“The Sistine Chapel is famous for Michelangelo’s pictorial culmination of the Renaissance, showing the story of creation, with a powerful God weaving in and out of each scene through that busy first week.” – R. Steves
Today I will finally see the Sistine Chapel! I’m still bummed about missing out two years ago when last here, so this time, I didn’t wait until our last day in Rome. We awaken and head straight for Vatican City.
Once there, multiple guides try to attract us to take their tour while we wait in a very long line. “Skip the line… take OUR tour.” or “Our tour can offer you this, plus this, plus this!” The line actually moves quite fast as I finally tell one guide that unfortunately for her I have more time than money so I’ll just wait. Appreciating the honesty, she smiles and nod while moving along the line. We spend our time chatting and studying some of the art and history of the Vatican museum in the book I’ve brought along. Not long after, we’re finally entering the Vatican.
As hoards, no, FLOODS of people turn left, rushing directly to the Sistine Chapel, we take our time. We linger in the courtyard and browse the Pinoteca wing with its many paintings of Mary and Baby Jesus. Making our way through endless hallways of priceless ancient, religious art, tapestries and sculptures we eventually come up into the Raphael hallway. Similar to the Sistine Chapel this long hallway leaves no surface undecorated, frescoes cover the walls and the concave ceiling. The long, crowded, walk through beautiful artwork ends in a little staircase leading down to the Sistine Chapel. As we’re told to hush and put away our cameras, I note how surprisingly drab and unadorned the stairwell and exterior are.
Finally… after years of wanting to see the Sistine Chapel, we round the corner and there it is… Michelangelo’s masterpiece. I could sit here endlessly, admiring each square section; every individual section is a work of art in its own right. Despite not being a very religious person, to me it would seem impossible not to appreciate the scope of its importance; the amazing art especially. I’m even more impressed by the Sistine Chapel knowing that Michelangelo painted the ceiling in fresco, standing on a scaffold with his next tilted up for hours on end, over the course of 4 years! Multiple Renaissance artists, including Raphael, Perugino and my favorite, Botticelli, had a hand in painting the scenes on the walls. One wall displays scenes from Moses’ life, the other is devoted to the life of Jesus. At the ceiling’s core is the famous “Creation of Adam”, with his finger reaching out to touch the finger of God. The rear wall, also painted by Michelangelo, displays the Last Judgment. We stand in a pool of people, craning our necks in attempt to admire each panel above, each period, each apostle, and each story. Finally, only because we must, we leave and walk through the rest of the museum, including the Vatican’s own post office, until back outside.
We round the bend along the vast walls that separate Vatican City from Rome and enter St. Peters Square. Here stands St. Peter’s Basilica. ‘Vast’ does it no justice. I’m gob smacked again, noting different sculptures and paintings my second go-round.
Leaving Vatican City, we pass the nearby fortress, Castel Sant’Angelo; built for Hadrian, but later turned into a refuge for threatened Popes. I sit on the wall over the Tiber, enjoying my gelato for a while, until my scared-of-heights mother gets nervous and asks me to come down. We cross the Ponte Sant’Angelo en route to an aperitivo in Campo de’ Fiori. We arrive just as they’ve cleaned up the flower stands. Grabbing another great spot in Rome’s second largest Piazza, we enjoy our snacks and wine, discussing the heretical Bruno in the piazza center, our travels, and everything in between. These moments with Mom are great; time to really just talk. Our walk home takes us past Mom’s favorite building, the Vittorio Emanuele Monument on Capitol Hill, and through a street that crosses between the Roman Forum and Trajan’s Market. The moment is serene. All the school groups and tourists are gone. It’s quiet, it’s dark, and it’s much easier to image what it must have been like in its ancient prime. We round a bend and there in its steady glory, is the Coliseum. Lit at night, it’s as grand as it is every time I see it.
Back on our Via Cavour, we’re walking along trying to find a quick spot to grab street pizza, when we see our morning friend, Lucca, parking his scooter just as we pass. The likelihood of this coincidence must be slim! He recognizes us and we all decide to grab a drink together. Last night we found a great Irish Pub, where seemingly every British man in Rome could be found… watching the soccer playoffs: Liverpool vs. Manchester City. So back at Finnegan’s, we enjoy a drink and Lucca asks if he can take us to his favorite pastry shop the next morning. We make plans to meet at our B&B in the morning and say goodnight.
Our second day in Rome was full, but still had its leisure. Most importantly, I finally saw the Sistine Chapel and it was just as wonderful as I’d hoped!
- Vatican City (briefhiatus.wordpress)