Spending Easter in Rome was the most incredible and special experience we could have ever imagined! It felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity—one that we will be reliving for years and years to come!
From Venice, we took the high-speed train to Rome to meet our next guests: Brendan and Libby! Their flight landed on Friday morning and we immediately hit the ground running. The city was busy, as anticipated over Easter weekend, so we had to play around the crowds.
After walking through the city to see the top sights - Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon - and grabbing the best pizza in town (Dar Poeta), we hopped on some Vespas and got out of town. Seeing the city by scooter was a highlight of the trip. Our tour guides were exactly what you would imagine if you have ever seen any movies based in Rome—thick Italian accents, tight jeans, leather jackets, aviators, and scarves. It was awesome and we all couldn’t stop laughing. The tour ended with a stop on Gianicolo hill and a tour of the Finnish embassy.
The next day was our busiest: Patrick’s 26th birthday, tour of the Vatican, a visit to the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Circus Maximus, and dinner at Rome’s oldest restaurant: La Campana.
The Vatican is the smallest country in the world (something we learned in Monaco, the second smallest country in the world). It is composed of about 100 acres and 1,000 residents, who are mostly clergy and the Swiss Guard.
Walking through the Vatican museum, we could not believe the amount of art housed there. We asked Emma how much the 70,000 pieces of art in the Vatican is worth and she laughed and said you couldn’t even begin to put a price tag on this art—it is truly priceless. Funny enough, for insurance purposes, every piece of art in the Vatican is declared as being worth $1.
They say the Vatican Museum is like a fast paced river - there are so many people you just keep flowing through steadily. The entire time we were walking through the 5 miles of the Vatican Museum, there was an excitement and build up as we got closer to the Sistine Chapel.
The Sistine Chapel was commissioned by Pope in . We learned that Michaelangelo did not want to paint the chapel. He was a 22 year old sculptor who thought the building looked like a granery (and from the outside, it really does look like nothing special!). Michaeelangelo was the only artist of his time that did not use outlines. It took him 4 years to complete the Sistine Chapel fresco. The most incredible part about frescos is that because it is permanent, you literally can’t make a mistake. This makes the Sistine Chapel even more of a masterpiece.
We all felt completely overwhelmed by the magnitude of the Vatican and all of the history in one place. At one point, Brendan asked our guide “So is this the actual place where Michelangelo painted the ceiling or did they bring it in from somewhere?” We were all clearly out of our league. The Vatican forbids people to take pictures of the Sistine Chapel and the consequences are pretty severe. Of course, Brendan and MK took this as a challenge to take as many pictures and videos as they could while Libby and Patrick nervously watched.
After the Sistine Chapel, you are led to St. Peter’s Basilica, which is MASSIVE. Looking up, Emma told each letter near the ceiling is 6 feet tall - which is so incredible and truly hard to believe. We walked away from the Vatican super excited for Easter Sunday Mass the next day.
The afternoon took us to the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, Circus Maximus and “the keyhole”. Now, everyone knows about the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. They are both awesome to see! But not many people know about the Knights of Malta keyhole, including Patrick, Brendan and Libby. The keyhole will go down in infamy with Brendan because of how it played out. Unbeknownst to us, MK had requested to change the tour so that we could finish at the keyhole. As we were walking up the hill, Brendan asked the guide where we were going and she literally said I’m not sure why but your sister wanted to come here.Walking up the hill, we saw a long line of people waiting to stare through a tiny keyhole in a door. It was as silly as it sounds and we were ripping MK for wanting to do something she saw on Instagram. We could not stop laughing about how the keyhole was probably a scam.
Much to our dismay, the view from the keyhole was very cool. It looks straight out through a garden to St. Peter’s Cathedral and the rest of Rome. Worth it after all, although almost impossible to get a good picture. One of those things that is just better in person.
We had a great birthday birthday dinner for Patrick at La Campana, followed by chocolate ice cream at Frigidarium!
Our final full day in Rome: Easter Sunday. MK put in a ton of work to solidify tickets to Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square. The tickets are free but it involves emails and faxes months in advance and a weird pickup location at the Vatican. Easter mass at the Vatican draws a crowd of over 80,000 people and only 15,000 get tickets for seats.
For 10:15 mass, we arrived at 7:45 (and MK was nervous even that was too late). When we got there, there was already a crowd waiting to get in. The gate to St. Peter’s opened at 8 and, like a music festival, people entered one by one and once they got in, started running for their seats. We have never seen anything like it. We started running too when we got through the guards!
We scored seats 20 rows from the altar, with a perfect view of the main aisle.
The anticipation in the crowd was real as the Vatican marching band and Swiss guards marched around St. Peter’s Square. A half hour before mass was scheduled, we were asked to join the Vatican in saying the Rosary. Hearing 80 thousand people say the rosary in latin together was incredibly moving. And then the ceremony finally began. With tens of thousands of people in the square, the mass was spectacular. Readings in various languages, singing in Latin and a chaotic Communion highlighted such a memorable ceremony.
And at the end, the Pope hopped into the Pope-Mobile and cruised through the crowds. It was so fun to watch him glide through the crowds above the heads of all the people. After his tour, he climbed up to the balcony in St Peters and gave the Urbi et Orbi address calling for Peace in the Middle East. As we raced out of the St. Peter’s square with the crowds, we could not help but feel that we just had a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We spent brunch reading translations of the Pope’s homily and Urbi et Orbi speech. It was a magical day—nothing more affirming of your faith than being at the Vatican, especially on Easter Sunday!
We left Rome on a very, very high note! Unforgettable experiences, great dinners, and memories to last a lifetime with Brendan and Libby!