Published: July 6th 2010July 5th 2010
In the eponymous Pinecone court at the Vatican Museum.
So the plan for Monday was to check out the Castel Sant'Angelo, hit up the Mausoleum of Augustus, and see where I went from there.
I had forgotten the cardinal rule of tourism in Europe. Almost _nothing_ is open Mondays. And the Castel was not the exception to the rule. And the mausoleum? Undergoing extensive restoration work and completely inaccessible. Not even a good photo opp.
So I caved. I found a tour group that would take me through the Vatican museum to the Sistine Chapel, and while we'd have to wait in queues, they were much shorter cues than the poor suckers doing it on their own. I wasn't going to do the museum because it was so bloody crowded (designed for 5-10k visitors per day, they're seeing roughly 30k/day in peak periods). And it was definitely crowded. Yet again my hatred of large tour groups (including my own - yes, I was one of those obnoxious headset-sporting tourists I whined about in my last post) was raging, but I controlled myself, made it through the museum learning lots from my guide and and some some excellent art bits (Laocoon, anyone?). Oh, and the Sistine Chapel? Almost worth
Exit from the Catacombs of San Callisto.
the crowds. I say almost because of my hugely intense hatred of crowds. And the fact that no one would shut up. and the people taking photos when they shouldn't have. An being shoved. In a church. Lovely. But having said that, the frescos were simply amazing. As was the info on the restoration work and the before-and-after spot left behind by the cleaners. Conservation nerd was thrilled!
The tour finished just outside St Peter's and rather than going in, I opted for the crypt. Surprise to those of you who know me, I'm sure. It was a lot brighter than I'd anticipated, quite touristed up. An of course the huge draw for most right now is the tomb of John Paul II. It was, to put it mildly, the shiniest thing down there. Not only is it white marble with gold inlay lettering, but it's spotlit, there are guards, red velvet rope... That being said, in terms of style it's one of the simplest, cleanest monuments down there. No effigy or sarcophagus like most of the popes.
The afternoon I decided to be a bit brave, and ventured out on public transit to... Wait for it... Sure
Fontana di Trevi
Me at the Trevi Fountain!
you'll be shocked... The catacombs. Totally different from the Paris version, given that they were used for somewhat different purposes. And speaking of Paris, never have I been more glad of speaking a second language. Instead of going down with the massive English-speaking tour group (sensing a trend here?) I went with the 5-person-including-me French group. The guide spoke Parisian-accented French, and also had a lisp, which made understanding a bit difficult at times, but I got about 95% of it. It was a fascinating tour, all sorts of info about early Christians in Rome, their burial practices, martyrdoms, etc. In short, I was in my element, and could easily have spent all day down there. Sadly the tour only lasted about an hour.
Finding my way back into the heart of the city, I headed to the Trevi fountain to meet H (from my choir), her husband B and their two boys for dinner. I soon realized that trying to meet people at the Trevi Fountain is like trying to find... Maybe a knitting needle in the proverbial haystack. Not impossible, but definitely not easy, either. So I found myself the tallest point nearby, stood on it, and hoped they'd see me. Which they did. A lovely dinner and a short walk past the Temple of Adrian and the Pantheon, and we called it a night.