Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Eurotrip 2011: Vatican Museum for two Pt.2

Sign after sign for the Sistine Chapel came and went and it was no where to be seen. Then, like magic, the stairwells got tighter and more rustic. We were almost there. A bathroom line appeared, followed by a small cafeteria and stairs to a smoking area. Last rest stop before going into the world famous meeting ground for Roman Catholic elite as well as arguably the most famous ceiling of artwork ever produced...but for now I was thirsty. We go into a bad excuse for a line and got some drinks. I chugged a bottle of water, strategized with Beth on next steps (it was already ~3pm) then made our way to the main event.

Unfortunately there are no images of this part of the journey; while plenty of people were going against the Vatican security presence, taking pictures and video of the ceiling, I respected the rules and took some time to listen to my digital tour guide. The audio player described the artists who provided material as well as the material and what it referenced. Raphael's ceiling piece and the process behind it was examined, as well as the large-scale refresh of the Sistine Chapel's artwork, which took place a decade or so ago. The atmosphere was cool and there was a constant low murmur of conversations about everything to be seen, broken up by security's firm requests for silence and "move along" to the endless waves of tourists entering the Chapel. The first thing I did on my way in was locate 'The Creation of Adam'. My eyes then wandered over all the other pieces I've only seen in textbooks. There were several hundred people present at the time and no real place to sit. It was an awesome experience. On our way out we saw that some people were walking through a shortcut door for tour groups only. We took a mental note and went through the regular exit. We ended up into a modern art exhibit pathway, then got to another hallway with books and other Vatican related items to buy. With no real exit revealing itself, Beth asked a cashier how to get out. The gentlemen chuckled and pointed us towards to exit.

Exit ahead...or so we thought.

We ended up in a large bookstore type area where the Vatican Post Office was housed. Beth and I bought postcards and shipped them home. She sent one to her very Catholic Grandma Joan and good friend Liz and I sent one to my parents. On the same floor there was a wooden scale model of Vatican City which was quite impressive. Somewhere around shooting that pic I lost my lens cap. We made it all the way down the steps of the Vatican Museum exit (see above) and I ran back up and looked everywhere. Resigned to it's loss I got my camera bag back and we made our way down the Vatican City wall to St. Peters Square. My take away from the Vatican Museum was that, regardless of arguments of how all the works were collected, there was more art there than anywhere else on earth. In a way this fact was both good and bad for the time we had to spend there. Of course it's great to be able to see so much of mans creations from the long history of humanity, but there was really too much to see for anyone even in a day's time. We were later told that if you spent one minute at every exhibit in the Vatican Museum it would take you 13 days to see it all.

After a short stroll we entered the place of legend. St. Peter's square was bigger than I expected. Looking around you could immediately tell that the previous Pope was quite the hard act to follow. The next thing we noticed was the line to get into St. Peter's Basilica. Earlier that morning we asked our substitute tour guide if we could use the tickets we received to get into the Basilica per our initial tour arrangement and she told us yes. However, we didn't know how the tour guides waved their magic wands for this one. Rather than getting in line, since it was already 5pm and our energy was low as ever, we walked to catch a cab back to the hotel. While looking for cabs we stumbled onto a rally for the Rome chapter of Harley Davidson enthusiasts. It was quite the spectacle.

Next time, St. Peter's Basilica. Next time.

We returned home to pop into one of the other cafes we hadn't frequented yet. They had liquor, which was the biggest draw, as we wanted some for the cruise. Bacardi and panini's in hand, we got to our room and had lunch. Later that evening, we ended up back at Il Capitello for our last meal in Rome. We dined and sipped vino outside while observing locals and visitors from multiple countries work their way around town, along with homeless sleeping on the street within a stones throw. The shop keepers made sure to keep randomly approaching vagrants from interrupting their customers experience (much appreciated), but it didn't happen to often that night. It was a reminder of the current economic state of the world, Italy specifically, but in my mind was oddly normal. Another great meal enjoyed, we headed back for a short night of springy sleep. In the morning, we'd be getting a shuttle to the Civitavecchia Port to start our Mediterranean Sea cruise.

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