Two of Vatican City’s most famous landmarks are St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square seen below. The square is a massive beautiful open plaza just before the St. Peter’s Basilica. In addition to being a place of worship (and modern day busy tourist attraction), the Basilica also houses more than 100 tombs underneath the church, 91 of which are occupied by past popes.The Pontifical Swiss Guards, seen below, stand ever so still but alert in their colorful uniforms near the entrance of the St. Peter’s Basilica. As the de facto military of Vatican City, these guards are responsible for the pope’s safety. It was interesting for me to observe how they don’t seem to move an inch with all the busy moving crowds around them. After a partial elevator ride up followed by a 323-step climb in a narrow spiral staircase, the view that emerges from the top of the St. Peter’s Basilica dome is well worth the heart-healthy work out program. Seen below is the Roman city skyline in the distance, with the Vatican Museum in the foreground. This is the museum that houses the famous Sistine Chapel and Raphael Rooms. Next on the itinerary is coastal Cinque Terre, which translates to “five villages” from Italian. This area is made of up five beautiful sea-facing hillside towns along the Italian Riveria. Below is a view of the Southern-most shoreline town, Riomaggiore. The planned home-base was supposed to be Vernazza further up North, but it was hit hard by heavy rains, creating vast floods and mudslides that later required the entire town to be closed and evacuated. Here is one video showing how devastated the town became. My heart goes out to those who suffered loses there.
I later met an American woman from Modesto California who was stranded in Vernazza when the rainstorm hit. She had come to visit her daughter who was studying aboard in Italy. While hiking along the Vernazza hill top, she quickly became soaked from the heavy rainstorm. The mudslides that followed eroded roads. She couldn’t return to her hotel to sleep or to get her belongings. She was fortunate to have later found a church in Vernazza that allowed her to sleep there at night. After a full week, she was finally able to retrieve her luggage from the hotel and get out of the devastated town. I am glad to have met this woman days later in Florence in well being, and to hear her story.