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Published: October 23rd 2009
Monday 19th October
A day at the home of the Pope - The Vatican
After yesterday’s close encounter with the Cardinal at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore we were ready to see what might happen when we spend a day at the Vatican looking over the RC church’s riches.
The day has started out beautifully fine and sunny but rather cool and so we shall go prepared for the temperature to reach perhaps a high in the mid teens.Rain is forecast for where we are heading to the north for later in the week but we shall make good of the continuing dry weather while we can.
We are expecting to have to queue for perhaps up to two hours to gain entrance to the Vatican museums and so we didn’t think that trying to get there too early was going to make any difference to that and as the place is open to 7pm we had a fair amount of time at our disposal.Also it being a working day the bus and train is likely to be busier before 9.30am.
So with all that in mind we headed off to make the bus/train connection at around 9.30am and after
making a change of direction at Termini we arrived at the underground station for the Vatican an hour later.
Walking up to the street to the Vatican was unspectacular for all there was ahead of us was a rather tall and uninteresting wall.We are not really sure what we were expecting but it was something a bit more dramatic than what we got.
We were only a few steps on the way from coming up from the underground and the people offering English speaking tours of the Vatican were at us.Their selling point was that we wouldn’t have to wait the hour and a half(we are expecting two hours in the queue)in the queue and were quite earnest about it making it sound like we might not be able to survive in the queue that long.But we brushed past them with a pleasant no thank you and strode on towards what we thought was the place where we would find the queue.The only problem was that in our desire to get ahead of those that came off the same train as us we overshot the turn to the museum’s queue and ended up just short of St Peters square and
Basilica which we intend to visit after the museum’s.
We felt we were in the wrong place and Gretchen got that confirmed when she asked the smartly clad Swiss Army guard(they are the Vatican’s police)for direction.
So we back tracked and ended up behind all those we had got ahead of.Ahead of us though their didn’t appear to be any queue at all until we rounded the third of the 3 corners of the wall and then we came to a halt.It was difficult to know just how long we would be waiting in line but soon after we came to a stop we were shuffling our way forward.
Of course while you are waiting in line you get all that Rome has to offer from entertainment on an accordion by a gypsy(he wasn’t too bad actually),another gypsy woman selling scarves and then a beggar who was as tall as a dwarf but without legs below what appeared to be knee level.Thankfully we didn’t have to wait in front of him because we might have gone soft and given him money.
Well we were only 20 minutes in the line that was continually moving and before we knew it we
were at the security screeners and through to a one minute line to buy tickets and up the stairs to the start of the museums.
We started out by looking through a gallery of bust’s and sculptures collected over the years by the Vatican.These alone must be worth a small fortune but more was yet to come of riches and treasures.We have seen so many statues over the past couple of days that the ones we were looking at all took on the same features.
We then retraced our steps to the entrance and visited the carriage room where a number of horse drawn carriages used by various pontiff over the last couple of hundred years are on display.The biggie of them is an all gold carriage with ornate little figurines all over it.There was also a Landrover which we think must have been one of the first Popemobiles and 3 or 4 other vehicles used in the 1930’s.
As we left the Carriage Room we passed the series of cafeterias and as it was just after midday and there were few people having lunch we decided to do so before the crowds got hungry.
We now know that the
Vatican supports the drink of choice by the late Michael Jackson,Pepsi as that was the soft drink on offer with a huge(one quarter)piece of freshly baked pizza.
Topped up with food and drink we were now ready to start the museums proper and our stop for an early lunch may have paid off as we had the feeling there were now less people around,although still a lot in the small space.
The art gallery was next on the tour and the number of works on display is mind boggling and it would be easy to spend all day just admiring the large number of separate rooms if you had that amount of time to spend and were into art more than we are.We must say that even with our very limited knowledge of which artist and what works are considered worth looking at we were very impressed by what we saw and we did spend time on the ones we liked at first glance.
The tour direction leading us to the #1 attraction,the Sistine Chapel,then took us through a long passageway with a high curved ceiling called the Galleria delle Carte Geografiche(or Map Gallery)which was just so busy with artwork
that we had to take several stops to try and take it all in.There is so much to see in this passageway alone that you could also spend hours here to.
Next came the Galleria degli Arazzi(or Tapestry Gallery)with huge tapestries adorning both sides as you wander through.Most as you would expect have biblical themes.
