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August 30, 2016

St. Peter's Basilica & Square

Believe it or not, we're still ploughing our way through my recent trip to Rome (I know hang in there guys, the end of these posts are on the horizon I assure you!) and today I thought it was high-time I shared with you one of my favourite spots: St. Peter's Basilica. This place is amazing and it will be no surprise that it is full to the brim with tourists at every moment of everyday because it's just a stunning space to stand in. Because Matt & I visited the basilica during the afternoon of a busy day, we didn't spend an awful lot of time in it due to being extremely tired and irritable from the heat and bustle of the place. It is a popular tourist destination and it's obvious why but it is worth bearing in mind *just* how packed this place can be if you are considering scoping it out.

The Papal Basilica of St. Peter was constructed in the 1500s (finally completed in 1626) and is considered the burial place of St.Peter who was one of Christ's disciples and the very first Pope. It's situated in the Vatican City, Italy and let me tell you, walking past it every morning whilst on holiday in Rome was amazing and I never once got bored of the beautiful architecture. The first full day we were in Rome was a Sunday and us silly sausages kind of forgot we were in a Roman Catholic (Roman would have been the giveaway word) city and couldn't understand why there was a huge crowd, complete with gunned police guards, gathering in St. Peter's Square. Until we rounded it and saw the Pope on a big TV screen. He was addressing his people, giving his Sunday sermon he gives every Sunday if he happens to be "home". It was such a strange experience to see someone I so frequently see on the news and in the papers actually there - in front of me - and hear him speak. We didn't stay for long because I speak zero Italian so I can't even guess what he was talking about, but it was a fantastic experience nevertheless! Because the square was so busy, we decided to check out St. Peter's later in the week.

When we eventually checked it out, we had had a busy long morning in the Vatican Museums (which you can read all about here) and so in the baking midday sun, we waited in line to go into St. Peter's feeling a little tired. St. Peter's is completely free to enter which is one reason it is so busy with tourists, but it is also a pilgrimage site for many Catholics. Security is tight here and we went through different scanner checks to enter the building. Something worth bearing in mind if you're planning to visit the basilica is it is a place of worship so make sure you're dressed appropriately. It might get ridiculously hot in Rome and Vatican City, but booty shorts and crop tops are not needed in a holy place. Signs at the security checks explain that huge bags will not be allowed into the basilica (a normal backpack is fine) and that shorts are not okay and your shoulders should be covered. I wore a midi dress with capped sleeves and that was fine - just be mindful when you're getting dressed before your visit and you'll be fine! A lot of women took lightweight scarves with them to cover their shoulders too. But now, let's take a look at just how beautiful this place is.

St. Peter's Basilica CeilingsSt. Peter's DetailSt. Peter's BasilicaSt. Peter's Basilica CeilingSt Peter'sThe Papal Basilica of St PeterSt. Peter's Floor ArtSt. Peter's InteriorSt Peter's Ceiling DetailSt. Peter's CeilingSt. Peter's

Gorgeous isn't it? Like I mentioned earlier, it will be busy in there no matter when you visit, so bear it in mind that you can't always spend a long time looking at the artwork of Michelangelo and Bernini etc. if you don't want to be pushed around by thousands of others trying to look at it all too. It's also important to remember to take a proper good look at the Piazza outside! So many people forget to pay close attention to St. Peter's Square because it isn't the main attraction, but it's a gorgeous spot to spend some time whether it's sitting on the steps to catch a break from the hot sun or sitting by one of the fountains to watch all the passerbys. The most noteworthy part of the plaza is the Tuscan colonnades surrounding the perimeter of the square which were constructed by the artist Bernini and are supposed to represent the maternal arms of the church embracing all who visit her. On top of these famous colonnades are a variety of Saint statues - each one a specific saint and therefore different in their stance and appearance. I'd highly recommend just taking some time to look at them because it's so impressive that each of them have their own personality and look - not to mention the square is a sun trap and perfect for taking a minute or 30 to just sit and have a rest in the glorious sunshine!

