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Published: June 13th 2017
Geo: 41.8955, 12.4823DAY FIVE (8/6)—Rome
The Agony and The Ecstasy
You might think that's a novel/movie about Michelangelo's life and you would be right. Just not today.
The Agony = the exhaustion and knee pain from spending all morning at St. Peter's Basilica, the afternoon walking to and from the Villa Borghese Museum and spending the afternoon there, the evening (after hours) touring the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel.
The Ecstasy = the incredible experience of St. Peter's Basilica, the beauty of the Bernini sculptures at the Borghese, and the amazing collection of art at the Vatican, especially but not surprisingly, the talents of Michelangelo. Wow, what a day.
We overslept. We never oversleep. We woke up to find it was 8:25, the exact time we were told to meet in the lobby. We had no way to contact the guide, so we tossed clothes on in record time, threw cameras and Whisper earphones in a carry bag and ran downstairs. The bus was pulling away as we arrived. Whew! No breakfast, no makeup, but we made it by the skin of our teeth.
Our guide, Ricardo, was fascinating. We spent two hours in the Basilica of St. Peter, seeing one of the four Pietas,
learning about the marble, the statues, the design and the miracle of it all. We saw John Paul II's coffin, which was placed in the church in May, when he was beatified. We saw the actual remains of John XXIII, who is also up for canonization. And the bronzed remains of Pius X, considered by many to be the greatest Pope ever. And St. Peter himself is buried below the main altar.
The Bernini sculptures, the enormity of the building, the creativity and cleverness of architect Michelangelo, all left us in awe.
St. Peter's is located, of course, in Vatican City, a city state separate from Italy. Many regard it as the holiest of Catholic sites. It measures 730' L x 500' W x 452' H … larger than I ever imagined. Ricardo told us that it was the largest church in the world and there are places on the floor that show where other large churches in the world would fit inside this one. For instance, St. Patrick's in NYC is only about half the size.
Following our tour, we bought souvenirs in the Vatican store (I got a Christmas ornament) and Vatican-issued postcard stamps which are collectibles. Back on the Via
Veneto, where our hotel is located, we had a pasta lunch outdoors at Café Strega, with Marge Gilbert of Purchase, NY.
We returned to our room to relax and write postcards so they could be posted from the Vatican this evening.
At 3 pm, we met Zachary, Zachary and Patricia Coney of San Mateo, CA for a walk to the Villa Borghese Gallery and Museum. The gallery includes masterpieces by Bernini, Titian, Raphael and more. The collection began with the gallery's founder, Cardinal Scipione Borghese, who by the time of his death in 1633 had accumulated some of the greatest art of all time. The great collection suffered at the hands of Napoleon and his notorious sister, Pauline, who appears at the gallery in the form of a white marble nude.
Although I loved the sculptures, especially the Berninis, I was underwhelmed with the Cardinal's narrow taste – Italian painters, religious themes. (It turns out the paintings of the period were almost all of a religious nature.)
We returned with the Halvorsens, who STILL don't have their luggage (day 6). They went on to shop for a few more clothes; we relaxed for this evening. My knee was swollen so I elevated it
We headed out early evening for an after-hours visit to the Sistine Chapel. We made our way through the various galleries (Candelabra, Maps, Tapestries) and then spent an hour in the Sistine Chapel, where guide Ricardo gave us in-depth insight into Michelangelo's masterpiece ceiling. His information was fascinating, albeit not all exactly accurate.
We had done this four years ago on a Kalos Cruise, so it wasn't exactly new to us. Still, it was enjoyable … although I do have to admit that I think twice is plenty.
Much to Patrick's horror, I managed to nab a few photos in this "no photos allowed" sacred space.
We headed across the street from the hotel for a late evening dinner of gelato. Perfect! ;-)
Note to self: Rent "The Agony and The Ecstasy" to watch again.
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