Vatican’s Sistine Chapel

Just like the walls and ceiling of your home need to be repainted from time to time, imagine having to repaint the Sistine Chapel. Well, it happens. Most recently between 1980 and 1999. The soot from the candles had reduced the color so much that the fresco colors were looking monochrome. The correct term is restoration not repainting. The process removes the surface dirt without damaging the original pigments, textures, brush strokes and bristles of the original.

Our tour was not allowed to take pictures inside the chapel, and we were hustled through in a mere twenty minutes. (measured by the time stamps on the last picture before entering and the first picture after leaving.) Fortunately the web has many excellent pictures and virtual tours of the interior.

I can deliver a few pictures from outside. Between the chapel and the basilica is a small courtyard with a fountain on the extreme right.

A small courtyard off of St. Peter’s Square

On the left is the Sistine Chapel, through the arch is Saint Peter’s Square and on the right is Saint Peter’s Basilica.

Saint Gregorius the Illuminator of Armenia created the first official Christian nation in 301.

An 18 foot statue of Saint Greorius Armemiae  the Illuminator  sits in a niche in the side wall of the basilica. In the year 301, S. Gregorius converted the Armenian nation from Paganism to Christianity and they are recognized as the first Christian Nation. The sculpture was commissioned 1700 years later in 2001. 


a less seen fountain

Looking up at the side wall and roof of the Sistine Chapel for a chimney.

The Sistine Chapel is used for more than just displaying famous artwork. It is used by the popes and cardinals for meetings such as the Papal Conclave which gathers the cardinals to elect a new pope. At the end of each vote the ballots are burned after they have been counted. Sometimes several rounds are required before a vote yields consensus  on who the next pope will be. To signal when a new pope has been elected, the smoke emitted from the chimney is a different color than when the non successful ballots are burned.

White smoke for a new pope. Black smoke for failed attempts.

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St Peter’s Square

Saint Peter’s Square

The main entrance to the Basilica is through St. Peter’s Square. However, our tour began in the museum, proceeded through the Sistine Chapel, then down through the Basilica, and finally out into the square.

St Peter’s Square from the Basilica.

St. Peter’s Basilica

The Vatican is called a City State. The Trivia game calls it the smallest country in the world. It does not have its own army to defend all of its treasure, but is guarded by the Swiss Army Guard.

Swiss Army Guard.

Here is a map of the Vatican City State within the City of Rome. At the top center is the Musei Vaticani (museum). These buildings lead straight down to the Cappella Sistina (Sistine Chapel). Then through the basilica and out into the Piazza San Piedro square.

Vatican City State

Here is how it looks from Google’s satellite.

Vatican satellite view

There are two colonnades and two fountains, one on each side. So many people want to mail a post card to get a Vatican post mark on it that the post office has set up a trailer to process all of the outgoing tourist mail. Many people are mailing the post cards to themselves back home. Watch for it in one of the next two photos.


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And one obelisk in the center.


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Looking back as we leave the square to find our bus.

leaving the square

Doug looks happy with what he has seen.


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Vatican Museum

Vatican Museum

The lineups are long to enter the Vatican Museum. Revenues from the visitors are used to support charities. Popes through history have collected art and sculptures to protect it in the Vatican. That is how the museum collected so much.

The Vatican Museum Building

When the museum was opened up to the public, reconstruction was required to provide entrance lobbies for the visitors. Crowd control and security require a lot of security personnel. Clean up requires another staff team.

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Although pictures are allowed in most of the museum, some halls, such as the Sistine Chapel do not permit photos or videos.

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Sometimes minor repairs are required, and sometimes major updating is done. Recently each of the popes has focused on restoring a particular hall. Most of the paintings and frescoes have been restored including the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

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Although interest in preserving history became an official office in the Vatican around 1935, in 1970 more technology became available and space was dedicated to specific laboratories for metals, stone, textiles, pigments and more. More were added in the 1980’s and now there are more than 8 labs doing research on preservation.

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What is it with preserving body parts of dead popes in Cathedrals all over the world? In some cases the whole body is preserved and on display below the altar. Answers.

the body of Pope Bl. John XXIII, under the Altar of St. Jerome

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The sculptures are immense. To get a feeling for the relative size, look at the size of the people in the last image below.

St. Peter’s Basilica



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Click to the official Vatican Museum website


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Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy

No trip to Rome would be complete without a visit to the Trevi Fountain.

Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy

Your stop will not take long unless the crowds are not cooperating and letting you get a picture. When I arrived it had just stopped raining so the crowds were not too bad.

An umbrella open at the fountain? Of course.

Water from the Tiber River has been flowing to this fountain since 19 BC making it the oldest  fountain in Rome. The fountain was recently refurbished (November 2015) with the addition of over 100 LED lights to improve night viewing.

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Now if you are thirsty, there is a place where you can get a free drink of water. If you do not have a cup with you, no problem. Just put your hand over the bottom of the tap where the water is flowing out. There is a small hole about 3 inches up from the end, near the bend, where the water will start shooting out. Don’t stand too close.

Not the Trevi fountain but a good fountain to get a drink.

To learn nine facts about the Trevi fountain, click.

Here is a quick view around the tiny square.

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Piazza del Colosseo

While the Pacific Princess was docked in Civitavecchia Italy, I took a bus tour into Rome to see the Colosseum also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre. Here are a few photos from the Piazza del Colosseo.

Follow the pink umbrella so you do not get lost.

Here is a birds eye view:

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As we walk up the street to the Colosseum, watch your step, the stones are wet and slippery and uneven.

original stones?

