I was so excited to finally get to see Pompeii up close after learning about it in class and, of course, after watching the Hollywood blockbuster of the eponymous name starring Kit Harrington. This post will be about that and my visit to the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel with Rome and Italy. Here is Part Two in case you missed it.
Tour #6: Pompeii
Background: In case you weren’t aware, in AD 79 Mount Vesuvius, still an active volcano today, erupted and smothered the Roman city of Pompeii with volcanic ash and pumice, effectively burying and killing everyone and everything in the city. In the nineteenth century archaeologists discovered a way to preserve the bodies; they poured plaster through holes in the ash with the result that they had detailed plaster casts of people and animals at the time of their deaths. A bit creepy if you think about it, but also interesting. Some of those casts can be seen at Pompeii today.
This particular tour was a whole day affair. At 8:30 AM we met our driver, Massimo, the best human ever, and the two men that would be pushing me around for the day outside of our hotel. After I got in the van, they began the usual process of loading the Wheely Trekky along with the lift and then we were on our way. From Rome to Pompeii it’s only about a 2 1/2 to 3 hour drive. About halfway there we made a pit stop at a large convenience store to buy snacks and for bathroom breaks. The wheelchair accessible washroom there should be large enough to fit most wheelchairs.
Driving through the Italian countryside is a treat in itself. There’s so much greenery and picturesque towns nestled amongst the hills.
Outside the ticket office at Pompeii, there are a bunch of street vendors that sell souvenirs, beverages and other goods. Past the ticket office are the washrooms. There is one accessible washroom that was large enough to fit my chair, though not very much space to move around.
When we reached Pompeii there was a bit of confusion at the ticket office, but once that was all settled, we began our tour. It was an insanely hot day, but we did manage to look around for a good three hours before calling it quits. With that said, three hours is not enough time to explore the whole of Pompeii, not even close. I recommend spending as much time as you can there. I hope to go back there again, maybe for two days, and possibly squeeze in Herculaneum as well, because it’s amazing to think you can stroll along the same streets that the Romans did nearly 2000 years ago.
I’d say visiting Pompeii would be nearly impossible without the use of the Wheely Trekky if you use a wheelchair. Even with the Trekky, the guys struggled a fair amount, but made it work. If you can fit it in your schedule, Pompeii is definitely worth visiting.
Tour #7: The Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel
Vatican Museum Background: The museums are a mixture of all the popes’ immense collection of art and artifacts first begun by Pope Julius II in the early sixteenth century.
The Sistine Chapel Background: The main attraction here that draws thousands of people every day is Michelangelo’s masterpiece, The Last Judgement and the magnificent ceiling that he painted years earlier. Commissioned by Pope Julius II, it took Michelangelo four years (1508-1512) to paint the ceiling. Michelangelo considered himself primarily a sculptor and originally had refused to paint the ceiling, especially since he didn’t have experience with frescoes, but in the end he agreed, after Pope Julius II consented to give him free reign over the painting and after he taught himself how to paint. Summoned again by Pope Clement VII, initially he was supposed to paint the resurrection, but under Pope Paul III, it was agreed that he paint The Last Judgement, which was completed between 1535 and 1541. Surrounding Michelangelo’s work is a stunning array of other Renaissance art, including work by Perugino and Botticelli. Besides the brilliant artwork in the Sistine Chapel, it is interesting to note that this is the place where the College of Cardinals have their conclave to select the next pope.
My visit to the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel was a special one. So special that it was after hours when all the other tourists had already left, and the only people around were my friend and I, the tour guide and one other staff member from the tour company who filmed a video of the tour which I will soon share. Some Vatican guards were present, and one of them followed us for the whole tour. It lasted only two hours, not including driving time, but it was, most likely, for me, a once in a lifetime opportunity. This private tour won’t be for everyone, mostly because the price for it is outrageous. I had originally intended to book it on the day of my birthday, but it turned out that it wasn’t available that day; however, in the end, I decided to schedule it for another day. I do not regret that choice. It was my favorite tour of all.
Once the tour of the museum was finished, we made our way to the Sistine Chapel. To get there in your wheelchair you first need to go down a stair lift. The width of my chair from the back wheels is 25.5 inches and that left about two inches to spare. Once off the lift, we went down a narrow hallway leading to the Sistine Chapel. My table and joystick protrude out farther than my wheels, increasing the width to about 29.5 inches. My chair only just fit through the doorway. If it didn’t fit I could have removed my table and it would have been fine. If the base of your chair is wider than 29-30 inches you might have a difficult time passing through the doorway.
It was a singular experience to be able to stroll down the halls at a leisurely pace and fully enjoy all the treasures in the museum. Even if you go during regular operating hours you will still be blown away.
Stick around for my next post about the Appian Way and Castel Sant’Angelo, plus a bonus tour.