The Papal Basilica of St. PeterSt. Peter'sSt Peter'sSt. Peter's DetailSt. Peter's BasilicaSt. Peter's Square

- A.
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August 26, 2016

Riverside Walk

One of my favourite spots in Winchester is the river side of the River Itchen. It's a lovely peaceful walk - especially early in the morning - and always gets a lot of sun (plus, there's often a lot of dogs!). Recently Matt & I took advantage of a rare sunny, rain free Sunday morning and took a wander down by the river and up to St Catherine's Hill hilltop (which you can catch in last week's lifestyle post). Although I've already featured photographs of the River Itchen and this area of Winchester on Northern Blood before, I think it's a such a picturesque beautiful area that I never get bored of taking snaps here. I can only hope you're not bored of seeing the results too; enjoy!

Blossom TreesCows GrazingClear River WaterParish of St FaithSt Cross ChurchHospital of St CrossCowsCow ClubSpeckled CowSummer SlumberCowCowsRiversideMorning Walks

This time the cows were in the main field along the walkway so I got a chance to photograph them properly. It was really hot and sunny considering it was only 7am, so they all looked tuckered out and were snoozing in pretty much a pile in the middle of the field. I love walking past these cuties because they're so used to people passing through their fields, they're really placid and not skittish. Also I can't lie, I really love cows - aren't they really cute?!

- A.
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August 23, 2016

Vatican City

If there was one place I was desperate to visit during our holiday to Rome, it was Vatican City. Having previously not had a huge desire to go to Rome, the one thing that swayed my decision to make it the destination for Matt & I's first holiday was the thought of visiting the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Basilica. The artwork in the Vatican Museums was said to be astonishing and of course, I'd get a chance to stand in the Sistine Chapel - what more could an art/art history/RE teacher want ey?

So, one day we got up bright and early and started on the short walk over to The Vatican from our Air BnB flat. After roughly 15 minutes, we started to see a the tail-end of the queue for The Vatican Museums and oh boy was I pleased that I had booked our tickets online. Before Matt & I went to Rome, we debated over what we should and shouldn't book in advance and after almost booking nothing, for some reason, I decided to at least book The Vatican tickets and it's such a good job I did. The tail-end of this queue was around a corner and as we turned it, we realised the queue stretched the length of at least 1,000 people if not more. There were small groups, families, large tourist groups with a guide, individual backpackers... It was insane. I've never felt so elated but almost guilty as a swanned past them all, knowing we didn't have to wait in the 4+ hour line because we could just go and pick up our tickets and that would be that. The whole process was ridiculously quick and after a quick walk through a security scanner and stop-off at the toilet, we were ready to be awed by everything we saw.

The VaticanCeiling Artwork, The VaticanStatueCourtyard, The Vatican, RomeSculpture at The VaticanSculptureMinotaur, The VaticanVatican MuseumsVatican DomeVatican Museum ViewVatican Museum Mosaic FloorThe Vatican Staircase

The first *area* of the Vatican Museums to stroll through is very grand - it is full to the brim with sculptures and statues mostly, ranging from famous bronzes to mythological minotaur busts and more. Each room is so bright and airy and more grand that the last so they're a pleasure to wander through despite the insane buzz of people shuffling through the museums' almost one way route (if you get claustrophobic, you genuinely might want to look into visiting the museums during the evening as you can request a look around after hours as it is super busy - even at 9am on a weekday morning!).

As we slowly made our way out of these marble-filled rooms, we suddenly started to spill into the areas I really wanted to look at - the grand painted ceilings and corridors. The amazing thing about walking around these museums is the majority of the rooms and hallways are what you actually need to look at, not necessarily what they contain. Many of the corridors and rooms don't actually house any artifacts or static artworks but they each boast the most beautiful paintings stretching from floor to ceiling well actually, the ceilings are included too! I'm pretty sure Matthew was sick of me after the 50th time I walked into a room and went "*gasp* how pretty *gasp* look!" but it is honestly such a breathtaking place. It's worth saying at this point the Vatican Museums are huge so be prepared for walking a fair few miles during your visit because there's so much to see and you need to go through it all to get to the main attraction: The Sistine Chapel.

Jesus Christ Tapestry, The Vatican MuseumsThe Vatican ArtworkVatican MuseumVaitcan Museums PaintingsArt in The Vatican MuseumsCeiling Art at The VaticanFrom Where I StandCeilings of The Vatican

The Papal Basilica of St. Peter from Vatican MuseumsVatican PaintingsVatican Museums Ceiling ArtStained GlassPaintings at The Vatican MuseumsMosaic Floor Detail, The VaticanView from Vatican Museums Gardens

- A.
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