The rain is making it a little miserable, but I think I can get enough pictures to make it worth while.

They are washing the streets for us.

the famous Colosseum (Amphitheater) in Rome

the who’s who of ancient Rome

Restoration is a continuous project, across the street as well as around the Colosseum.

Rest room for those doing the restoration.

There are other historic structures in the Piazza.

Ruins of Temple of Venus and Roma.  Look at that dome.

The Arch of Constantine  – 315 AD

There is so much emphasis on the Amphitheater that there is almost no information on the arch over the entrance to the square. Google  – Arch of Constantine.

The environment is still working on bringing it down.

Concern is for safety of the visitors.

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San Gimignano Courtyard

San Gimignano Courtyard

Our tour has been invited into the inner courtyard. I hope it is good. Are those people leaving with ice cream cones?

follow the lady with the sign.

look at all of the people

I hope it gets wider soon. I’m not getting any bars.

Is that the town hall?

How do you feel about living in one of these tower homes?

Where does that go?

Now I see where the cones are coming from. The line up is long because this is a world class Gelato Champion.

So this is where the cones are coming from.

Click here for a video tour of the courtyard.

the bus circle

After the tour, it is back to the bus circle for a SCAN while we ride back to the ship.

A “S-C-A-N” is a senior citizen afternoon nap. (An unadvertised feature of a bus trip)

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San Gimignano

The Towers of San Gimignano

At one time as many as 72 towers adorned the hilltop. Now only 14 remain in spite of  political pressure in the past to reduce them to the height of the other houses.

The next stop on our bus tour is at the top of the hill.

San Gimignano

The view from the top is impressive.

looking over the rooftops

once forested, now farmed

Imagine a sunnier day

Olives and grapes

After leaving the bus, we were lead up to the castle courtyard. There were lots of picture opportunities while we waited for the crowds to leave the courtyard.

a modern home

In the past some of the towers were homes for the nobles. The height of the tower was an indication of the owners wealth or power. Some of the towers were left empty. They were called vanity towers. Two of these still stand and are called the twin towers (sisters).

When they were built, about 700 years ago, there was a restriction that vanity towers could not be built taller than the city hall at 170 feet; so the Salvucci family built two towers to 130 feet each.

waiting to get into the inner courtyard

a quiet place to rest

Now we can move into the courtyard.

You will find a lot more information with a Google search.

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Tuscany countryside

Carefully blending the natural countryside with some grooming and adding a few homes with character, this province earns the fame and acclaim that visitors are spreading around the world.

Vacation in Tuscany

As we leave the city of Pisa we glimpse this famous landmark.

What’s wrong with that tower?

along the Arno River in Pisa

So many crops grow well in this climate.

The advantage of a bus tour is that  when we stop for lunch, it is always a new location with new things to see.

Our path leads to lunch

Maybe there will be some wine to sample.

The sky cleared and promised a lovely afternoon

Everything looks so beautiful in spring.

We bought souvenirs of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and wine of course.

After a cheerful time of wine tasting we were back on the bus for a ride to our next destination.


next stop, San Gimignano

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Pisa, Tuscany, Italy

The Italian region of Tuscany is well know for its wine fields and rolling picturesque countryside. You probably have heard of Florence, its capital city, and of Pisa and its famous tower.

The Royal Princess docked for a day in the port of Livorno. A bus tour took us northeast to the city of Pisa to see the tower. The city is on the Arno River.

Plazza del Miracoli

The Plazza del Miracoli or Place of Miracles is made up of three parts representing the cycle of life. In the foreground, the round building, is the baptistery representing birth. Behind it and largest  building is the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. It represents life. On the extreme left (north side of the square) is a long building. It is a cemetery and represents death.

The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta – Duomo

The leaning tower, on the right of the picture above, is not a separate part of the early design. It was built as a free standing (leaning) structure to be the bell tower for the duomo, church. If you look carefully at the picture below the bells can be seen at the top of the tower.

Top of the leaning tower of Pisa.

The church is so large compared to the size of the square, I had to stitch two photos together to show it all at once.

The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta – Duomo

book ahead online for a spot in line.

Although we arrived early in the morning the crowds had already created lines to do anything, including taking the typical tourist photos.

Oh, look at the tourists!

Our tour did not allow time for us to endure the lines so we left the interior views for another trip. It was a long walk from the bus to the entrance and we had to make a washroom stop before “bus-tling” off to our next attraction.

Did I mention the crowds?

crowds to get in past the vendors

and crowds to get out past the vendors

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click to study more.

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Santa Margherita Church

Santa Margherita Church

Shoulder to shoulder with the other residential buildings in the town square a beautiful church claims its place in the history of this town. Inside you will be overwhelmed by the adornments which are as closely packed as the buildings are outside. The lighting from the chandeliers augments the natural light filtering in from the stained glass windows.

Santa Margherita Ligure Church

beautiful mosaic tiles in front of church

bell and clock tower

elegant stained glass window in front.

delicate carvings over the doors


Statues on the left

and statues on the right

Standing tall among the neighboring buildings

The interior is designed to impress.

an altar to be remembered with pulpit on the right.

Paintings and carved statues as a reminder

focus on the altar

stained glass windows are everywhere

Light comes in from the dome

The detailed carvings are strategically placed

But if churches are not for you, there may be a game of golf in the streets.

Golf anyone? Who needs grass on a fairway?

What is calling you today?

the bells are calling, it is time . . .

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