Trip Start May 25, 2007
73Trip End Oct 29, 2007
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If you recall, loyal readers, on Monday I walked by the Vatican museum only to see so many people lined up they could have populated a small country. Even with that thought fresh in my mind Ramona and I decided to attempt to gain entry into the museum, since it is one of the "must do" things here in Rome.
Walking along the wall the surrounds Vatican City we encountered no line. The closer and closer we got to the entrance my astonishment grew and grew. "Where the hell is everyone?" I was thinking. In fact, we didn't get to a line up until we were already in the building, waiting to pass through the metal detectors. Shock doesn't even begin to explain it.
The moral of this story is, visit the Vatican on Wednesday.
This museum is huge. If it's smaller than the Louvre, it's marginal. It differs from the French museum in that most of the sculpture is from antiquity, and the most impressive painting are the frescos. And the tapestries too, but awesome in totally different way. Hallway after hallway and room after room the frescos stretch from the floor to the ceiling and cover nearly every visible bit of wall space. Each room is another masterpiece, most notably by Raphael. Every wall and ceiling tells a story and each is so detailed it would take days to go through and full appreciate every one. The other main difference from the Louvre, important to me at least, is the audioguide is extensive and very detailed.
A couple of things I've learned about myself after visiting so many museums are a) I like them more than I thought I would, and 2) I like to linger. One of the good things about traveling by myself is I can take as much time as I like, whenever I like. I was very happy to learn that even though I was taking my time getting through this museum, Mona was taking even longer. It was great to not feel rushed in such a place. She was turning out to be a great travel partner.
After going through room after room of mind-blowing art, we started remarking to each other how overwhelming this whole place was. I mean there is just so much great stuff to see.
Then we hit the Sistine Chapel. I'm here to tell you folks, it lives up to the hype. It was crowded, predictably, but because it had been restored a few years ago and the audioguide was so good it didn't matter. It was great to just sit down and be awed. Our brains actually hurt walking out of the place, there was so much to absorb.
The only real downside to the museum is that the hours are so short for such a large place. We'd been in there for close to 5 hours and with only 30 minutes left we still hadn't seen the painting gallery yet. Luckily it is fairly small and we were able to run through it fairly quickly.
I may have mentioned it before, but it deserves repeating. One of the things that I decided to leave at home was my cell phone, thinking it would be too expensive to use. For some reason I forgot the that text messages are dirt cheap, and I've learned how invaluable having that kind of communication can be when trying to hook up with people.
Ramona and I decided to split up for a while, she to visit the Pantheon (which I had seen already), and me to go back to the apartment to change and drop off my dead camera. We planned to meet later at the Trevi fountain. To get back to the apartment I had to take the metro then change to a regional suburban train. Somehow I ended up on an express train that bypassed my stop and took me so far out of the city there weren't even houses anymore. Luckily the return train made all the stops it should have, but it took me nearly 45min longer than it should have to get back into the city. Poor Ramona was waiting at the fountain thinking I'd ditched her, even if she won't admit it. Having my cell to send a quick text would have relieved a lot of anxiety.
Our evening was spent looking at, and Mona eventually buying, some very impressive paintings being sold by local artists. I'm proud to say that I was an integral part of the search and decision process. Most impressive was watching the doe-eyed Mona talk down the vendor to half his starting price. It was the second time that day she had received the student discount (the guy at the Vatican museum forced, literally forced, her to only pay the student rate. The girl has aged well.)
Dinner was in the charming but touristy Campo del Fiori district. Our waiter was a guy who could have just stepped out of a Brooklyn fight club (we called him Tony). He told us that the past few days were easily the coldest all summer. The days were hot, but he was right; the evenings were quite chilly. The food was OK, but the street vendors were brutally annoying. Every 5 minutes another one was at the table selling flowers or photos. It is one of the excruciating realities of Italy.
A very long but very good day, made possible by great company.