Sistine Chapel, Pisa, lovely Santa Margherita!

Trip Start May 25, 2008
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23
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Trip End Jul 04, 2008


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Monday, June 23, 2008

A quite early start was encouraged by our tour director this morning, in order that we not become entangled in the large crowds and long queues which can be typical of the Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel. We begrudgingly towed the line, but were instantly rewarded as soon as we ended our short walk in the already warming sun, and saw that we were only the second tour bus to arrive for the day!
This meant that we were waiting for about 40 minutes for the great place to open to the public, and our promptness meant we were standing in the shade of the huge Vatican City wall above us, and were inside in a flash once the doors opened....not so for the ridiculously long lines of people (who didn't sacrifice for the early start) which stretched way back down the street behind us!
Once inside, we were once again like a bunch of schoolkids in a lolly shop....there was a continuous assualt on the visual senses, as we meandered thru the corridors of the Vatican Museum, looking first left, then right, then up & around (a good workout for the neck & shoulders!)....untold wealth, indescribable artworks in the form of statues, paintings, carvings, sculptures, tapestries...it went on & on.
Again, photos are great for those who have been there, as the memories come flooding back, but they cannot really do more than peak the curiosity of those of you who may be considering including this place on your list of must-sees when in Rome.....just make sure you go see it! At the end of the internal tour (made all the more interesting by our local tour guide who uses the Trafalgar "Whisper" system, meaning the guide can speak very quietly, as is required & expected in many holy / religious venues, and all group members can clearly hear via their small earpiece), we walked thru yet another doorway, to find ourselves near a small altar which is positioned right at the base & in front of the incredible floor to ceiling masterpiece by Michelangelo.......'The Last Judgement'...of course that itself adjoins the amazing 4 -year work he completed on the vast ceiling of the chapel back in 1477-80!!
Despite those in authority continually "shushing" the crowd in a vain attempt to keep noise levels down to a quiet background burble, each new influx of tourists into the room brought with it about another minute of loud 'oohs' & 'ahhhhs' as they realised just where they were, and what they were looking at!!
Photos were supposedly taboo, but every person I saw with a camera (90%) were taking shots left, right & centre, some subtly, and others not! How could one not try to bring back home with them something as unique as a photo of this place???
A truly amazing spiral 'ramp' led us out of the complex at the completion of our guided tour, and we once again hit the road, still marvelling at the abundance of special things to see & do in & around Rome. A reasonable coach journey (few hours I think) saw us reach Pisa for a brief stop (that is to say we only had time to see the tower & surrounding buildings, impressive as they were, but not the township itself)...we had the obligatory photos taken showing a variety of poses supposed to depict us doing our bit to shore up the leaning tower, or reverse the effects of unusual Italian engineering!!
Another fair coach stretch on open roads saw us make our way to an absolute gem of a place on the Italian Riviera coastline, in Santa Margherita....we were immediately struck by how relatively quiet, picturesque & friendly the place felt......our nice old elevated hotel provided us amazing views across the sea, the bay, the fishing boats & yachts, the distant steep slopes which dropped directly into the blue of the Mediterranean...the town itself relies on tourism & fishing, and once we all cooled off in the hotel pool, adjacent to their fully stocked bar, we all pleaded with our tour guide to stop the tour for at least a couple of days, so we could recharge the batteries in such a beautiful spot!!
We enjoyed a nice dinner & then walked along the water's edge of the bay at night, pausing for photos in front of the town's 'son', Christopher Columbus!
Will post photos tonight when I have more time!
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