July 14, 2016
The Vatican – So we scheduled a tour of the Vatican. A good walking tour of the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. I wonder about the ethics of the whole “Skip the line” thing. I mean people are always standing in line everywhere we go. I’m not going to fight it though. As a “rich American” I feel ok with the process. We had breakfast and everyone was excited for the day. We catch a cab to the Vatican where we are supposed to meet our tour group along the backside of the place near a piazza with a small café in the middle of it.
Because I like to be early to everything, we were early to this. Like 45 minutes early so we got to walk around a bit and admire the already formed lines and tourist clutter. “Selfie Stick?”, “Hey, want a selfie stick?”, “Excuse me, would you like to buy a selfie stick?” It was like that everywhere so why should the Vatican be any different right? Lots of Vatican chachkies with popes and saints and other religious stuff. All in all, a terrible place to be a vampire. So, I felt safe from that at least.
Our tour group coalesced out of the nether a couple people at a time until a pair of smiling tour guide type people showed and starting clapping hands and taking roll call. Wanted name and hotel that booked us. And I thought our guy was just being nice… kick backs will make people very nice it seems.
We get split into two groups and we hike around the perimeter wall towards the museum entrances. We passed a line that was literally a mile long to get to a stand around area. We all had to get our ear piece and translator for our guided tour. This was important. I spent much of the remaining day acting like a body guard to my wife with my earpiece and sunglasses on. Look the part, act the part right? I kept feeling like someone was watching us when I realized that a few hundred people were actually watching us as we excused ourselves past them and walked on inside the museum. They had only waited in line for hours to get where they were. We got inside and did a final sound check our guide had a car antennae with a bit of fuzz on it so we would know where she was. And then we started.
You know all those people outside? Well, just as many were already inside. I felt like I was just along for the ride as the press of human flesh closed in around us. My daughter has space issues and doesn’t like being touched all that much… WRONG place to be. But, OH MY GOSH! The art inside the Vatican museum is simply AMAZING. I’m not much of an artist though I pretend I can draw now and again, but man can I appreciate art! Everything was painted, tiled, sculpted, carved, rendered, weaved, arted up. It all goes by so fast though as you have to keep moving. So, my camera was just click, click, click, click at everything that even caught my eye. I figured I could reminisce about it later. Sculptures were just so fantastic. The art on the ceiling was bright and vibrant and told so many stories. The halls of tapestries and paintings and everything was so overwhelming. But… man, Raphael… words can never do justice to actually seeing the scope and majesty of his work. He was like 23ish when he did much of his work. I mean look at this!
Just so magnificent. From there we made our way to the Sistine Chapel. Oh Leonardo. I see now why you looked down at me from your statue in Milan. It wasn’t scorn. It was pity that you had for us mere mortals. Imagine the greatest piece of art in the world and you are trapped in a giant room with 4000 other people all the while 3 Italian police men yell at you over a speaker system about no photography, silencio and keep moving. *sigh* It was really marvelous and I have a good 40-50 high res photos. Take that policeman!
We made it through that to go to St. Peters Basilica. My wife is a lifelong Catholic and this part of the trip was important to her so I tried to keep as reverent as I could but the majesty of this church is just tongue lollingly epic. Again, the artwork inside is truly amazing. I think anyone that can appreciate art should make it a goal to visit these places. I could go on for days but I am a lazy typist. Getting out into the sun, we had to give up our earpieces and our fantasies of being a secret agent. As with all tours, we ended in a gift shop. We got some trinkets and souvenirs for friends and family at home.
The rest of the day was far less dramatic. I needed to find an additional piece of luggage as everything we bought would not fit into the carry ons we had brought with us but I knew this ahead of time and I knew we would need a piece of checked luggage for ride home. So the rest of the day was spent questing for a good backpack that we would use when we got home. Easy right? HA! Not in Rome! Luggage stores were no problem. I didn’t need another suitcase though. We spent the trip back to the hotel looking and we dropped the kids at the hotel and decided we would take a stroll down the main street we were on and look for something.
A couple hours later...
We found a place called the “American Hotel”. Well, ****. Went in and hoped that I would find people that spoke English and lo, did that happen. A short subway trip out of the inner circle would lead us to a “mall” (no mall by American standards, but a location that had several stores anyways) that had a camping/sports store. Well, with just the 2 of us, we went ahead and took the subway and just like the guy said, found the store, found a decent backpack and we were back in business. What could have taken us 45 minutes had we spoken Italian, took us 5 hours instead.
That night we went to an expensive Italian restaurant and had some excellent wine and food. A send off as we had to go back to dreary, artless America the next day.