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Published: September 17th 2017
Geo: 41.8955, 12.4823
We booked a tour called "Pristine Sistine" in advance. The promise was that we would get to see the world-famous chapel when it was quiet, before it opened to the general public. We left before breakfast to catch the Metro and then walked about 5 streets to the meetup. Our tour alone included 6 groups of 12 people so I wouldn't say it was quiet, but we did feel like we got a bit of a jump on the crowds. Our German guide kept repeating how lucky we were to see iIaau everything "so quiet." She worked way too hard to sell us on something we had already bought.
The Sistine Chapel was much smaller than I had imagined. It was also darker, to help protect the paint. It was wonderful to see the space, but for the sake of art appreciation you may be better with a book. I would also suggest bringing small binoculars. You are not allowed to take photos inside, but if you could I think you could make a wonderful collage if people looking up at the ceiling
We saw many, many galleries on the fly as we blew through about 4 miles of museum (Guide
Limber up your neck
Much of the beautiful art at the Vatican is overhead. Sometimes it can be tough on the neck
Uta's estimate) in 4 hours. I would have been distressed by the need for speed if I didn't know that we had pre-purchased tickets to go back after lunch. My recommendation would be to buy tickets online, buy a good Vatican guide book and get the audio guide on site. The tickets save you a very long wait in line and the others free you from the guide to go at your own pace. Small warning: the audio guides don't cover much so you need a companion map and book.
The collections here include art commissioned by the popes and the church, plunder from Egypt and the cradle of civilization including cuneiform tablets from Iraq and Turkey, Roman statuary and Roman knockoffs of Greek bronzes. We also saw a temporary collection of modern art by masters like Matisse and Dali.
I was pretty wiped out by the time we reached St Peter's Basilica which is much larger than I'd imagined. There are many dead popes interred there and some are on display (yikes!). Most of what look like paintings are actually mosaics which allows management to keep the lights brighter without fearing for the safety of the art. As we neared
the end if the tour, mass was starting in one of the Basilica chapels with a visiting children's choir from Costa Rica. They reminded me of City Singers and L & I ditched the tour to attend the mass. It was said in a combination of Spanish and Latin, so I could kind of follow along. The singers were great and clearly very excited. The priest was very kind in his compliments to them and led us all in applause at the end; that surprised me.
Afterward, we walked out into St Peter's Square where we were able to exchange some Italian euro for Vatican euro with the pope's face on one side. Then we broke for lunch.
I picked a place online before we left called FaFaMi Laboratorio Gastronomico. It's about a five minute walk from St Peter's. L got a wonderful salad with cod, sun dried tomatoes, olives and very thin candied lemon zest. I got a prosciutto and fresh fig panini. Really great and free wifi!
We made our way back around the wall of the city to reenter the museum with our tickets. L had to take a couple work calls and I spent a long time looking at
the plundered Middle Eastern loot. It seems kind of arrogant to continue to keep the stolen historic artifacts of other countries. Some of it was a close second to the artifacts we saw at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara. These rooms took us back to about 2500 BC, so we've now covered about 4,500 years and several languages in the last 3 days. No wonder we are tired!
What is the best antidote for tired? Gelato! After we finished at the Vatican Museum (we were there until about 4:45), we headed for our favorite gelato shop. On the way, we bumped into a large public procession as part of the Feast Day of Padre Pio. There was music, a crowd, at least a dozen priests and lots of civil service workers. These last included a passel of lifeguards and their working dogs. The dogs seemed to think this was more of a social occasion than a solemn one, so they were goofing off. We enjoyed listening to the music, eating gelato and watching the pooches. (Gelato del Teatro- Via di S. Simone 70--hidden in the corner of Piazza San Salvatore in Lauro across the river from Castel Sant'Angelo)
to the hotel, we picked up a few gifts for L's coworkers and sister: some Murano glass picture frames and hand printed stationery. When we got back to the Manfredi, L was able to score a tray of tea things for us so she was the hero of the day. That gave us the strength to get back out on the streets for dinner. Dinner was at Osteria St Ana. It was pretty good, but not great by our elevated Italian dinner standards. We sat next to a cute couple from Detroit who got married on Saturday. They were on their honeymoon. They told us that if you come to Rome within 6 months of getting married, you can wear your wedding dress/tux to a papal audience and get a special blessing for your marriage. They were told to show up at 6:30am for a 10am blessing so that they could get a place. We were impressed with their dedication to this effort. We also had a good laugh when he made a comment about how streets in Detroit are numbered and on a grid and L responded, "You must be an engineer." He was, of course. L and I
This is one of the domes in the Vatican (not St Peter's)
can spot 'em a mile away.
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