Day 30: Vatican

Waking up at my usual 7am, I quietly grabbed my things and hit the showers. The water was sometimes hot sometimes cold, and never coming out of the shower head much more than a dribble. I really hate dorm life.

I packed up and checked out grabbing some breakfast before leaving. I decided to leave my stuff with the office since its a whole bunch easier than carrying it around, and cheaper than locking it up at the station. My first stop was the Vatican Museum, which supposedly the home to more Renaissance art than any other museum, but the lines often take 3 hours to get through. I arrived by 8:30 and got in line with some Brits and had a nice chat. After 45 minutes we were all the way down to the entrance, and I was happy it didn’t take long. Only we were in the wrong line, the one for reservations, and were directed to another line, twice as long that wasn’t moving at all because they were letting in those with reservations first. I was thoroughly fed up and didn’t feel like waiting in line for 3 hours, so I headed off St. Peter’s Basilica.

St. Peter’s Square and Basilica are stunning pieces of architecture, much of which is designed by Michelangelo. Inside the architecture is still flawless, there is a large window aimed towards the east letting in sun in beams lighting up the dust. There is the strong smell of incense in the air. Through out the cathedral there are little niches where statues are displayed along with wonderful mosaics that look like paintings in their detail. Below those are often sarcophagi with the bodies of popes who have passed away. This is where again I’m totally creeped out by the Catholic church. I know everyone has their own traditions and customs, but I personally find it strange that they keep the bodies of past popes on display from millions of people to see every year, some of which are in varying stages of mummification. And here I thought that the grotesques over cathedral windows were strange and disturbing.

After a seeing everything there was to see I bought a 4 euro ticket to see the treasury. This turned out to be very interesting because of how much pomp and ceremony has developed over the years can be seen in the relics left behind. There were two artifacts that interested me the most: the first was something called a Dalmatia first attributed to Charlemagne but later to a Russian ruler. It was made of blue silk with very intricate embroidery in gold thread, the second was the preserved finger of St. Peter.

After making my way out I figured I would take a look at the line. This time it wasn’t quite as long, but still looked like it would take forever. I decided I should suck it up and wait through the line, I would feel guilty if I left Rome without having seen the Fresco masterpieces of Michelangelo and Raphael. I slotted into line in the middle of a Spanish tour group. I was constantly being in the way of the tour director, but after about 15 minutes she pulled out some people and took them off somewhere moving me forward. I heard someone speaking in English behind me, so I started up a conversation, after all the line moves quicker when you have someone to talk to. I ended up meeting a woman a couple years older than me also starting grad school in the fall traveling with her mother and father. The three of them came from Texas but the mother and father had been living in Spain for work. The line began to move quicker, and we made it to the entrance after an hour and a quarter. I found the line for buying entrance tickets with a student discount, which amazingly takes the cost from 15 euros to 8. Luckily I still have my UCR ID card, but they don’t just want that, they also want a form of ID to show its really your card, and that you are younger than 25.

Surprisingly the Vatican Museum holds more than just religious art, but also art from Egypt and all corners of the world. Seeing everything takes an estimated 5 hours, I decided to take a route that takes about half that and sees the Sistine Chapel along with the major works of Michelangelo and Raphael. When ever there was a small room branching off from the main route I had a look. There was an interesting display on micro mosaics, and I took an image of one. Looking at what looks like a painting of the Colosseum in the high res section you should be able to see that it is indeed made up of super small tiles the size of a pin head.

The museum about rivals the Louvre in size, comprehensiveness and grandioseness, though the Louvre was a lot more airy and less crowded(perhaps due to the season). All of the ceilings are covered in beautiful pieces of art. The main attraction being however the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel covered in what is known as The Creation. However photos are not allowed. I tried to take one anyway but it turned out blurry. Anyone trying also got a laser pointer in the eye. I sat down and tried to have a good look, but the low light to keep the colors vibrant, and the height of the ceilings made it hard to see much detail, but only to get a general appreciation of how much work and skill went into its creation.

The chapel pretty much closes out the museum as a whole and after passing through a number of gift shops I found myself on the main street again.

Next stop was Lungotevere Castello, this large block of stone walls overlooking the Holy See. It wasn’t possible to walk around inside, so I just had a look in passing. I also stopped at the Piazza Cavour and Popolo which are well known, but by then I was too tired to really appreciate either. I made my way back to the hostel grabbing lunch on the way ordering Lasagna in a regional style which was unlike any I had had before, which was very good.

At the train station I set to finding a train to Naples where I have a hotel for the night for 33 euros near the train station, but had just missed one by 5 minutes.. I then looked at the departures board and didn’t see any regular trains until 8 o clock! Though there were many Eurostar high speed trains and ICplus(which are just as good as normal IC but require reservations…) I decided I would shell out the 15 euros for a reservation… only when I went to buy the ticket I discovered it was 20 euros.. but I wasn’t about to back out now…

I went to go board my train, looking up at the big board to see what line the train was going to be on, and to my shock there was a regular train leaving 2 minutes after the high speed. ARG. I tried to get a refund on my 20 euros, but it was too late, and I couldn’t get through the line quick enough. I had to board my train and just rack it up to unforeseen expenses. Its hard to swallow that kind of wastefulness though.. although it did get me to Naples faster, and with my bed and breakfast closing at 9pm, its a good thing.

Naples is shockingly different from the rest of Italy. Instead of it being a tourist trap you find a whole different people filling the streets. Immigrants from North and East Africa as well as India and China. The city I’m told is a major starting point for people coming over from Tunisia. Immigrants rarely bring money so where they first land is often really poor and Naples feels more like TJ than anywhere else. My bed isn’t far from the train station I leave from tomorrow morning, but that doesn’t make me feel much better about where I am. They used to have a saying in ancient times that when you go see Naples you can die, meaning that at its height Naples was a beautiful city, one to behold, however, now it holds a very different meaning. My guide book says you never feel more alive than in Naples because you need to be so aware of whats around you. I definitely agree, and I can’t wait to be gone tomorrow. I’m almost wishing I had stayed in Rome, but going down to Pompeii near Naples before heading to Bari to catch my Ferry by 7pm was a bit too far to go in a single day easily.

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