During my weeklong Roman holiday, I insisted on going to I Musei Vaticani (the Vatican Museums) and Castel Sant’Angelo (no, I did not spell “castle” wrong). Somehow I missed these two during my four months of studying abroad in Rome, during which time I lived about 15 minutes away on foot from both. Better late than never!
I Musei Vaticani
Stupendo! These museums are a must-see for anyone traveling through the Eternal City; they contain so much beauty and craftsmanship that I can’t barely begin to describe in a blog post. They are located, unsurprisingly, in Vatican City. For those who don’t know, Vatican City is an autonomous city-state that is not ruled by the Italian government, but rather, by the Pope.
The museums are an immense collection of works aggregated by popes of the past. Frescos, sculptures, artifacts, and more adorn the halls of these museums. I use the plural of museums because the immense collection is split into separate, numbered rooms all considered to be its own individual museum. Musei Vaticani are what to Rome what the Louvre is to Paris or the Met is to New York: large, overwhelming, filled with tourists, etc.
Due to the montage of selfie sticks and poor museum etiquette that I encountered, I was unable to photograph everything that I wanted to. Something in particular that I loved (not pictured) were statues of Greek gods that must have been at least 20 feet tall. I reluctantly obeyed the rules and did not take a photo of the stunning Sistine Chapel ceiling. Something to note is that the entire chapel, not just the ceiling, is decorated in ornate frescos, with an especially-complex portrayal of the Final Judgement painted behind the altar.
Another one of my favorites was the Gallery of Maps, which are topographical maps of the “old” and “new” Italy, painted on the walls by friar Ignazio Danti. This gallery remains the world’s largest pictorial geographical study.
Located not too far away from I Musei Vaticani is Castel Sant’Angelo, which was originally erected as a mausoleum for the ancient Roman emperor Hadrian and is family. Besides being a burial monument, the Castel was later used by the popes as both a fortress and castle. This structure is particularly interesting because it encompasses art and history both of the ancient and medieval worlds.