Montecatini Terme, a town in Tuscany, Italy – also known as the spa town – is renowned for it’s art. Unfortunately we did not get to see any of that. We woke up early, had breakfast, checked out and then stepped out to take some photos infront of the hotel while waiting for the others.
Once everyone was ready, we headed out, luggage and all, back to the coach and onward to Rome. But first, we stopped in Firenze aka Florence for some sightseeing:
“Florence, capital of Italy’s Tuscany region, is home to many masterpieces of Renaissance art and architecture. One of its most iconic sights is the Duomo, a cathedral with a terracotta-tiled dome engineered by Brunelleschi and a bell tower by Giotto. The Galleria dell’Accademia displays Michelangelo’s “David” sculpture. The Uffizi Gallery exhibits Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” and da Vinci’s “Annunciation.””― Google
We were met by a local guide who took us on a walking tour of the beautiful, artistic and cultural city. We started at San Marco, which is known for the gallery that houses Michelangelo’s statue of David. From there we walked to San Giovanni, the heart of Florence and home to the Uffizi Gallery, Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Palazzo Vecchio & many more.
Our guide took us through Piazza degli Uffizi, which had statues of many famous Italians of the Renaissance era, like Donatello (sculptor), Dante (poet), Da Vinci, a Renaissance polymath(painter), just to name a few. The guided tour ended by the river where the guide pointed out Ponte Vecchio, a beautiful bridge that had shops selling souvenirs & jewellery. We were given some time to shop souvenirs and get lunch. There was much to see/do and so little time, so of course we had a few stragglers; I’m sure it wasn’t because they were slow 😅 and I don’t blame them, Florence is a shopper’s haven 💯.
When everyone was accounted for at the meet up place, we made our way back to the coach for the trip to Rome, in particular, the Vatican City. It was tough, being a Saturday (not just any, but a long weekend Saturday) – the traffic queues were long. But thanks to Zoltan, we managed to get through, and arrive with plenty of time to visit the Vatican. Only thing we underestimated was the crowd – St Peter’s square was crowded and the queues for entries to both the Basilica and the Vatican were very long and winding.
The good thing about booking tours beforehand via tour companies, is that we didn’t have to wait in the public lines. There were separate entrances for tour groups, as each group had designated local tour guides: that was how we beat the holiday rush on that very busy November afternoon while on tour of the Vatican. As there were some group members who were not doing the tour with us, we separated at St Peter’s square with plan to meet back there by 6.30pm for the trip to the hotel.
We were dropped off near St Peter’s Square and then had to walk over to the entrance for the Vatican. On our way there, we saw people lining up along one of the streets and were wondering why. We didn’t have to wonder long, as the Pope’s motorcade passed us by – everyone was waving excitedly, some even shouting. We got a glimpse of the papal figure and his traditional papal wave too, God bless him.
The Vatican city: “…headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. It’s home to the Pope and a trove of iconic art and architecture. Its Vatican Museums house ancient Roman sculptures such as the famed “Laocoön and His Sons” as well as Renaissance frescoes in the Raphael Rooms and the Sistine Chapel, famous for Michelangelo’s ceiling ― Google”
Inside, the Vatican was even busier, there were thousands of people. Our guide was good; she made sure we were together at all times, led us through the crowded halls/ rooms, and explained efficiently. At the entrance we had been issued with ear pieces that were tuned to an audio system through which we could hear our guide talking.
We walked through the museum and many other rooms: however our guide began to worry that if we continued to follow the crowds, we would miss out on getting into the Sistine Chapel as the doors closed at 5pm like every other part of the Vatican. Did I say assertive?
Well, our guide was assertive and quite confident she could get us in and she did! She spoke to someone she knew and they let us go directly to join the queue for the chapel rather than following the winding crowds.
No photographs are allowed in the chapel and everyone must be quiet: that proved difficult to enforce – as the chapel was full and buzzing with people, either saying a prayer or just talking/ whispering loudly. We stayed in the chapel for a bit, and then exited to St Peter’s Basilica. In the Basilica, cameras were allowed, so we managed to get a few pictures there.
It was a humbling experience for Iamo and I, and I’m sure also for anyone who has ever visited these places. I’m a christian and a firm believer that God is everywhere irrespective of whether you believe in Him or not, or whether you’re a catholic or not! God is good always and His ways higher than our ways and thoughts🙏♥️
We were able to watch the last changing of guards at the Vatican, before heading back to the designated meet up spot. By 8pm we made it to our accommodation for the next two nights in Rome – Hotel American Palace EUR. We checked in, freshened up and went back downstairs for dinner in the hotel. Day 6, done! What a day it was too.
Below are some happy snaps from day 6, hope you like themn🙂