We started out the day driving to Vatican City circling the walls trying to find parking. We found a handicapped spot and made our way to the Vatican cafe to meet our tour guide Sylvia. ( we skipped breakfast)
Let me start by saying there was so much information that we learned about the Vatican and the Sistine chapel our heads were spinning- I will try to give you a glimpse of what we learned and saw. The Vatican is the smallest country in the world ( less than 1.7 square miles) with 800 residents and 400 civilians but it is visited by 27,000 people every day. It is an autocracy ( ruled by the pope and his council). The only people allowed to live there are those who work inside and you can only marry into those families(you cannot become a citizen or live there in your own). The economy is completely supported by charity, contributions from around the world and they do not pay taxes to Rome and the citizens do not pay taxes inside. The Swiss guard polices the city. The flag is square and white and yellow. The poor lives there but this new pope prefers not to live in the papal apartments but in a monastery across from the chapel.
Sylvia taught us that a new entrance was recently opened because of the amount of ppl visiting but if you are not going to the museum you must leave your passports at the gate.
The Vatican is filled with treasures from many different centuries- some acquired by popes who decorated the Vatican with different pieces of art and also gifts from important kings and dignitaries throughout history.
We visited the Sistine chapel and learned all about Michelangelo who was commissioned by the pope to paint it. We also learned about the paintings themselves all representing biblical stories - on one side stories of Moses and those parallel stories about Jesus. In the middle is the story of creation and on the back wall the depiction of the possibilities of afterlife- heaven , hell or purgatory. We learned all about the Jewish influence on Michelangelo and Christianity in general. Before 15th century Jews had a wonderful relationship with Christians and learned a lot from one another. Michaelangelo was a genius sculpture and architect and not even a painter but the pope payed him up front a lot of money to convince him to paint the chapel. The Sistine chapel was built in the dimensions of the bet hamikdash as it's described in the Torah. He painted a Jew in the heaven portion of the painting and a picture of money manager of the pope he didn't like (because michaelangelo spent so much $ on materials and salary) in hell. When we visited the Sistine chapel we had to be quiet because the vibrations ruin the paintings. Michaelangelo wanted a specific blue paint called lapis that one Jewish family made and used lots of it so he made them very rich. Some of the Medici family from Florence were Jewish and friends with michaelangelo and they were very interested in all cultures so used to invite doctors and philosophers and all sorts of people that he learned from.
Sylvia also taught us about the Jewish and Christian catacombs around the Vatican where people are buried and hundreds of objects were excavated and catalogued in the Vatican from the first century.
Olivia said her teacher always taught her that Israel was the smallest country but now she learned that the Vatican is.
We left exhausted and drove to the Jewish ghetto for lunch. It took us almost an hour to find parking and we parked in or near what seems to be a bus stop- so hopefully our car will be there when we are done.
We are in Ba- Ghetto again and ordered a cheese platter, a white pizza with artichokes, ravioli and some other yummy stuff- just as delicious! We bumped into Sara our your guide from yesterday again who was very sweet to us again. Next we got in the car (thankfully it was where we parked it- another car near us had a boot) and drove to the colosseum. It was only supposed to be about 10 minutes away but it took over 49 minutes to get there because of the crazy traffic, ambulances and police that weren't letting us down the street we needed.... We were supposed to meet up with Sylvia again at 4:00 in front of the colosseum but didn't get there till 4:30! Everyone was exhausted and not really in the mood for another long tour but we pushed forward and gathered every last bit of energy we had for the last few hours of the trip.
The colosseum was very cool. It was built by three different emperors from the same family one after another. They used it to entertain the people and keep them happy because the people payed tons of taxes. The shows were free as was the food and drink at the shows. The shows were not as violent as you might think. They were mostly between gladiators ( who were slaves trained as warriors) and wild and strange animals (tigers, lions, elephants, peacocks...). Sometimes it would be between two gladiators but the fights were never to the death- that would be too costly for the emperors...they stopped them after they got injured. The stadiums were extremely technologically advanced- the had huge fan like roofs that were able to be moved up and down to circulate air in the stadium- it was even waterproof ( covered in wax) . There were intricate tunnels under the floor that housed the caged animals and the gladiators preparing to fight. The stage had lifts or elevators that made them appear magically out of the floor. For the first few years the colosseum was built the stage was filled with water through canals built under it where they staged sea battles. They were very entertaining and exciting. It was called a colosseum because a colossal statue of Nero was just outside of it which reached the third level!
The stadium was extremely organized- the 15 outer gates were all numbered and each family was assigned a gate to enter and exit from. The rich senators and aristocrats sat on the bottom levels and the poor men at the next level and woman and slaves on top.
The floor was made of sand to absorb the blood and so the gladiators could grip the floor with their bare feet which is why it was called an arena ( in Italian arena is sand). They rarely wore any armor - just a cloth on their bottoms.
Next we went to visit the roman forum which had many ruins of ancient marketplaces, pagan temples turned later into Christian basilicas and the arch of Titus who marched through the city with the booty from the second Beit hamikdash after Titus destroyed it and carried the menorah and other important things through the gate. The depiction of the people carrying the menorah on the arch supports the theory that the menorah was rounded. We are not sure if it was carried in by Romans or Jewish slaves . The Jews who lived in Rome at the time payed Caesar to buy back the Jewish slaves to be free which shows the good standing Jews had in Rome at the time. It was cool to see layer upon layer of history- Mussolini excavated the entire area in the 1930s and found all of these ruins but kicked hundreds of people out of their homes to do it- and then destroyed half the ruins to build a road for himself to the colosseum as if he was an ancient emperor.
The Jews would have to stand by the arch of Titus and welcome every pope when he was inaugurated which was extremely humiliating for them. It was customary for Roman Jews never to walk through the arch for this reason but in 1948 the chief a Rabbi of Rome walked through as a celebration of the creation of Israel.
Just as our tour was ending there was huge lightning and thunder and it started to pour! We were outside but luckily right near a bathroom so we crowded in it for about 10 minutes and it stopped abruptly and the sun came out! We parted with Sylvia at the train station and got in the car to the airport to spend the night in a Hilton in the airport. We are here right now- showering and reorganizing ourselves and hopefully getting a good night sleep for our 10 hour flight tomorrow! Can't wait to see you all- thanks for enjoying the blog! Tune in for our next vacation!!!!!