St. Peter's Basilica
The entire interior of St. Peter's is lavishly decorated with marble, reliefs, architectural sculpture and gilding. The Basilica contains a large number of tombs of Popes and other notable people, many of which are considered outstanding artworks. There are also a number of sculptures in niches of the chapel including Michelangelo’s Pieta. The dome is the most outstanding feature of the Basilica. Not only is the art inside the Basilica overwhelming, but also the pure size and grandeur is tremendous. The beauty is indescribable. No photograph can ever capture it; you have to be there to experience it and believe it. It is the perfect blend of art and religion. Even though I am a staunch atheist, I felt a certain spirituality in the air. There was reverence in the eyes of the believers. There was devotion for Christ and there was admiration for the art and architecture. It was like two worlds were coalescing.
The site where the Papal Conclave meets in order to elect the Pope, this 15th Century Chapel is probably the most popular attraction in Vatican City. Home to Michelangelo's masterpiece 'The Last Judgement' and several ceiling frescoes, you get into this house of wonder after a long walk through the galleries of the museums and a dozen security guards will work hard to keep you from clicking any pictures. The nine frescoes depict God's Creation, the tale of Adam and Eve, the Fall and the plight of Noah. The Last Judgement (Giudizio Universale) on the west wall illustrating Christ passing his sentence over dead souls stands out in every way possible. And no, Michelangelo did not paint the ceiling while lying on his back. That is merely a myth. Interestingly, there are stories about how Michelangelo was an artist who refused to conform to the norms of his time. When the Papal officials complained about the existence of nudity in the frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo painted the Gates of Hell behind the pulpit where the Pope delivers his Mass and portrayed several saints as foolish and in compromising positions. Now that's some form of revenge. Getting there: The Sistine Chapel is located inside the Vatican Museums and the entry comes for about 16 Euros. They are open from 9am to 6pm with 4pm being the last admission. Additionally, entry is free on the last Sunday of the month. The queues can be long so book your tickets online if you are in a bit of a hurry. There are several galleries to see in the museums with the Chapel being the final stop, after which you proceed to St. Peter's Basilica. Photography, as mentioned above, is prohibited, but nobody can stop you from gazing at the ceiling in amazement for as long as you like, although the crowd could be a bit of a deterrent. You could take the Metro to 'Ottaviano-San Pietro' which is on the A Line of the Rome Metropolitan and your journey to the Vatican and back should cost you 3 Euros. Beware of pickpockets. The museums are located 900 metres from the station and noon is the best time to visit.
Casina delle Civette
The House of the OwlsThis place is hidden in Villa Torlonia, a large park in which the main house is famous as the residence of Mussolini. The House of the Owls is a tiny building in the park, was a princely residence and its architecture, its colors, its windows let it looks like a place came out of a fairy tale.The name “House of the Owls” comes from the almost obsessive presence of the owl theme in the decorations and furnishings of the House wanted by the Prince Giovanni Torlonia, who lived in the House until his death in 1938, and who was a lover of esoteric symbols.The atmosphere in this place is truly magical, and it’s the perfect place to take a break from the tourist crowds in Rome enjoying the quiet in the park and a bit of beauty.
In Siena, head to the Pinacoteca Nazionale to see late Medieval and Renaissance paintings in its gallery. Duccio di Buoninsegna, Simone Martini and the Lorenzetti brothers were among the most important Sienese painters and their works were less naturalistic than Florentine art. See Duccio's Madonna dei Francescani which is a masterpiece as it shows different styles.For more information, get in touch here. Timings: Sun–Mon 9am–1pm; Tues–Sat 8:15am–7:15pm Entry fee: €4
Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna
To see some of the most well preserved Baroque styles, don't miss heading to the National gallery. The collections started in 1796 and has kept growing. Artwork by the Carracci brothers, who were instrumental in bringing forth the Baroque style, are on display along with paintings by high-Baroque artist Guido Reni. The gallery covers a whole range of artwork, starting from the 13th century to upto the 18th century.For more information, get in touch here. Timings: Tuesday-Wednesday 9:00-13:30;Thursday-Sunday 14:00-19:00 Entry fee: €6Where to stay in Bologna?The best option is the city centre because of the tourist sites and restaurants nearby. Rooms in a good hotel start from approx Rs 5500 (78 euros).Where to eat in Bologna?Food in Bologna is special with so much on offer. When in Bologna, eat like the locals and indulge in fresh hand cut pasta, ragu, a ton of Mortadella and of course, copious amounts of gelato!