the chapel to gaze up at the heroic figures of sibyls, prophets, and the panels that reveal the creation of the world (including the panel often referred to as “the spark of life” when God creates Adam) through the Drunkenness of Noah.

Everyone has the afternoon free to visit the sites included on the combo-ticket. The Colosseum will not disappoint!

Dinner tonight was at a trattoria in the neighborhood. Pasta, pizza and calzones were the most frequently ordered items. Great food after a long day of exploring Rome.