Then it was onto the magnificent Stanze di Rafaello which had once been the private rooms of Pope Julius II decorated with frescoes by Raphael, an artist in the same league as Michelangelo was a sculpturer, it seems in this city.More modern day Pope’s have moved further back into the Vatican.
The Segnatura is also in this area and two of Raphael’s masterpieces are on display,’The School of Athens’ and ‘Disputation of the Sacrament’ both of which are alive with characters as you would expect from Raphael.
At this point and nearly 3 hours after we started walking through the various museums we should have gone straight for the Sistine Chapel but we were up for more,or so it seemed,so we detoured via the modern art section only to find it was a bit too modern and abstract for our liking and we strode through
to get back on track.
There is no real fanfare as you suddenly arrive at the door that leads you into the Sistine Chapel because you open it and there is Michelangelo’s work in all its glory.And there you are along with hundreds of other people all looking upwards to the ceiling!!!!And all the while you are under the beady eyes of security men trying to stop people from taking photos or video.All throughout the rest of the museums the taking of photos,even with a flash,was OK but NOT here!!But people were doing it all over the chapel keeping the security guards on their toes.There was a sign as we went in asking for respect for the chapel and to be silent but the guards yelling out to stop those taking photos and the general hub bub of people talking meant that silence was not possible.
The art work is superb and the whole chapel,probably 40 metres by 10 metres is decorated from the floor up and of course across the complete ceiling which the master painted hanging from it which in itself must have been scary about 10 or 15 metres from the floor.Just as amazing as the ceiling
are the ‘curtains’that are painted around the whole room and look real enough to feel to give the effect as you look upwards of what is behind the curtain.
Gretchen did manage to get a couple of photos off by me standing protecting what she was doing and surreptitiously pointing the camera up towards the ceiling.The result you see on the blog page is after she has cropped our heads,which got in the way,out!!!Unfortunately trying to operate the video in the same manner would not have worked so we shall have to happy with the photos.
After 20 minutes or so we thought we had gazed at the masterpiece of the chapel enough and headed out of this part of the Vatican for St Peter’s Square and Basilica.
Interestingly enough as we left the museums there was absolutely no queues and there was still 3 hours until the place closed whaich would be ample time to visit and not have to queue at all.A lesson here,arrive in the mid afternoon for a quick entry!!
Oddly enough though there was a long queue to get into St Peter’s Basilica or at least through the security scanners.Had all these people been at
the museums and then done the same as us and headed over here??Anyway it wasn’t a long wait here either and we were in within about 10 minutes of waiting.
The inside of this Basilica is ENORMOUS.You could fit three or four of other Basilicas we have visited in Rome inside this place such is it’s size.Down the centre ,and roped off,was a line of marbled slabs leading up to a ‘canopy’ that the Pope stands or sits under when addressing the faithful.
All around the walls are chapels,statues,including one of Peter by Michelangelo sculpted when he was only 24 years of age.He also designed the dome which is 120 metres atop the altar and completed in 1590 long after he died.There has been a church on this site since the 4th century and marks the spot where St Peter is buried.
The whole place was just awe inspiring and again you could spend ages just taking in all there is to see in depth.
It was getting on in the afternoon by the time we had had our fill of the interior and we spent a bit of time taking in the huge square with its semicircular colonnades with
Doric columns and statues looking out from the top of each column.
There is a column or obelisk in the middle of the square which looks relatively plain compared to everything else around until you realise that it was brought to Rome by Caligula from Heliopolis in ancient Egypt(so it goes back a long way in time!!)
We had had a full on day and were feet weary again so we headed for home on the subway with the intention to beat the 5pm rush hour which we did and even got to sit down most of the way home including on the bus from the metro station.
We must have got over tired for after we had done our washing ,had pre dinner drinks and nibbles and dinner, I went to plug the microwave in to heat up the water for our coffee’s and blew a fuse!!All our lights and those in the adjoining half of the mobile home.
It took a while for the maintenance man to arrive and fix the situation but it gave us time to hide the microwave back in RR as we didn’t want them to think we had overloaded the system cooking our
dinner etc in case we weren’t supposed to be doing that.
We feel that we have achieved all we wanted to in Rome and at a pace to take in as much as we could in the three days.So now its north further along the western coast.
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